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¡Muy rico!

Today is my last day in Lima. Stacey left this morning and I am trying to pull all of my crap together into the smallest amount of bags so that I can get it all on the bus without having it be stolen. There are so many little things like lighters and pens that can get lost in the bags and for the bus ride I actually need to use my backpack as there are some expensive things that I would like to keep for at least a little while.

I am to meet Anton at 6:30am tomorrow morning at a bus station in Central Lima. Not the ideal place to be at 6:30 in the morning on a Sunday, but with mucho suerte I will be just fine. We are going to call tonight to arrange for a taxi in the morning as getting one off the street at that time in the morning isn’t the best idea. I’m ok with a little more money for a lot more security.

No one seems to drink water here possibly because tap water is not potable and it either needs to be boiled or bought. Our family boils it and since Stacey and I felt guilty for constantly asking for water we bought ours. Instead of water though there is a variety of liquids at the various meals. They have this weird breakfast drink which I believe is just really, really runny, fine oatmeal called Avena. Everyone here calls it “quicker” with the accent on the quick but what they are really saying is QUAKER as in Quaker food products. Avena means oatmeal, but it’s not like that lumpy bowl of goo that many people eat for breakfast. It’s more like a thick, frothy breakfast shake. It is made with Avena mix, vanilla, milk (most likely evaporated as I have yet to see an actual bottle of milk), and chocolate. Sometimes it’s apple instead of chocolate. I much prefer the chocolate. Also at breakfast is freshly made juice from fruits that I have never seen and cannot spell much less pronounce. One I can both say and spell is grenedilla and it is damn good. I think we had papaya and mango on other mornings. So far there is juice and Avena. After those two calorie laden liquids you get a cup of coffee or tea. With all this liquid to drink we were usually a minute or two late for our class.

The coffee. Yes, coffee in Peru is as bad as they say it is. It is instant and for a culture that has no problem peeling the rind off everything that they eat for some reason feels that making a pot of coffee takes too much time. Not sure about that logic. The only thing that makes the coffee palatable is the evaporated milk. With the milk – it isn’t bad. At the school however there was no milk but there was chocolate mix. Unlike the US where chocolate milk mix has sugar in it, this doesn’t so when you make it you need to add sugar to taste. My drink of choice at the school was 1.5 spoonfuls of instant coffee, 1 spoon of chocolate mix, and 2 spoons of sugar.

Chicha moreda is the drink of choice at the big afternoon meal. It is purple and made from big purple corn. There is another chicha that I would like to try which is more like Kentucky moonshine and is homebrewed in the Andes. Can’t wait.

Finding water along the way will be a little more difficult. I think that the key is to buy it when you see it and farther up in the Andes (how exciting, THE ANDES) we will probably have to carry some extra water for cooking and drinking when camping. We can’t always drink beer and beer is in those heavy glass bottles anyway.
Finding food on the way without having stomach problems will be the next new experience (after the bus station, and the first night camping or in a hotel). Apparently, something like 70% of people have some sort of food related problem when traveling and it isn’t fun. Cecilia, my friend from the homestay, suggested the following tactics for finding good food along the road.

When selecting a place to eat look for the most populated places. She said that the townsalong the way, which are few and far between, have restaurants for the tourist buses and places like that are better than the little carts. Since Anton got dysentery (maybe) from one of these little carts I think that avoiding them is a great idea even though everything looks so good. The more people the better and the more non-tourists even better. Also, this is not just a foreigner thing; it’s for everyone traveling in Peru which was a little surprising, but rotten meat is rotten meat.

It is also ok to find a woman who is cooking for her family and ask to buy a meal from her. If the food is good enough for her family it is good enough for me. Also, this means that the ingredients have a better chance of not being spoiled – rotten meat and the like. I would have never really though of this but she said that everyone is so poor that a knock on the door means potential income. It should cost about 5 soles for dinner which is about $2.25 or so. I can deal with that.

The language barrier should not be considered a problem in my mind. Maybe that’s because I am now speaking Españinglish. No one can understand my English, no one can understand my Spanish. So there will be no difference in the Sierras where they they don’t speak Spanish or English but speak the Native languages of Quechuan and in some places Amarya both of which I’m sure are misspelled. We won’t run into this for a week or so and truthfully, I don’t see it as being a problem. Communication in foreign countries, for those of us not so luck to be polyglots, is very tiring, but it is a great conversation starter. “No habla español (fill in the language)? Where you from?” See, perfect conversation starter.

Let me tell you about my lunch today. Meals always consist of a main plate, a soup, and a dessert. The main dish was another variation of rice, papas, chicken, a pea here and there in a yummy vegetable sauce made with carrots and tomatoes – more carrots than tomatoes. The soup was when things started going downhill. Usually, we have had a light soup (also called caldo) of chicken broth with a potato or two, a little piece of chicken, a piece of chocolo (a type of corn with huge kernels) and about ten noodles. Today the soup was yellow and had something in it that looked like fish. Well, after asking, I discovered that it wasn’t fish - it was an egg. I ate my first ever bowl of egg drop soup – or at least I think that’s what it was. And no Mom, it’s not really my favorite thing. Then to top things off was dessert. I knew what I was in for today because I had “talked” with Ana Marie yesterday while she was making it. Dessert in this case was rice pudding, otherwise know as Arroz con leche. While food is one of the main things that I am very excited about learning about, I am not so excited about the desserts here. I will stick to chocolate.

Update: Dinner was a little different this evening. We had rice of course, but instead of the normal leftovers from lunch we had a delicious omelet which had tuna, onion, oregano and a little, tiny bit of flour. It was like an egg pancake. Second course was the soup again. It is actually made out of a squash call Zapallo – Crema de Zapallo. Squash soup with egg. And for dessert we had the most delicious fruits: chirimoya and granadilla. The chirimoya, with a green skin like an armadillo, can be ripened much like bananas. The flesh is a creamy white with some fibers and big black seeds. It is a very creamy and rich tasting fruit. The granadilla on the other hand has to be gently peeled like and egg. It has a semi-hard orange shell which is peeled away to reveal a white pith. Under the pith is a seed pod – similar in idea to pomegranates. You eat the seeds and the flesh around the seeds and drink what ever liquid is left. Muy rico!

Another difference is that they call nuts dried fruit. This concept caused great confusion on me and Ceclia’s walk back from a not-so-great part of town where we bought kerosene from a corner store. This adventure was necessary because having known that white gas no existe in Peru I followed the suggestion of the Footprints guide book and bought some Ron de Quemar (literally rum of burning). I pulled out the stove to try out this new fuel and much to my dismay discovered that “keys” on the pump bushing that holds the plunger in is broken – thank god for duct tape. (Guess what’s on the list for Cusco honey).

Anyway,the kerosene was in a big container by the door in a small bodega on a corner. The man put one scoop into my fuel bottle but for some unknown reason he would not fill the bottle to the fill line – he would only fill it to one scoop. No matter, the ron de quemar experiment wasn’t working so hopefully this will work better.

No photos because I was stupid and forgot the password!! Until the next internet cafe.....

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