Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Lima, Part 1 - The Cat Park

25 November, 2015

On Monday, we flew from Guayaquil, Ecuador, to Lima, Peru.  This included a six or seven hour layover in Quito - not enough time to go into the city, but too long to hang around the airport.

Fortunately, the Quito Airport Center is directly across the street from the airport.  This is the place to hang out and wait for flights, with free wifi, a variety of eating places, and a series of shops, as well as room to walk around and stretch.

It was a life saver.

We arrived in Lima, Peru, after flying over the Andes.  Did the normal Immigration and Customs stuff, and as in Ecuador, we were sent to the expedited inspection line for seniors.  It's nice to be sent to a shorter line where someone helps put the luggage onto the x-ray belt for us; on the other hand, we really aren't that old or frail that we need extra help.  I mean, we're old but not OLD, you know?

Our hotel, which is called a hostel but in Spanish that doesn't necessarily mean a hostel but also a hotel or hostale or hospedaje (various sizes of hotels and varying amenities), is in the Miraflores neighborhood of Lima.  We're south of the center of town, somewhat near the beach.  This is one of the nicer neighborhoods in Lima, a capital city which has cleaned up its act but still has some problems with petty theft and pickpockets.  So we thought we'd stay in a more residential area.

This isn't one of the older parts of this city of some ten million people, but there are certainly old buildings in this area.  Also plenty of new high-rise apartment buildings and condominiums.  Not too high-rise, however, because this region does have its share of earthquakes.  There was a 7.2 earthquake just yesterday on the eastern side of the country, in the Amazon region, near the Peru-Brazil border.  We haven't heard of any damage or injuries, fortunately.  But the news mentioned that the city of Cuzco, the jumping-off spot to Machu Picchu, was closed temporarily to assess for damages.  (At least, that's what we gathered from the news in Spanish.  We could have misunderstood what was said.)

It's fascinating to be in another country in South America.  We're basically just south of Ecuador.  A neighboring country.  But the Spanish sounds different.  The English sounds different.  Peruvian Spanish is more clipped but more rolling at the same time - the rrrrrrs are rolled, the H or J or even X are more gutteral, and this carries through to the English.  It will take our ears a few days to become acclimated to the new sounds, as well as new names for similar foods that we found in Ecuador.

The weather is also cooler, or more similar to Quito even though we're on the coast, not in the mountains.  Lima is 12 degrees south of the equator, while Quito is .36 degrees south (or so - the marked equator is actually not the true equator found using GPS).  In Ecuador, it's summer; while Quito was chilly, Guayaquil definitely felt like summer.  

Even though we're only 12 degrees or so south of Guayaquil, this is an entirely different temperature zone.  Lima is in the midst of a lovely spring, with flowers blooming, cool cloudy mornings with mist rolling in from the Pacific, and sunny warm afternoons when the sun and breeze have chased away the clouds.  Daytime high temps are in the mid 70s F (about 20-23 C), although nights are a chilly 60-something (15-ish C).  Jacket weather, or a jacket and sweater for evenings/nights.

The main street we've been walking on for exploring our area is Jose Pardo, a long and wide boulevard with a median in the center.  But not just a median dividing the two directions of traffic.  No, this is a median as wide as the double-lane roads in each direction.  A median that is essentially a park, with grassy areas, benches for relaxing, a paved walkway in the center, lined with trees and streetlights full of hanging baskets with bright cheerful flowers!  Really, this is the best area to walk up and down the street.  Forget sidewalks, hang out in the park between the street!

The coastal cities of South America are known for their seafood, and Peruvian food is touted to be one of the best cuisines in this part of the world.  Ceviche, sea bass, all kinds of shellfish, and a variety of soups and stews are part of the Peruvian cuisine.  Last night, we visited our local seafood restaurant, the one with the beautiful turtle and fish painted on the exterior.  I had parihuela (pronouned pah-ree-HWAY-la), a thick fish and shellfish soup with almost a tomatoey and veg broth.  It was full of corvina (sea bass), shrimps, and a whole (but small) crab.  Delicious and warming on a chilly night.  

Okay, so for our first day in Lima we had a batch of errands to run.  Find our bank and get cash.  Find the FedEx office and figure out how to get our medications sent here - each country has its own list of red tape and requirements.  Find a post office and mail a gift.  Our lovely hotel manager helped us locate where to go, and marked it on the map.  We knew we'd learn more about the neighborhood while running our errands, and most of these places were near enough to walk up and down Jose Pardo, enjoying that walking park in the center of the road.

We found most of our places and accomplished our errands.  Then we needed to cross through Parque Kennedy, at the top of Jose Pardo, to get to a cross street and find the next place on our list.

But were sidetracked by the cat park.

Parque Kennedy is full of cats!  We were told that years ago, some people decided they didn't want their cats, so they dropped them off at this park.  (Mean, evil people!)  Soon, other people dropped their unwanted cats at the park as well.  Pretty soon there were a bunch of cats hanging around in the park, so the municipality started taking care of the cats.  (I'm guessing tourists came to the park to play with the cats, so this is part of the reason the cats are taken care of by the neighborhood.)  The cats are fed, people need to apply to the municipality to adopt one of these cats, and the whole thing is like a mini version of the Taiwanese town of cats that I visited.

In the center of the park is sort of a theatre in the round pit, like a mini Colosseum.  There are two sets of stairs going down into the pit, with the levels creating benches for lounging.  The whole pit was full of people enjoying the sunny afternoon.  And cats, enjoying the sunny afternoon.  Everyone, cats and people, were sitting or lounging in the sun, sprawled on the benches.

Of course, I walked around talking to cats, patting their heads, taking their photos.  Richard had found a kitty toy soccer ball that morning and, prophetically, gave it to me saying I should give it to a cat when I met a nice one.  Well, only one cat was interested in playing kitty soccer, but he/she and I had a fun time chasing the ball around the base of the pit.

Okay, my funny kitty story from the Galápagos (only because I have more photos and not enough narrative!) - I tend to try to speak more Spanish than I know, if that makes sense - and so I get into weird situations.

Just down the street from our hotel in Puerto Ayora, there was a bodega we'd stop in periodically.  They had a gorgeous big grey and black tabby, a very sweet cat who'd come over and head-butt my hand for petting.  I'd walk in the store and meow, he'd run over for his petting, then he'd go off and continue working in the shop (patrolling for rodents, I guess).

On our last day, I went by the bodega and asked "El gato es aqui?"  (The cat is here?)  "No," the lady replied, "Hostele España."  So I found the hotel, just a few doors down, and thought I'd go in and say goodbye to Mr Cat.

Well, the lady at the desk didn't speak much English.  So our conversation went something like:

Me: "Es uno gato en la bodega, tres o quatro edificios."  ("Is a cat in a shop, three or four buildings" - and I motion up the street.)

Lady:  "Si, si."

Me:  "La señora en la bodega dice, el gato es aqui."  ("The lady is the store says, the cat is here.")

Lady:  "Si, si." 

Well, at this point I have no idea how to say I want to see the cat, I want to say goodbye.  I could say this in French.  Maybe in Italian.  NO clue how to say this in Spanish.  So I say the only thing I can think of.

Me:  "El gato es mi amigo."  ("The cat is my friend.")

Lady:  "Si........."

Me:  "El gato es mi amigo!"  ("The cat is my friend!")

Lady catches on that I want to find the cat, LOL!  So she starts looking around for the cat, and comes out from behind the desk to walk around the lobby.  

So just in case I haven't made enough of a fool out of myself, I walk around meowing for the cat, since that's how he and I have established that I call for him.  People look up at me.  I smile and say, "I'm just calling the cat, I wanted to say goodbye."  The hostel guests smile, a few agree he's a really nice cat and they understand.  

Couldn't find the cat, he was hiding and/or sound asleep.

And yes, I felt quite silly.  In two languages!

But I thanked the lady, and walked out, laughing at myself.

Okay, so, onward.  I have more to report, but this well be in another blog, Lima Part 2.  A SPECIAL report!



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