Week two in Peru! Lima is beautiful, but I was feeling like I was trapped in the Miraflores/Barranco bubble. It is a nice bubble but a pretty normal one. This Saturday changed it; the day brought a trip to the district of San Juan de Lurigancho that showed me a totally different, refreshing side of Peru. Special day.
Things to Note:
- Miraflores (our neighborhood) is a very humid district, so it is advised to open your windows, but it is also very polluted from all the old cars and buses, so when you open your windows, your floors may become black.
- Pickpocketing is something to be aware of. And the pickpocketers have tricks for it too, asking you for money only to see where you keep your wallet, or (no joke) chewing corn chips, then fake throwing it up on you to steal your stuff while cleaning it off you. I asked someone the cause of it, she said hard to tell but basically poverty and no system to control it.
- About 3 weeks before we arrived, congress was disintegrated. They have an emergency one in place until elections in January. The reason for it? Corruption, congress has immunity from a lot of rules in Peru and it led to them abusing the country’s money. Honestly, a common theme throughout the world.
- In the grand scheme of things, Peruvians are pretty easy going, even if they have an issue with the government, they likely won’t go up in arms about it. A taxi driver was explaining a Santiago protest situation would never happen in Lima. Most people seem content with no congress.
- Pisco sour is the national drink and pisco is everywherreee. We had some in Santiago as well, but everyone will tell you it is actually Peruvian (there’s also a town in Peru called Pisco so it’s not really an argument). I was also told that Chileans will never make as good a pisco because their earth is not as good. Pisco is a grape brandy, and your typical pisco sour is made with egg white. Another common pisco drink is a chilcano, made with pisco and ginger ale. Also, Peru exports the majority of their pisco to Chile, and it is straight up illegal to bring Chilean pisco into Peru.
- It’s tradition here that evverryyy Sunday, you eat lunch with your family. And on Thursday, it’s ‘Jueves de Patas’ which literally translates to ‘Thursday of Legs’. It is a day set aside for hanging out with your friends after work.
- Not advised to take street taxis because there is no formal taxi system in Peru. Thus if anything happens, or you even leave stuff in a taxi, you will not have a way to track them down. Uber and Cabify are more reliable.
- Peru is not peru without ceviche, a seafood dish with raw fish ‘cooked’ in the acid of lemon or lime and served with onions and peppers. Tried it for the first time this week even though I’m super anti-fish. It was alright, but most people LOVE IT. Some of the best is found at La Preferida, a lunch place near our workspace.
- Wong is the local grocery store we have been going to. It is supposedly cheaper to buy their groceries online, but if you do go to the store, the baggers will carry your stuff up to 4 blocks away. On that note, Wong is a Chilean company. A lot of Peruvian things are actually owned by Chile.
Activities of the week:
- Language and Culture Class by Remote Year. This month’s experience manager is an archeologist, and he shed his knowledge on the ruins and findings from Incan/Pre-Incan Peru.
- After work dinner/drinks at Mercado 28, a small Lisbon Time Out Market in our neighborhood. On Wednesday night, they had live music. Great vibes.
- Try aji de gallina, a creamy chicken dish with, of course, potatoes and rice. So delish.
- Lots of runs and workouts in the cliff park of Miraflores and Barranco.
- Jueves de Patas on Calle Manuel Bonilla, a street of bars, quite alive on this Thursday night
- Work from the Barranco workspace on Friday to be closer to the Remote Year event of the day
- Barranco tour with the Remote Year city team: showed all cafes good for working, the art galleries and cool stores with authentic Peruvian goods, and ice cream at Crem de la Crem, a local favorite.
- Treated to dinner with Lindsay (my coworker and bestie on RY) and her parents at one of the best restaurants in Lima, Astrid y Gaston. Safe to say I could never go here on my own, but it was maybe the nicest meal I have ever had. Duck tacos, fresh ceviche, chicken dumplings, mushroom mozzarella corn pie…whew, an experience. And it was great to get to know Lindsay’s parents!
This month’s Positive Impact partner: Make a Miracle
- Located in San Juan de Lurigancho, Peru
- Three pieces to the Make a Miracle foundation: building homes for Peruvian families in need, providing full scholarships to locals with potential, star kids program to provide extracurricular support and community space
- Started by an American family from Georgia, with a daughter who now lives in the area full time, and is funded by kind donors
- Currently 62 kids are sponsored with scholarships to university, and the organization is hoping to add at least 20 more next year. One year of university is around $1,000.
- About 130 kids are served among 4 locations of the Star Kids club.
Our ‘Make a Miracle Experience’:
- Take a van out to San Juan de Lurigancho, about an hour from Miraflores, with four other remotes and an organization rep. Not somewhere you can get with an Uber
- The area we landed was very desert/dry, no vegetation, but lots of life
- Met the star kids at their space in town and joined them for their morning free time at the soccer court. Played a game of soccer in between the Frisbee, volleyball, and jump rope sections. Around 30 kids from ages 4-20
- The morning was a test of my….spanish. I really made an effort to communicate and the kids enjoyed laughing at my attempts but I learned they like K-Pop, volleyball, some are learning Portuguese…yea, we got there. I also had to introduce myself, where I’m from, and my work in Spanish over the microphone. No better way to try then to be forcibly thrown in to it. Lol.
- After play time, we gathered together for singing and prayer, yes a Catholic association. A sweet moment: during one of the songs, a little girl from across the room walked over, sat right in front of me, faced me, grabbed my hands and started dancing.
- Lunch with the leaders of Make a Miracle (all college age/young adults) at their family home. The mother made us pachamanca, a chicken/potato/bean dish with a spicy ricotta cheese sauce. Super yummy. Enjoyed learning more about the organization, too. The daughter of the founder was particularly impressive, immersing herself in the community for two years running.
- After lunch, we rejoined some of the older kids of the group, probably 30 in total with some we hadn’t met yet and it was time to BUILD!
- With all of the supplies, we took off up the hill in the town, up dirt roads and stairs to the patch where the walls of the house had been left.
- In groups of 5, we scattered along the path the walls needed to travel (from the patch to the site of the new house). Each group would carry a wall 50 ft, and then hand it off to the next, until it made it all the way up the hill. Yup, they’d done this before. Efficient system.
- Some people then helped build the house, while others painted one that had already been built. I went to the build site and watched/hammered/drilled as a dozen wooden panels were assembled into a 3 room home, topped with a tin roof. The house would later be wired with electricity but not running water.
- What was a little funny to me was that it was not fixed to the ground, so every once in a while, they would need to realign something and everyone would just shift the whole house. It was on this slab of concrete on the side of a hill. The hill had large steps going all the way up to hold the homes.
- I mean what!? We built a house in an afternoon!!! Sure, it was barebones, but whhaattt! So cool. Even got to ‘bless the home with good luck’ by smashing a bottle hanging like mistletoe from the front door. I then nailed a cross next to the entrance.
- The day ended with a prayer and sharing of thanks from all parties, including us, the Make a Miracle team, and the single mother and two kids that were the new owners of the home. Cool to have them there.
I was really worried that the Make a Miracle experience would be every white savior type mission trip you see: rich white people come in, hug and take pictures with lots of kids that later get posted on social media, then build a house in a way that may or may not be useful or sustainable for the area, then leave with a chip on their shoulder that they did something good. I am happy to say that it was not like this. If the 5 of us were not there that day, the house still would have been built by the people of the town and the scholarship students of Make a Miracle (part of earning a scholarship is a requirement that you help in projects). It was more that we were welcomed into their world for a day and able to provide some extra hands. The kids had a chance to practice their English, while we practiced our Spanish, and we all came together in group activities. The kids also did not gather that day just for us, was just a normal Saturday routine. And hopefully, we can help make people aware in hopes of more donations for more scholarships.
As for the area itself, I have never been somewhere so dry that also has people living in it. There was not a blade of grass in the whole area. We left covered in sand and dirt (and paint). Not saying it was bad, just different. The outskirts of the town were all a series of staircases and wood walled homes. Oh and of course, the small bodegas (convenience stores). I also don’t want to misrepresent the town: I was not struck with an overwhelming sense of ‘holy, poverty’. These were normal people, educated or trying to be, and hard-working. I got the impression that outside Lima, this is how people live and it’s what they know.
I can’t take credit for this realization, as it was a Parean who said it, but it was truly cool to see the community of San Juan come together to build this home. With not a lot of material goods to show off, they all seemed to find joy in the company of each other. I left that day with some Peruvian slang words, assurance that I need to step up my Spanish lessons, new friends that can stay connected on social media, and I hope an earned sense of accomplishment that I was able to contribute even a small amount to someone’s new home.
After a lazy Sunday at home, we are on to week three in Lima! As always, don’t forget to check out this week’s photos.