21 July 2011

The Latest from Lima

You’ve probably noticed that over the last few weeks the majority of my posts have included lots of photos and not too many words. I’m aware of my tendency to verbosity so my last few posts have been my offering to the ADD crowd who can only focus long enough to skim a few photos and cut lines before….Hey! Look! A squirrel!

...Now where was I? Oh, right, I was lying about why my posts have been a bit lacking. The truth is that with all the chaos of the move and the busyness of getting situated in our new home and continuing language study, my days have been pretty full, and when I have had down time, I’ve just been too tired to use the English right and make the pretty sentences. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about it! Every day I see something or think of something that I want to tell you about, something that I think would give you a good glimpse into life in Lima. My instinct is to ramble on and on and on about the city and the people and the things, but then I remember that I do have a good deal of time to share lots about Lima, so I don’t have to try to tell it all right now. But while it is still fresh and new to me, I do want to pass some of it on. 

You may recall that Peru is in the Southern Hemisphere, and consequently the seasons are reversed, so for those of you playing along at home, if it’s summer in the good ol’ U. S. of A., that means here in Lima it’s…WINTER! Yep. The calendar says July and my newsfeed on Facebook is filled with pictures of people’s summer vacations, picnics, beach days, and posts about how hot it is. It’s hard to remember that it’s summer at home when I’m wearing sweaters, scarves, and coats everyday. To be fair, Lima really isn’t all that cold, even by the standards of this thin-blooded Floridian. It’s probably in the mid 60s in the day, and a few degrees cooler at night. Not too bad, right? Well, it wouldn’t be if it was sunny. But as I may have mentioned before, Lima has a bizarre climate. It never rains here, but it is persistently cloudy. My entire time in Lima so far, I think I have seen sun for a grand total of maybe 12 hours. The rest of the time the city is covered in a thick grey blanket, and while it doesn’t rain, we do have wet days. The heaviest precipitation we have seen since our arrival could barely be called rain, even it was closer to what my family calls “spitting.” What we do get is mist. It feels mostly like walking through a cloud. Just enough moisture to get you sufficiently damp, but not enough to warrant an umbrella. Although Lima is known for it’s constant high humidity, mold problems, etc., we have been told that this much “rain” is unusual even for winter in Lima.

 Having grown up with humidity and survived a couple of bitterly cold damp winters in Paris, I didn’t think I’d mind this weather. But what I had failed to take into account is that very few buildings here have any sort of climate control. That’s right, no heat. So while I can enjoy cold weather just fine at home when there are snug restaurants, offices, and homes to go, here there’s not much escape. The company office where I meet with my language tutor has no heat, so on the colder days I don’t even bother unbuttoning my coat; I sit there bundled up for the entire three hours. Last week my supervisor accompanied me to an appliance store and I made a critical purchase: a space heater! It’s a little thing that resembles R2D2,
I can tell that my new friend and I will be very close, so he's going to need a name. Suggestions?
 but it makes a world of difference in my room. I’m a much happier camper now that I know that at least at home I can get cozy!

The few sunny hours have given me a glimpse of a different city. Lima seems like an entirely changed place when the sun comes out, and I can’t wait for more opportunities to see the city at its best. I don’t really think about how pervasive the cloud cover is until I wake up with sun streaming in on my face and I sit there thinking for a minute, “Why does this seem so weird? Ooooh. Right. I haven’t seen the sun in two weeks!”

This move has been a pretty drastic shift. Last month I was living in Costa Rica. It was summer and sunny with frequent heavy downpours, often unbearably hot. As cold as I’ve been the last few weeks it is funny to think that it wasn’t long ago that I sat sweating in my bedroom in Costa Rica praying for rain and a breeze, just wishing I had a fan or some way to cool off. Costa Rica is colorful and chaotic. The buildings, flowers, and sky are all bright and unkempt. Now I live in Lima. It’s winter and cloudy and never really rains, and I’m always cold. Winter seems to envelope Lima’s modern apartment buildings and manicured parks in greyness. Other than both speaking Spanish (and even that is different) the two places seem utterly different.

Here’s what my days look like in general: In the mornings I get up, have some coffee and maybe some Honey Bunches of Oats (ßyes!), and get ready for the day. Since my mornings are “free” I usually am off in some store getting something for the apartment, groceries, or other random necessities. If not, I’ll be working on a number of projects at home, or I may head to Starbucks and enjoy some (more) coffee and internet. (We can’t have our internet set up until we have our residency permits, which as you may imagine takes some time, so we have very limited internet access at the house for the time being.) At 2:30 Carlos, the taxi driver, arrives to drive me the short trip to the Peru office for Spanish class. I meet with my tutor until 6 at which point Carlos returns to take me home. It’s starting to get dark then, so I do any other errands I need to squeeze in and then settle in to work on stuff in the apartment.

Language study is going well. Having a personal tutor makes a remarkable difference. I meet with her at the office for three hours every afternoon. She’s great and I certainly have learned a lot, but a solid three hours of one on one conversation in a foreign language is exhausting. I leave each day feeling like I need a brain transplant. We have three more weeks of language study, and then it’ll be time to switch gears and get to work. In the meantime, I’ll be cramming in as much español as possible and continuing to run all those little errands that are involved in getting settled. We did check one big thing off the list this week: We got our cell phones! Yay!

Thanks for your prayers during our first weeks here in Lima. I hope to get into a better schedule of posting now that we are starting to get settled.
Batllama. No, there is no explanation for this. 
I also need to make a belated birthday shout-out to my awesome friend, Carolyn! 
She turned the big Two-Five this week and I’m so bummed I wasn’t there to help her celebrate the quarter-century mark. She’s just a wonderful person and friend and has been such a blessing in my life these last 11 years! The really great thing about having been friends for so long is that I have quite a repertoire of amusing/embarrassing anecdotes to share about her, but because I love her so much I’ll refrain…for now! ;-) ....But photos are a different story, so here ya go!

Sorry, Care! But you have to admit this photo is kind of awesome.  Love you!

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