We awaken to the sounds of morning doves cooing as they do, some barking dogs, the incessant traffic noises, and eventually a flock of parakeets. There are also human sounds from the other apartment dwellers, chopping up food, crying babies or talking children, and washing of laundry. And then there is this horn sound, like the ones some clowns would use or from old bicycles. This comes from women who are riding an adapted bicycle (back end intact) with the front end having a very large somewhat flat cart containing what we do not yet know. And they start riding around 6 a.m.. I am guessing they might be selling pan (bread) but not sure since I am not about to get up and go down six flights of stairs just to find out. In the afternoon around the neighbourhood, this sound changes to the ice cream men riding around on bicycles with a small cooler on the front end blowing a horn that is a bad imitation of the duck call. I never thought I would appreciate the ditty that the ice cream trucks have when they would drive through the burbs where I have lived – just a bit softer on the ears.
Yes you do hear it all. Fortunately, we now have a working fan, another item of furnishings from Cuso warehouse, having acquired an adapter. The fan acts as white noise to muffle the street sounds (noise?) from down below. We are on the 6th floor with only us on this floor so no neighbours’ walls to absorb or muffle outside sounds. I think I would be okay with neighbours directly on our floor since the walls are thick brick stuffed with cement although we would probably hear everything else since everyone has their windows open.
Finding the adapter is an example of how cheap things can be here. We had found a store called Cool Box in the Metro Supermercado (Metro grocery store supermarket) which has Radio Shack equipment – remember them? and it was going to cost us s/ 15.00 (Peruvian soles), thankfully covered by Cuso in their allowance for equiping our apartment with necessary household goods and furnishings. Just by chance as we were exploring the myriad of what are called mercados – markets – in our neighbourhood (have counted 4 so far) which have stalls of every imaginable animal and their assorted parts, vegetables & fruits, kitchen ware, hardware, children’s clothing, etc…, and the occasional electronic ware. This is where we found an adapter for 3 soles (in Canadian we covert by multiplying every price by 4 then add the decimal point to give you $CDN) so 3 * 4 = 1.20 – ridiculously cheap.
As a side note just to make things confusing: there are several meanings for the word ‘metro’. As stated above firstly there is the Metro chain of large grocery stores, similar to Superstore/Safeway/Loblaws. The one within a 15 minute walk from our place is called Metro Canada since there it is on the Avenida Canada. Secondly there is the Metropolitano bus line which has its own dedicated lane in the middle of an expressway which we used for the 1st time this weekend as we ventured out for a night of dancing at the famous La Noche (the night) bar in the bohemium neighbourhood of Barranco. More on this later. Thirdly there is the Metro, what I would call an above ground subway line, also with a station withing walking distance from us, not yet having ventured on this. So you see it can be confusing when you use the word metro.
Going to the Mercados is an experience we will become very familiar with since this the place to do your grocery shopping for most meats, fish, veg & fruit. I am not unfamiliar with these types of places. When I was studying in Melbourne, I frequented the city market regularly, and for those of you have lived in Ottawa the Byward market, or in Montreal Atwater market. Each time I have to get used to the smells and noises, but you can avoid at certain times the busyness since the mercados are open everyday even Sundays and into the early evening so there are quiet times to frequent them.
The food continues to be overall an amazing experience. With some of my work colleagues, folks who are volunteering with Suco, the Quebec equivalent to Cuso, I have now experienced what is called the ‘menu’ (say it in french not english). These are usually a three course lunch with two or more options for the appetizer, then several options for the main dish, then a small desert (I actually had jello once which I guess Peruvians are a fan of) and juice for a drink. My attempt to only eat vegetarian outside the home is proving to be difficult at these cheap eateries with almost all selections for appie & mains having meat – chicken, beef or pork. As it turns out the midday meal is the main meal for Peruvians. The cost is anywhere from 7 to 10 soles – a price you just can’t beat, the more ‘expensive’ ones having a bit better quality of food, with decent portions which always include rice!! prepared in many ways from plain to seasoned. Potatoes are another common ingredient in stews or as an appie. So several times a week I will be having the menu lunch, bringing leftovers home to Ross since I just can’t eat all of the food. I have been finding that after I head home at 5 p.m., I just have no appetite to eat anything let alone make dinner. Perhaps an accumulation of the effects of the heat of the day, or else I am already adapting to the Peruvian way of mealtimes. I do eventually eat something and/or cook. It has been good that Ross is cooking more since he is hungry by the evening meal time.
Other noises of the city: car alarms, do you remember the ones that have at least 6 different sounds, each lasting 10-15 seconds, and then it finally stops. There are police alarm sounds as well although not on a daily basis, more so on the weekend evenings. We have a park behind us where folks do walk their dogs in the evenings and so there is usually a concophany of barking from 7-9. Children are certainly not put to bed early here and can be found until very late on or in the arms of family members, no strollers here thank you. I know they say children need routine but here the routines are very different.
We have discovered that in our district of San Luis, there are these neighbourhoods which are in effect old gated communities. One enters through a gate, for car on the road and on the sidewalks for pedestrians. You then walk along more or less a circle of homes, apartments usually, overlooking a small central park with an alter to the Saint X or virgin mary in the very middle. There is often a security guard around I guess depending on whether there are the funds to pay such a person. We weren’t sure if the gates were ever locked until Ross went for a short walk when we got home late on Friday night, and yes they were. I have discovered a network of these little communities which I can walk through to get to work instead of following the 4 lane roads so the walk to work has become much more pleasant.
In some of these communities there are different vibes. The one which our apartment block backs onto seems to be a bit more on the adult passtime side with folks, e.g. men drinking beer and what we think are drug deals taking place late at night. Others we have walked through are more family oriented as they also contain a children’s playground which is packed with kids. We certainly are very curious about these socalled gated areas – what is the history of these? We met two people who speak some English so I’m sure we will find out soon enough. The one fellow has a sister who immigrated to Toronto 30 years ago and she visits on occasion with her children. The other is a woman who sells 7 days a week from a grocery cart what are called cremoladas – fresh fruit frozen and crushed up so like a slushie. Absolutely delicious and refreshing and for 2 soles (up to 4 soles in little shops), we will be imbibing in this cool treat frequently. We are glad that we are able to connect with some folks, especially for Ross’ sake with his lack of spanish, so hopefully these will be our way to make some inroads with local folks and not be solely hanging out with the NGO crowd.
Getting back to our experience at La Noche. Definitely a cool hangout that has been around for 25 years – how many bars can say this? We went this past weekend because they were having a tribute to New Wave with a cover band called The Shout – for those of you who don’t get the reference, this would be to the band Tears for Fears. The show started at 11:30 p.m. or of course closer to 12 midnight which alas is what I will have to get used to – very late nights, having a nap after dinner before we go out around 10 ish. The place is on a pedestrian lane which only has nightclubs pounding the latin rhythms which aren’t our cup of tea, the exception being La Noche. I was curious who would show up for this show, and I guess like always happens, the folks who would have been into this music in their late teens, early twenties, are now in their 40s or older and they look it. The place was packed although it is a smallish size place for the area in the bar where bands play. I was hoping to do lots of dancing expecting there to be a dancefloor. Alas no dancefloor but eventually we went to the upstairs area and just danced in between the chairs & tables where folks were drinking and eating. Others were swaying to the music but I think it was us who encouraged others to get up and dance. As has always been my experience at dance bars & similar, I guess I let loose with no qualms what others will think, dancing with myself a la Billy Idol. Most seem to be so constrained, repressed, embarassed, or …not sure what it is. Around 3 a.m. we called it quits the band having been playing non-stop, only then ending their show. I think I was just starting to overheat from constant sweating. And as will be the usual case as we venture home, there is the brief seeking of a taxi and negotiating on price. At least I did learn it isn’t a long back and forth negotiation but rather a quick driver offer after you tell him where you need to go, and then you counter and he says (always a he) yes or no. We got a ride with taxi #3, althought I have to say I wasn’t sure if the car was going to make it to our place it was in such bad shape. I find it particularly cool that our beloved Toyoto Corrola station wagon from the 90s is a common taxi vehicle just like our experience in Jamaica.
We hope to be set up with internet in the next week but I gather this involves several bureaucratic steps so as with everything else one must be patient. We are now relaxing on a Sunday afternoon after our 1st night out. Hopefully I can upload this entry to my website Monday at work. Happy reading and till the next time.