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.
Posted on | August 28, 2012 | No Comments
A while back, The Hubs, Chato and I went to a new restaurant. Well, the restaurant wasn’t new, but it was our first time going. I planned on doing a review, and then never got around to it because my camera was damaged the next day – holding all my pics hostage! I finally paid the ransom… er, repair bill… and got the camera fixed, so I’m finally able to do my review!
Over in San Borja, there is a street called Av. Agustin de la Rosa Toro. Around block 10 and 11 of this avenue, you’ll find ceviche restaurants packed together like sardines in a can. I’m pretty sure that they’re all good, but we generally like to find a place we enjoy then stick to it. Over the last 8 years, we’ve eaten at two different restaurants on the strip, and been pretty happy with both of them.
But this particular day, we couldn’t get into our usual restaurant; their parking was blocked. So we went around the block and decided to give another restaurant a try.
We chose El Lobo del Mar cevicheria. Lobo del Mar literally translates to Wolf of the Sea – the Spanish name for the sea lion. The decor inside was pretty standard cevicheria, with paintings of seascapes, fish and what have you, as well as fishing nets hanging about.
We started off with our standard appetizer – leche de tigre and choros a la chalaca. Leche de tigre – or tiger’s milk – is a sort of seafood cocktail made from ceviche juice. Choros a la chalaca are mussels topped with an onion/tomato salsa. Both are delicious, and the ones served here at El Lobo del Mar were quite good. The leche de tigre was a bit spicy for my taste, but the Hubs and Chato loved it.
Now, we tend to get the same things every time we go out for ceviche – we get a plate of ceviche mixto and a plate of jalea mixto. ‘Mixto’ means that it is a mixture of different seafoods – fish, shrimp, mussels, calamari, octopus. Ceviche is marinated in lime juice and spices; jalea is battered and fried.
The ceviche was very good – nothing about it that particularly made it stand out, though. It had an excellent lime/aji balance, not too acidic, not to spicy.
But the jalea – oh my goodness! I believe it was the best I’ve ever had. It was very well seasoned and fried to perfection. But what really made it a stand out was how tender the calamari and pulpo (octopus) were! Often, when they’re deep-fried, calamari and octopus get tough. Sometimes, they’re like chewing a piece of tire! But in this case, there were delicious and tender.
In fact, they were so good we ate them all up before I remembered to take a picture. Sorry!
So if you love fried seafood, I definitely recommend El Lobo del Mar, on Av. Agustin de la Rosa Toro 1094.
- Hours: Daily from 11am-6pm
- Serving Ceviche and Seafoods, plus Criollo and Norteño dishes
- Specialties: Ceviche, tiradito and sashimi de cojinova
- Prices: about 20-40 soles per person, not including drinks.
Posted on | August 23, 2012 | 12 Comments
People ask me all the time what kind of work I do, and if it’s easy to make a living in Peru. There are so many people that are interested in moving down here, and they’ve heard about how living here is so much cheaper than living in the US. I get at least one email a day from someone in the United States who has lost their job and is thinking this is the time to leave the country. Maybe they’ve heard about how the economy in Peru is booming, and they think “Wow, this could be an opportunity for me!” and then they ask – “Kelly, how do you make money in Peru? What kind of a job do you have?”
They want to know how to make a living in Peru – or even if they can make a living here.
Now, the first group I’m going to get out of the way quickly – retirees. If you’re retired, have $1000 or more a month to live on, you can do it. If you have a little less than that, you can probably still do it, depending on how picky you are. I know people who make $1000/range. They are generally single; live in a small studio type apartment or rent a room. Depending on the district, that can be done for under $400, including your utilities. If you don’t go out a lot, food will cost you $200-30o (or even less). That leaves you a little bit each month for traveling and seeing the sites, meeting single ladies (or gents!) to spend your time with, or whatever it is you like to do.
But what if you aren’t retired? What if you don’t have a steady pension check coming in every month? Assuming you’re single, you’ll still need to find a way to make that amount of money to live that lifestyle. And if you’re married, or if you have kids, that cost of living will go up (you can read my cost of living post to see what we spend).
So how does one go about making money in Peru? The obvious answer is “get a job.” But finding a job isn’t quite as easy as you might think. A lot of people – me included, before I actually came here - think that the fact you speak English will open a ton of doors for you and allow you to make all kinds of money. This is not true. First of all, in order to legally work, you need some sort of visa. If you’re just moving here because you want to, getting a visa is not easy. If you have some sort of pension or monthly payment that’s over $1000, you can get a retiree visa, but that’s not going to allow you to work legally. You can either be married to a Peruvian citizen, or you can get a work visa. A work visa has to be sponsored by a work place, it’s not something you can just apply for.
There are people who get annoyed with this – “Why won’t they give me a work visa if I want to work there?” – well, the US doesn’t just go around passing out Green Cards, now, do we? Why on earth would you think Peru lets just anyone in to start taking jobs from Peruvian??
And therein lies the rub for many people – in order to live here, you probably need a job; but getting a visa that allows you to work isn’t that easy. You can always marry a Peruvian – hey, it worked for me! – but not everyone is looking to get married right away, and certainly not just so they can get a job. (Disclaimer – I did not marry my husband for a visa; I know someone out there will think that’s what my little joke meant)
So. What do you do?
Your first option is to apply for jobs with companies or schools that will sponsor you for a work visa. There are multinational companies, NGOs. embassies, schools, institutes and a whole mess of other job places that will hire you and send you here to work. What’s more, they tend to pay much better than jobs you might be able to find after you get here. Some of them pay extremely well indeed. But they also tend to require long term contracts. These kind of jobs are perfect if you’re serious and at a point in your life where you’re actually looking for a career and are considering spending a long time here.
But what if you’re just taking a gap year after high school or college and just want to spend a little time discovering the world before you leave it all behind for grown-up life? Or if you’re a single person looking to just chuck it all and spend some time in a foreign country?
Well, even though Peru doesn’t give out work visas at the drop of a hat, they also aren’t real sticklers about their immigration laws. There are a lot of people who come here and work without proper documentation, mostly as English teachers or in call centers. You can probably also find a job in any sort of labor job, if you don’t mind long hard hours and very little pay. There are some travel agencies and tour groups that higher undocumented workers.
Here’s the problem with that – besides the whole illegality of it all – the companies that tend to hire undocumented workers are, generally speaking, pretty unscrupulous. They offer low pay, and sometimes they don’t pay when they should. Sometimes they don’t pay at all. And companies that treat their employees like crap tend to be unscrupulous in other facets of their business, too; some of them cheat their customers, some of them cheat their competition. I personally know of a tour agency that hires Americans to work for them. Part of the job that they do is go on the TripAdvisor website and fill out false bad reviews against their competition. I wouldn’t want to work for a company like that. So, crappy work conditions, unscrupulous employers and the possibility of no pay – not really the lifestyle you’re looking for if you’re thinking of Peru.
While still illegal, you can teach English on your own. There is a ton of people here learning English who love to have the opportunity to practice with a native speaker. I’ve got a student doing that right now – he comes over every day, and we talk for two hours, and he pays me 40 soles. Two clients like that, and you’re making enough to get by as a single person; three or four, and you’re doing pretty good for yourself. Finding them isn’t easy, and keeping them is harder – but it can be done. And truth is, you can change about double what I’m charging my student, but it’s a family friend so I cut him a break. If you can Skype, you can also set yourself up to do English teaching on the internet – or any other kind of tutoring, for that matter.
In fact, the internet opens up a whole new realm of income options. I started making money by writing articles for other people, then learned I could blog on my own. I make a bit of income with this blog, but I have quite a few others that I use to do affiliate marketing. That means I write reviews or information posts about products, then show people where they can buy them – if they purchase, I get a cut of the money. I do most of my affiliate sales through Amazon.com – while their commission rate is a bit lower than many, they’re such a trusted name, I think I end up making more sales.
I also still sell articles – if you can write, you can sell articles for as much as $25 each, the average is around $15. There are a lot of internet skills that other people don’t like to learn – check out the site fiverr.com and see what kind of things people are selling. I’ve made a very good amount of money from that site providing simple writing and translating services.
However, I am always looking for options that allow me to spend less time working and more with my family. That’s why I joined the Empower Network. It allows me to do what I love best – just write – and earn money doing so. You can click here to check that out if you’re interested.
Tomorrow, I’ll talk more about options for people who are able to work legally – there are a lot more options when you’ve got that to your advantage.
If you found this article helpful, please share it – a Facebook like, a tweet or a Google +1 make me feel all warm and tingly inside!
Posted on | August 17, 2012 | 2 Comments
A lot of things that I like, I have my mom ship to me from the US, or sometimes someone who is traveling will bring things down as a favor. But what’s best is if you can find ways to make due with what you’ve got here to use.
I’ve written up a few recipes over the years precisely about that – homemade salad dressing, how to make “Cream of ……” soup, and so on. But I came across this great book that has recipes for making 50 different easy homemade kitchen staples. Things like homemade pizza crust, peanut butter, granola, fruit rollups, - and my favorites, homemade poultry seasoning and ranch dressing mix!
Even people who aren’t living overseas can really enjoy these recipes. In a lot of cases, they’re less expensive than buying store-bought. And just as important, you know what’s going in them, so you can better look out for your family’s health.
The book is available as a Kindle Download by clicking here >Easy Homemade: Homemade Pantry Staples for the Busy Modern Family
Or you can get the pdf for 99 cents if you purchase BEFORE August 21 > http://easyhomemade.net/
I’ve got my copy, and I’m thrilled with it! If you’re looking for a way to save a little money and put some healthier food in front of your family, pick up your copy too!
If you like this post, please remember to share on Facebook, Twitter or Google+
Posted on | August 15, 2012 | 2 Comments
Catacombs in the St. Francis Monastery
Posted on | August 14, 2012 | 14 Comments
This question comes up over and over and over – and it’s got a million and one answers – what’s the cost of living in Lima, Peru? Why do so many people have so many different answers to the same question? If you asked a construction worker from the Bronx and a high powered doctor or broker from Manhattan about their cost of living, don’t you think you’d get different responses? It’s the same thing here in Lima.
I have been in the position of living in a lower class neighborhood and am now living in a upscale neighborhood, so I think I’m in a pretty good position to give you a good idea on the cost of living. My family is far from rich, but we live pretty comfortably – certainly in the “1%” by Peruvian standards. By US standards, I’d say that we were firmly entrenched in the middle class. I’m going to list out some of the most common costs of living items, give you an idea what we paid for them in Surquillo, what we pay in Miraflores, and when possible, what some other people pay.
At the time of writing this post, the exchange rate was about 2.64 soles to 1 dollar.
Rent: This is usually one of the biggest expenditures.
- Our first rental in Surquillo cost us $350/month, and that price included water and electricity services. It was a 3-bedroom, one bath home, with a nice sized kitchen and a small back patio. We had to pay about 20 soles/month in arbitrios (municipal taxes) and also chip in for the neighborhood watchman.
- In Miraflores, we’re paying $800/monthly, and it doesn’t include anything else. It’s a 3 bedroom/2bath house with an attached mini apartment that includes two rooms with a private bath. The house has a very large kitchen, lots of space and a back yard garden that’s big enough for dogs and kids to play. The arbitrios are about 50 soles/month, but include the neighborhood watchman, nice roads and lots of area landscaping.
- You can find rentals in price ranges from around $300 month to over $2000, depending upon location and furnishings. Rentals in districts like Lince, Jesus Maria, San Miguel, Surquillo, and Magdalena can be much less expensive, but those districts have some nice areas and some not so nice areas, so due diligence is necessary when apartment/home shopping.
- Groceries cost us about 300 soles per person per month. I shop at a combination of grocery stores and local markets; the local markets are generally cheaper, but I don’t care what anyone says, I don’t think the quality is as good. The market is great if you’re shopping for things you will use quickly, but if you’re like me and like to buy a week at a time, you’ll probably prefer the grocery store. I find that fruits and vegetables from the market tend to go bad more quickly, probably because they aren’t refrigerated. (I fully expect someone to eventually post here and tell me I’m full of crap and don’t know what I’m talking about – whatevs, I’m talking about my experience, not theirs)
I do save some money by shopping at Plaza Vea; I have a “Visa Vea” credit card through Interbank, which not only allows me to get special instore discounts, but also offers me bonus coupons depending on how much I spend. I’ve carefully compared prices, and find that I can shop at Plaza Vea for as cheaply as I can at the market for most items.
If you like to eat a lot of comfort foods from home, expect to see that reflected in higher costs on your grocery bill.
- In Surquillo, our water and electric were covered with the rent; I know people in Surquillo, however, who pay as little as $15/month for water and about $25-30 for power.
- In Miraflores, the costs are higher. With a washing machine and a backyard that has to be watered, (plus 5-6 people showering regularly!) our water bill costs as much as $45/month. Electric is much higher – around $100/month – that includes 2 computers that are on most of the time, refrigerator, washer, hot water heater + one electric “on demand” water heater in the separate bath. In the winter, the electric goes up by about $20 because we run heaters occasionally; we’ve just purchased a new clothes dryer, I’ll let you know how the power bill reacts!
- There’s no need to compare for location, the prices are the same where ever you are. I recommend Claro for communications – their customer service is head and shoulders above that of the competition, Telefonica. We have a “Triple Play” that includes 172 channels of TV, 6000kbps internet (with wifi), and 1000 minutes of telephone calls from a landline. The nice thing about the landline phone – I can call to the US (and quite a few other countries) with no extra long distance charge, it just uses my regular minutes. The price for all this is at about $100/month at the current exchange rate.
- We spend 350 soles a month to send the kid to a private school. It’s an awesome school with a very strong emphasis on maths and science, and my kid loves it and is doing way better than he has ever done in school before. And we’re talking classes like trigonometry, geometry, physics, chemistry etc, for a 13 year old kid. You can spend a whole hell of a lot more on school, or you can spend zero. It all depends on what works for your family and your kids. I wrote a whole post on schools costs and finding a good one here >>>Schools in Lima.
- I can’t really give you a monthly transportation cost – it depends on how much you move around! But cars are expensive (a new Toyota Camry is running $36000, 5 years used is at about $15000). Gas costs about $4.50/gallon. Fortunately, buses and taxis are cheap and plentiful. Buses can get you anywhere in the city for generally under a dollar. Taxi prices are negotiated before you get in the taxi; expect to pay 5-10 soles for travel within one district or to the next district; trips from the center parts of town to the airport or outer parts can run from 15 to 40 soles in a generic street cab, prices go up when you call for a nice car with professional, uniformed drivers. You can also get a car and driver for the day for anywhere from 25 soles/hour to $20/hour, depending again on the level of service and type of car.
- We have a maid that comes twice a week – we pay her 40 soles per day, she works from 9-4pm. You can get a live-in maid or nanny for as little as 200 soles/week. Remember that if you plan on doing things correctly (i.e. legally), you’ll also pay double monthly salary for the months of July and December.
Keep in mind – this is what my family pays. If you like to go out a lot, if you eat take out food or go to restaurants or need a short term fully furnished apartment, you may end up paying a lot more than me! If you’re a single dude just looking for a cheap place to retire, you can pay a lot less than me. It all depends on what it takes to make you happy.
If you have questions on any other type of cost of living question, put it in the comments – I’ll try to find out answers and keep this updated. If this post was helpful to you, don’t forget to share! Give it a tweet, a like or a Google +1!
PS – If you’re looking for a way to earn money from blogging, check out this post > The Joy of Bloggingkeep looking »
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