Currently: living and working in Trujillo, Peru
Since our program is “American” in its design and we cater our volunteer program specifically to American college students, our programs always reflect the time of year in the states, which occasionally gets confusing for the Peruvian staff in the office. For example, in the states it is now “Fall” so we are hosting our “Fall” session of volunteers, even though here it is winter/ just turning into spring. The little things, right?
With each “season” or “session” of new volunteers we do a week long (más o menos) orientation session for them to get aquatinted with the touristy sights and notable things in Truijllo, where we live and work, and also listen to us talk to them for a few hours every afternoon. I really like orientation actually, even though it does create extra work and mandatory peppiness from the staff. One of my favorite parts of the job is working with volunteers and seeing their reactions and growth throughout their time here.
My job during orientation was to be “the American point of view” more or less. When they first arrive I explain what Vive is all about (for those lost souls who didn’t even read our website before flying to Peru) and what it means to be a volunteer for us, our work year round, yadda yadda yadda. During orientation we go over SAFETY at least three times, health (i.e. what to do when you inevitably get diarrhea), transportation/how to get around using public transit, we go over places they can travel to on their weekends off and how to get there, go over a map of the city so they understand where the heck they are, do worksite visits/introductions, and perhaps most importantly we talk about culture and what to expect from living and working in Peru. This session in particular is always really interesting, to see the way Peruvians present their own culture in the way it relates to an Americans experience here.
For example, eating all of the food on your plate is a very big deal and sometimes our volunteers are thought to be very rude or very sick if they don’t eat everything they are offered. Society here is pretty conservative, so we encourage volunteers not to talk about American politics or gay marriage etc while they are here. The Peruvian concept of time is its own thing, with la hora peruana being at least an hour or two later than whatever time you agreed to meet or for an event to start. Perhaps most importantly for our volunteers though, is the Peruvian general conception of Americans. We have a reputation folks, and it ain’t all that pretty.
Imagine if your only idea of what Americans are like came from popular movies and tv shows. Reflect on how my age group is portrayed in media. Now imagine living in a country where people assume that you’re rich, have a huge house with big tvs, and you’re easy. It doesn’t help our reputation that there are some tourists who swing through just looking for some Peruvian booty. To counteract this, we have to tell our volunteers, especially the women, that even things like dancing with a guy for more than three songs in a row sends him a message that homeboy is getting lucky that night. The perception of who we are by nature of our American-ness is just something you have to be aware of.
Orientation ends with Sandboarding on Saturday, which I actually really like. We go out to Conache (a smaller town just 30ish min away from Trujillo) to these huge sand mountain things and board down them. It’s really fun, but physically exhausting to have to carry a board straight up in deep sand. This is my… fifth I think time taking a group sandboarding, so I’m getting pretty good at it. Photos below.
Photos of Conache, outside of Trujillo, Peru where we go Sandboarding
While I was in Lima last weekend I was pretty much the happiest girl in the world when a Peruvian couple asked me if I was from that area and if I knew where a specific restaurant was. I died. Unfortunately I did not know where the restaurant is, but being mistaken for a Peruvian (granted one from Miraflores in Lima) was pretty much the second coolest thing that has ever happened to me, right after being mistaken for an actual Italian Italian while I was in Paris.
I was also asked if I was Mexican, (odd, I must have used a weird vocab word maybe?) Italian, or French. Of course I was also asked if I was American and looked like a tourist as well.
Just another reason why Lima RULES. Blending in abroad is one of my favorite things (to attempt to do). I think a big part of “blending” successfully is a fashion thing. Wearing the right clothes, wether its to an interview, a back yard BBQ your ex may be at, or wandering the streets of Rome, matters. I took it as a great compliment when the high schoolers I was chaperoning around Europe said that my outfits always looked like something a local would wear, and in every city I looked like I belonged there. *Trying to pretend like it wasn’t a big deal*.
I think not only is it a culturally sensitive move that allows me to “blend” as much as possible to see how the locals actually go about their daily life away from the tourist activity - but it’s also a safety thing to some degree to not stick out presenting yourself as a target for those pesky pickpockets along the Seine in Paris or the streets to Peru. I’m not claiming that I’m super fashionable or anything, but I am interested in fashion and its always nice to know you look good. I also think that is one of the components of traveling or living abroad that is often (maybe?) overlooked. The way people dress is reflective of and part of the culture and its always fun to try things you may not necessarily do back home, whether its your clothing or that weird food that you’re not exactly sure what it even is.
Shots of Barranco District in Lima, Peru
Snapshots from around Barranco District in Lima, Peru
Shots from around Lima, Peru
Photos from around Lima, Peru
Sunday in Lima was back to the usual weather in the city, cloudy and gray.
I did have company though, as two of our new Fall volunteers had arrived and I made them go with me to Mistura, the biggest food festival in Latin America which takes place in Lima every year. Basically the point of me going to Lima of all places for the weekend. It didn’t disappoint. It was overwhelmingly massive, divided into several “worlds” including the world of beer, bread, bars, sandwiches, BBQ, Japanese-afro-peruvian fusion, north, south, coast, and jungle regions. Plus, a gran Mercado where you could buy anything you needed to make the dishes you tasted.
First we checked out the tent of free demonstrations and learned how to make ceviche, which is surprisingly easy actually then wandered around just looking and smelling everything. So many free samples later we ended up buying three things to try, ceviche, a version of my favorite dish, papa a la huancaina from Arequipa, and a dish from the jungle of cornmeal and cheese. It was all delicious. Everything was delicious. It was great and I would massively recommend Mistura to anyone thinking about going next year. HOWEVER I think everyone should go with a Peruivan or someone who has been living in Peru a long time, because those kids didn’t know anything about any of the dishes or regions they saw represented there, understandably so. That’s one of the cool things about living in a place for an extended period of time, I get to do all of these kinds of things that I would miss if I were just traveling or sticking around for a month, like big festivals or events like Mistura.
One of the tents, this one was the Gran Mercado.
This is what Alpaca and Llama look like when you cook em!
Later in the afternoon I invited the volunteers to go with me to check out Barranco and grab a beer and some appetizers at my favorite restaurant with the best view there, Javiers. You can sit on the patio and have a great view of Barranco and the ocean, it’s gorgeous and a perfect place to get a cheap beer and sit a while.
We watched the sun set there before heading back to the hostel, where I ditched them to stroll around Parque Kennedy which is a cool spot in Miraflores to check out the artists and street performers there on my own before catching my night bus back to Trujillo. I ate my dinner looking at this view:
Then I had the awesome luck of having the very front row seat on the bus back, so I was able to have extra leg room and a cool view in front of me until I feel asleep.
It was a really really nice weekend.
Things to see and do in Lima Peru: Visit La Botika
My favorite spot to spend a night hanging out with friends is always at La Botika. It’s hipster-y in a fun way, located off of Calle de los Pizzas off of Parque Kennedy in Miraflores. The atmosphere is great, the art is funny, and the drinks are good. It’s located on the second floor, so you enter the door off the street and immediately go upstairs, the actual address is Calle Berlín 327- Miraflores if you need to ask one of the many… bouncers for lack of a better word, along the street because Calle Berlin has several bars and clubs all in a row, but Botika is the best.
On Saturday, I was blessed with an unheard of sunny day in the city. It was so warm and gorgeous that I was lured into a sale rack or two and bought myself a cute tank top to wear for the day. I started in the Parque de Amor, duh, went for a run and had breakfast in the hostel before grabbing my camera and walking around Miraflores, arguably the nicest district in Lima where the park and the hostel we always stay at, The Dragonfly, is located. From there I got a cab to MALI, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Lima, which has been on my list for a while now. I had the chattiest cab driver in the universe (the one downside of Lima, all of my cab drivers were incredibly talkative, which although it can be fun and nice and whatever, I usually just want to look out the window and not have to concentrate on whatever homeboy is chatting away about to mhmmm and sí, and claro at appropriate intervals) and when I finally arrived and walk into the gorgeous museum located in the middle of an “art park” complex area the receptionist explains to me that the museum is closed for renovations! No! Why?!
Even that didn’t damper my day. I got to poke around the first floor for free (renovations start at the top? I don’t know) and what I did see was really cool. I took my time poking around the park outside and wandered into the neighboring Anthropology Museum, which I maybe should have paid for but no one stopped me, so, also free admittance! In there was a lot of dioramas of ruins I’ve already seen at the sites themselves and a movie about how Spain sucks and took over a perfectly good country. Bonus, the museum was air-conditioned, something I had never experienced in Peru before anywhere besides a bank.
From there, I consulted google maps and decided I was within walking distance of the Plaza de Armas. My chatty cab driver had actually been pretty helpful and had pointed out the various neighborhoods, so I knew where I was and what direction I needed to go, and it turned out to be a straight shot downtown. It was such a gorgeous blue sky sunny day, it was a good choice. I like exploring cities by foot as much as possible, because I’m a big believe in “vibes” if you will and each place has a unique “vibe” and little spots you miss on a bus or taxi ride zipping from tourist attraction 1 to tourist attraction 2. Plus, I had my camera in tow and had fun snapping shots during my walk.
*Note: When walking in Lima, you see something, you take your nice camera out of your bag, snap your shot, then immediately put that sucker back in your bag and keep walking. So I wasn’t just walking around with my canon slung around my neck like an idiot, don’t worry.
I got to downtown and did a spin around the Plaza de Armas (every city or town has a Plaza de Armas, serving as a center or main area/point of reference) which is surrounded by a massive church, government buildings, a fancy looking restaurant, and the presidential palace. Unfortunately they don’t do tours of the palace anymore unless you pay and book it ahead of time or something so I just kept walking around downtown, finding a shocking number of free mini-museums, ruins, and cool shops to check out. I would have stayed in the area longer, but it was time for my Mexican food fix.
After the Parque de Amor, my second favorite spot in Lima is Burrito Bar in Barranco. It’s owned by this rad Australian guy who used to live in Mexico and he makes hands down the best burritos/tacos/quesadillas/salsa in Peru. I always get the veggie burrito with guacamole, sour cream, rice, black beans, salsa, lettuce wrapped in an actual tortilla. Side of chips and salsa, obviously. It is so delicious and heavenly to bite into a burrito that actually tastes like a burrito. I ate it too fast to consider getting a photo. Barranco is also a nice area of Lima and is the hipster neighborhood for sure. If I lived in Lima (which I do think seriously about sometimes) I would live in Barranco. I wandered around there checking out all the cool street art/graffiti/whatever and went to a art gallery that was recommended in a Lonely Planet guide I glanced at in the hostel during breakfast. It didn’t disappoint. It was such a cool space and I absolutely fell in love with this painting.
Something about it reminded me of both Peru and Arizona in such a profound way that I can’t explain. I was quite surprised actually how much I loved it. The rest of the gallery got sassier on the second floor.
By then I knew I had to get going if I wanted to walk back because me walking alone in Lima at night with my camera would just be dumb. I decided I could walk from Barranco to Miraflores along the malecon, which connects to the park I mentioned earlier that went on for miles along the ocean. Lima is built on a cliff, so the walkway is actually above the ocean and the views are spectacular. I took my time enjoying the fading sunlight and the fancy apartment buildings pretending I lived in one. I was enjoying my stroll when all of a sudden I see a late thirties maybe forties something guy wearing a Phoenix suns shirt. Usually I ignore other obvious Americans and I have no idea what possessed me to say to this random dude, “hey are you from Arizona?” He seemed quite relieved to have someone speak English to him, and unfortunately I gained myself a new walking buddy for another 20 minutes or so. Which was okay, he was mildly interesting (a private pilot from Scottsdale) UNTIL homeboy said if I didn’t have plans I could join him in the executive suite at the Mariott. He was hard selling some free booze and a rooftop pool. EW. (p.s. staying at a Mariott here is like, WOW YOU’RE RICH WE GET IT) I’m really hoping he just thought I was way older than I am and not just a total creep. I made up a Peruvian family who invited me for dinner that I suddenly needed to hurry back to and we parted ways. That was the last time I talk to old white dudes walking around Peru.
Chuckling to myself I walked on, enjoyed the sun sinking until it kissed the ocean. I walked back to the hostel in the last bits of daylight, dropped my stuff and FINALLY MELISSA WAS BACK FROM PANAMA! That bitch had left me for two whole weeks to enjoy her vacation and FINALLY she was back in Peru! We freaked out the hostel staff with our exaggerated reunion and quickly left in search of cuscueñas, the only Peruvian beer as far as I’m concerned. We caught up and swapped news and ended up at La Botika, our mutually favorite bar in Lima. The photos alone should explain why.
We ended up at La Lucha, the best sandwich place in Peru with amazing fries for dinner and headed back to the hostel for bed.