Ok so I can’t be bothered repeating things in e-mails to people. What can I say, I’m lazy.

12 08 2008

Best cure for an aching stomach? Raw prawns and a cold beer.

It was the first time since I’ve been here that I had actually feared for the fresh wave of pain that the gurgling in my gut would bring, and for the inevitable consequential trip to the bathroom, of which I will promptly spare the unpleasant details. I tried everything: digestive green tea; a diet of oats and apples; a galleon of water; pain killers; immodium plus; but it was the “Ceviche de languistines” accompanied by a chilled bottle of Cusquena beer that finally ceased my days of anguish.

It’s not the first time I tried Ceviche. That was on my first day in Peru. One month ago to the day, I unsuccessfully insisted my friend (of less than 24 hours) that it was probably not a good idea to fire into the raw fish at this early juncture. He insisted otherwise.

My tastebuds were soon to agree with him. Ceviche: raw seafood, of near any type, marinated in lime or lemon and chilli. Garnish with plenty of red onion, boiled sweet potato, possibly steamed maize and probably rice. Just before your teeth slice through the soft and refreshing flesh of fresh fish you are greeted with an outburst of citrus zest accented by the sharp bite of Andean chilli. The yam and corn offer sweet sustenance to soften the blow. Fish, naturally, is sublime.

On this occasion my stomach, being a big fan of seafood, was fine, and this only left my confidence sky high. Restaurants here, fast food there, perhaps a little beer or two and then another restaurant.

And more beer. (It’s 50p from the shop next door to my house)

This had to take its toll: hence the predicament in which I found myself after two weeks. I have promised myself that a balanced diet of seafood and beer will ensue from now onwards…

Up until this point, food had been the least of my concerns. Of more imminent danger in this hazy pacific desert sprawl is millions of drivers vying for their space on the road. If road laws exist then they certainly are barely adhered to.

This poses a number of problems. Firstly, pedestrianism is a nightmare: to cross a road requires patience, perseverance and the general ability to withhold anger. Secondly, the pollution is terrible. Worse than smoking. Thirdly, public transport proves to be a risky little game. Fleets of “combis” – tiny minibuses probably as ancient as the Moche – prowl the main streets trawling for customers. The moment they collect their catch they take off at breakneck speed, which is troublesome for the taller of patrons. I saw a statistic that the death toll in 10 days on Peru’s highways was 80. This is a far more pressing concern than mugging, theft, hepatitis B, rabies etc…

While I’m on this note, let’s get some more negatives out of the way … Nescafé in cafés? No Sunshine for a month? Expensive wine? Bad CHEESE?!?!?!?! I ask you…

Ahem, ok, so, my job is good. The people here have been really cool and it’s a great atmosphere. I’ve toured both Chile and Brazil to write hotel descriptions, spent 2 weeks in the Amazon rainforest researching berries, and I’m currently extensively travelling Peru to research content for a new website. All through my laptop from the comfort of my desk in an office on a leafy Miraflores avenue. God bless the internet.

It has been really interesting so far though, I am becoming an expert on Peruvian tourism without even leaving Lima. By the time 6 months is up I will have planned an amazing tour for myself, and have the time and money to do it. Additionally, a part of my job is writing content for our monthly newsletter, which includes all sorts of stories from across South America, so I’m keeping up to date on regional affairs (deadly interesting im sure you’ll agree … please ask me for links and details).

Only problem is: I’m itching to see every place that I read about. In time perhaps…

So anyway, to round up, highlights of the first month have included: an extensive independence day parade (2 weeks before the actual day itself); Peruvian independence day; fiestas associated with Peruvian independence day; a reunion concert to mark the 25th year of Peru’s greatest rock band; meeting a scottish guy to try and start a rock band; getting p**sed in Lima centro; getting p**sed with folk from work; putting on a kilt and instantly becoming a celebrity; Aji sauce; mussels (mmm, mussels); pisco sour; cervesa; FIESTA; playing football with south americans; playing pro evolution soccer with South Americans; various fiestas at my house with a variety of themes; my house; seeing the Amazon and the Andes from the plane (both spectacular); going to an organic market every Saturday a block from my house; writing; visiting two ancient ruins – one slap bang in the middle of modern Lima, one south of Lima on the pacific coast; views of the Pacific; visiting a park full of spectacular fountains; pondering why a developing country’s government spends money on spectacular fountains; saying “no entiendo” to as**oles; a 3 day AIESEC congress at a beach resort north of Lima; a firework display; attempting salsa; crap movies with Spanish subtitles; learning Spanish; and not to forget pretty much every restaurant, sanguigeria, canteen, cevicherie, cafe, market, fast food joint, diner, bar, takeaway and eatery that I’ve been to.

And of course the people, whether Peruvians or fellow foreigners, everyone is friendly, everyone has welcomed me, everyone has helped me with Spanish and everyone wants to include me. I have AIESEC to thank for helping me to get here and subsequently meeting so many cool people.

In spite of all of these niceties, getting used to a different culture has been very hard: the most difficult thing that I’ve ever done. Living in a well off part of Lima has been the worst part: many things such as malls, fast food, modern conveniences, money and “modern society” are sickening when placed alongside begging children.

Homesickness has also featured a bit and I sometimes have flashbacks of good times in Scotland. Its all part of the process though.

Not knowing the language is also frustrating: I lack the ability to communicate effectively with almost absolutely everybody, I feel totally ignorant, I can’t express myself and I feel like i’m missing out on alot. But every day I can notice a difference in comprehension and I can speak more. I’m starting to string sentences together and answer people’s questions, to the extent that people are beginning to say that my Spanish accent is easier to understand than my Scottish one.

Well, that’s pretty much all I can write off the top of my head. I’m impressed if you read this far. I would have navigated away after the first paragraph. By the time of my next blog I will have explored more of Lima, will no doubt have visited some museums at last, I can imagine I will have visited a few more restaurants (it’s more cost effective than supermarkets!!!), and will have been to CUSCO!!!

I’m going to the Inca capital one week on thursday. Unfortunately, I’ve been informed that I’m 478 years too late, but that there’s a place nearby called “Machu Picchu” which will be really really quiet and peaceful at this time of year (Thousands of tourists a day can’t be wrong).

Ungrateful sarcasm aside, I absolutely cannot wait to go, it might well turn out to be the best four days of my life, I probably won’t want to leave, and it will (just!!) make up for not being at Lowlands with my friends this weekend. Hope you guys have as fantastic a time as last year.

Anyway, I’m going to find some food.

Viva Peru!




4 responses

16 08 2008
Jill Holtz

Hi Si,
Great start to your blog, enjoyed every word of it, felt as I too had tasted the ceviche and cold beer 🙂

16 08 2008
Mr. Christopher

Thanks Si, I can’t understand why you’re not used to a lack of sunshine? Seems like you have the basics covered – food, drink, football, music and Peru!!! Found any bears yet?

17 08 2008
Lynn Ross

Hmm – I thought my days of being concerned for your digestive welfare were over – clearly not!!

Loved the kilt bit!

1 09 2008
Jenny Lyon

Hi Simon,
Reading your blog has really got me excited about coming to visit now!
Cheap food, beer and sunshine, perfect!
I’m hoping that by the time Scooby and I get out there you will be an expert on the Peruvian tourist trail and will be able to point us in all the right directions.
Counting down the days as we speak.
Jenny x x

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