E-mail Update - 2006-08-14

"Services" and Differences

Hola Amigos (Hello Friends),

Housekeeping items first (just this one time):
- I need to apologize for the multiple emails some of you got, this problem is figured out now (it shows that using a different type of keyboard, computer & software which has everything in Spanish can make things difficult even for me).

- For anyone who is interested if you have MSN you can add me & then type to me real time. Sometimes even have voice/video conversations capability, every computer in Peru seems to have MSN. My user name = genextsoftware@hotmail.com

- Anyone who wants off the list, just let me know.

*Something interesting has been happening lately. I found out that people have been passing my notes on to others. These people told me & now I am just emailing it directly to their friends. If you are doing this just let me know the people´s email info & I will save you the extra email.

Now for the good stuff! Well I am pretty sure that I sent the last update when I was just getting to Lima (pronounced Lee-ma). I was in Lima for 10 nights, then flew to Cuzco (such an incredible flight, picture of this called flight) where I still am. Lima gets a pretty bad rap. Almost every traveler you meet will tell you not to spend any time there (dirty, dangerous..). This is true in part. However, I stayed in a nice suburb called Barranco which is next to another nice suburb Miraflores. Even there you don´t really see the sun, it is always cloudy. It is weird because once you leave the city you always see the sun.

While in Lima I went to visit Pachacamac (temple pyramids, which pre-dated the Inca´s by 1000 years) it was a nice relaxed day trip (picture called Pachacamac). The tour guide was the best I had on a paid trip. I also visited the Museo de Oro del Peru (Gold Museum) which was expensive, but had this great audio tour. You wear it around your neck & could move at your own pace. I learned more about Peru there than I had anywhere else, plus the English was so easy to understand. It seemed to focus more on the pre-Inca cultures which was nice because the Inca culture is pushed so heavily everywhere else. They were an amazing society, but I like to learn about other cultures as well. Another day I visited the Museo de la Nacion (National Museum), which was informative, but not nearly as good as the Gold museum. Other things visited included several plaza´s including the main Plaza de Armas, Chinatown, the black market & other markets. I also spent a few days relaxing (even one movie day where I saw 3 movies I had really wanted to see). When I had been in the city my friend Roi helped me find this really great dictionary. I has been such a huge help for me learning Spanish! Once I had this I spent the last 3 days in Lima concentrating on learning Spanish. All in all it was a pretty good time there. I also met some great people there, you know who you are! Joe, from England & I had a daily grudge match in Ping Pong. I hurts me to my core to say that England beat the States in I am guessing was about 6 of 7 series. Although Team America (me) did pull out the win in ping pong over Australia & won the inter-county pool tourney! I guess in the end Joe got me back by claiming the ping pong title because I stole his bed the first day I was there (to be fair I was told to go to that one). There were so many other cool people around & several of them helped with my Spanish & others spent time traveling with me to places around the city.

Now something needs to be said as to why I was in Lima for so long, since I would have normally only stayed there about 3 nights I am guessing.
Back when Nina was still here & we were in Arequipa, I had sent out my resume to dive operations in the Galapagos. One in particular Galapagos Sub-Aqua responded to my email with some questions. It took some emails, but when I was in Huaccachina about a week later, Fernando the director told me I had the job as a dive instructor. I was SO excited about it, because it is the diving place that I looked the most forward to in South America (The Galapagos are an island chain off the coast of Ecuador, which is on the northwest coast of SA). After telling me that I had the job I finished my trip up the coast & got to Lima, faster than I would have otherwise went. I was waiting in Lima as Fernando told me that he needed to ¨finalize¨ the contract since I was also going to help them out with their computer systems as well as teach diving. After being in Lima for 7 days & not hearing from Fernando I called him & he told me that he had found someone with more experience & would not need me as a dive instructor. He did however still want my computer experience, which he would give me some free dives for. I turned that down the same day. I can make the money from a few free dives in a couple hours of work at home.

I was really depressed the day I found this all out, but usually things happen for a reason & I have always had really good luck when it come to traveling, so I guess it is just meant to be that way. When something bad happens my philosophy is that you should always try to learn something from it. What I learned is that people´s word in South America is not really worth anything (not trying to offend anyone from SA by saying that). I had somebody who told me this at the hostel a few days before I called, but I was really hoping they were wrong. At that point I decided that I was going back Cuzco to see the sites I had not seen (see picture
brockattomb) & learn Spanish! Then I would travel north along the mountains in Peru & eventually get to Ecuador.

Now to back track a little...The first night in Lima was quite the experience. I am going to write about it not really holding anything back except names & am hoping no one gets offended. If you don´t want to read about prostitutes & lonely men skip this entire paragraph. There is a bar the people go out to dance at (especially on Sunday night) called Tequila Rocks. Myself & 2 other Australia guys decided to go to this bar for a little while & then come back to the hostel. The problem is that there are 2 of these bars. One is a dance place (located in La Marina) that is completely legitimate. The other one is place where men to get prostitutes (located in Miraflores). We did not know & just told the taxi driver Tequila Rocks, so he took us to the prostitute one. We probably should have known something was up when we could not even get to the bar before women were all over the other 2 guys. They danced with them for a while, until they found out that they wanted money for services. So they both left those girls. They told me about this & were pretty surprised.
But in a few minutes they each had girls again (who had come up to them again). After about another 20 minutes (they asked about it themselves this time) they found out they were prostitutes. They told me about this again & we danced as a group. By this point I had been watching things happen around me & realized there were only ¨working¨ girls here.
Eventually the scenario played itself out again for these 2 guys & they started talking to different girls. I also had some girls try to come up to me during this but not at the beginning, so I just brushed them off.
When they left this time I was a little tired of dancing so I just pulled up a chair & enjoyed the show for what was probably about 30 minutes. It was quite interesting really. Eventually they even had a ¨special¨ dancer come on & the people all loved that. At this point I was ready to leave as it had been probably over 2 hours. I don't wear a watch so I never really know the time. Eventually the guys got talking to these girls in the back. I went back & sat with them which was a bad idea because as soon as I sat down there was a girl next to me & she was overly friendly.
I asked her to leave, but as soon as that happened there was another one.
It is almost as if they appear by magic sometimes. She did not speak any English, so she didn´t leave when I asked. The other guys decided to dance & as did I & my new ¨friend¨ followed me to the dance floor. I finally figured out how to peace together in Spanish that I was not paying her for anything. At hearing that she gave me a hug & cheek kiss (normal thing here) & left. I had never reciprocated anything she did for me, so I guess she appreciated that I didn't feel her up & then tell her no. At that point I talked one of the other guys into going home. However, the other guy decided to stay & ended up paying $100 USD for 2 girls that night. I saw SO many other men leave with women business was obviously good for them that night. It was quite the experience & even though I would never want to go again, it was something I do not regret doing (especially as it was by mistake).

Even going to the normal clubs here is quite the adventure. The Peruvian people seem to be like hunters looking for Gringos (white people - technically US people, but they call everyone who is white a gringo most of the time). Outside of Thailand I have never seen anything like this & there it was a little different as those girls seemed to be trying to get money in the end. Here the girls, guys for that matter too, just seem to want to ¨hook up¨ with gringos. I am sure they would not reject financial support, but it seems to be a secondary motive.

Enough concerning the night time differences of Peru to the USA. The single biggest difference is the language. When you come to South America you know that you need to learn Spanish. Everyone told me, but I did not have time before leaving to learn it, so it is my own fault. Due to that I have spent the last 2 weeks struggling through books & dictionaries studying on my own. This has been pretty successful, but only because I have been able to dedicate myself to it. I have done very little traveling due to this & had to even avoid conversations with people I like at the hostels to concentrate. Don´t think that I am a monk or anything, but as anyone who really knows me would know, when I decide to do something nothing is going to stop me.

I really had 3 things that frustrated me about not knowing the language.
The first one, also the hardest, is survival in a foreign country, this includes things like being able to ask directions, buy basic supplies, & basically everything else someone who is traveling on their own has to know to get enjoy the experience. The second one is still an issue which is being able to make small talk with people (taxi drivers, people next to you on the bus, hotel staff, basically everyone you meet here). The people here are so friendly & genuinely interested about me or any other traveler. When I say I am from North America (it is confusing to just say American here, for what is hopefully an obvious reason). The third thing is getting a meal somewhere. When I got here I did almost immediately learn that pollo is chicken & arroz is rice. That is then what I ate at a Peruvian or Chifa (Chinese) restaurant. When I went to get pizza & saw a dizzying array of toppings, I stuck to queso which is cheese every time.
I went to a supermarket (where it was a bit visually easier but still difficult). But no longer!! I now know, fruits, vegetables, drinks, meats, sides, & the ways that food is prepared (oven cooked, fried...). I am still learning but when I looked at a menu this past Friday I knew about 90% of it. It is like I have a Spanish decoder in my brain now, it is too bad that it only works for supermarkets & menus, but it is a start. So basically one of 3 completed, the other 2 look to be quite a challenge! I am guessing that it will be that way for the next several months.

Now onto smaller differences, yet things that take time to be accustomed too. In the bathroom there is never a toilet seat, toilet paper or towels to dry your hands with. In fact a lot of time there is not soap to wash you hands either. On top of that you often have to pay to use bathrooms here, like in the train station, bus station, mall, markets & other places. It is usually only like 50 centimos, which is about 15 cents USD, so nothing major. I am not sure why there are no toilet seats, but it is that way in 95% of the bathrooms. I wonder if they are just saving money, if people steal them or they just like having a wet backside? This applies to almost everywhere (except the Point Hostels where I stayed in Lima & am staying in Cuzco). The good news is that this can be overcome with some preparation. For instance most every traveler here has a role of TP in their small back pack & I also carry paper towels to dry my hands with.

Another difference is the makeup of travelers here. I have never met so many US travelers before in any other country. In fact I have now met as many US citizens here as I met on the entire last trip, which was for 14 months. I guess it is pretty cheap & easy to come here, but it really surprises me. In Cuzco you get the older American people (we will call them vacationers because they are here no longer than 2-3 weeks, old also means over 40 in this case). These are the people who obviously have way
too much money & came here to impress their friends because it sounds so adventurous. They are always the loud-arrogant people who make me want to say I am from somewhere else. They are usually complaining because things are not done ¨like back in the states¨. They are also mad that people don´t speak perfect English, even though hello that is not even the second language here. Now I understand where we get a bad reputation from as a country. I wish these people would close their mouths & open their minds. I mean there are things that frustrate me here too, but it is all part of the experience. There are things that are also a lot better here than at home, that is why you travel to see different things. Not that backpackers are perfect either, but at least the people I meet are much more open-minded, including people from the states. They understand that the differences are what make the trip.

Here are just a couple of the differences that I love about here. The people dress so interestingly. A lot of them have on the old, but very colorful clothes. Plus some of them wear these really small hats that are about 10 sized to small so it just sits on the top of their head. I can´t believe that the wind doesn´t blow it off! Also, the people are always willing to help me out with my Spanish, even just random people you run into. They really want to talk & truly appreciate the effort I am making to learn the language.

Well that is probably enough for one small email :) Next time I will tell you about Cuzco, my personal tour guide, or anything else that is on my mind at the moment I type the update! I will also answer the question about how many Peruvians can fit into a single apartment or at least tell you most I have seen!

Love & Peace