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October 28, 2004

A Massive Massive Update from Lima

Hola! This is update number TWO from Lima!

Lisa and I have been fairly busy since we last updated. I haven't taken very many pictures, but I have uploaded some.

I start spanish lessons tomorrow. I signed up for two hours a day, Monday to Friday at a school about a ten minute walk from our apartment. Hopefully I will start catching up to Lisa (or at least keeping up!). Lisa and I also joined a local gym ("Millenium Sports Club"). It's pretty nice, free-weights, lots of machines, cardio machines, good stretching area, massive spin classes (two level room!), yoga etc... It is really close to our apartment which is also good! Lisa has found a volunteer position, and we have also got ourselves a housekeeper (keep laughing!). I will let her tell you about them.

I don't need a housekeeper, honestly!! We were keeping the place really clean. Or so I thought. We came home yesterday after señora Veronica had been cleaning for the whole morning, and man, the place was spotless!!! EVERYTHING was super clean, the bathroom, kitchen and our clothes were washed (we had to go and buy some laundry detergent for her first). Anyhow, she'll be coming in once a week and she only costs 30soles, which is around $10.

As for the volunteer work, I've finally found some work, and now I have a new respect for Jeanine. It's at an NGO called via libre, and it provides tons of services for Peruvians with HIV/AIDS. I am working in the children's section and am doing clerical type work in the morning and in the afternoons they have theatre workshops and excurions, and there's some father/son picnic thing coming up. It should be fun. I'm sure that life is pretty rough for kids with HIV, a lot of them seemed pretty down. I'm going to have to brush up on my spanish commands, because it will make it a lot easier to tell the kiddies what to do. Yesterday I was in charge of the little ones, and the activity that they had planned was colouring, for two and a half hours. Not a great plan, because after an hour and a half, they started to get a bit fidgety, going into the other room and pulling out all sorts of other toys and stuff. So we ended up pulling up all of chairs into a bus shape, and playing 'micro', which is spanish for minibus apparently. This great little boy (7yr Nicolas) pretended to be the guy who yells out the window, and I was the driver. It was a blast. Funnily he didn't seem to tire of it, there's not much you can do besides picking up and dropping off customers. Anyhow i think that it will be super, I've arranged it so that I come in in the mornings on weekdays, and I will be going in on afternoons when there are activities.

Last weekend Lisa and I took a minibus into the old part of Lima. We visited the catacombs (over 70,000 bodies!) which feature glass "sneeze guards" to stop people from stealing thigh and arm bones. It was Sunday so we were not able to tour the big Lima cathedral, but we will go back some other time. I had seen most of it last year, so maybe Lisa can tell you about it.

On the way back to the minibus, Lisa and I had our first Lima/travelling robbery experience. We were walking down the street and this sketchy looking young guy came around the corner. Both of us sort of instinctively covered our bags, but as he went past us he grabbed onto my watch! He got a full grip on it but it didn't break free. I raised my fist and yelled a bit and he took off. No harm done and a good lesson for both of us!

Yeah downtown was pretty sketch that day, especially waiting for the bus, when it was so clear that we didn't know exactly what we were doing. There was a gross scabby guy giving us the evil eye. I was a bit worried coming home on my own yesterday, because it was starting to get dark, but there were mostly business people there so it was okay. I managed to get on the bus (after I got on the wrong one once) and made it back to the appartment. Yay to being independent. It's crazy how many people are around to rip you off though. Just the other day a guy claiming to be from Arizona told us that he had had his money belt stolen and needed our help to get him to the bus depot because he had to wait until his money came in from Western Union. It was all very suspicious, so we said that we had no money. We probably shouldn't have stopped to talk to him, because I have heard of a lot of scams where someone creates a diversion while someone else robs you. We are now very very cautious.

I wrote quite a bit last time about driving in Lima but yesterday I took my driving to a whole new level. Valentin gave me the car to drop Lisa off at her volunteer job in downtown Lima. He later told me that it had been a test - if I made it home I could go anywhere in Lima or Peru with the car. The drive to Lisa's job was fairly straight forward Lima driving: dodging mini buses and gunning across intersections. After dropping Lisa off though, things got a little crazy. I had to go all the way around a large roundabout to sort of perform a U-Turn. About 2/3rds of the way around traffic ground to a halt. I was on the inside of the roundabout, behind a VW beetle and jammed beside a bus. The traffic didn't move an inch for a good ten minutes. It continued to back up for a complete lap of the roundabout! This was no small roundabout either - it was four or five lanes wide, with a massive concrete sidewalk in the center. The drivers were getting fairly bored of the situation so some guy right in front of me decided that the center (sidewalk!) of the roundabout was a good place to drive. All the others cars around me decided to follow him! I had no choice! I popped the carolla up over the curb and onto the sidewalk and then drove along, half laughing half having no idea what the hell I was doing. Somehow, either because of us in the center or something else, traffic started moving again and I needed to exit the roundabout! Following a couple of taxis, I crossed four lanes perpendicular to the traffic flow. On the way across I have no idea how I avoided denting or smashing the car. Cars do NOT stop unless they are 100% going to hit you. Like I said before, you have to be sooo assertive and aggressive. I managed to get back onto the road I wanted to, a four lane street now occupied six cars across. We all drove up like this, jammed as if we were on a BC-Ferry at a good 80kph. Somehow, I crossed these 4/6 lanes of traffic to get onto the relatively "sane" highway and home! It took me the whole afternoon to recover from that drive. I felt like I had just played the most intense game of squash, paintball or ridden a criterium with 200 guys! As a side note though, everybody honks at everyone, but no one seems to get angry or pissed off. Maybe it is just the fact that so many people do crazy and stupid things all the time...

Yeah I don't think that I will try driving for a while. I will be trying some biking though. I went to the bike shop and talked to a very nice mechanic dude named Jose, and he said that there are many group rides with around 30 riders. Crazily, tuesday and thursday rides are at 5:50am and are about 2hours. ¡¿5:50?! Weekends is more reasonable, at 8am, for 4 - 5 hours, at around 30km/hr. The bike shop looked pretty decent, there were photos of Roland, Lance and dreamy Georgie Hincapie(obviously a trek dealer)!. There were some crap bikes in the front, but it would have been interesting to go into the back, there would be some pretty neat finds there I'm sure. Just behind the counter was a nice old looking road frame.

OK this is waaaaaaaay too long. Happy halloween and all saints day (which is a national holiday here) to everyone. Alistair is so happy that he isn't being forced to dress up this year, we're going dancing instead (ha)! CIAU!!!

Posted by Alistair Howard at October 28, 2004 02:10 AM


Nice driving, Alistair!

Posted by: Sandra at October 29, 2004 08:11 AM

Lets see some more photos!

Posted by: Malcolm at November 4, 2004 06:34 AM

some photos from week three maybe?

Posted by: Malcolm at November 4, 2004 07:46 AM

Getting impatient for an update!!!

Posted by: Anonymous at November 5, 2004 05:26 AM