Sunday, February 28, 2010

Leaving Lima

I've been gradually stepping down in luxury since my arrival in South America. As I mentioned in my first post, I got to sit first class (which also included a dish of warm nuts, which I forgot to mention). In Lima, I stayed in what is probably the nicest hostel in the world: HQ Villa (& it's cheap too: 5 bucks a night for a dorm bed including breakfast). Short of warming up my nuts, this hostel was just as cushy as first class.

Prettymuch everyone I met there spoke English, and the only chance I got to practice my Spanish was in taxis. On a few of the days, I found myself laying around all day in the comfort of the hostel, and then partying at night. I'm glad I got out of there when I did. Don't get me wrong, I definitely enjoyed my time at HQ Villa, it's just that after only a week there I was starting to feel like Robert Downey Jr.

So last Thursday, I left my friends in Lima behind and headed 3-4 hours south on a bus to Pisco. 2 years ago, there was an earthquake here that devastated the city. I'm volunteering with an organization called Pisco Sin Fronteras More on Pisco later. First, I'll tell you about my last few days in Lima, along with some other random thoughts.

It is quite humid here in South America, and my hair is getting out of hand. I'm starting to look like Little Richard, except white and without musical talent, so more like Kenny G. Just wait though, the white man jheri curl is gonna spread like wildfire starting the day I get back.

One night, a bunch of us went out to a dance club in Miraflores. While we were at the club, no one attempted to roofie me, which was nice, but at the same time it kind of hurt my feelings. I approached a few groups of girls off the bat and got immediately shot down, which reminded me of my glory days in Boulder. After strikes one and two, I found success with a few Peruvian ladies who were each about 4'9''. Being as tall as I am, I imagine this was quite an amusing scene to watch, perhaps similar to watching Shawn Bradley try to play defense.

I met a lot of cool people in Lima from all over the place. One guy from Australia works as a tour guide at a sewage treatment plant. Guy talks shit for a living! I thought: "Who would pay to look at shit?" but then I realized you get to smell it too, and it all made sense. Crazy Aussies!

Another person staying at the hostel, Ivan, is deaf and dumb, but he has visited over 70 countries! He was born in Peru and lived most of his life in England. A conversation with Ivan consists of a pen and pad or a computer.

Oh, we went back to the museum the next day, and I think our story of failure and perseverance inspired some people, because our group grew from 3 to 8. The aprehension of glorious redemption made it even worse, though, when we were told that most of the museum was still closed, and would be for six months. Could they not have told us that the day before? We did get to see a few exhibits: Some colorful dresses and vests, some ceramics, and a depressing but interesting photo exhibit about the Shining Path/Government conflict of a few decades ago. Better than nothing I guess...

A few photos from the museum:

Shining Path photo:

Maybe the coolest "exhibit" at the museum was the elevator of mirrors!

More about my time in Pisco so far coming soon!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Museum Adventure

Today, I decided to go to one of Lima's many fine museums with a few friends from the hostel. The one we decided on, El Museo de la Nacion, houses "three levels of extensive exhibits about all manner of Peruvian heritage," according to my nifty guide book. Splendid! The next step was deciding how to get there.

There are as many taxis in Lima as there are white folks for them to take advantage of. Having paid probably double what I should have to get from the airport to my hostel on Thursday, I said to myself: "Girlfriend, you ain't gonna let them step all over you like that again!" So I decided to take one of the buses, which are almost as numerous as taxis and much cheaper. Plus they are a good place to rub up against strangers.

These mini buses are a little bigger than a volkswagen bus and fit about 47 more people. My legs didn't fit in the seats, and I couldn't stand up straight in the aisle, so I stood in a position halfway between taking a dump and triple-threat position in basketball.

Inside the bus:

We took two of these packed rides to the general location of the museum, then walked the rest of the way, which consisted of crossing a few streets. Being from Boulder, naturally I strolled out into traffic thinking vehicles would stop, but then I almost died a few times and realized that cars/trucks/buses/hybrid-motorcycle-rickshaw-mobiles in fact rule the streets here.


Traffic in Lima is a cluster-fuck to say the least. Also, drivers often honk/yell/whistle at attractive young folks; needless to say this created a problem for my group of friends, because they were with me. I don't know how many times I heard "Pinche gringo!" which I'm pretty sure translates to: "You look like a combination of Brad Pitt and Fabio!"

I was pretty proud of myself for making it to the museum without getting lost or having to buy a taxi driver's friendship. And most of all, I was excited to see the museum's massive collection, because next to unprotected sexual escapades and needle sharing, viewing artifacts is the best way to get to know a foreign culture! - (Just kidding mom. Of course I use condoms - I know of no better way to transport coke in my ass.)

So I was all hot and bothered to see some art. But when we tried to enter the museum, we found out that it's closed on Mondays. I was about ready to bitch-slap whoever wrote my guide book, but then I looked and it says the museum is open Tuesday through Sunday. Apparently Monday is the new Sunday for museum folk.

So, after sitting on the steps of the museum feeling dejected, we decided to take a few more buses into central Lima, where we saw the outside of another closed museum, and then walked around a few different parks, which was nice. There were many interesting statues in the parks, including this one, which I renamed:

"Abe Lincoln gets a pearl necklace"

Here are a few more photos I took in central Lima:

Headed back to the museum tomorrow; Wish me luck!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The shoes

and the journey begins!

...I was fortunate enough to get hooked up with a killer deal on plane tickets (I'm forever grateful; you know who you are!) And the best part was: with a little luck, I'd end up sitting first class for the first time ever!

This amazing deal came with a few stipulations, one of them being my physical appearance. As you may know, I tend to look rather disheveled a good portion of the time, and basically, if any of the airline employees thought I was a transient, they could kick me off the flight, and forever cast me in the role of the prick who says he's gonna travel the world but never does. I clearly could not let this happen.

Obviously, step one was to tame the wild beast known as my hair. This was a challenge, but possible.

Step two: Come up with a half-way decent outfit. Easy enough.

Step three: The shoes. The shoes presented me with quite the dilemna, mainly due to space. I simply don't have room to lug a pair of dress shoes with me around South America. The solution you ask? I'm glad you asked!

I don't mean to brag, but this idea was fuckin genius. I'll snag a pair of dress shoes, look like I belong on the plane, and ditch 'em once I get there!

So the day before I left, I headed to Savers, and wouldn't you know it, they were having a half-off sale! Half off at Savers is like a hooker paying YOU for sex. Just kidding, kids. Prostitution is no laughing matter. But you adults know what I'm talking about, right? . . . Am I right?! . . . No? Ok, my bad.

Anyway, apparently a lot of people with large feet were looking for jobs that day, because the only decent-looking pair I could find was size 10 1/2. I wear a 12. I think they were pretty big for a 10 1/2, because my feet were barely crushed squeezing into them. Still the best 4 dollars I ever spent. Seriously, 4 bucks.

The next day I headed to the airport, with the taste of freedom on the tip of my tongue and the throbbing ache of independence on the tips of my toes, or something.

The first leg of my journey was Denver to Atlanta. I strolled up to my gate, lookin' fly, actin as though the odor of my feces was pleasant. And yeah, you guessed it. They gave me my boarding pass without a hassle. I looked at my ticket: "20F; that's a little far back for first-mothafuckin-class," I thought.

I boarded the plane and was horrified that I didn't get the first class seat that wasn't promised to me. I sulked down into my chair, surrounded by other poor people, dreams temporarily crushed. Soon though, I heard an announcement from one of the flight attendants: "The following passengers have been upgraded to first class..."

"Boo-ya," I thought.

She proceeded to call the names of three assholes who weren't me. Damn.

...I only had about an hour to enjoy the Atlanta airport (the busiest in the world). My short stay in the dirty south was great, but where I was headed was dirtier. And souther.

The Atlanta to Lima flight was less crowded, and I ended up in first class! I'm pretty sure I was served like four meals during the six hour flight, and I was offered a hot washcloth at least twice...oh, you better believe I accepted! I know as much about wine as Craig Sager knows about fashion (example of Sager's fashion sense) but I thought the Chardonnay was delicious. All in all, I'd sum up first class as ridiculously over-indulgent. Anyone who actually pays for that shit can kiss my ass... it was pretty cool though.

Luckily, the seat next to me was empty. Across the row, however, was an elderly affluent couple, the husband of which stared at me prettymuch the entire flight. I would have gotten a picture of him to post on here, but the hate in his eyes surely would have rendered my camera useless.

"How did this God-damn hippie get into first class?" he yelled. Actually he didn't say that, but I'm pretty sure it's what he was thinking.

I arrived in Lima around midnight local time. I would have begged to stay on the plane and live in first class forever, but I couldn't wait to get the god-forsaken shoes off my feet. I went in the first bathroom I could find and took them off.

I left the shoes in the bathroom of the Jorge Chavez International Airport.

I'd like to think an airport employee found those shoes, and they gave him the confidence to ditch his job cleaning airport bathrooms and chase his dream of performing in the Peruvian ballet, except instead of ballet shoes, he wears an old pair of dress shoes, but no one cares, because he dances with such passion.

But who knows.