Sunday, March 14, 2010

Ceviche and Spontaneous Concerts in the Park

My late night last night and lack of planning ahead of time left me without the means to find and attend church services today. I spent the morning finishing unpacking, spent a couple of hours reading in the scriptures, meditating and praying, then met up with Alfredo.
Alfredo Elejalde is a friend from Vanderbilt. He and I started our graduate studies together back in 2001. After he left Vandy, he went to Washington D.C. and then to another college in Virginia. A year and a half ago, he returned to Lima, and he starts teaching at the Catholic University in Lima tomorrow. I am going to go meet his department and colleagues on Tuesday and begin talks about semester-long study abroad programs.
I realize that a blog is much more exciting if it has pictures. Not even I want to read the previous post, it's long, disparate, and boring to everyone including myself. So today's blog will highlight the adventure and provide photographic evidence that I am actually doing what I say I am doing.
Alfredo arrived at about 1:15 and we began walking around Miraflores. We wanted to have lunch first, especially since I only had a granola bar for breakfast, so we decided on ceviche. Lima is a coastal city, so the seafood is fresh, having been caught the same day. To Alfredo's surprise, his favorite cevicheria has a branch right in Miraflores, so we found it and waited about 30 minutes for a table. We had mussels as an appetizer and then the signature ceviche plate as a main course. Being an Idaho boy, I never really lived where I could get fresh seafood, so ceviche is a fairly new experience for me. I have eaten it before, but in much smaller quantities. This is what was set in front of us.
Buried under that semi-spicy sauce is a mountain of fresh seafood: calamari, octopus, fish, etc. on a bed of red onion. Ceviche is served mostly raw, "cooked" by the acid in lemon or lime juice. Peruvian lemons are juicy but incredibly tart limes. Beside the ceviche on the right are plantain chips and on the left is a sweet potato. In all, this was very delicious and incredibly filling. It's probably best that CJ is not with me on this trip with all the onions I consumed for lunch...

After lunch, we continued our walk through Miraflores and arrived at John F. Kennedy park.
This park is about three blocks long and one block wide. Obviously, there's a playground on one of the blocks. The center block is home to the daily artisan fair, which opens at 5 p.m. It's a relatively confined space, a circle about 75 feet in diameter, surrounded by a 4 foot cement wall.
In the third block, there's a sunken circle/amphitheater where hundreds of people were gathered and waiting for an exposition of some sort. Apparently, the municipality sponsors musicians every Sunday afternoon. The show starts at 4pm, and at 4pm, this was the scene:
There were about a hundred people waiting for the show to start, but no sign of a musician or entertainer whatsoever. I thought I'd be funny and make a comment about "Waiting for Godot," but only Alfredo caught the reference, and even he didn't find it all that amusing. We decided to continue on to the end of the park where painters were displaying their works. We saw some great things, and I ended up buying a green necklace for CJ from a street vendor. He initially offered me my choice of several necklaces for only $S./20 (20 soles is about 7 dollars.) The necklaces were pretty, but I am still not thinking in the frame of "divide everything by 3 to get the US price" mode, and even so, 20 soles was a bit much. The guy tried to win Alfredo to his side, asking his opinion and getting him to encourage me to buy it. Alfredo smiled and told me (in English) "pay half," so I began to bargain with him. It went something like this:
Me: I'll give it some thought and we'll come back around later.
Him: I'll sell it to you for 15 soles right now.
Me: I'm not sure I am ready to pay 15 soles. Let me think about it and come back later.
Him: 12 soles is a great price. You'll pay 5 times that in a jewelry store. (Looking to Alfredo) Isn't that right?
Alfredo: Yes, that's true.
Me: No thanks, I still have time to look around before I decide.
Him: 10 soles.
Me: Okay, I'll buy it for 10 soles. Thanks a bunch.
For those who haven't done this before, pay attention to the way this unfolded. I never once offered a lower price to the guy. Too many Americans (and I am guilty of this as well) think that bargaining means lowballing. I knew what I was willing to pay before I even began to express interest in buying, and when I showed him I was a potential buyer, I let him do all the work. He knows exactly what his best price is, and I let him work himself down to the price I was willing to pay. In the end, we both were happy with the transaction, and that's how it should always work.
Alfredo asked if I wanted to try lucuma ice cream, and I was still quite full from lunch, but he had purposely worked us to a cafe called HAITI where they have very delicious ice cream, so I agreed and we headed over there.
We spent an hour in the cafe, chatting about different things, mostly our experiences at Vandy, and brainstorming possible study abroad scenarios. This is the full purpose for my extra time here, so I am keeping it close to the surface at all times.
When we left the cafe, we began walking back up the other side of the park, and I looked over and noticed that the size of the crowd at the amphitheater had grown significantly, so I suggested we go see the show. As we walked to the crosswalk, we passed a couple of young men playing charango and flutes outside another cafe. The din of the crowd was so loud that we heard no music coming from the amphitheater as we approached, but to my surprise, there was still no performance, no entertainer, no show whatsoever. Yet people continued to congregate. There was an elderly gentleman with a handheld transistor radio offering to turn it up so everyone could dance, but it generated no excitement among the crowd, so I turned to Alfredo and suggested we go back across the street and invite the two young men playing outside the cafe to come and entertain the people. Alfredo agreed this was a good idea, so we did. The musicians took a little convincing, claiming that as they were only two, they couldn't fill that venue with sound, but I told them that there were three hundred people sitting there already listening to nothing, so if they couldn't hear them playing, it wouldn't matter, at least they'd have something to look at.
El Condor Pasa
There was a sweet little old lady who began to dance immediately, and she hit it off quite well with a 20-something young man who was videoing the spectacular. The little lady was hilarious, doing some dance moves that one normally only sees in music videos. She began flirting with this young man, and before long the two of them were dancing together, with four or five other couples also dancing right there in the middle of everything.
After the spontaneous concert, we gave the musicians a couple of soles each and went back through the park. By this time, the feria was open and we perused without buying. We initially thought the feria was only on Sundays, but were told that it's every day after 5, so I didn't feel any unnecessary pressure to buy anything, knowing I have until Friday to decide if I want to buy anything there.
On a side note, the park is home to feral cats that aren't entirely feral. The people of the neighborhood take care of the cats, feed them, take them to the vet, spay and neuter them, and return them to the park. It's an interesting sight to see cats just laying in the grass in the middle of a crowded park, but it's more interesting to look up in the trees and see conures. Entire flocks of parrots reside in the trees above the park. Neat.
Our next stop was the coast. Miraflores sits on top of a hill some 200 feet above sea level, with a pretty steep slope descending to the ocean. The road and beach at the ocean are all reclaimed, and the beach below where we went was a beginning surfers' beach. There were a couple of dozen surfers still in the water riding 2-3 foot waves.
The sun set while we gazed down at the ocean, then we walked south and came upon a modern-day temple built to the god of commercialism, a mall, Larcomar, cut out of the hillside and looking out over the ocean. As far as malls are concerned, it's beautifully situated, but, it's a mall. It was chaotic and loud, crowded and overall unappealing to me.
We sat and chatted some more about study abroad options, then began the trek back to the hostel, where I was able to successfully contact my family and talk to them for a few minutes. It's now late and I am extremely tired. I'll correct the hyperlinks to the video when it's finished uploading to YouTube.

1 comment:

Cynthia said...

Most excellent. I can't see the link to the video.