This post is to give a small glimpse into what life is like when we stay in Peru. We’ve been staying with Yrma’s sister, who has a small apartment upstairs from their home in Pueblo Libre. It’s tiny, but completely functional, and it leads to the roof where we can hang laundry to dry, or just hang out in the sun (when it’s shining.)
One notices right away how much louder the city life can be. The morning starts with the beep beep of the bread man on his tricycle bringing fresh warm breads to the streets (usually around 6:10 am.) Soon, car horns as the school children are picked up curbside in front of their homes. At 7:45 the drone of the cranes and cries of the workers begins as the apartment constructions begins anew daily. Lima is growing upwards and where there were once only two and three story homes, are now twenty story apartment buildings.
Besides all these noises are the occasional barking dogs, the ubiquitous car alarms (how does anyone know their car if they all sound the same?,) and the scrap men shouting botella botella botella (bottle bottle bottle.) From time to time someone will pass through the neighborhood selling tamales.
So sleeping late isn’t usually an option except on Sundays when the construction stops, and everyone seems to start a little later. We rise and begin another day.
The markets are open very early, so if we need fresh bread or papaya for our daily juice, Yrma will head over and make the purchases and start breakfast. I make the coffee, fire up the laptop, and start my morning writing.
Lunch & Dinner
The big meal of the day is the “almuerzo” (lunch) from 1:00-2:30 pm. For S./10 (about $3.50) one can get a full meal (menu – the daily specials) consisting of soup, a main course, and drink. Since it’s more food than I can normally eat in the middle of the day, we will often just split a menu and it’s plenty. Typical fare can range from chicken to fish, or special a la carte plates (costing a little more) will feature such local favorites as lomo saltado, ceviche, or grilled chicken.
If you want to take your food home, it’s best to bring your own container, as the restaurants will charge extra for to go containers. Soup and the beverage will be packed into a plastic bag, and one will have to make a hole and pour to get them later. Each order will include a small bag of “canchitas” which are roasted corn kernels cracked (slightly popped,) and very delicious.
In the evening, we might have a sandwich or a dessert, but usually not a large meal.
Getting Around – Shopping
If we need to go somewhere during the day there are several transportation options. The most economical are the buses and “combis” (small buses or vans.) Costs are very low – typically S./1 – S.1.50 ($.35 – $.52) for a one way ride. Taxis are rather affordable as well, a cross town ride outside of rush hour (or nightime) will be somewhere between S./12 – S./ 20 ($4.20 – $7.00) Tipping the taxis is not the norm, and usually only done for extraordinary service (such as loading/unloading many bags etc.)
There are many shopping options in Peru. In Miraflores there are many of the same stores as we have in the States, but we prefer the open markets and “mom & pop” stores in the older traditional shopping areas. There are several malls throughout Lima as well as cineplexes and the usual McDees and Dunkin Donuts (very popular here.)
The Real Deal
The quality of life is good, but it’s rather congested, traffic is terrible, and the air normally is generally poor. Fortunately, where we live in Pueblo Libre, there are many small parks scattered throughout the district, so there are many places to stop and rest on your daily walk. These parks usually have many trees & it does seem to help keep the air fresher. We’re also only a twenty minute walk to the ocean, and those breezes make it healthier.
We love the many “panadarias” and “pastelerias” (bakeries and cake shops) that are everywhere. Most people here prefer fresh breads and pastries, but the packaged products seem to be making some slow inroads.
We have a laptop, and can use Skype to call and listen for messages, or check email. However, there are many “locutorios” where one can call home for about 7 cents a minute. There are computers available for S./1 an hour ($.35,) so it’s quite affordable to do your business remotely. They will normally also be able to scan or fax anything you might need. Faxes are usually about $1.00 per page. Avoid the late afternoons or evenings if you want quiet as the gamers are usually playing and can be quite boisterous at times.
As Lima is a coastal city, there is a beach to the west. In the last few years, the government has spent considerable money and effort in developing this asset and finally there are some really nice parks along the coast where before it was just debris and dirt (and even some squatters.) Today, there are walking and bike paths, and a lot more daily activity surf-side. In Miraflores it’s quite common to see para-gliders soaring above the cliffs leading to the sea.
For those who need their TV fix, there are a variety of channels available. Many movie channels will have some films in English (with Spanish captions.) There is CNN international for the news junkie, and occasionally even some American sports will be televised. If you’re a little homesick, you can at least get a bit of home on cable.
Most new movies are immediately available not only at the Cinema, but on DVD as well. There is a thriving black market, and most new movies will be on the shelves within a day or two of release. Cost – S./3 ($1.05) Although the police will occasionally crack down, bootleg videos are readily available. (Please note that the format for DVDs is different in Peru – won’t work in my laptop!) You will need a “local” DVD player.
Life in Lima is good, although a little loud and fast for my country taste. We do enjoy the convenience of easy access to shopping & the lower cost of living. In a future blog post, we’ll discuss how to travel like a Peruvian (and save lots of money.)
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