It’s hard to believe I’ve already been in Peru for over two months. I head to Costa Rica tomorrow and will be saying “hasta luego” to South America.
I’ve had some highs and lows in this country. My time here has certainly been unforgettable. I’ve hiked through a canyon and mountains and seen an Ancient Wonder of the World. I’ve really enjoyed all the tourist attractions Peru has to offer.
But the reality is that Peru is the second poorest country in South America. Much of the economy depends on tourism and curious people willing to spend dinero to see the famous sights. I accidentally took the bus to Mantay in the wrong direction last week and ended up in a very poor area of Cusco (below). It is a real eye-opener to see how some people have to live. The poverty seems overwhelming and almost unfixable. Not to mention, the pollution here is out of control. I hate to break it to the environmentalists but I am pretty sure there is some irreversible damage being done here.
Peru is a country with so many beautiful things to see if you have the money to do so. Most people that live here do not. There is so much need here, as there is in so many other places around the world. Although it’s been hard for me to accept that I haven’t been able to save every child in Peru, I have learned that all you can do is your best and sadly, there is no magical way to fix things.
On a much lighter note, there are also a lot of “quirky” things about Peru that I’ve picked up on after living here for 2 months.
Some of my favorite quirks are:
Propane-fueled motorcycles are quite common. I am always in shock every time I see one at how unbelievably dangerous that is!
Peruvians loves 80’s music and Adele. That’s pretty much all you hear in public places and on buses.
I’ve never seen so many parades in my life. There are at least two every week.
People can make random sales pitches on public transportation. This means someone boards a bus and just starts giving a speech about their product. And people actually buy stuff from them! Every time this happens, I picture someone trying to do that on the Red Line and how Chicagoans would react. I don’t think it would go over very well.
Headphones haven’t caught on down here yet. If you want to listen to music on your phone, you just play it on speaker for all to hear.
You have to flag down the waiter at a restaurant, otherwise they leave you alone. This is the opposite of restaurant etiquette in the US and my first few meals here were quite long because I quietly waited for my check…that never came until I learned to ask for it.
At an intersection, cars speed up towards pedestrians. Like they step on the gas if they see a human enter the street.
Toilet paper never goes in the toilet. It goes in a garbage can. Always and everywhere in Peru.
Peruvians have no shame when it comes to PDA. Absolutely no shame.
Guinea pig is a food, not a pet. I couldn’t bring myself to try it, even though it is a delicacy.
Peruvians know how to make an excellent bowl of soup. I will be attempting to recreate a few of the recipes when I get home.
There is time and then there is Peruvian time. Everyone has the attitude of “you’re never late, you’re never early, you’re always on time.”
Hand-written receipts are prevalent here. Which reminds me of my childhood.
The garbage man either has a truck which plays music OR he rings a cowbell to announce his arrival.
Personal space does not exist here. If you’re walking on the sidewalk and someone wants to be where you are, they will literally try to walk through your body.
Peruvians love hill carvings. Like they literally carve words or pictures into the sides of hills.
There is no Walgreens or general store here. For most things, you must go to thesmall store which sells those items. Like the lightbulb store. Or the sock store. Or the hat store. Or the toiletry store. Or the dress store.
One-way streets can change direction at random. I learned this the hard way when I walked out the front door one morning, looked for cars and then almost got hit when one was coming full-speed from the other direction.
I will miss Peru and its quirky ways. I’ve done more physical activity here than I ever have before and I’ve met some really nice new international friends. My Spanish has gone from horrific to slightly understandable. There have been times I’ve felt like life couldn’t get better and other times I’ve wanted to teleport out of here immediately. But Peru has taught me how lucky and fortunate I am. I will miss this loco country and Candy Kaori, my favorite Peruvian child, very much! But it is time to move on to the pura vida in Costa Rica!