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Monday, July 22, 2019

Up to our last day in LIma

Friday July 19th

It is our last day in Lima, our last day in Peru. Our flight isn’t until close to midnight, so we still have an entire day here.

I’ll start with an incident that doesn’t fit into the narrative, but needs to be related. The night before last,  I awoke in the middle of the night with a cat sitting on my shoulder, in bed.  By the way, we are in a fifth floor apartment in a modern building, and I had not seen any cats before. In fact, have seen virtually no cats at all in Lima, save for the ones that famously run around Kennedy Park in Miraflores.

I had awakened with some strange dreams in my head, and thought for a moment that I was still dreaming.  Loring, whom I’d awakened with my startled “there’s a cat in the bed” thought for certain that I was talking in my sleep, which I am apparently prone to do.

But no, this was a real cat. And despite my love of cats, I didn’t want anything to do with one I had not previously met, in the middle of the night, in the dark, in a not so familiar place.  Loring remembered that we’d left the door to the balcony open, and so I shooed it out of the bedroom, into the living room, and onto the balcony.  It was no longer there in the morning.  

To the best of my befuddled memory, it was well cared for, not a street cat.  The only thing we can guess  is that it crossed over the ledge from the neighboring balcony, and belonged to someone in the building.

So strange. I just wish that it had come to visit during the day, when I would  would have  been happy to play with it, though still puzzled about its provenance.  Instead, I thought it was some kind of feral city creature, prowling the night in search of tourists.

We’ve spent the last three days in Lima, first meeting up with Carolina and Franz, who’d arrived a few days earlier.  It was an intense first Lima day for us, and last for them.  We met the Alvas for lunch, Raul and MariaElena, whe’d been our adoption lawyers some thirty years ago. We have stayed in touch with them all these years, and seem them every few years, in Peru, and also in Massachusetts. Their younger daughter is married to an American, and their older one is married to a German man, and they have two children. We’ve known them since they were little girls and Max was an infant.

They came to our apartment here, where I was waiting downstairs because we hadn’t known an apartment number, and couldn’t reach them that morning. I heard a familiar voice call out my name. Raul said he had recognized me from the back!

We walked around Barranco, where we are staying, and which is the “arty” section of town. There was a wide mix of people, hip young Limeans, many poor people as well, a few tourists. The first restaurant we tried to enter had a waiting line of an hour and a half.  Acording to Raul, from noon to about 2pm is the busiest. We might try them again for our last meal today. The place is called Isolina.

So we walked around Barranco, past MacDonalds and Starbucks, finally landing at a restaurant called Rustica.  Coincidentally , we had eaten at another Rustica our first night in Iquitos, not realizing it was a small chain. And Franz and Carolina had previously eaten at still another one in Lima, one of the nights before we arrived.  It was a fairly nice place, with a pretty authentic Peruvian buffet, including a few things we might have been better off not knowing what they were. We walked back to our apartment with the Alvas.  On our corner is a coffee shop, and since Raul was in search of coffee, which Rustica apparently hadn’t had, we stopped in. The Alvas had coffee and desert, Carolina and Franz both had Peruvian coffees, coffee with Pisco, I had a limeade with some herb, yerba buena if I remember right.  Loring had agua con gaz, our fallback beverage here.

Later that day, we had more visitors, Carolina’s brother Miguel, and sister Erika. They’d all met up a day or two before, along with Erika’s husband and their kids. They’ve been married eleven years, since Erika was fifteen.

From Erika and Miguel, Carolina and Franz had heard asomewhat different version of the family life in Tamashiyacu than the one we’d been presented with a week before.  

 Olinda's situation seems pretty bad.  The older siblings  have plans to  move Olinda to a place in Iquitos. Carolina also has plans to get Tito to the U.S.  They went with him to get a passport. I don’t know how difficult it is to obtain a visa. What will transpire from here remains to be seen. But knowing Carolina, she will continue to support Olinda as best she can.

Miguel lives not far from our apartment here, in Miraflores. That has always been one of the upper class and popular with tourists part of town. It’s where I spent most of my time in Lima, first in an apartment hotel when we adopted Max, then in another apartment two years later with Carolina.
There are many tales to be told about those times, too, of course, but that will remain for another saga. Or perhaps you have already heard those stories.

Miguel was eager to show Carolina around Lima, as he also had with us in Iquitos. He lives here, but travels frequently to Iquitos for business. He seems to be quite well off, in contrast to the rest of the family. He has a large apartment here, where he took Carolina and Franz to visit, and to serve them several meals.  And  another one in Iquitos.

It is hard to decipher just what his relationship with the rest of the family has been.  But we were told, by Tito as well as Miguel, that he basically “saved” Erika from the situation in Tamishiyacu.

Erika seemed touched that I remembered her from when Raul had brought her to Lima, at age two, for foot surgery.  I had asked about her, even before we knew about all the other siblings.  We met briefly here, with Miguel, partly because she had wanted to meet me. They came to the apartment later than we expected, (Peruvian time, we should have known!) So we only had about fifteen minutes with them, before they drove Carolina and Franz to the airport. But it was well worth it for me to meet her once again, and it seemed meaningful to her too.

Miguel had spent the previous few days driving Franz and Carolina around Lima, great aside from the fact that they never had a chance to walk around or explore on their own, aside from the hours we spent with the Alvas.  But I have a feeling she is already planning to come back.

So it’s been a pretty tumultuous couple of weeks, but then that is what we had expected.

Now, onto handicrafts, one of my favorite subjects. Since I couldn’t really justify buying any more for myself,  I had offered to the director of Partners in Development to shop for the organization for them to resell. They support communities and children in Haiti, Guatemala, Mississippi, and now are starting up in Peru. They do have handicrafts from the other countries, but hadn’t yet acquired any from Peru. So, with a budget of several hundred dollars, I had a great time scouting out and purchasing a variety of items, in the jungle, and now in Lima.

I had heard about a community, near the jungle lodge where we stayed, that made baskets from a local fiber. They’d apparently made them for their personal use for ages, probably generations. But Dolly Beaver, Paul’s Peruvian wife and manager of the lodge, had organized the women to create more marketable items, and thus provide some income to the tiny community of about 250.  When Dolly heard about my interest in meeting the women and purchasing some of their products, she arranged a visit.

When we arrived, on our last day in the jungle, and on our way back to Iquitos and on to Lima, there were eleven women waiting for us, each with her own table of baskets, no two the same. I made the rounds, purchasing at least one item from each of the eleven. Loring followed after me, taking pictures of me and each of the women, and one tiny toddler who was lying on the ground playing with a small basket. It turned out that he was the baby brother of Jackson, our boat man. And the basket maker was their mother.

Dolly thanked me profusely for our purchases.  And I now have a connection and a way to purchase more and get them to the States if that becomes feasible. She and Paul actually live in Florida, but come down a few times a year.

And here in Lima, I have continued on with crafts purchases in the markets. They are so different from the way they were 30 years ago, not really surprising. Then, they were simple stalls, and at least some of the craftspeople lived behind a tarp behind their tables. The merchandise was the things they made themselves, whether rugs or jewelry or pottery. Now the markets are much more elaborate, and the salespeople are mostly merchants rather than the makers. The arpilleras, embroidered and appliqued wall hangings, of which I purchased several dozen years ago, are still available, but are amazingly expensive, over a hundred dollars each.  But I am happy to see that the crafts people (at least I hope) are receiving more money for their incredible work. Some of the other crafts, like the little retablos, boxes that open to reveal small scenes, either religious or domestic, are also prevalent, but the general quality is lower.

In any case, it is hard to understand how any of these folks are able to earn a living there, because there are hundreds of booths, in several adjoining markets, and rather few tourists. Knowing how much the tourist business has expanded in the last couple of decades, I had expected to see many more. But I suppose most tourists spend little time in Lima, heading for Cuzco and Machu Picchu, or the jungle, or the Andes. Peru is such an incredibly diverse country, one of the things that attracted us to it originally all those years ago.

I spent about an hour a couple of days ago, scouting out items, buying a few, with a very patient Loring sitting and reading on a bench. We knew I was going to have to come back. Yesterday I returned, planning to meet Loring several hours later at the art museum.

 I took cabs, first to the market, then on to the museum. Loring walked,  his favorite thing to do in a city. I like walking in cities, too. But not as much as he does.  The walk was a bit further than google had indicated, about seven miles rather than the four he had expected. So he arrived a bit tired, but remarkably on time, as was I. He after several hours walking, and me after several shopping. (but for handicrafts, not for myself.)  Oh, all right, I  had allowed myself  one purchase, an alpaca cape. And it was a pretty necessary purchase, because it is cold here in Lima, colder than I had remembered.  I have had only one long sleeved layer, a light sweater. Now I can wrap myself luxuriously in my beautiful shawl, inside or outdoors. 

Lima’s weather doesn’t change too much, just a few degrees, from their summer to winter, which it is now. ( South America’s seasons are opposite to ours.) And it is almost always a dull gray here. Sunshine is almost non existent. Lima could be a pretty city if only there was some sun.

The museum yesterday, the Lima art museum, was well worth the visit. We remember the building distinctly, from our first visit here in 1986, because of its beautiful checkerboard marble courtyard floor. We have a picture of a couple of little girls dancing in traditional costumes there.  They still have classes for children, many more now, in various arts and media.

I can’t say I remember anything about the exhibits from all those years ago, so don’t know how much it has changed. They have a wide variety of arts, from ancient to almost contemporary, including painting, pottery, jewelry. I was sad to see that the textile room was under renovation and not open.
But, today, we are heading to the Amano Museum, a private collection of textiles that the collector later opened as a museum. I do distinctly remember that museum, although I think I was there by myself after Loring went back home, so don’t think he’s ever seen it. I remember sliding open drawer after drawer to reveal incredible and amazingly preserved ancient textiles. I may not be quite as bowled over this time, because I have seen many Peruvian textiles since then, but am hoping that I will appreciate  seeing them again at least almost as much as last time.

That may be the last of our tourist type activities, because we have to come back and pack and prepare to leave. I could probably do a second museum, but doubt that Loring could. Unless we walk, a lot, in between.

A couple more things to relate before ending this post.  I had read about a water park here, not the kind with rides and waves and all that. But a park with a number of impressive fountains that were lit at night. I read some comparison to the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

We walked from the art museum to the park, about fifteen or twenty minutes. It opens at about 3pm, and I’d read that the light show began at about 7pm.  We walked around for a while, impressed by the number and variety of fountains. There was a spot where you could pose and have your picture taken. We saw a little girl in a white dress, probably  for a communion. And an older girl, in a dark blue gown, no doubt a quincenera, also posed for photos.

When we’d walked around all the fountains, nearly twenty, we were ready to leave and looking for an exit. Suddenly music came on, and lasers, and there was a show much more elaborate than what we’d already seen. Suddenly we noticed that there were big crowds, many more folks than we’d seen before. The show lasted about fifteen minutes. I’m so glad we didn’t leave before the big event, although we would probably never have known what we’d missed.  It was all quite impressive and more artistic than I’d imagined.

We’ve drunk our share, maybe more, of pisco while here. It's a grape based liquor, and pisco sours are the national drink of the country. (at least the alcoholic version. The non alcoholic national drink is the chartreuse colored Inka Cola, of undeterminable flavor.) Aside from the pisco sours we’ve ordered in restaurants,  we bought a bottle of pisco at the supermarket and made drinks with lime and soda water. And there was the small glass of straight pisco served to me at Miguel’sfriends'  house watching the futbol game. And then yesterday, at a convenience market near the water park (we could not find a single restaurant nearby)  I had a bottle of what looked and tasted like orange soda, but with pisco mixed in.I feel like I ought to have one last pisco, and perhaps will, at the airport.

The other thing we were sure to eat was ceviche, at what was rated by some site as the best cevicheria in Lima, and just a few blocks from our apartment. It was a funky place, with memorabilia all over the walls, mostly sports related. But there was one  wonderful old sign, that translated as something like no galloping allowed in the streets.  On horses, I presume.  I am still lusting after that sign. Oh, and the ceviche was pretty good, too.

Okay, time to hit the streets, at least one last museum, some walking, maybe another ceviche or something else traditional, and in theory a quiet trip home.

I will write one last entry here to sum things up and include anything interesting that I may have neglected to relate, or has yet to occur.

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