Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Lost in Lima

Like in other major cities in developing countries, Lima has affluent and impoverished areas. I am fortunate to stay at an upscale hotel in the swanky San Isidro area and was invited to lounge at an exclusive beach club where membership dues are at least over 50 USD. Yes, in American dollars. 

I also had the opportunity to stumble into the grittier parts of town yesterday but obviously lived to tell about it! After some photo ops at plaza d'armas, I looked to hop into a cab. However, traffic was especially bad so I decided to hoof it for a while and get a feel for the area as I had been atop the ivory tower of luxury for most of the trip.

I left the plaza after the boots and riot shields hit the ground
I had lunch a few blocks from the plaza. Ceviche appetizer, an entree and inca cola for 7 soles ( around 2 USD). Next, I stopped at a Starbucks for a frap and collect my bearings then  noticed that the hotel was a straight shot down the expressway, a one hour walk. My flawed logic concluded that I would be able to walk back as long as I followed the highway and have the opportunity to snap photos of their national stadium.

For my troubles, I got a pic of the national stadium

It was a straightforward jaunt at first as I passed some noteworthy landmarks. Eventually, I found myself in some working class neighborhoods. The department stores with large ads gave way to family owned shops that smelled of strong cleaning agents. But I trudged on thinking that I was getting closer to the high rises of San Isidro.

But the surroundings worsened. I saw signs that you were in a bad neighborhood: stray dogs, pedicabs, the homeless under bridges and graffiti. I shoved my ray bans in my pack, wore a scowl and walked briskly. Hoping to blend in.

Seemed straightforward enough at the time

Then I faced a Dead end, unable to follow the expressway any longer. I thought about going deeper into the neighborhood and maybe find the highway again. Gambled on cab instead although skeptical because of horror stories. I was nervous, I could not find his credentials and was texting. My mime then played tricks on me. "Is he texting his buddies? Saying he has a foreigner, let's take his money, I'll bring him right over." My hand stayed on that door handled, I was ready to bail if I did not see the gleaming skyscrapers of San Isidro. 

Obviously, it ended well. I tend to think on a worst case scenario basis, which is no way to live. However, it is common sense to avoid dodgy areas especially if you are not fluent of the native tongue. So now I carry some of that authenticity as I ascended to that ivory tower once again.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Peru: In Transit

An opportunity presented itself in the form of a trip to the Peruvian capital of Lima. A friend had a project in the city and he invited me to come - an offer I could not refuse since the cost of lodging would be greatly reduced. It was also my first time to Peru. My first time to South America. Hell, it was my first trip south of the equator. 

This wasn't my first overseas trip but I made a rookie mistake: checking in luggage. Had I just trudged on with my two bags in tow, I could have simply walked off the plane and be first in line through immigration. So there I was, with bloodshot eyes staring at the conveyor belt at 12:30 AM, setting me back a precious 30 minutes. I envied the backpacker types , clearing customs and immigration in a matter of minutes. I was especially jealous of their $250 Osprey packs - with thick waist belts evenly distributing their load between shoulders and hips. Backpackers are essentially the hipsters of the travel world, shunning locales that are too mainstream, turning their nose up on practically everything despite being in coach and always fidgeting with an apple product.

If losing 30 minutes of your life eagerly awaiting your stuff at baggage claim was my only gripe, then the journey must have gone well, right? Absolutely. No crying babies, switching time zones and lacking heart stopping turbulence. I have quite the outlook on this trip, and it started with the transit part. One day, I will act like a true globe trekker, fancy packs, performance gear and all. Perhaps this society will accept me as one of their own. We could huddle together at the stand by flight check ins, argue about what brand of performance gear wicks moisture the fastest and devour clif bars.