Monday, January 4, 2016

Peru 2014 Day 9: July 1st- The Bus was the Worst

Peru 2014 Index

Our plan to revisit downtown Lima vanished in a puff of maintenance.  The entire capital city was getting reupholstered, or something.

Instead we waited on the corner for the first bus I would fit in, (translation, a BIG one) to head to other sites. We took the bus to La Marina, a town district  complex avenue (Thanx, honey!) near the museum that was our target. Five different people got on to sell candy and other items between stops.  Two or three of them may have been preaching as well. (Did I mention my Spanish still needs a lot of work?)  It was quite a show, but with the feeling leaving my feet due to what passed for leg room even on the full sized public transport, I was most pleased when we could exit their rolling theater.

The Museum of Archeology, Anthropology and History of Peru was much larger than it looked from the outside.  There were myriad corridors and rooms off the main halls packed to the gills with artifacts and information from the vast quantities of ancient peoples that inhabited that portion of South America.  The Inca’s get all the attention, but they were only at the final moments of the Pre-Culture Destroyed by Europeans Period.  (I believe that period has a more official name.)

We lucked out and stumbled into an unscheduled information dump.  Just inside the entrance was a giant chart detailing the names, locations and practices of all the native groups from the history of Peru. 
A guy who turned out to be:
A) Studying for a shortly upcoming test to be a guide for English speakers in the museum
B) Excessively cool
Asked if we were interested in the chart. He then proceeded to practice for his exam by explaining the details of the entire chart to us.  We only had to help him with one or two English words; I’m betting he passed his test with flying colors.

The rooms were sectioned by cultures, but since each group was known for specific skills or times, the grouping was also thematic.  There were large collections of:

stone sculptures


model cities


burial mound displays



(several cultures), 


(I forget), 

and skull modification surgery examples


The small collection of gold and other precious metals was kept in a vault like room at the bottom of a short staircase. The crack guard maintained his post at the top of the steps looking alert and vigilant with his arms folded, in a somewhat unusual posture.

As we descended, we noted his unusual posture was due to peeking through his folded arms at the charging SmartPhone on the shelf behind him that was showing the current World Cup game.
Maybe cross “vigilant” off his list.

Down there we saw the world’s first golden pancake flipper, some nasal tweezers and a “cuppy thing.”  Need I repeat, I suck at languages?

We grabbed a couple of books in the gift shop with the “buy some souvenirs” money Abuelita insisted we take.  (Thanx, Abuelita!) One was on Lima, and featured many photos of places we were at the day before, during our disposable camera issues. The other was about all the cultures on the chart, and featured a vast amount of information that I should probably have looked up before attempting the list up above.

We thought we were finished, but there was yet another hidden off-shoot of considerable size.  The final section contained the Spanish run history, and consisted mostly of paintings.  We were all tired and hungry, but Anabelle and I spent much time and effort trying to duplicate any funny faces or poses we saw while racing through in order to get to lunch.

As we were leaving, a giant class trip mob showed up.  Scratch that.  Considering what we saw at the zoo, I guess this was a small to medium class trip mob.  Anabelle ended up making friends instantly with a small group of girls she met in the ladies’ room.  The novelty of someone with light hair and fair skin that spoke fluent Spanish was something they’d never experienced.  Also, like most of the rest of the world, they believed New Jersey was part of New York City. (Which, realistically, it pretty much is.)

Lunch was next door at a place much better at cooking than naming: Wasiky Bolivars Home Peruvian's Food Restaurant.   We each ordered a Menu off the menu (I think I get this now) and then traded them between each other as per usual.  The reducing soda trend continued with teeny weeny glass Inca Kola bottles.  We ended up with a “one of each” beef chicken and fish on the table.  While the land based dishes were known to us, the seafood was, “grape eyed fish.” Usually names like that are due to some strange double retranslation effect.  Multiple internet searches have made me no more knowledgeable about what I ate.  I’m hoping Greenpeace isn’t going to start marching around my house now.

Entering the small square park surrounded by the streets containing the museum and the restaurant was a necessity. We didn’t care too much about the giant head of Bolivar statue, though. Donofrio carts were once more our target.  Along one of the streets that bordered the park were two tree stumps ornately carved into the faces of Jesus and Mary.  They didn’t look like they were official or part of the park in any way. They were more like something a local did as yet another display of things that are allowed when the whole country is one religion.

A mid-sized bus took us on a two seller length trip to Arequipa Avenue, where we caught a human sized bus over to the Parque Kennedy in Miraflores, across the street from the church Abuelita was married in.

It was a typical urban park, with a fountain at the entrance and sidewalks passing through grassy areas, or small gardens with trees mixed in.  There were also Wi-Fi generators mixed in; indicating we’d reached a higher end borough of the Lima area.

Some post trip internet searches revealed the park had rat issues at some point in the past.  The solution, while effective, had the place completely packed with cats by the time of our arrival.  They acted in full knowledge of the fact that the park was undisputedly their turf, and we humans should be thankful for being allowed to share their territory.

I found it an excellent demonstration of the key differences between dogs and cats.
Dogs lived on the street in the rough and tumble part of town.
Cats lived in a park in the high fallutin’ part of town.

We walked several blocks through the cool misty rain, and noticed that while there were more people on cell phones in this high end area, they were still very much in the minority.  It continued to be refreshing experiencing an environment where the people valued focusing on their current surroundings over cyber connections.

There was a Metro (oversized supermarket) on our way, which we used to refill our water (and my caffeine) levels, as well as pick up the Tamales that were a “must eat” on the trip. Yes, similar to the “authentic” chicken being at a mall chain, the “authentic” Tamales came from the supermarket.  Leaving the continent is one way to greatly increase the ease of getting authentic ethnic food.

This is as good a point as any to point out the surprisingly large number of Ramones t-shirts I saw down there.  I wouldn’t think “Sedated” or “Blitzkrieg Bop” would translate, but I think we’ve already established my cluelessness when it comes to popularity, music, Spanish…or most things really.

There was also a preponderance of Transformers t-shirts, car decals, and merchandising that didn’t exist in the states. (Like those Transformers Oreos!!!)  The reason for popularity of vehicles that can change into giant beweaponed battle creatures is inherently obvious to anyone who has spent more than five minutes in Peruvian traffic.

There was one more stop before our target destination, a Comic Book Store!  I went in expecting to see something unique or local, but instead it was a mish mash of reprints from all eras.  They were all similar formats: a few single issues combined in each book, but not as many as a standard trade paperback.  They ranged from the Golden Age (introductions of Superman and Batman) to modern storylines, and everything in between.  It was mostly mainstays of US comic stores (DC, Marvel, a smattering of Dark Horse and Image) with a couple Asterix and other European titles thrown in the mix.

I didn’t end up buying anything, but did leave the business card of my Local Comic Shop in one of the back issue bins as an experiment in cross pollination.

Distractions completed, we reached the Larcomar Mall.

It was missing.

After a bit of confusion, we realized we were on top of it.  The shopping center was built into the cliff face overlooking the ocean, and the angle we came from hid it completely from view.  We stayed atop it for a while, to watch the crazy surfers out in the cold and rained upon sea.

An elderly Peruvian approached me, using Sherlock Holmes levels of deduction to ascertain I was from the United States. At first he was concerned I might be cold in my t-shirt with no jacket and endeavored to explain how it was actually winter down there.  Once I convinced him I was both comfortable and not legally insane, he tried to sell some overpriced, handmade beadwork and immediately ended our conversation when it was clear I wasn’t purchasing anything.

The mall looked like any similar establishment here in the States, in cities with the climate to allow open air shopping centers.  As we passed up the streets to it, and within Larcomar itself, I was feeling quite proud that my Spanish reading comprehension had massively improved.

Then I realized - there in the tourist heavy upper scale section of town - the signs were in English.

There was one difference from malls I was used to in the men’s room.  (Not counting the lack of hot water, of course.)  Since it was a fancier shopping complex, a men’s room attendant was not unexpected.  However, having his main job be to flush the urinals using the “dump a big old bucket of water” method was surprising.

The power of the World Cup reared its head again.  The United States was playing Belgium, and Peruvian fans of the Belgian team were all over the mall wearing jerseys and face paint. In other words, Peruvian fans were more excited about Belgium in the World Cup than the United States fans were about their own country.

Anabelle had Kentucky Fried Chicken for dinner as a rare deviation from living on the native cuisine, in an attempt to cheer on her home team.  It didn’t help.

The Bembos in the same food court was one of the few large enough to offer their veggie burger.  I tried one, in spite of reading the section in the guide about vegetarians.  It explained that, in a country where a large portion of the population is forced to subsist on potatoes, it baffles them why anyone would eat that way by choice.

It was better than average compared to ones I’ve tried before, but as per usual, the real meat selections were far better.  They were also FAR more compatible with my digestive system, but there would be a delay before I learned that.

The line of cabs outside the mall were charging two to three times the amount the “cab by appointment” place we’d used for the airport quoted.  We walked back to our starting location to get in range of that cab company.  A phone call yielded continued bad luck as there were no drivers available in the area. 

Following a quick pit stop at Metro, and a peek into Abuelita’s wedding church, where an actual wedding prevented us from going past a peek, we resigned to bus rides home.

The ride in was fine, what could go wrong on the return?

Did you know at eight o’clock at night, the Lima metropolitan area rush hour is still in full swing?
Neither did I!

No bus would take us all the way home, even though they were jockeying for position and cutting each other off to try to get our, or anyone else’s, business.

We took a mid-sized one back to Arequipa Avenue.  When the complete lack of leg room knocked out all feeling in my feet, I stood up and wedged myself floor to ceiling for the end of the ride.

Our luck continued at the end of phase one of the trip, as there were still no buses going to Abuelita’s section of Callao.  The plan was to take one to a known Metro, and score a registered cab from the inevitable line.

I have ridden the New York subway in rush hour and associated commuter buses.  When we got on, I figured, as I believe would any marginally sane person, that the bus was full.

We were packed tight standing in the aisle.  I attempted to hold the strap, Anabelle and the heavy bag with tamales and books from the museum all at the same time.

The bus stopped at least five more times to jam further commuters on, and no one was getting off as we were battered through stop and go traffic.

We talked about getting off at the Inka Market instead of waiting all the way till the supermarket nearer home.

Then the freakin’ clown got on.

Clad in patchy make up and a disheveled outfit, he looked more Spawn than Ringling Brothers.  He squirmed in behind me and started performing in the non-existent space while shouting in a shrill nasal voice and passing the hat. 

We decided whatever the next stop was would be ours.

Leaping off once the vehicle came to a halt across from the “Liberty New York Casino,” the familiar skyline had somewhat of a calming effect.   We also did end up at a Metro, meaning I lugged a bag of tamales through commuter and clown infested masses of humanity for no reason.

A cab was called once bearings were recovered to get us home in a far more comfy manner through the evening traffic.

I finished reading the last two issues of Secret Wars to Anabelle at bed time, cementing her as a comic book fan for the future.  Once she was asleep, I did a bit of blog work to keep from being insanely inundated at both my real and fake jobs simultaneously when we returned home.

The schedule was updated again to figure out where the return to Lima would go, until we scrapped that idea completely in order to focus on the primary and most important reason for the trip: spending time with Abuelita.  For those following along at home: this means subsequent days, will result in shorter stories for you, but more emotional satisfaction for us.  

Hey, we were the ones braving the Lima mass transit system, you don’t get a vote.

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Peru 2014 Index

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