My Life in Peru

An Expat Mom Shares Her Experiences with Peruvian Life, Travel and Food

My Never-Ending Search for Privacy in Peru

Posted on | February 3, 2016 | 2 Comments

Privacy in PeruPrivacy. It’s something that, as an American, I pretty much took for granted in my home. I had to be making a lot of noise before anyone could even hear me outside my home. Our neighbors were friendly, but kept to their own business and didn’t spend time sticking their nose into mine.

That came to a screeching halt when I moved to Peru.

Our first home was in a tiny little passageway lined with other tiny little homes. Everything you said and everything you did could be heard by the neighbors. It was less like living in apartments and more like living in a large home with a bunch of rooms connected by a central hallway.

We moved after a couple of years to a “house”. I put that in quotes because while it was technically a 2 story home, the two floor had been split up into two separate apartments. We lived on the first floor, and the owners lived on the 2nd floor. The stairway to their front door took them right past our bathroom window. Disconcerting to say the least when you were taking a shower or having a poo! And it never failed that they’d come in from the grocer, going up and down stairs several times right at that moment.

The worst thing about it for me, though, was the owner’s tendency to butt in to our business. You see, we shared an electric bill. The house had one meter, and at the end of the month, we split the bill. So she had a tendency to knock on our door (or call down to my kitchen from her window!) to ask me if someone was actually in the bathroom, or if we’d just forgotten to turn off the light! I often felt as if she were monitoring our ever flip of the switch and every drop of water!

A couple of years later, we moved to a large, beautiful home in Miraflores. Again, first floor of a 2 story home, with home owners living above. In this case – mostly because our neighbors were really awesome – we finally felt that we had a bit of privacy again. (At least I did – it’s never bothered my Peruvian husband!)  We did recognize that certain things are unavoidable – if you’re going to sing at the top of your lungs (me), or practice your flute for 4 hours (the neighbor’s super talented kid), there’s no getting around it. The neighbors are going to hear it.

What really took the cake though, was when they built an apartment building right next door, and the windows from the bathrooms were over my kitchen window.  It’s disconcerting to play music in your home, and hear a guy in his shower start singing along! Even worse, to sneeze, and hear someone yell “Salud!”

In our next home, things were slightly different. We were actually in a separate apartment, but we had large airshafts that ran from the ground up to the roof. These airshafts are called “tragaluzes” or “light bringers” (a term also used for skylights), because they are created not only to bring in fresh air and ventilation, but to let in more light to what would otherwise be cave-like homes.

You see, many homes and apartment buildings in Lima are built so that there is literally no space between them, which means there is no possibility of putting windows in many rooms. To get around this, buildings are designed with large vertical shafts in them to provide space for windows.  Take a look at this picture:

Airshaft

That’s the tragaluz at the back of my living room. (Yes, that’s also my fridge in my living room!) The window on the other side is my kids’ bedroom. Here’s what it looks like when you stick your head out and look up –

Looking up

So far, so good, right? They do a fantastic job of letting in light and air. Despite the fact that we’re having an incredibly hot summer here in Lima, it’s been really nice and fresh in my house – I rarely even need to use a fan because of the breeze that whips through that window.

The problem becomes a little more apparent on the other side of the house. You see, there are two apartments on each floor in this building. The second tragaluz has windows from my living room, my kitchen – and the neighbor’s bedroom.

That’s right, I can sit in my living room and look directly into the neighbor’s bedroom. Thank goodness it’s not the other way around!

For reasons I can’t fathom, the neighbors haven’t bothered to try and cover this window, but it’s made us REALLY uncomfortable. This isn’t like our last apartment where the only thing I got from the tragaluz was the sounds of everything happening in their home. These neighbors have two kids.

Two curious kids.

While we’ve gone out of our way to pretend that there isn’t a window there and never look out, the kids next door love the idea of seeing people right outside their window. Often, while I’m sitting and working, I hear “Hola! Hola! Hola! Hola!” over and over again, until I acknowledge them…  And then there’s a fit of laughter and giggles and they run away.

It’s adorable and cute – once or twice. But every day, while I’m trying to work… not so much!

It also makes me feel weird about walking around my house in my pajamas, which is pretty much my standard daily wear.

And there are also those moments when you unthinkingly scratch your butt and then think “Oh shit, was someone looking???”

Yes, that’s happened.

So, what do you do when you’re running on a really tight budget and don’t feel like spending money on curtains or window coverings in an apartment you won’t be staying in for long?

Wrapping paper is your friend, y’all.  This is my kitchen now:

kitchen window

The neighbors window is off to the right – so with that paper there, they can’t see into my kitchen anymore. And if you look to that window on the left, you can see I’ve taped up plain white paper to about halfway – now nobody’s hollering “Hola Hola Hola!!” while I work at my computer anymore.

So that’s one way I’ve found a touch of privacy here in my home in Los Olivos.  Next, stop – more privacy in the bathroom! But that’s a post for another day!

 

 

Dancing in Parque Kennedy Miraflores Lima Peru

Posted on | May 24, 2014 | 2 Comments

For the 10+ years I’ve lived in Lima, Friday nights in Miraflores have been one of my favorite things.

The weekends in Parque Kennedy provide so many different things for residents and tourists alike. Art shows and sales, handicrafts for sale and people singing and dancing in the street! What could be more lovely?

One of the loveliest traditions of all has been the weekend dancing at the little mini-amphitheater.  Sometimes there is recorded music, sometimes there are musicians providing live tunes – either way, there are always plenty of older couples there to dance to the romantic songs of their youth.

“Happy” Comes To Lima, Peru

Posted on | May 21, 2014 | No Comments

If you haven’t yet heard “Happy” – the hugely popular tune from the movie Despicable Me 2 by Pharrell Williams – well, what cave have you been living in??

This song has been EVERYWHERE!

It’s even got it’s own 24 hour video channel, playing the song round the clock as people walk, ride and drive through the streets, grocery stores, gas stations and even bowling alleys of Los Angeles. It’s kind of addicting!

Well, Pharrell had encouraged people to make their own versions of the video in their own timezones for the International Day of Happiness back in March, and it seems like some folks here in Lima got in on the fun.

Keep your eyes open for a truly rare sight – a Peruvian outside with no shoes on! (She’s dancing “marinera” style)

I think they did a great job!

 

 

 

Choleando – Racism in Peru

Posted on | February 24, 2014 | 2 Comments

paisana jacintaRacism in Peru.

Depending on who you talk to, you may be told it barely exists, or that it’s one of the biggest problems the country faces.

I tend to agree with the 2nd school of thought there.

What?

 

Racism is a bigger problem than hunger? Terrorism? Drug trafficking?

Yes – because the inherent racism in the Peruvian system is part of what defines the way that all those issues are dealt with.

So when I ran across this video on YouTube, it definitely piqued my interest.

Choleando is a documentary on racism in Peru, from Roberto de la Puente.  In it, he shows examples of the type of casual racism that is inherent in society here – from TV shows like “La Paisana Jacinta” to off-the-cuff derogatory statements from politicians.. even the President of the country.

Which makes you wonder – How can the indigenous peoples of Peru get a fair shake from the government when so many of the national leaders believe those people have less value?

I was lucky enough to get to speak with Roberto about the movie and his ideas about racism in Peru:

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MLiP: Hi Roberto, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for me. I was wondering, was there a specific event that got you angry enough that you felt the need for this movie? Or was it more a build up of events over time?

Roberto:  I sensed racism all my life. I saw it at school, on the street, on the relationship between family members. The way they look, the way to treat the “other ” people. It was something I did not understand, but I felt it was ” bad “. Years later I began to understand the true dimension of the problem. Perhaps that was one reason why I studied anthropology in college.

 

MLiP: Do you feel that people in Peru are opening their eyes more to the types of casual racism that happen here?

Roberto: In Peru there is a clear recognition of the existence of racism. Everyone knows that there is racism, and almost everyone can identify their more “subtle ” manifestations . In surveys nearly 80 % recognize that there is racism in Peru . What is new is that in recent years many people protest against this racism. And the protests are public, loudly, in the media.

 

MLiP: What is your opinion on the recent events during the Peru/Brazil match for the Copa Libertadores?

Roberto: Unfortunate events like that happen all the time. The “animalization” of Afro-Peruvians is something you see everywhere, even in television shows. What is different today is that it is reported. Before it was just “normal”. Nowadays, (there) are still very few Afro-Peruvians with important positions in politics, economics or religion. It’s something that should change soon.

 

MLiP:  Do you feel that racial relations in Peru are getting better or worse? Are you hopeful for the future?

Roberto:  I think things are changing in my country. More and more Peruvians speak of the problem of racism.Increasingly, authorities and politicians recognize the need to fight discrimination. Racist acts are denounced and rejected publicly on social networks and media. Now the law explicitly condemns racial discrimination: you can go to jail if you discriminate someone else. The most important thing is that people are tired of racism. And now they want to understand racism, its causes and manifestations.

I am quite optimistic.But I think to end racism requires a profound change in my country. Improving public education, respect indigenous peoples, to ensure that access to the labor market is the same for everyone regardless of the phenotype, etc. We are on the right track. But much work still lacking.

 

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I’ve had conversations with Peruvians – people who were well-educated and have jobs of stature – who voiced what to me were absolutely outrageous opinions.  The school director who told me black people were lazy workers, it was simple genetics. Or the English student of mine who warned me against letting our housekeeper sit at the table and eat with my children because she would start getting “uppity”.  I felt the same sense of incredulity and anger when I watched this movie.If you’ve not seen the movie, I’ve linked it here. It’s in Spanish, but Roberto has made it available with English subtitles. Whether you’ve been in Peru for a long time or have only just arrived, I believe you’ll find it an interesting look at the culture of the country, and you may learn something.

A View of Lima, Peru in the Mid 20th Century

Posted on | February 17, 2014 | 1 Comment

I ran across this video on Youtube, and had to share it. It’s an interesting look back at mid-century Lima. The gentleman who originally posted the video isn’t sure if it’s late 40s or early 50s.

There also is some question as to whether or not the entire video shows Lima (or even Peru, for that matter – one early section is possibly from Quito, Ecuador).

All the same, it’s interesting to see a few spots that are still recognizable today.

Just How Bad Is Lima Traffic? You Might Be Surprised!

Posted on | February 10, 2014 | 2 Comments

don't_drive_hereWe foreigners in Peru love to talk about how God-awful the traffic is – even though there’s always a few people who try to convince us otherwise.

It’s something I’ve written about here on the blog before – traffic is just cray-cray. I’ve tried to show it with video and pictures, but I don’t think I’ve ever been able to truly express the chaos that is traffic in Lima.

So I was pretty psyched when I found these videos!  Not only is it the first thing I’ve ever seen that really shows what the traffic is like, it was lots of fun to watch. I loved seeing him pass through places that were familiar to me – and seeing a few that weren’t!

The show is called Don’t Drive Here from the Discovery Channel. It’s not just a great look at traffic in Lima, it was also an interesting look at life from the point of view of taxi drivers, combi and bus drivers, ambulance drivers and more.  It was pretty astounding to hear a bus driver say that he didn’t care if a pregnant woman or elderly person was crossing in front of him, he didn’t hit the brakes; they just need to go faster. It’s something that we ‘gringos’ joke about – pretty freaky to hear the dude just say it right out (I hope he was joking… but I’m not so sure!).

I also FINALLY learned what those guys with clipboards that stand on the side of the road are doing – and why the cobradores (bus conductors) pay them.

You can check it out here – you might want to put on your seat belt!

 

(Edit: 1 Mar 2015 – When I first posted this, the entire program was available on YouTube. Since it was taken down, I’ve put up this preview video. If you can find the full show, I recommend watching!)

 

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The Secret to a Perfect Leche de Tigre

Posted on | February 8, 2014 | 2 Comments

I’ve written about leche de tigre (tiger’s milk) before – I’ve got a recipe for it right here. 

But that’s a recipe from me – a gringa.

For real, authentic Peruvian ceviche, you gotta do it like the Peruvians do.

That’s why I love this video – it may not show you exactly how to make a perfect leche de tigre, but it certainly tells you the secrets behind a good one!

Check it out and enjoy!

 

Hey!

Posted on | January 5, 2014 | No Comments

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

 

 

It’s just a new way for me to connect with more readers and to find more blogs that I love.

Even if you don’t blog, it’s a great way to keep track of blogs that you like to follow.

New Year’s Eve, Los Olivos, Lima Peru

Posted on | January 2, 2014 | 2 Comments

Hope everyone has had a great New Year!

It was a weird one for me – I spent it all alone.

Well – not completely alone, I had my four dogs and plenty of online conversation :)

My husband worked on the 31st, it’s one of those nights when lots of people are looking for taxis, and there aren’t a lot of taxis out on the streets. I worry about him driving on a night like that, you just know there are a lot more drunk drivers out there – but we’ve got to make that money if we’re gonna get back to the US this year!

I did get up on the roof at midnight to film the fireworks; they were even crazier than Christmas eve! I’m a little jumpy the first couple of minutes, but about 2 minutes in, I get some really good shots.

Oh – and at 5 minutes or so, I get really freaked out and slip up with a little “nsfw” language – sorry! But I tend have an extreme reaction when I see red-hot pieces of metal falling all around me!

On New Years Day, I cooked a big pot of black eyed peas with smoked ribs for seasoning since I don’t have ham hocks. I served it up with cabbage, rice, papas a la huancaina and chuck steak.  I’d have liked to have had pork chops, but I didn’t plan my grocery shopping very well this week, lol. :)

I fixed my husband a big plate full – and all he had to say was “Can I have a fried egg on top?”  Oy, Peruvians! 😀  So we had hoppin’ john a la pobre.

All in all, it was really a pretty nice holiday week – and I’m ready to get back to work now.

Here’s wishing all of you all the best in the upcoming year!

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Christmas Eve Fireworks in Los Olivos

Posted on | December 25, 2013 | No Comments

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and All That Jazz!

It’s about 3am Christmas morning – and I’ve GOT to share my video from tonight!

This is our first Christmas living in Los Olivos. Before, we lived in Miraflores, where things are a little more genteel. There were fireworks and rockets, but nothing like the people do here in Los Olivos! It was pure insanity for about 15 minutes. Just check out the video – it starts getting really crazy about 4 or 5 minutes in:  (you might want to make sure your volume isn’t up too high!)

 

What’s really crazy – supposedly, fireworks were outlawed this year!

Apparently, no one thought to enforce it… 😉

Hope your holidays are awesome!

 

 

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    About

    I got tired of life happening while I made other plans, so I quit my job and came to Peru. I live here with my Peruvian husband, two sons, three dogs and various other family members, depending on the weather.


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