Still More Lima

The last days in Lima were a bit different than the first ones. I think that there's a huge difference between traveling by yourself and staying with friends. No matter how happy your hosts are to have you there they still have to go about their lives, so you have to alternate between being social and being independent. You also have to know when to disappear.

The advantage, though is that you get to experience normal life, home cooked meals, and things like going to the movies, which, if I were touring myself, I would think were too mundane to do. Even so, you learn something. For instance, one night, we went to the local "art" movie house. We saw a wretched film from Spain called "La Madre Muerta", with nothing whatsoever to recommend it except that before being drowned under a beer tap, one of the characters cursed at high speed for two full minutes without repeating himself. What was interesting about the evening was when I saw a gasoline generator under a table in the lobby. I was told that this was business-as-usual in the days of the Shining Path. To demoralize people, they knocked out the power all the time, so every business had a generator.

During the day, I would taxi around to the remaining museums. I became an instant expert on pre-Inca pottery and mummies, antique blunderbusses, topography, geology, and other such things that you talk about in museums but nowhere else. I visited the Museo Rafael Larco, with the famous collection of erotic pottery. Since Peru is now Catholic, prim and proper, it was very funny how they dealt with it. Someone upstairs whispered to me that if I wanted to see it, the collection was downstairs in a separate section. It also had a separate entrance. The signs around the exhibits said you could see the "repugnance" on the participants' faces, but perhaps that would require more imagination than the potters put into their work in the first place.  (Their imagination, by the way, was considerable.)

During the evenings we would eat and go out, or stay in and watch movies on TV. I saw a Spanish-dubbed version of "Bringing up Baby", and I don't know how they did it, but the guy who played Cary Grant in Spanish managed to sound just like him. We watched a news program with Alberto Fujimori, who had just come back from a conference in Quito. When they accused him of cuddling up to Ecuador, he bullied the four reporters into believing that he hadn't been to Ecuador at all. One night we went dining and clubbing in Barranco, another, we had the best tamales and the nicest ice cream in Lima.

One day, Jorge, his girlfriend, Marina and I took a trip out to Callao, which is a seaport outside Lima. There's some ridiculous Miami-beach style architecture, where the houses are built to look like steamships, and a very nice view of the ocean. We had a very genteel lunch at the regatta club. After getting back, we had Chifas, which is the local version of Chinese food. Every country has its own version of Chinese food which is adapted for the local taste, and Peru is no different. It really was a cross, though it was a bit heavy on the pineapple and sweet stuff. True to my theory of Peruvian food, "Chifa" starts with "ch", and so does the main dish, "chaufa", from chow fahn, or fried rice. If anyone would like to argue that they call noodles tallarines and that starts with a "t", I'll retaliate in advance by arguing that this is both baseless and totally irrelevant.

One fine day during the week I modeled (written up elsewhere in the narrative), and I even got to visit the lingerie factory that Jorge ran. This is something you would definitely never do during a normal tour. The closest I ever got to real industry previously was the Guinness brewery in Dublin, but somehow I don't think it counts. As we sat in the office, people brought Jorge fabric samples, and he would rub them between his fingers while making up his mind about the quality.

He explained that as a kid, his father always took him to department stores and visited the lingerie department to see what the competition was doing. As a kid it's very embarrassing when your father puts his hands all over the panties, and says "Mmmmmm!" to himself. Even though the two of them look alike, he would pretend that he didn't know the guy. Now on his day off, he himself would go to department stores and put his hands all over the lingerie. The good news was that he got to choose the models.

Unfortunately, near the end of my stay, my stomach got a bit ropey. The day after the tamales, I wasn't feeling so well. I had been looking forward to having cuy for lunch with Jorge. Cuy, or guinea pig, is an old Inca delicacy, and I thought I would like to try this once. Again, I was busy getting up the nerve to negotiate my lunch (like the snake soup in Chinatown that started this whole trip), but I realized that I was feeling terrible and wouldn't get out of the house at all.

Jorge was worried, but here's where I got to experience another side of Peruvian life: the doctor. Unlike doctors elsewhere in the world, in Peru they still make house calls. Not only that, but they also they show concern. There was one amusing thing. I learned my Spanish mostly from Spaniards. When the doctor asked me what my symptoms were, I said I had "fiebre y tembleque", which to me, meant "fever and the shakes". "Tembleque" doesn't mean anything in Peru, except that it's a brand of coconut pudding, so I had told the doctor that I had "fever and coconut pudding". Fortunately, Jorge was there to translate, and to inform me that I was having "temblores". The doctor couldn't figure out what I had, but he gave me an antibiotic for good measure.

This did cast a bit of a pall on the end of the trip. But I had had a really good time, and besides, what better excuse to postpone a meal of guinea pig?