Lima, Peru: First Impressions — By Jennifer Shipp
Peru South America Trips

Lima, Peru: First Impressions — By Jennifer Shipp

Mexico CIty Airport
Lydian stands watch over our luggage at the Mexico City International Airport.

Our flight on Avianca airlines to Lima was uneventful. Indeed, it was very comfortable. Through some divine act of serendipity, we were seated in the exit row which meant we had plenty of leg room. There wasn’t even any turbulence or petulant stewardesses to complain about.

I was seated next to a large black man across the aisle who was studying a language (either Spanish or English, I couldn’t tell). He was friendly and I offered him my rice and chicken hobby-kit (because it clearly contained gluten and dairy and we don’t eat those things). He reciprocated by picking up my pen once when it fell into the aisle between us.

The plane didn’t arrive in Lima, Peru until later in the evening. Honestly, I’m not sure when our plane landed exactly. It was dark outside. We disembarked from the plane directly onto the runway and then took a little shuttle to the airport itself.

John and I were cued up for adversity after reading all the travel warnings about Lima. Express kidnappings and pickpockets were highest on our list of priorities. We had our guard up because we’d read about things like river pirates along the Inca Trail and we didn’t want to get entrapped in some strange, but dangerous situation.

As we approached the baggage claim, a young woman asked me where we were staying. She was heading toward the same baggage claim rack as I was and she looked familiar to me. Clearly, she’d been on the plane with us, but that wasn’t why she looked familiar. I felt like I’d seen her before somewhere. Like I knew her.

I told her that I didn’t know where we were staying. It seemed like an odd question and I figured the next question would be, “can I stay with you?”  The woman was from Argentina and her male counterpart was soliciting my husband for a place to stay at the same time that she was trying to squeeze information out of me. We stood there together, she and I, waiting for our bags.

She told me that she and her significant other had decided last minute to come to Lima. She didn’t know where they would stay.

“Miraflores is a good area,” I told her.

“Perhaps we could share a taxi or something since you don’t know where you’re staying yet either.”

“Actually, we have someone waiting to pick us up.” I told her. “But I don’t know where we’ll be staying yet.”

Obviously, this admission didn’t make sense in light of the other things I’d said to her, but I wasn’t trying to be clear. I was trying to be confusing. I wanted to feel her out a little bit. As she and I talked, I tried to elicit an untrustworthy or maleficent response from her, but she seemed okay to me. I started to feel badly that I’d so hastily said no to her about having a place to stay.

“We’re from Patagonia, actually…” She told me.

“Patagonia?” I said. I thought for a split second about how Nebraska was the Patagonia of North America in many respects.

“Yeah, if you make it to Patagonia on your trip, you can come stay with us!” She told me. I thought that was awfully generous of her. She and her boyfriend were clearly backpackers. They wanted to find a hostel. I offered her the fact that we were staying in an apartment and there was another apartment available in the same building, but it might be more costly than their budget would allow.

I exchanged names and email addresses with “Paz” and after John had gathered our bags, he apologized to the boyfriend that he had been so hasty in saying “no” to him about having a place to stay. At the same time, I apologized to Paz and told her that if they couldn’t find anything that night, they could come and stay with us.

John told me later that the black man on the plane had offered him his card. He’s a spiritual healer apparently.

Carlos, the property manager of the apartment complex was supposed to be there to pick us up just beyond the baggage claim where a group of people gathered around a center aisle with signs. We paraded down the center aisle which felt a lot like a catwalk. Carlos wasn’t there. I searched for our name, but saw nothing. We took our things over to the side and stood there, trying to look inconspicuous. Taxi drivers came up and asked if we needed a ride.

I felt like my mom had forgotten to pick me up at school.

We looked through the crowd, trying not to be too obvious in terms of our growing sense of desperation. We stood there, our big pile of bags on a cart, disheveled airplane clothes, and greasy hair, trying to act non-chalant. Cool. Yeah…we were cool with it all.

Paz and her boyfriend walked by with a cab driver. We waved to them.

We felt seriously uncool.

Then, suddenly, Carlos was there. My name was printed in big letters on lined paper in blue marker. We made our way to the car with him. I tried to make small talk in Spanish, but my brain was scrambled. I couldn’t have made small talk successfully in English at that moment and I could tell that Carlos thought I was completely daft.

I didn’t care.

We got to the car where I realized that I had no word in my Spanish vocabulary even approximating the concept of “to fit”. I tried to describe the idea of “fitting” but failed. I stood near the trunk of Carlos’ car feeling defeated (after all the Spanish classes, ALL the reading and studying, I DON’T KNOW THE WORD FOR “To Fit”!) I needed to tell him that our bags would “fit” because he thought he needed to call for another car.

John’s charades saved us.

We piled into the car and headed for our new home.I thumbed through my dictionary to try to find the word for “to fit”, but there was more than one word. There was a half-page entry for “fit” and so I closed the book and looked out the window instead.

It took an hour to get there, stuffed, LITERALLY STUFFED into the car.

There were lots of casinos. It looked nothing like Mexico, but rather like a rendition of Las Vegas. And when we arrived at the house, I flushed the toilets and they spun in the opposite direction. Not that I would’ve really noticed this, but John pointed it out to me with great enthusiasm.

Apparently, he’d been waiting all his life to see the toilets flush in the opposite direction.

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