I’d be lying if I said I never feel homesick, so when I have the rare opportunity to see a familiar face from the US, I jump on it! I found out via Facebook that Kayci and Joe were gearing up to visit Peru, so we made loose plans for a double date at a brewery in Barranco. Happy hour quickly escalated and soon enough we were embarking on a multi-neighborhood bar crawl, the conversation maintaining a lively staccato as we shared our stories of the past as well as ideas for the future over pints of craft beer and pisco sours.
The district where I live, Miraflores, reminds me a lot of home: parks, cafes, boutiques, etc. But more notably, Miraflores maintains an adorably positive hustle & bustle. The streets are always buzzing with lively tourists, fashionable young people, serious businessmen and active kids on skateboards and bicycles. The area boasts a dramatic coastline with an extensive view of the Pacific, often sprinkled with tiny surfers. Walking along the malecon at sunset has become one of my favorite relaxing activities!
Not all of Lima is so peaceful. It definitely took a while to get used to a few elements of life here, such as the traffic and the car horns. There is no rhyme or reason to explain why drivers beep so much! It can mean anything from “Move!” to “Hello” to “You’re sexy” to “It’s a beautiful day!” Sometimes I swear cars are having full conversations with one another through the interminable honking. There are no traffic rules either—as far as I can tell, lanes, red lights, stop signs, speed limits and even driver licenses mean absolutely nothing here. At first, taking a taxi or riding the bus was a traumatizing experience that always left me feeling physically decrepit and emotionally violated from clenching every muscle in my body and incessantly slamming the phantom brake. Cars come within centimeters of smashing into each other, drivers are yelling (and honking, of course,) and pedestrians walk through traffic as if they are invincible. I’m not sure if my acclimatization was a slow progression or a sudden change, but now I can finally navigate the city’s perplexing bus routes, negotiate cab fares, and sit through a journey as cool as a cucumber.
The most substantial theme of life in Lima is, without a doubt, the food. You can’t go 10 minutes into an introductory conversation with a Peruvian before they ask, with eager eyes, what you think of their local dishes. I actually have friends here who have told me that they won’t even consider living in another country because they can’t imagine life without their standard cuisine. Peruvians are extremely proud of their culinary culture—taking special satisfaction in their signature dishes: ceviche, lomo saltado and aji de gallina. Although as a pescatarian I can’t enjoy the latter two options, ceviche has become a staple in my diet and I dread the day I relocate to a landlocked location where raw fish is not an advisable option. Peruvian food, though seemingly basic, is full of flavor and spice. The remarkable thing is that the plates stay pretty true to form, whether you’re eating in one of Gaston Acurio’s fine dining restaurants or a hole in the wall on the side of the road.
As much as I enjoy the local meals, I’ve also discovered a passion for cooking and playing around with food. It's fun to invent new dishes, combining my old recipes with new ingredients. One of my favorite activities here is grocery shopping in the sensory-stimulating open air markets. Amid the flurry of activity, it’s actually an incredibly calming experience to wander through the stalls, observing alien fruits and smelling unidentifiable spices. The mercado has become one of my favorite places to take guests as part of their introduction to life in South America!
Of course there are countless other aspects of life in Lima that caused me to set roots here, but this is a guest blog and not a memoir. Retelling my experiences and anecdotes to likeminded friends, (who are beginning their own similar journey,) gave me a chance to reflect on how far I’ve come and how much I’ve learned. Typically, when I talk to people back home, my stories are met with the constant expression: “I wish I could do that!” The truth? Anyone can do it. If you’re following the Seed Bark Root blog, my bet would be that, of course you love and support K&J, but also that a part of you yearns for a cultural adventure of some sort, whether you know it or not. My advice? JUST DO IT! Don’t overplan and don’t stress—just pick a destination, book a ticket and save some cash.
Trust the universe and chase your dreams: “The earth has music for those who listen.”