Posted on | December 11, 2013 | 2 Comments
When I first moved here, I was terrified to go out on the street on my own. We lived in a poor part of Lima, in Surquillo – in an area the locals call “Little Chicago” because of its high crime rate.
But as I got accustomed to the area, I stopped being afraid. I realized that as long as I’m careful, take a few precautions, and keep my wits about me out in the street, I could significantly lower the odds of being a victim of crime.
And for nearly ten years, it’s been fine! Even though reports are showing that crime is actually on the rise in Lima, I’ve never run into a problem -
Yesterday during our lunch, we heard the car alarm start sounding off. Now, this on its own isn’t a reason for panic; it could have been something as simple as a large truck passing by or a kid bumping the car as he walked by.
See, we don’t have a garage, and have to park our car on the street in front of the house. We’ve not worried too much about it, because our street is pretty busy during the day – there are usually lots of our neighbors out walking to the bodega or taking care of their little ‘lawns’. And at night, the gates on our street are closed and we have a night watchman.
But this time, there was something more to the alarm – as my husband reached for his key fob to turn it off, we heard a loud cracking noise. My husband jumped up and ran – there were two young men ripping the mirrors off the car!
The Hubs took off down the stairs to try and catch them – but going down 3 flights of stairs took him long enough that it gave them the time they needed to run off around the corner, where they had a car and a motorcycle waiting, which took off in opposite directions.
We did manage to get a partial license plate number from the car, a black Chevrolet.
It’s a crappy thing to have to go through two weeks before Christmas – especially when the mirrors cost $300 each to replace. So, looks like the clothes we bought last weekend will be the only Christmas presents the boys get this year. I don’t know if the thieves think about things like that – or if they even care.
Now, we bought our specific model of car – a Toyota Avensis – particularly because it’s not a very popular model here in Lima. The more popular a car is, the more frequently it’s a victim of parts theft – there’s a booming black market trade in “used parts” – which here in Lima, means stolen parts.
The Hubs says that most likely, someone with an Avensis had their mirrors stolen, and went to the body shop to get new ones. The parts guy gave them the price for new ($300 each), and then said, but I can get you a really good price on used, it’ll just take me a couple days to get them in. In other words, give me a little time to send my guys out to rip off someone else’s mirrors to replace yours.
Now our mirrors are most likely being attached to that guys car, leaving us in the same bind as him – pay the high price of new (which is what we’ll do), or go the “used parts” route, and pretend we don’t know we’re buying stolen merchandise.
It’s a vicious cycle that goes around and around all over the country, and it’s just one more symptom of what happens when the laws are not written to protect the victim, when the police are too easy bribed to look the other way.
So what’s the take away from this story?
Don’t let stories of crime scare you away from Peru. While violent crime has increased, it’s still not the norm for the average person.
Keep a close eye on your belongings. Don’t ride in a car with your purse on your lap or in the seat beside you. If you’re shopping, put packages in the trunk. Also, if you’re shopping, don’t take your chances with a random taxi off the street – call for a licensed cab, or hire a driver for the day. (Contact me if you like, this is what my husband does for a living)
If you own a car, be prepared for parts theft – we’ve been lucky that we’ve avoided it for so long, honestly. Don’t think that because you live in Miraflores or San Borja that you don’t have to worry about it – where do you think the thieves go looking for the nice cars? They sure aren’t looking in La Victoria or San Juan de Lurigancho.
And whatever you do – don’t be like my husband! Don’t go off chasing punks that are stealing your stuff – he could have been knifed or shot. I was more upset about that than I was about the actual theft. Always remember that your items can be replaced, but you’ve only got one life.
Take care of yourself first.
Edit – Just for fun, I want to add a poll here -
And please, feel free to expand upon your answer in the comments below. I’d especially be interested in knowing how long you’ve lived in Peru (even if you’ve never been a crime victim), and where the crime took place.
For the purposes of this poll, being forced to drink a Pilsen Callao is not a crime
PS: I do earn money as a blogger – simply by blogging about the things that go on in my life. I believe that every person has a story to share, and blogging is a great way to share it. If you’ve been thinking about having your own blog, click below to watch the video that shows how you can get started (and maybe make some money too)!
Posted on | October 23, 2013 | 1 Comment
(This is a guest post from Maureen Santucci)
Many of us have gone through our entire lives without giving much thought to where the coca in cocaine and Coca Cola comes from. It can then come as a surprise when arriving in Peru to find out that the country is one of the leading producers of the coca leaf, the plant that is involved in the creation of both of those products.
Even more surprising may be that you will find coca tea offered to you everywhere you turn upon arriving in Cusco. The tea is used to help with the symptoms of altitude sickness and it does indeed work.
It’s a bit of an issue in Peru as many other countries feel that growing of the plant should be outlawed because of its illicit uses. However, chewing the leaves has been a custom over many centuries. To do away with it would ignore the place it has in the culture, both traditionally as well as nutritionally, as the plant contains a great many nutrients.
A great way to learn more about this plant, its history and characteristics is by visiting the Sacred Plant Museum in Cusco. There you will find answers to questions you didn’t even know to ask.
The museum also has exhibits that explain the history and uses of other medicinal plants such as Ayahuasca and San Pedro. Both of these have psychotropic properties that can easily be lumped into the same category as recreational drugs. Here, however, both these plants are legal but not for use in a casual way.
Still other plants are used for their medicinal properties, some of which come from the Andes while others are more common to the jungle.
Using plants for their medicinal properties is well accepted everywhere, of course, and many pharmaceutical drugs have their roots in these cures, such as cocaine itself which originally was used by medical professionals.
Other uses such as for expanding the senses, cleansing or fortune-telling may seem more outlandish at first glance. As with any customs, however, it’s important to do some research into understanding them before dismissing them as mere superstition. Whether you support the usage or not, knowing more can help you understand the culture at a deeper level.
The museum is dedicated to providing information about these subjects in an informative and objective way. It is an academic project, rather than attempting to take sides and preach to people with any agenda, either for or against. Rather, the idea is for visitors to understand the real background of the plants and their place in the history of the culture.
If you find yourself with a free hour in Cusco, wander over to the Sacred Plant Museum, just off the Plaza Regocijo. Take a stroll through the exhibit rooms and stop in the patio restaurant for a coffee, herbal tea or snack. It’s a lovely way to spend a bit of time learning about the Peruvian culture of the past and today.
Originally from the US, Maureen Santucci now calls the ancient Peruvian capital of Cusco home, where she has lived for almost 5 years, working as a travel consultant as well as writing for Fodors Travel Guide. This article was written on behalf of Aracari Travel, providers of custom luxury itineraries all over Peru.
Posted on | October 19, 2013 | No Comments
Sitting in the back of a battered taxi, stuck in afternoon traffic, I chose the lesser of two evils and rolled up the window despite the stifling heat. It was preferable to choking on the fumes of thousands of idling cars, trucks and motorcycles.
With a population of almost 9 million Lima is a mega-city with mega traffic problems. A growing middle class has rapidly increased the number of cars in Peru’s capital. The poorly planned roadways are choking not only cars, trucks, millions of motor cycles and scooters, but a variety of foot propelled vehicles: bicycles, cargo and delivery tricycles, street vendor’s carts, etc.
This blend of large and small, fast and slow vehicles adds up to some of the worst congestion and traffic jams on earth. It also results in bad air quality as millions of engines spew emissions into the city’s atmosphere.
To counter these problems the municipal government in concert with the federal government has taken remedial measures.
In 2011 the Lima Metro (Tren Electrico) began operations. So far there is only a single line of elevated track running for 24 kilometers (13 miles).
To date, most visitors to Lima will not find the Lima Metro very useful. It is intended primarily to help Limeños get around and to alleviate the city’s traffic problems. It connects Lima’s most densely populated neighborhoods, ignoring the areas most popular with tourists.
There are 16 stations. The Lima Metro begins at Villa El Salvador and passes through Villa Maria del Triunfo, San Juan de Miraflores (not the same area as the coastal Miraflores where many tourists stay), Santiago de Surco Surquillo, San Borja, San Luis, La Victoria and the Central Lima District.
Construction is underway to complete three additional light rapid transit lines, including one that would link the airport with downtown Lima. A network of five transit lines is envisioned as a system that will serve the entire urban area. One of these lines will run along Lima’s spectacular coast. The government is determined to realize this goal but it may be decades before it is complete.
Another new transit option created through the combined efforts of the city and federal governments is Lima’s city bus system.
Lima’s El Metropolitano Bus Rapid Transit system started up in 2006. To date there is only one line spanning 33 kilometer (21 miles) with 38 bus stations. The bus passes through Miraflores and connects to downtown Lima, San Isadora and Barranco. Fare is 50 cents. These bus routes will certainly be of more use to the average tourist than the Metro.
Prior to the public transit system there were only privately operated taxis, mini buses called combis and mototaxis. Mototaxis, the least expensive rides can only operate outside of the city center where they are forbidden.
The mototaxis, small engine motorcycles modified with a wide axle to fit bench seats are an inexpensive option but these vehicles are not the safest way to get around, and in the thick pollution of the city, can be an uncomfortable ride.
There are hundreds of thousands of licensed and unlicensed car taxis in Lima. Some unlicensed cabs are operated by outright criminals; others are merely trying to make a living.
Most Limeños still rely on combis service. These mini vans were intended to carry 8 or 10 people but in Peru they have modified the interior so that they can pack in a dozen to twenty passengers. In the mid-day heat these overcrowded little buses can feel like hell. Peruvians are on average much smaller than North Americans and Europeans and seem to endure the crowding. With their overloaded suspension systems and sudden stops and turns a combi ride is rarely a pleasure.
These little buses usually drive at breakneck speeds to make as much money as possible. As a result they are involved in more accidents than any other type of vehicle.
Combis that are jam packed with passengers present another hazard: skilled pickpockets can rob you undetected. The sooner Lima can complete its public transit system the better for residents and tourists.
The official website for the Lima Metro is http://www.lineauno.pe/
For Lima government bus schedules: http://transportelima.com/
Born in The Hague, Andrew Kolasinski arrived in Canada as a small child riding in the luggage rack of a DC-7. Since then he has felt at home anywhere. As the publisher and editor of Island Angler, Andrew spends half the year fishing for salmon and trout, and in the off-season he travels the world looking for a story. He wrote this article for Peru for Less, leaders in travel options throughout Peru.
Posted on | October 18, 2013 | 4 Comments
There are a lot of customs in Peru that I had never seen in the US, to be sure. One of the things that I’ve gotten used to doing with my kids is taking part in the annual “Anniversary Parade” where they have all the kids walk up and down the city streets to the sound of a slightly out-of-tune brass band.
I hated doing it with my kids! The first couple of years that we did it, they were at dusk. The kids were cold, it was a long walk for little kids, and they had to carry these little torches with a candle inside. Imagine a 5 or 6 year old kid having to walk for a mile or so, in the near dark, with a lit flame in their little hands. Yeah, it was a ton of fun! (/sarcasm)
So a few parents complained and the next year, they decided to try to do something more fun and had the parade during the day. To make it more fun for the kids, they all got to dress up in costume and were allowed to bring their pets. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a really hot day, kids were crying and miserable, dogs were panting in the heat…
That was the last year that the school did them – thank goodness the director was a reasonable woman (and her own kids were students!) and decided from then on we’d just have a little party in the street in front of the school.
But many schools still keep up this tradition. And one came by our street yesterday. This appears to be a pre-school – all of the kids are either in strollers or on ride on toys being pushed by their mothers – much easier on the kids, not so easy on mom, I reckon!
And you know, as cynical as I am about the whole thing – it’s still fun when they come by! Neighbors all come outside to watch and wave, and you can hear me in the video, oohing at the little kids, trying to get them to wave.
Posted on | October 13, 2013 | 4 Comments
We recently moved up to Los Olivos – a very different part of Lima than where we lived before, in Miraflores.
We love it here!
It’s more ‘alive’ than our old neighborhood – noisier, and with a warmth that we had been missing.
One of my favorite things is the garbage man – or should I say ‘men’. There’s one that comes around at mid-day, and another that passes in the evening, around 8:30. Yep – that’s right – TWO garbage pickups a day! There’s never any reason for having over flowing garbage cans, no need for garbage out by the street waiting for pickup, no outdoor garbage cans filling up and getting knocked over by raccoons or opossums like I used to have at home in Florida.
We also have a guy that comes by on a bicycle in the evening before the garbage truck passes, looking for recyclables. I always separate out the plastic bottles and have them in a clean bag for him.
The cool thing is that we never, EVER forget to take the garbage out – check out this video I made from our roof as the garbage man passed by and you’ll see why…
Posted on | March 12, 2013 | 1 Comment
Hey there y’all! I know it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted, and I do apologize – but the fact is I’ve been doing most of my blogging on a different site and working pretty much full time, and it just hasn’t left me a lot of time for this blog.
But I did write a post today that I though would be very beneficial to a lot of expats or travelers in Peru, so I want to share it here:
Back in 2007, I lost my US passport when I left my purse sitting under the table at a restaurant here in Lima, Peru. Finally, more than five years later, I finally got around to going to the US Embassy to apply for a replacement passport.
I know that dealing with the Embassy can make people stressful – just thinking of all the red tape, and the fear of making a mistake on the paperwork and having to redo it all… UGH, right?
But I found out that getting a replacement passport from the US Embassy in Lima really wasn’t that big a deal! In fact, they workers there were super friendly and helpful, and did everything they could to make the process go smoothly. (Click Here for the Rest of the Article!)
Posted on | October 10, 2012 | 5 Comments
Posted on | September 28, 2012 | 7 Comments
I’m having fun lately going out to a lot of different restaurants. It’s something we didn’t do much of when the boys were smaller; now that they’re a little older and have more “discerning” palates, they’re starting to enjoy trying different things too.
This last week, however, we were invited out to lunch by one of my husband’s friends. He took us to a really great seafood restaurant in Barranco called La Onceava.
I’m going to say straight out – it was delicious. Everything I ate was top notch, gourmet class. My husband had a slightly different opinion; he thought that it was really good, but didn’t think it was so good that it deserved the higher prices it had. I think it was worth every centimo.
The restaurant is set on a quiet side street, with a large, open outdoor patio and lots of trees, creating a fairly unique dining experience. The menu features items with clever names, for example the “Ceviche Rock and Pop de los 80s”, which features fish and clams – anyone living in Lima knows how popular 80s’ rock and pop is here!
We went for an early lunch, which of course in Lima, means ceviche. We chose the Cuatros Ceviches, which came served in 4 glasses, artfully arranged on a wooden serving platter. It was really nice being able to compare four different styles of ceviche: prawn ceviche with octopus, black mussel ceviche with clams, fish ceviche in a shrimp sauce, and mixed seafood ceviche.
Each was wonderful in its own way, and each was a twist on the typical ceviche. I particularly enjoyed the prawn ceviche, the octopus was very thin and tender, as you can see in this close-up shot – click on the pictures to enlarge!
My main dish was listed in the pasta section of the menu, but wasn’t pasta at all – it was the enrollado de pescado gratinado (stuffed filet au gratin). Easily one of the best things I’ve eaten in a very long time, this was a large, thin filet rolled and stuffed with spinach, ham and prawns then covered with cheese and baked. The sauce was incredible! This picture really doesn’t do it justice at all – it’s got to be experienced.
The Hubs got the Pescado a lo Macho, which sort of translates to “manly fish”. It’s supposed to be on the spicy side, with a healthy dose of Peruvian aji. He said the sauce wasn’t spicy, and tasted more like a white sauce. He was kind of disappointed with his, although I think it was really good. The sauce had a variety of seafood like calamari and shrimp.
Finally, we have the dish that our friend Andres ordered – the Tacu Tacu Crocante. Tacu tacu is a dish made of beans and rice, refried together. In this case, they were formed into a pancake shape and fried until crispy, and then served with sauteed calamari and mussels in a cream sauce. Andres said it was really good! And in true criollo style, it was topped with a red onion relish (zarsa).
Despite my husband’s disappointment with his dish – it wasn’t bad, just not what he was expecting – I thought the food was really good and worth the prices.
And how about the prices? Expect to pay around 70 soles per person, including appetizers and drinks (the guys had beer, I had soda). Our ceviche appetizer was about 70 soles on its own, but it was plenty for all three of us. The entrees ranged from about S/.25 to S/.55.
The restaurant is located in Barranco, San Ambrosio, cuadra 4. Click Here to see their website, where you can find a map by clicking on “Contactenos” – you can also see their menu, although without prices. They have a wide variety of dishes, including some criollo plates like arroz con pato and Andean dishes like roast leg of lamb.
I recommend them if you’re looking for something a step above the typical ceviche place.
Posted on | September 21, 2012 | 8 Comments
There are many different stories told about the delicious, traditional Peruvian breakfast dish, the tamal. Some claim it’s a native dish, some say it’s from India, still other’s say it came from Africa via slaves brought by the Spanish. However it originally got here, the tamal is definitely a Peruvian tradition, assured to be a part of weekend morning breakfasts, usually stuffed with pork or chicken.
(And just a note - in English, it is typically called the tamale, but in Spanish that final “e” is only added in the plural, tamales. )
Now, while a lot of people claim that the tamal started as a type of soup brought by Africans, it has actually shown up in earlier archaeological findings, even in various Inca and pre-Inca tombs. The tamal is also found in many Central American countries, in a variety of forms – but in Peru, it is synonymous with Sunday morning breakfast.
There are different styles of tamal, both sweet and savory, and different colors like orange, yellow and even green depending on the ingredients used. While not as common today, my husband remembers running behind the tamal vendor like I remember running after the ice cream man; instead of a cheerful tune, he heard the tamal vendor’s cry “Tamales, to cure what ails you!”
The traditional yellow corn tamal, called a “criollo tamal,” is stuffed with a bit of chicken or pork and a black olive, and sometimes a bit of hard boiled egg. But there are many varieties of Peruvian tamales, like:
- Piuran Tamales: The style of tamal from the Piura region, made from white cornmeal that’s been soaked for several days and made with a filling of onions, peppers and pork rind, then wrapped in banana leaves to steam cook.
- Tamal Serrano: uses ‘mote’, a large grain corn similar to hominy, cooked together with butter and salt and filled with meat. It’s steam cooked wrapped in corn husks.
- Green Tamalitos: These are also typical to the Piura region – cilantro is added to the cornmeal giving it a green color. These aren’t usually filled with anything, but are used as an side dish with main courses like “seco de cabrito” (goat stew).
- Cajamarcan Tamal: From Cajamarca, this tamal is made from corn meal kneaded together with aji colorado, filled with pork and wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves.
- Tamal Chinchano: White corn is ground using a batan (a type of mortar and pestle), then cooked with pork jowls, boiled egg and olives, wrapped into a square
- Quinoa Tamal – made with the quinoa in place of corn, it’s usually called “tamalada”
Posted on | August 29, 2012 | No Comments
Tomorrow is the Saint Day for Santa Rosa de Lima.
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