Archive for the ‘Moving to Lima’ Category

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Mi Casa.

February 18, 2008

Now I’ve settled in a bit I thought I’d write a proper description of my new place and show you some pictures.view from lounge onto balcony As with all houses round here security is paramount, apparently the scale of it isn’t really necessary now, but in the late 80s when the Shining Path were prominent it was.  There are 2 doors to get through to get into the lobby (both with different keys) although the second door is usually open when the security man is in.  To get to the lift you have to walk past the desk of the security man (as he is also the handy man he isn’t always there, but he’s always around somewhere nearby).  The weirdest thing for me is that the lift opens straight into the appartment (with a third key).  In case of fire or earthquake, when you can’t use the lift, there is also a back door (yet another key) that goes onto the stairs. 

The main room in the appartment is lovely – it is the complete width of the appartment and faces the balcony with its view of the park.  I can sit for ages just watching the many different bird going about their business.  I’m starting to get very frustrated that I don’t know what they all are – there is some kind of bird of prey nesting in one of the trees opposite which is cool!  I imagine a ‘birds of Lima’ section of the blog developing shortly.  The loungeBecause the room is entirely glass fronted it is really light and airy and we have the balcony doors open most of the time to try and get a draught through.  The balcony is great too – it only gets direct sunshine in the early morning (which is the only time it’s cool enough to want to be in the sun!) and has a great view of the park.  There’s a BBQ, plants in pots and a nice set of table and chairs out there too!  It’s very relaxing to sit out there eating your tea, watching the birds, or the joggers and other people in the park.

 The kitchen is very modern for Peru (from what I’ve seen in other appartments). It has an island in the centre which has a The kitchen and dining areagas hob and extractor fan along with numerous draws and cupboards, then around te outside are a built in cooker and microwave, stainless steel double sinks and more cupboard space than either of us can reach (which considering the average Peruana is a good 5 inches shorter than me makes you wonder who designed the kitchen really!).  At the back of the kitchen is the door out onto the ‘utility room’ which has another door into the ‘maid’s room’ which, as our maid doesn’t live in, just houses the ironing, and various cleaning bits and bobs.

In the back half of the house is an area that my flatmate uses as an office –View from the balcony A lot of Peruvian houses seem to have this kind of thing – a large ish space between rooms, I’m not entirely sure what it’s for, but most ex-pats seem to use it as a TV/comfy sitting room or play area if they have kids.  Her bedroom is complete with ensuite bathroom and walk in wardrobe (which must be about the same size as my bathroom in Hull), next to that is the spare room (which is still large enough to get a double bed in) and opposite that is ‘my’ bathroom.  Finally, at the back of the house  is my room.

 It’s a nice big room, really light and airy, and has more wardrobe space than I know what to do with (although the idea of buying more clothes has crossed my mind…)My bedroomMy bedroom windowThe view from my bedroom window

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Building steps…

February 14, 2008

PamplonaYesterday (Tuesday 12th Feb) I went on a ‘trip’ with school.  The school are currently hosting the American (the continent, not the country) Round Square conference (www.roundsquare.org) and an important part of it is the community service project.  The trip was to an area of Lima called Pamplona and the aim of the work was to build a set of steps up the hillside.  The school has previously been involved in work to build a small community kitchen/dining area and medicine store (complete with access steps) for the community.

I was expecting to see people living in poverty – I’d been told that it was a very poor area.  However I wasn’t really prepared for the sheer scale of it – hundreds and hundreds of tiny shacks, perched precariously on terraces that had been built out of the desert rubble (with some of the best dry stone walling I’ve seen outside of Yorkshire!).  The ‘road’ was little more than a single lane dirt track winding its way up the steep slopes.  The houses have electricity (although I’m not sure it’d get past health and safety at home – you could see where they had twisted the wires together to make them longer, or taken a spur off to a new house!) but no running water – the water truck comes up and fills barrels for people(and apparently charges 30 times the price of water in the main part of the city).  The smell going through the centre of the district where the rubbish dump and cattle pens are was stomach turning, however this lessened as you moved out of the bottom of the valley and up the slopes towards the small community of 60 or so houses that we were working with.

When we arrived at the work site we were greeted with smiles (and curiosity from the children) and shown the work that the previous day’s team had completed.  They had concreted half of the set of steps (the bottom half might I add, so we had the harder job – twice as far to lug cement up , and send empty buckets back!).  The importance of the work was emphasised as a number of men and women from the community had taken the day off work to be able to work on the project with us. (A day’s pay is a lot to lose when you’re living hand to mouth!)

The plan was to work for an hour or so and have a break, do another hour then lunch, another hour then a break and then a final hour before going back to school.  We had to line ourselves up alongside the wooden ‘scaffolding’ (which had been constructed earlier in the month and part filled with rubble to reduce the amount of cement needed) and create a human chain to pass cement up the slope and the empty buckets down the slope.

The need for the steps became obvious as soon as we tried to climb the slope to get into position – I needed to use both hands and hold onto the frame to climb up – the slope was just a jumble of sand and rocks and every time you moved your feet you sent a small avalanche of loose dirt sliding down the hillside.  I couldn’t imagine trying to carry children or shopping up to the houses at the top.  By the time I reached the top I was out of breath, covered in dust and absolutely shattered.  Then the hard work started. 

Standing about an arms span apart we formed a human chain and began to pass buckets of cement up to the top, things were going fine until the empty buckets started coming back the other way – you either had to put one down, or let go – not ideal when our footing was so insecure! After an hour we had only completed 3 steps.  The 30 degree heat and blasting sunshine were taking their toll on one or two people too and by lunchtime a couple of the students had gone back to school feeling sick.

We had a break and then while I was getting back to my place I slipped and cut my leg on a large rock.  I didn’t realise I’d drawn blood until we stopped for lunch when the school nurse cleaned it and put a plaster on for me – it’s not every school that takes the school nurse out on trips with them rather than just shoving a first aid kit in the bus!  She also flushed my eye out for me later on when I got something in it (probably sweaty, dusty sun lotion – it stung like mad and made my eyes run so much I couldn’t see.  On the plus side I didn’t get badly sun burned or get sunstroke which is what I was worried about).

After lunch I decided I couldn’t cope with the rough ground anymore, at the risk of sounding like my mother my knee was really starting to hurt, so I positioned myself closer to the bottom of the chain where I could stand on the steps built the previous day.  We also organised ourselves so that while a chain of many people passed buckets of cement from person to person up the slope, the empty buckets were passed down by throwing them along a more spread out chain of about 10 people down the slope.  This increased our work rate quite considerably.  Unfortunately we hadn’t finished the steps when the time came for us to leave.

To thank us for our help the community had prepared a small show for us – firstly 5 of the young girls from the community did a dance for us, followed by 3 of the older women, in traditional costume, who insisted on the menfolk joining in!  The kids were obsessed with the digital cameras – they loved to look at themselves in the pictures once they had been taken and, like small children everywhere, they put their hands behind each other’s heads and pulled funny faces at the camera. 

It was a strange experience being involved in the day.  On one hand the poverty was awful and no-one should have to live like that, but on the other their was a real sense of communitythe people were friendly, open and very positive about their futures and determined to work their way to a better standard of living.  The kids were all happy and all the animals you saw about (LOTS of dogs, a few cats, chickens, ducks, pigs, rabbits, guinea pigs) were healthy and looked after. 

I was glad to get back to the hotel, have a shower and put some clean clothes on.  At the same time I was aware that the people I’d been working alongside all day did not have that option.  The contrast between the dry, dusty, impoverished area I’d been in and the wealthy, lush, spotless suburb of Miraflores was striking.  I was lucky to get the opportunity to go and I’m looking forward to getting involved with more work there if the opportunity presents itself.

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A new Home!

February 14, 2008

I have officially checked out of the hotel Ariosto and moved into my new apartment!  I am sharing with a New Zealander named Dianna Basset who is head of lower school.  Unfortunately she is leaving in July so I will have to look for another place then (or possibly get someone else to share here – we’ll see when the time comes!). It’s a fantastic apartment – 3 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, lovely fitted kitchen with all the mod cons, huge lounge and balcony overlooking the park and even what are considered to be large maid’s quarters (if you have a maid that lives in). On top of all that, its location is fantastic too – about 5 min walk from school, and a similar distance from shops, banks etc.  My room is large – probably a bit bigger than my front room in Hull – and is complete with built in wardrobes/shelves/drawers that are currently half empty (but not for long I wouldn’t have thought – I’ve already had to buy more hot weather clothes since I’ve been here as I didn’t have enough with me).  I’m paying $500 a month which includes all bills, internet and a maid 3 times a week.  This is a bargain as I’m probably going to have to pay about $700 for a place of my own, plus bills, plus maintenance charge (all apartment blocks have a front desk with security/handyman and cleaners for the communal areas).  I have unpacked, done some washing (what luxury!), done my Spanish homework for tomorrow and got on the internet legitimately without stealing WiFi from anyone – bliss…

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House hunting.

February 8, 2008

After today’s Spanish lesson we (The Bocks and me) were taken to look at some properties by a local estate agent.  There were a couple of really nice places at reasonable rents, but unfortunately they were all a long way from school (up to a 20 min drive!) so aren’t really any good.  Still there is a month yet before the school stop paying for my accommodation so plenty of time to find something!  My favourite by far was in a complex that had a games area (table tennis and table football etc.) a childrens play area, a pool, sauna, squash court and gym included in the rent!  It was the furthest from school though and not really near the good shops etc.  There is still the hope of sharing – the teacher with the spare room gets back from holiday tomorrow so hopefully I’ll know by the weekend!

In the meantime I have been moved out of the school house – apparently it’s quite rare here still for men and women to share houses unless they’re married, so me sharing with 2 young men was not ideal (I wasn’t complaining!) and so they have moved me into a ‘local’ hotel.  I’m stealing internet as and when I can get an unsecure WiFi connetion so it’s not to bad :p  the room’s big, ensuite and has cable TV, but no tea and coffee making facilities.  Apparently breakfast is included so I’ll have to get up doubly early tomorrow to take advantage of it and to make sure I’m in school on time – the hotel is a lot further from school than the school houses are!

The main disadvantage of the hotel is I’m now on my own without 2 nice young men to look after me!  This meant I had to go out and find tea on my own this evening.  After a short wander I found a nice park with shops and cafes around it and had (with some trepidation following recent stomach upsets) seafood stew with rice and beans, which was delicious.  I had a wander round the park and then thought that as it was dark and my spanish is minimal I ought to get back to the hotel!  I came back via a chemist, who happily sold me an asthma inhaler without a prescription for less than the prescription charge in the UK – excellent!

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Getting to know Lima

February 7, 2008

Yesterday started with a Spanish lesson at 0830.  You’d think that having a Spanish lesson every day would improve my Spanish but it is still VERY basic – we’ve done pronunciation (which I manage much better than my Kiwi/Aussie collegues as I can roll my r’s and pronounce vowels properly) and the conjugations of the 2 verbs they have for ‘to be’ (ser and estar if you’re interested).  I’m not sure that teasing my head of department about his Spanish is really a good move, but I can’t help myself…

We then met up with Alan Tin-Win, a chemistry teacher from the school (British, but originally from Burma, hence the surname) who showed us round the department (the biology dept. has it’s own zoo including rabbits, guinea pigs, a ferret, some primates, terrapins, a tarrantula and various birds – one of the jobs naughty children get in science detention is cleaning them all out!).  We were then given a brief ‘tour’ of the intranet which seems HUGE, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it when I’m using it a lot.  He then took us to lunch and gave us LOADS of useful information on what there was in Lima, where to go, how to get about safely etc.  I went back to his house with him and met his wife and got more info on school and Lima etc.  He even e-mailed me this morning with a map of miraflores (the area we’re in) and directions to the interesting markets and parks nearby.

 Apparently the taxis here are not safe if you’re on your own.  People hide in the back and attack you, the drivers may stop and demand money, they might call on ahead and then pull in to a layby where their ‘friends’ are waiting etc.  Half of them don’t know where they’re going and there is no licencing system.  If you’re obviously  gringo and you stand still long enough any passing motorist will stop and offer you lifts places – it’s insane!

Today also started at 0830, but this time with a driving tour of Lima, along with the Bocks (the new physics teacher and her husband, who are German, but have been living in New Zealand) and my head of department (Jon) and his wife and 2 kids (Kia aged about 2 and Lloyd who is about 10 months).  We were shown the residential areas of Lima that are considered safe enough for us to live in, given a brief tour of the lower school (which is on a different site to upper school) and then taken back in time for lunch.  The best news of the day is that a teacher who lives literally 2 min away from school, in the nicest area of Miraflores, is looking for someone to share with – her flat overlooks a park and seemed (from the outside) to be really nice.  She is currently in Brazil, but should be back on Friday – watch this space…

 We had lunch in a tiny ‘local’ cafe next to the school that one of the gap teachers had been taken to by his host family.  The lunch menu was 6 soles (about 1 pound) and consisted of cancha (a bit like salted pop corn, but made from larger maize and not popped as fluffy), a fruit drink which they topped up when you’d finished it, starter of salad (onion, carrot, maize, cheese, green beans and ceviche sauce) followed by beef stew (with potatoes, carrots, red peppers etc) and rice.  And so far it hasn’t disagreed with me so all good!

After today’s Spanish lesson I went to my head of department’s house for coffee, a chat and to play with his kids for a bit – they’re really struggling with the heat and are being quite ‘grizzly’ a lot of the time.  They are really nice people – he’s a Kiwi, she’s Welsh and they met in Kenya when they were both teaching there (there’s hope for me yet!).

Not much left to do after that except write this, watch the Matrix and then bed – another 0830 Spanish lesson tomorrow! (School here starts at 0730 so I’d better get used to this being a late start…)

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The Curse of Atahualpa

February 5, 2008

Apparently the reason that all tourists get tummy upsets is due to an ancient curse of 1533.  The conquistadors had captured Atahualpa the Inca emperor and had promised him his life if he filled the room where he was being held with Gold.  He did so, but the Spanish reneged on their deal and had him tried for treason and anything else they could get to stick.  He was baptised a Catholic so that he could be killed by strangulation rather than by being burned at the stake.  His dying words were a curse on the white men.

 Some say the curse referred to cocaine – that it will fortify the Indian and destroy the white man.  Others that it takes the form of a stomach bug suffered by everyone who visits Peru.  Including, as of this morning, me.

 Visiting Interpol when suffering from sickness and diarrhoea is not something I would wish on anyone!  However it was fairly empty and quite quick.  The most hairraising bit of the morning was te taxi ride there and back.  I will write more about the driving in Lima another time – suffice to say there are no rules, the lights are more guidelines as to whose turn it is to go at a junction, and the horn is used almost continuously!

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I´m in Lima!

February 2, 2008

After a nice flight where I was fed on a regular basis (before everyone else as I had booked a vegetarian meal!) and watched a lot of films, I arrived in Lima.  I was met at the airport by a member of staff at the school and one of the school´s drivers, in one of the school´s mpvs.  I was taken to one of the houses owned by the school and left to sleep off my jet lag.

I woke up this morning at 7 am local time, to the sound of foreign birdsong, feeling like it was mid-morning so I got up (don´t laugh!).  Had a nice relaxing breakfast, met the gap year student and we went out to explore (via ´Wongs´ supermarket to buy water and sun lotion…)  We found the sea and had lunch in a posh restraunt (all you can eat buffet for about £7).  We then went for a wander and stumbled upon this internet cafe.  Seemed like too good an opportunity to miss to update my blog…

 Hope those of you still in England are enjoying the sleet, blizzards and high winds – it´s lovely here, warm, nice sea breeze, a little humid, but not too oppressive.  A little sun burned already…

 They´ve arranged for us to go to a BBQ at another teacher´s house tomorrow and meet some of the other staff informally, which should be nice.  Then I have a week of Spanish lessons, meeting Interpol, filling in forms and meeting the estate agents to help me find my own place 🙂

 The weekend sees the start of the ´Round Square´ conference where I will get a chance to get involved in some kind of aid work with the poor communities in Lima and help rebuild a school in one of the areas hit by the earthquake in August.  Looking forward to it.