Lima, Peru

That’s me – Almost touching an alpaca!

It’s already September. I barely noticed the summer pass me by and here we are again, my favorite time of the year. Come September, I begin to feel a renewed glow of energy for life. The summer lethargy is washed away as things at work come back into focus and life fills back into the city, yes, even on weekends.

We’ve managed to stay mostly local this summer and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I think R and I are both the kind of people that need and want home time to re-charge and feel grounded.
But now summer’s ending and our travels are about to begin again, with Claire’s wedding in Ireland.

I want to backtrack for a second though and speak briefly about Lima where I was earlier this year.

In hindsight, Lima was a joke of a trip. I’m not even sure how I ended up there. I remember an annoying day at work and RS pinging me online about a ridiculous deal to Lima. And even though I had no vacation time left, I bought two tickets. Machu Pichu was never on the agenda so I don’t feel bad about missing out on it. I know we’ll return. Last minute visa issues prevented R from making the trip and I bitched my way to the airport, turning back several times, but finally pulling through. I’m glad RS was traveling with me though and we ended up having a terrific time. Sort of felt like being in college again – what with living in a hostel and going out drinking and partying every night. It was a welcome change. Made some friends, ate some incredibly fresh food, finished reading four books on my Kindle, went cliff-jumping and laughed uncontrollably when RS flashed and mooned the locals as she changed into her surf-gear.

Lima reminded me of an old, forgotten shanty-town. Bollywood references (whether it was Shahrukh Khan’s photograph peeking from a Spanish magazine or a Peruvian woman at the salon opening up her cell-phone to play Bole Chudiyan for me) were never more than two feet away. Even at a local music store, A.R Rahman’s CD’s and his music permeated the atmosphere. It’s times like these when tiny waves of pride and joy envelope me, even if its just for a second. It’s humbling to belong to such a vibrant and rich culture. I feel its influence very viscerally in the most unexpected places.

Paragliding – one of the best pleasures of Lima

(Or maybe I seek it out. It’s strange how I look for references to Bombay every time I visit a new country, a new city. It helps me draw parallels and quickly orient myself into unfamiliar surroundings.)

I’m not much of a history nut, but the catacombs at San Fransisco Church, Plaza de Armas in downtown Lima took my breath away. I was fascinated. To imagine it was someone’s job once to handle these bones and skulls and arrange them in such perfect symmetry for the benefit of wide-eyed tourists such as me…wow. History is same all over. A hero, a martyr, an uprising, a revolt, a victory, a defeat. I’m more fascinated with the now. How do people live now and how different are their lives from mine? What do they read? What are their favorite foods? What are their dreams and aspirations? What do they think about the world outside of their immediate lives? What are their imaginations like? and where do their curiosities lead them?

Another memorable experience in Lima was our last dinner at Almazen. RS heard of this place and it took us a solid two hours to find it. I lost my patience a few times, out of hunger and then out of annoyance, but RS’s determination prevailed and we finally hopped into a cab only to realize that the restaurant was three blocks from our hostel.

With my close friend RS, overlooking the Pacific!

Henry, the chef and owner of Almazen, was immediately taken by our candor and excitement. We were the only guests in the restaurant and Henry made it worth our while. We engaged on a gastronomical journey tasting Peru’s local fruits and vegetables. Who knew cactus fruits are delicious, bright and moist red? Who knew tomatoes originated out of Peru? We learned this and more from Henry. His story was just as inspiring: a vegetarian out of choice, he is as Peruvian as they come. With his lightly accented English, he told us of the time he spent in England before returning back to start a vegan restaurant in Lima. The food we ate had only hours before arrived from his farm 45 minutes outside of the city. Both RS and I agreed that this dinner was perhaps one of the richest experiences we’ve had in Lima.

On a different note. I will remember Lima. A lesson on moral boundaries and an epiphany but perhaps, this trip was meant to be a story from the moment it began. If its cryptic, it’s meant to be.

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