Week of March 28, 2004
We'rrrrrre back! Our time at home was just what we needed and we were very pleased to see everyone doing well. We were especially happy to be more tanned than anyone - for me, that is a rarity!
Before I delve into our return to Lima (which was very easy), I would like to state that we really appreciate all that we have back home - family, friends and a happy life. It is one thing to appreciate your family and friends, but do not stop there. Be thankful for the experiences in your life that have brought those around you that you love and cherish, and then keep looking even further. Be appreciative of where you live and the amenities that you have that afford you the time to enjoy your family and friends, and so on and so forth.
One thing that I have learned from this journey is that the appreciation trail should be endless. Each "appreciation" should extend into another and another. Ok, I am off my soapbox (but isn't life good!).
Alright, back to Lima. Other than our flight being a few hours late, we enjoyed our flight. We got to watch "The Duplex" (cute) and "Runaway Jury" (I really liked it, very quick paced and troubling if it could really happen) and of course, sleep. A quick taxi ride at 4:00 a.m. got us to our hotel and after ridding the world of a few cockroaches, the hot shower was welcome.
One thing you learn about when traveling like this is not to sweat the small stuff. Ants, cockroaches (in small numbers and size), spiders, etc. don't really bother us anymore. If the local people live a little less "sanitized" than we are used to and they are healthy and happy, who are we to stress. There is a certain freedom from "BP" (bacteria paranoia) in these southern countries.
After gaining our lost sleep, we tensely walked the 200 feet to where Cindy was tucked in for the past month. As we were assured, Cindy was safe and sound and not a mirror out of place. You can imagine our pent up relief of emotions after the shipping debacle. Heck, we even hugged her (ok, Gerson didn't, but I sure did).
While we were back home, we ordered and received a replacement window for Cindy and had no problem (other than a $20 custom's charge in Lima) carrying the 5' x 1' window as baggage (thank you Peninsula Glass for an excellent crate container!). We installed Cindy's perfect window and removed an all too obvious remembrance of the transit damage.
Our new friends, Carlos and Rosa, made sure we were well fed all week and between Carlos and his son, Andrei we were "limoed" all over Lima and of course, to the local ruins. The Plaza Mayor was beautiful as it was surrounded by the obligatory Cathedral, the Palacio de Gobierno and the Palacio Arzobispal. Views from atop a hill where the cross of San Cristobal was displayed were spectacular, to say the least.
The first Cathedral was built in 1555; however, after several earthquakes, it was rebuilt in 1746. A noteworthy mention is that Francisco Pizarro, the conquistador responsible for the "conquering" of the Incas, is entombed in the Cathedral. Ironically, he was killed by the son of a man he had himself killed some years earlier. I guess he reaped what he sowed.
We also got to witness the virtual stop of Lima civilization (10 million strong) as you would know it. Why? One word: FUTBOL! Yes, Lima was awash in red and white (Peru's national colors) because of a very significant futbol game against Colombia. Unfortunately, this World Cup 2006 qualification game was given to Colombia with a score of 2-0 and the huge city mourned for days. To see a city that is as vibrant, loud, crazy, busy, etc. as Lima come to a standstill for their beloved sport was awe-inspiring. So much so, that I proudly wore my new "Te Amo Peru" hat (I Love Peru).
We were invited to share in the small celebration of a cousin's 21st birthday (legal drinking age is 18 so not quite the imbibing occasion as in the US). Jackie came by Carlos and Rosa's banquet salon (the family-owned party hall that Rosa manages) to share in well-wishes, a little dancing and a lot of cake. We really enjoyed stepping into the tradition and tossing our well-wishes in with the family. And, the cake wasn't too bad either!
Peru is a ruin lover's paradise. After just this short time here, I can imagine that there are layers of history underneath just about everything. It is almost as though you can see the cities' footprints as you look across the desert landscape.
Carlos escorted us to the immense remains of Pachacamac (pa-cha-ca-mac). Pachacamac was built around 1500 years ago and even though the ruins have not been well restored, the dry desert climate has preserved much of the extensive layout of the city. Like Tulum in Mexico, this sprawling center was perched on cliffs at the ocean's edge and the inhabitants thrived on the sea and a nearby river for sustenance.
We also stopped in the museum and viewed pictures of the ruins taken over 120 years ago. Remarkably, the ruins look very much the same, thanks to the arid preservation conditions. We also looked upon a (totem-like) pole that was found buried within the ruins and that depicts their god. An interesting story accompanies the totem-pole. The god was so feared that none would look upon the face at the top of the pole. Only the priests could approach the pole with offerings and only then, could they approach backwards, for fear of being struck down by the eyes of their god. I actually found it difficult to look upon the top face for very long for it seemed to stare back - kind of like the Mona Lisa effect. Eerie but cool!
From here, we had a whirlwind tour of the Museo de Oro del Peru which also encompasses the Museo de Armas (rightfully recognized as one of the largest armory museums in the world). The extensive collection of pre-Colombian, Inca and Colonial gold artifacts was dizzying enough and combine that with an arms collection of over a million pieces, we were rather overwhelmed. If you are interested in arms collections, bring your lunch to this museum because a few hours would not be enough.
Now, if all these ruins and museums on the same day were not enough, Gerson found out that the local Hippodrome (horse racing stadium for those of you that are equine-challenged) was open and we could just make it in time for a few races. After the first race, Gerson had reason to be confident seeing as he hit the winning horse for 46 soles (about $10). So, after a few races, we ended up losing a whopping $3 US. Carlos had more fun watching us act like kids.
On the way home, we drove by a place where a famous water well exists and Carlos told us the history of this special body of water.
Carlos and Rosa took us to a local club (Sachun) that is famous for its folklorica dance and all-around musical enjoyment. What a night! The festivities started at 10:00 p.m. and we crawled back to the hotel around 3:00 a.m. Dancers representing many of the Peruvian cultures took the stage in between music sessions that blended jazz with that sensual, rhythmic latin sound. We watched, listened, sambaed, drank, ate and laughed the entire night. I cannot wait until we get to Brasil!
Taking a day to recover, we invited the
Alpaca family to a picnic/bar-b-que at a place of their choosing. What
started as a small gathering, quickly evolved into a group of 15 family (and
almost family) members piling into Carlos' bus and traveling to a nearby "club".
This club is a little different from the "clubs" we see in the United States,
and wonderfully so. But first, take a look at this gringa-peruana.
At the club, Gerson and I had no idea what to expect other than there would be the necessary bar-b-que and a pool. When we pulled into the parking area, we had a difficult time seeing beyond the large pool and its rather fun-looking water slide. Upon further observation and a long walk around the property, we found not only the sizable swimming pool and its screamingly fun waterslide, we also found a wading pool, several eateries, grassy expanses, countless large trees, bungalows, a miniature golf course, basketball courts, a trampoline, an entire playground (with all of the equipment that we used to play on as kids but do not exist now because some idiot in the United States feels the apparatuses are too dangerous), volleyball courts, pony rides, aviaries, and of course, lest I forget, the life-saving soccer (futbol) fields.
Half the fun of the day was coaxing some of the more reluctant swimming participants to go down the slide. We succeeded in convincing all but one of the more timid, but even her standoff was a source of laughs. Gerson, Carlos and Julio (a long-time friend of Carlos and the father to Jessica, Andrei's girlfriend - did you get that) manned the bar-b-que (gee, where do you think Gerson would be anyway) and the food disappeared within minutes. Even the mid-80's grandparents were enjoying the festivities and indulged in a long walk around the park.
Needless to say, we had an awesome, wet-n-wild day at the Peruvian's version of a "club" and the experience was made all the more wonderful because of this incredibly close, loving and embracing family.
If you remember, we met Carlos when he was on an overnight tour in Casma. Carlos owns his bus (quite a remarkable thing) and specializes in tours for retired people. He really enjoys his job and he is one heck of a driver to be able get around the zipping blurs of metal that are called "cars" here in Peru.