Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Happy Birthday, Lima!!!

18 January 2017

Lima, Peru, was founded on this date in 1535.  Yes, this city is 482 years old!  

Of course, this is the date that the Spanish conquistadors, under Francisco Pizarro, founded the city.  There were various indigenous people and pre-Columbian civilizations who lived here on the coast, but there wasn't a united city - that was a conquistador thing.  (The Inca people lived mostly in the part of the Andes referred to as "the eyebrow of the jungle" - the eastern edge of the Andes where the mountains meet the Amazonian jungle.)

There have been all kinds of celebrations going on in Lima, mostly in the old part of the city in the Plaza Mayor.  The occasional single firework blast in our neighborhood.  Schools are closed, but not banks or stores or restaurants.

So we've just been going about our life as usual - a little shopping, a walk, some lunch, maybe the hottest hour of the afternoon in our friendly neighborhood casino.

Now, I should add here that we aren't big gamblers.  A $20 US bill equals 68 soles, or 6800 centavos.  A slot machine might play for 25 centavos a spin.  So you can imagine how much play we can get for $20 US.  It's fun, it's a little bit social, it's air conditioned for the hottest part of the afternoon.  The casino staff provide drinks if you ask, or come around with meals (which we've never tried).  Though we did have the Christmas snack of hot chocolate (chocolate caliente) and Christmas bread (paneton).

Anyway, today after lunch I stopped by the casino, to throw away my $20.  (I walked out with a 200% profit.)  But that isn't the best part - first, one of the young men waiters came around, all dressed up with a fancy jacket and lacy shirt, looking, well, like a pirate!  I told him, in my beginner Spanish, that I liked his clothes, he was very elegant!  (Muy elegante!)  He thanked me.  So I asked him if he was a pirate, thinking this was possibly some promotion at the casino.  No, he explained, it's the celebration for Lima Day.  (And then there was a lot I didn't understand.)  

And he agreed to pose for a photo, looking very handsome in his vaguely 16th century clothing.  Top photo.  And doesn't he look like a pirate dressed up??

Then, two of the ladies who help us with collecting wins (they have a credit card system, where they download the win from the machine, then get the money from the cashier) were all dressed up in gorgeous ball gowns, each a different color!!  Of course, I had to tell them how beautiful they looked, exclaim over their wonderful dresses, and ask if I could get their photos as well!

So here you go, photos of our friendly neighborhood casino staff, dressed up for Lima Day!

I need to add that I couldn't think of the word for "birthday" or even "anniversary" when I was asking one of them if this was the celebration, so I asked "Hoy dias es el nacimiento del Lima?"  Literally translated, "Today is the birth of Lima?"  Close enough, but it explains why the lady in rose laughed at me.  

What can I say, my Spanish has its roots in Italian art terminology.

Anyway, it was great fun, and just one more reason to hang out in the same places while in a town or city - people get to know you and are happy to pose in their lovely costumes!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Unraveling a Musical Mystery

16 January 2017

We're still in Lima, we had a few more tasks to take care of and it was just easier to do here than in a new location.

Richard found a doctor who is a specialist in tropical diseases, and we've visited him twice to deal with the pirate parasites.  Richard is now armed with other antibiotics and we're giving those evil hitchhikers a one-two punch, first a left and then a right hook.  Or something like that.

We also needed to take care of the yellow fever issue.
Apparently one needs a World Health Organization (WHO) card to enter Brazil, stating that either we've had yellow fever inoculation, or that we have a medical reason to not do so.

Turns out that the CDC recommends people over 50(ish) NOT get yellow fever vaccines, there's an increased rate of adverse reactions to the serum used.  And we're both over 60.  (Although I had a yellow fever inoculation in 1981 or so, before going off to Liberia in the Peace Corps - but I don't know if those records are available, nor if I can get a new WHO card with that old information.)

So Dr Tropical Diseases wrote a nice letter, in Spanish, saying we're too old to get the yellow fever vaccines (vacunacion de fiebre amarillo in Spanish), and told us to go to one of the national health centers to get the certification.  Of course, the place nearest our hostale turned out to have problems so that the staff person who does the certificates wasn't there.  We ended up at the children's hospital.  Surrounded by families with babies under a year or two old, getting their baby inoculations.  (Including fiebre amarillo, at about age 15 months.)  It was just funny, and ironic, or ludicrous, to get our WHO cards at the children's hospital, saying we're to old to get our yellow fever shots.

Between fun things like that, we visit the kitty park, read in the parks, and explore other parts of the city, or even more areas in our neighborhood.  We found a café and bakery that seems to specialize in small and almost miniature sandwiches and sweets, featured in the photos here.  I loved it, because I could try three different sandwiches, each one being only three to six bites (and the price was roughly 30 to 60 cents each)!  Plus look at that macaron, smaller than the bowl of a teaspoon!  So with sweets that tiny, I had a baby macaron and a teeny little truffle.  I thought it was great fun, but Big Rich wasn't quite as enthralled as I was.

And then, one afternoon, I encountered the oddest musical mystery.  I was having lunch in my friendly little neighborhood cafe today, and I heard a very familiar melody on their sound system. I listened a bit more closely, and while I couldn't understand any of the words (since I'm in Lima, Peru, and much of the music is in Spanish), I could have sworn I knew the melody.

I listened more closely, and suddenly I knew - this was the tune for "A Groovy Kind of Love" - a song from my youth!  I kind of hummed along, and while there were a few parts that weren't in sync with what I remembered, most of it was there.

So I asked my friendly waitstaff, since we chat every time I'm there - and here's the piece I heard. A song named "Agnese" by the singer Ivan Graziani. And it's in Italian:

Here's the Phil Collins version of "A Groovy Kind of Love" - it's slower than the original version by the Mindbenders, from the 1966 version. (Next post.)

So, Phil Collins:

And the Mindbenders:

Bizarre, isn't it? Not even the same song, and the Italian one is from some 13 years after the original English version.

I couldn't figure out what happened - how did these two songs end up with the same basic theme music??  Was it a spontaneous thing, like people in various parts of the world figuring out how to weave at the same time, without having contact with each other?  Or was it something else?

So, after more research, I found this gem: Wikipedia (useful despite its frequent inadequacies) says that "Groovy Kind of Love" is HEAVILY based on the Sonatine Op. 36 No. 5 - Rondo by Muzio Clementi, who wrote it in 1797 - and here's the link to that piece:


I'm guessing that both the British and Italian composers of the modern songs "borrowed" that distinctive lilting melody from Clementi - and since it was about 200 years after his original, there really weren't copyright violations.  

I felt like a detective, researching and figuring out all of this.  Pretty easy in the internet age, but I'm not a music person, so this was quite exciting!

So of course, the next day I had to explain all of this to my buddies at the café, in sort of a mix of English and Spanish.  And being young, they looked up the music on their smartphones, and connected the phones to the sound system, so everyone could hear the classical original and then the two modern variations on a theme.

Plus the original is allegro molto in tempo - Italian for "very fast" - which of course in Spanish is muy rapido.  While the two modern versions are slow and soulful love songs - in musical terms, lento, tardo, even adagio.  Modern Spanish would be despacio (which we see on traffic signs, as in SLOW), tranquillo, or even lentemente.  Yeah, you can imagine the conversation we had, tossing around all those terms!

Oh, I also took another ganache and truffle making class at the Choco Museo.  I was the only student, but they basically gave me a private class, which was wonderful!  My teacher was Fiorella, which means "little flower" in Italian.  She told me what to do and had me do pretty much everything.  We had a great time, and of course Richard enjoyed the truffles!

Lima never gets boring!

But we have a new adventure planned, and we head off on Saturday.  We're going to one of the major natural sights in South America, and I'm excited!  I don't want to give too much away, so that's all I'm going to say at this point.

Look for our next post to find out!!!

Friday, January 6, 2017

We Saw Three Kings Bearing Gifts

6 January 2017

Today is Three Kings Day, in many parts of the world.  Also known as Epiphany, and Twelfth Night, as in the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

In much of the Spanish-speaking world, Three Kings Day is a big deal; in Spain, this is even bigger than Christmas Day.  This is the day the three kings (or wise men, depending on your translation) brought gifts - the frankincense and myrrh and all.  So the tradition is that gifts are given to children on Three Kings Day.

We asked around, thinking that perhaps today would be holiday, offices might be closed.  No, it was a normal working day as far as everyone was concerned.

But then, we saw three men dressed as, well, someone's idea of what kings in the Middle East might have dressed like some 2000 or so years ago.  

Riding horses, because camels aren't as available in Peru?

There were police on motorcycles stopping traffic and escorting the Three Kings down the road.  And they were followed by two trumpeters on horseback. 

Not exactly angels we're hearing on high, but, well, they do make people hark.  Or hearken.  Or stop and take photos.

And accompanied by the official cleaner uppers, because, well, these are horses.

The kings would stop every so often and hand things to children, maybe candy.  By the time they started handing out their non-myrrh and non-frankincense, they were too far away for us to see that it really was.

But it was pretty exciting, and we passed them again, riding in a taxi on our way back to to our hostale.

I love local color, and this time we even had a vague clue what was happening!

Oh, final photo - a few blogs ago I wrote about the triple sandwiches.  I don't know if this is called a seituple or what, but it definitely has at least seven layers of fillings in there!  Green beans, carrots, avocado, cheese, tomato, maybe hot dogs on the bottom layer.........and beets or purple cabbage?  Not sure, but it's like a mosaic sandwich!!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

A Peruvian New Year's Eve

4 January 2017

Hard to remember to type 2017 - and wow, we're well into the 21st century!  Amazing!  Plus that means we've been on the road for 4.33 years already!

Last year we were in Valparaiso, Chile, for New Year's Eve.  This year's celebration in Lima wasn't as spectacular, but it was definitely more homey.

Just as in Chile, yellow is a major color for celebrating the New Year.  In Chile, we saw stands of yellow underwear for sale.  Didn't see the stands here in Peru, but one of the people working at our hostale said that his wife bought the entire family yellow undies, and everyone would wear them that evening.  The yellow is for good luck.  If a person wants to get more money in the coming year, then they wear green.

I have to add that I don't own any clothes in either color!  Both are just bad with my coloring, LOL!

So, our hostale staff prepared another fabulous feast and invited everyone for the celebrations.  Richard and I went downstairs about 9 PM to see what was happening, and I happily assisted in decorating the dining room.  The daughter of one of the staff and I blew up the bright yellow balloons, decorated with grapes (good luck), wine bottles, cheering people, etc.  We added streamers, and taped them across the long wall.  Not the classiest of decorations, but cheerful and, most importantly, YELLOW!

We also handed out the yellow plastic leis to people waiting around, and also hung them on the backs of the chairs.  The manager also put one on her chihuahua, who happily wore his lei the rest of the night.

The usual firecrackers and small fireworks started going off as soon as it was dark outside, and continued all evening.  We were in and out to see some of the bigger blasts.

Food was finally served, about 11:30 PM.  I'm guessing that eating certain foods about midnight and into the New Year is considered lucky - we encountered this in Spain, so that might be part of why dinner was served at what we think of as a really late hour.  (We had a lovely roast pork, sort of a Waldorf salad mixed in with lettuce greens, potato salad, and pasta salad.)

At midnight, the night erupted again as everyone started shooting off their fireworks - and then the city-sponsored fireworks started off over the shore!  They were huge, mostly white-gold-yellow-red, and went off at intervals along the coast.  We could see three separate sets exploding from the corner closest to our hostale, and they continued for maybe ten minutes.  They eventually stopped, though the other, smaller fireworks and firecrackers kept going for a few more hours.

There were also a few young people running around the neighborhood, with their rolling luggage.  I read that people do this in Chile as well, to ensure that they travel in the coming year.  It was quite a sight to see people racing around with their luggage bumping along behind them, based on an old tradition.

We went back inside, just in time for cake.  Richard and I bought the cake, because that's just the way we were brought up.  We bought the big sacher torte at the local supermarket, we weren't sure how many people would be at this celebration.  The cake ended up lasting two days, because Peruvians serve very small slices of cake.  (It was really good cake, but a small slice was plenty.  They even offered us more cake for breakfast, which we thought was really funny!)

Of course, then there was music, and people dancing, late into the night.  Things started quieting down maybe about 3 AM, although people were still partying in the street.  Yeah, not the quietest night.

The first was a slow day, with the usual kinds of places closed.  Of course, the kitty park was open, and the kitties were their usual adorable selves.

By the second, life was back to normal, and we've been dealing with the usual things - Richard's dental work, plus seeing the new tropical disease specialist who is advising us on the piratical parasites.  We're hoping to have everything taken care of by next week, so we can head somewhere else, and head off on new adventures!!!

Here are a few more photos of Peruvian holiday decorations - I think some of the tradition arts and crafts kinds of decorations.



Monday, December 26, 2016

The Salsa Carollers (for a Peruvian Christmas)

26 December 2016

It's always interesting to experience a holiday in another country.
So, Christmas in Lima.  We missed all of this last year, because we flew to Santiago, Chile.  Didn't know that Christmas in Lima is a blast.  Literally!

On Christmas Eve day, our hostale manager invited us to dinner that evening.  She said there would be other guests there, they had a big turkey, and it would be fun.  Things got started a bit after 9 PM, with a gathering of other people staying here - the group was mostly people from Colombia and Brazil, and a few people spoke some English.  So we had some conversations in English and Spanish, while music played in the background.  (I recognized one piece which we danced the merengue to in our ballroom dancing class!)

Of course, we wanted to bring a gift for our hostess, so we picked up a paneton (the Spanish word for panettone, the Italian Christmas bread) after sampling this brand at the supermarket.  (And it was served for breakfast this morning, the day after Christmas.)

Anyway, dinner was served maybe around 9:30-10 PM, with wonderful turkey, rice pilaf with raisins, and a tasty potato salad.  Red wine, and dessert was a cheesecake with sort of a blueberry topping.  
Then people got up and danced to the music - I'm guessing it would qualify as salsa dancing, but like tango, there's the North American version and the South American version.  So not exactly (or much like) what I know, but still lively and fun.  Not that Richard and I danced, but I watched for a while.

We went back up to our room - and there were occasional firecrackers, Roman candles, bottle rockets, and even huge fireworks going off.  A few right outside our window, so we could see the flashing and exploding colors.  Others down the street, loud enough to hear but not close enough to see.

Until midnight!  At midnight, the festivities absolutely erupted!  Huge fireworks, tons of firecrackers, things flashing and banging and booming and exploding all around us!  I love fireworks, so we ran downstairs to see what was happening - though everyone else was still dancing and/or hugging each other and wishes everyone Feliz Navidad.  I was grabbed for a few hugs, gave my own Feliz Navidads, and headed down the street - and there were actual huge exploding fireworks going off randomly all around the sky!  Some we could see, some were reflected in apartment windows.  Like a chaotic New Year's Eve but for Christmas!!!!!  How exciting!!!!

Things continued for a while, with people running around setting off strings of firecrackers on the street, but it was quieter by about 2 AM, so I finally went to sleep. 

Christmas started out fairly normal, with things quiet and slow.  Breakfast at the hostale.  Back to our room to check email and figure out what we wanted to do - and then we could hear a small brass band playing Christmas carols, getting closer and closer!

They came wandering down our street, about five or six men wearing Santa hats, with a saxophone, a trumpet or two, a couple of drums - playing music and holding out baseball caps for monetary donations!  They played "Feliz Navidad" and a couple of carols like "Joy to the World" - all with a very salsa beat in their style!  

I stood at our window and took some photos, but didn't have any change to toss down to them.  (And I know, from Myanmar, that bills thrown out of windows tend to waft and not go directly to people.)

It was just a very funny way of carolling, to come walking from house to house with this little salsa band!

This is one of the things we've noticed in travelling around South and Central America:  things seem familiar, because these are western cultures, and predominantly Christian (usually Catholic), and so it feels somewhat similar to the US, where we grew up.  The culture doesn't immediately come across as so very different and foreign, the way all of Asia and many of the Pacific islands felt - when we not only didn't know the language or culture, but we often couldn't even read the signs on buildings or streets.

But Central and South America really are very different from North America, and we feel that every time we come to something like a celebration of a holiday.  When was the last time you had fireworks for Christmas?  (I've never seen this, ever - though I don't celebrate Christmas.  But have you ever seen fireworks anywhere in the USA for Christmas?  And isn't it a fun idea?)

So even though the culture feels familiar and similar, then there are these startling differences that make us think, "Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore."

Sandwiches.  You'd think sandwiches would be, well, sandwiches.  And yes, there are some vaguely familiar sandwiches.

But most sandwiches are presented in a triple - which is pronounced TREEP-lay.  Yes, this is a triple-decker sandwich.  Four levels of bread, three different fillings.  Always served only a half at a time, because you really are getting two slices of bread, and a half portion of three fillings.

My favorite are the tuna salad-egg salad-tomato triple.  Then there's the egg-tomato-avocado triple.  A mixto (pronounced MEEX-to) is pretty much always ham and cheese, and is often served either as a double-decker sandwich, or on a croissant.  Plus almost always heated so the cheese is a bit melty.

We've also seen seven layer sandwiches, some a work of art.  Really, picture seven different fillings, lots of vegs in there with the cheese, egg, ham, or chicken.  Each layer of filling a different color.  No idea how someone opens their mouth big enough to take a bite.  

And the money!  I love the bills!  You know how in most of the world, paper currency usually has a picture of a famous person on one side of the bill.  The other side usually features an historic building.  Right?

So this is Peru.  And what is the single most famous historic building in Peru?  Okay, not one individual building, think group of buildings, or archaeological site.  Of course, Machu Picchu.  So the ten soles bill features Machu Picchu on the back!!!!  With some pre-Columbian artifacts as well.  How cool is that???  I absolutely love it!

The twenty features a wall of the ancient city of Chan Chan, which is up north near the modern city of Trujillo.  This city flourished in the period between about 850 to 1470 CE and was the capital of the Chimu civilization.  This civilization lost influence after the Inca gained power.

On the back of the fifty, there's the New Temple of Chavin de Huantar, another archaeological complex north of Lima (and at an elevation of over 9000 ft).  This temple was built by the Chavin culture in (approximately) 1200 BCE, so it's some 3000 years old!!!

Finally, the back of the 100 sol bill features the Gran Pajaten, located in the northern Amazonian region.  This is an archaeological complex that goes back to about 200 BCE, built by the Chachapoyas civilization.  It also is possibly the city thought to be El Dorado, the city of gold, which the Spanish conquistadors sought.

Who knew money could be a mini art history lesson?

If you want more information, I found this great website:

We're still enjoying our time in Lima - it's a great little city.  We visit the kitty park, visit our neighborhood cafés, eat takeaway meals in the park, and spend a little time in our nearby casinos.  (Where we were served the holiday snack of hot chocolate and a small slice of paneton one afternoon!)  

We now have our Brazilian visas in our passports, so we're good on that.

Richard still has a bit more dental work to finish up - his dentist is on a holiday break, so we're just waiting until he's back and things can get finalized.

Once we know when we can leave, we'll figure out where we want to go.  We have a plan that begins in early February, but that leaves part of January to maybe visit another country.

We'll keep everyone posted!