10 Things I’ve learned in Peru

1. Peruvians are very proud of their heritage. The country has had a tumultuous past, but people are so proud to be from Lima (they are called limeños) or from Cuzco or wherever they live. They celebrate their culture through art, music, dance, textiles, etc and are excited to talk about it. Their independence days are July 28 and 29 and they celebrate them for about two weeks.

Church in Arequipa, Peru in the Monasterio de Santa Catalina

Church in Arequipa, Peru in the Monasterio de Santa Catalina

2. Peruvians in general are short. At 5’5″, I tower over most people. The women wear heels most of the time to appear taller.

3. A lot of Peruvians are also overweight, so their BMI must be out of control. They drink a lot of soda such as Inca Cola, this highlighter yellow beverage that tastes like bubble gum to me. They eat a lot of sugar and bread. On the other hand, the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables here is incredible. Every street corner store and often street carts sell bananas, oranges, avocados, potatoes, etc.

4. It’s ok to get on the bus even if it looks like one more person won’t fit without the whole vehicle bursting. Eventually people will get out and you can get a seat. There might be a metaphor in here about doing things that seem impossible because they will most likely work out.

Combi bus, one of the "joys" of travel

Combi bus, one of the “joys” of travel

5. You have to get out of the city and go smell the fresh country air, see the stars, and get out of the chaos. It is cleansing for your mind, lungs, and soul.

Me at the Canon de Colca, the second deepest canyon in the world. There were 9 condors (a large bird that the Incas worshipped) flying in the canyon that day.

Me at the Canon de Colca, the second deepest canyon in the world. There were 9 condors (a large bird that the Incas worshipped) flying in the canyon that day.

6. The colonial buildings here are incredible. The old churches, monasteries, government buildings, and restaurants are beautiful. It’s amazing to see all the detail they put into these old buildings. The new buildings are very modern, with plain walls and no detail. People don’t necessarily like the colonial look anymore, which I think is a shame.

Colonial church in Miraflores, Lima, Peru

Colonial church in Miraflores, Lima, Peru

7. Living near the coast and eating fresh seafood is great. I normally don’t like or eat much seafood, but when it’s fish or shellfish right out of the ocean, it’s delicious. I have learned to eat ceviche (fish or shellfish cooked with lemon and the acid in the lemon breaks down the proteins in the fish, therefore cooking it) and fried fish called chicharrones. Both are delicious.

8. Peru has thousands of varieties of potatoes. I’ve only tried a handful, but they are delicious. Unfortunately, I tried to make mashed potatoes with one variety and it didn’t work out too well.

9. Peru (or any developing country for that matter) is a really hard place to live for sensitive people. Sensitive in the sense of emotional sensitivity, yes, but also someone with heightened 5 senses of the body. I have a keen sense of smell and it goes wild here. Walking down the street, I’m confronted with a range of smells: fish cooking, potatoes frying, urine, trash, cigarette smoke, diesel exhaust, and every once in a while fresh cut grass. My sense of taste is elevated with the different foods I taste, as mentioned above. Sense of sight: Very hard to describe everything I’ve seen here because I’m incredibly observant. I’ve seen colorful buildings and houses, lots of signs advertising the upcoming elections, a bare naked man changing in the street, dogs searching for food, indigenous people in their full traditional dress dancing and/or trying to make a bit of money selling handmade goods on the street. I’ve seen fights, love, smiles, families embracing, people saying goodbye. Sense of sound is heightened because the city of Lima is never quiet. There’s always people talking, cars zooming past, car alarms going off, horns honking, babies crying, people cutting the grass, water running, etc. Sense of touch: well, I try not to touch more than I have to. I always have to touch the bus railings to hold on, but I’m sure I encounter lots of germs that way. Touching money also always makes me nervous. I wonder who sneezed on this money at one point…

Peruvian money- the Nuevo Sol. There are 5, 2, 1, 0.50, 0.20, 0.10, and 0.05 sol pieces.

Peruvian money- the Nuevo Sol. There are 5, 2, 1, 0.50, 0.20, 0.10, and 0.05 sol pieces.

10. Peru actually has a really good public health awareness and advertising system. On every bottle of alcohol, it says that drinking in excess can cause harm. On cigarettes, advertisements say that smoking causes cancer. I’ve seen posters that talk about staying home from work when you’re sick. Tuberculosis warnings are all over the buses. Plus, casinos talk about how gambling can cause problems. It’s really nice to see all of these advertisements.

Chao for now!

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