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Lima. Peru. I arrived at the airport in Lima very early Sunday morning after having a very uneventful flight. I made the acquaintance of a Peruana Sandra who works at Ernst & Young, Lima. After telling her every word that I knew in Spanish and clapping my hands every time I understood a word she said we retired to sleep on our respective chairs. We were awakened at something like 5 in the morning after having slept for about 5 hours to a delicious breakfast meal of bread with ham and cheese. I’m not being sarcastic here – I really like bread with ham and cheese for breakfast.

It’s taken about 5 days of being timid to finally break out of my shell and just ask anyone, and I mean anyone on the street for what ever it is that we happen to be looking for. Mind you I’m saying things like “How I arrive store” for “Where is a bookstore” and “The cat” for “ice”. And Stacey is saying “Walk four pictures and turn left”. Stacey and I have taken to calling our speech “Chinese Spanish” based on my experiences with ESL students in grad school and all those tourists in NYC. All niceties are banished and sentences consist of a pronoun (sometimes), a verb & a noun. The great thing is that everyone will work with you to figure out what you are trying to say.

We were in Wong, a supermercado not a giant Chinese import store, and I was trying to find a lighter for my camping stove. I asked for a encendedor and one guy sent me with another guy and we walked alllll the way to the back of the store. Apparently, they thought that I wanted a Zippo lighter so I kept saying “No, plastico, plastico” Then we went back up to the front, in front of the register to a separate counter where I was shown the .50 sole and the 1 sol lighter – they were not accessible to the customers but kept behind the counter for some reason. I tried to ask, but could not understand the answer. There was only a slight difference in size so I got the 1 sol lighter. The nice boy carried the lighter to a register where I paid for it separately. Don’t ask me why – I don’t know. Then came the exercise of paying for my items. I wanted to use a credit card and Cindy, the register person, seemed to be telling me that I couldn’t use Visa. What she was actually saying was that if it’s a credit card they need to see identification.

The exchange rate and the prices here have almost nothing to do with each other. Costs seem to be more related to usage. Books cost about the same if not more and there are definitely less of them. Food costs a little less in the local grocery stores, but in restaurants meal cost a lot less. We had a HUGE lunch today for about $6 a piece. Now, 8 hours later I’m still not hungry and am beginning to have a stomach ache. There is a lot more to say about the type of food, but not at the moment. The deal is that the prices for us seem about normal, but for a regular Peruvian family they are super expensive. The Peruvian tourist products in Lima, like sweaters and pottery, cost a lot and I think that I can find some of them in other places for much less but Stacey does not have that luxury. Of course, I can’t actually carry anything more on the bike so it’s kind of a moot point.

This afternoon I went to the bank to get money for the weeks of cycling in the Andes and while I don’t know if I got out enough I felt like a millionaire. Anton (more on him later) thinks that he can use an ATM on the road from Nazca to Cusco, but I’m not so sure. No one here really seems to have any idea what commodities are available. I had a wad of 20 sole bills shoved in my bra, 10 soles bills in my top pocket and about 100 soles in 5 sole coins in my pants pockets. I only had about $150 American dollars, but it felt like so much more.

What else. The internet.is everywhere and it only cost $1.5 soles an hour. That is about $.50. Not bad except that I have all these intricate things that I would like to do with a flash card. Now, after about 4 trips I think that all the necessary pieces are in place. The photos are uploaded to the flash drive and named correctly for upload. I finally read the directions and got the Portable Thunderbird email program talking correctly to the internet. I did crash three computers while trying to get my USB drive to work. You try reading error messages in Spanish and then getting the blue screen of death. If all goes well there will be pictures in the Photos section to accompany this posting.

Tomorrow is the last day of school and the La Rosa sisters, Cecilia and Anita, are going to show us around Central Lima. It will be fun to get out and see some things here with our new friends. Cecilia and Anita have been so helpful and the entire family has been very patient with us and or. I’ve just begun to get my Lima legs and it’s almost time to move on.

PHOTOS ARE POSTED!!!! Michelle - there is one especially for you.

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