We came to Lima for two main reasons - Richard needed some dental work, and he likes a dentist here in Lima; and we need to get visas for Brazil.
Yes, there are Brazilian consulates scattered around the US. The closest one to Bellingham, WA, is in San Francisco, roughly 1000-plus miles away. The usual practice is to contact a visa service company in Seattle, submit the application forms, photos, support material, and the visa fee as well as the service charge - and the company sends all of that, with your passport, to the regional consulate.
We called in early September. And were told that the visa applications couldn't be submitted to the San Francisco office until December, at the earliest.
Additionally, we were told that all the Brazilian consulate staff were on strike. ALL of them. So nothing could be done until some unspecified time in the future.
A Brazilian friend of ours helped by contacting a friend of his in another regional Brazilian consulate, who offered to expedite our visa paperwork. However, just sending everything off to some person we didn't know, in a place we weren't in, seemed, well, unsettling at best. Potentially problematic.
So we came to Lima, and settled into our usual and favorite friendly hostal. Sort of a cross between a hotel, B&B, and a hostel. Or as another guest called it, a "poshtel." As in a posh hostel.
Anyway, the Brazilian embassy and consular office is just around the corner and up two blocks. Easy. We visited and got all the info - we were told to go to their website, they have the application forms in English, we just fill out all the information and bring it back with a photo, the money, and the support information. And it would only take five days.
It took a while to navigate their site, of course: because this is the Brazilian embassy in Peru, the website is in either Portuguese or Spanish, your choice.
We managed to find the section on visas, and once there we found the button to turn that into English. Attached our digital photos, scanned driver's license as well as the passport (personal info page only), our signatures. Turned out the support documentation was proof of finances, as in three months of bank statements, so we printed that out. Oh, and either a plane ticket or an itinerary, so we included that.
And submitted all that information. (The guy at the desk was happy to see we had old and expired Brazilian visas. They used to be for five years - the new visas will be for ten years!) We had to go across the street to a bank and pay the visa fee, and return with a receipt which was attached to our application.
And that was it. Well, accomplishing all of that was a bit more complicated, with a few visits to the one English-speaking guy at the embassy office to double-check we had the right website. Plus more navigating around trying to figure out if we had the right form, and forever to download the bank statements.
We've checked their website, and we were approved to get our visas within two days! Now we just have to wait until they say the passports with new visas attached are ready for pickup. YAY!!!
Between all of that, Richard has had some of his dental work done - I won't go into all the details, but it was a little complicated and not a quick fix.
Fortunately for me, his dentist's office is up by Parque Kennedy, known to us as the kitty park. This is where people used to abandon their cats, and a cat community sprang up. For over 20 years, the cats have been cared for by the "Feline Defense Volunteer Group for Kennedy Park Kittens." They make sure the cats and kittens are vaccinated, checked by vets periodically, fed, and hopefully adopted.
Their little kitty info house has a sign saying that they've sponsored over 1,200 cat adoptions since they began. They host adoption campaigns every weekend. However, they caution that they only allow adoptions after a serious scrutiny of the people adopting a cat, including home visits. They want to make sure the cats will be well taken care of and loved, as they deserve. (And, like many animal shelter agencies, they require that the adoptions include sterilization of the animal if it hasn't already been done.)
Their info says that cats have been living in this park for over 25 years, and there are actually two distinct communities of cats. Of course, we envision the Sharks and the Jets and kitty rumbles - but we haven't seen any kitty fights. Maybe just a little alpha male posturing.
We've been through the park three times already, and the cats and kitties are as wonderful as always. During the middle of the day, the cats nap among the flowers, or check out if someone having lunch in the park might be willing to share. By late afternoon, people begin to gather in the tiny amphitheatre (which I call the kitty colosseum), talking, playing music, and of course visiting with the kitties. And friendlier kitties find willing laps to sleep on.
In the evening, the nocturnal cats are more active, and they come out of hiding to wander around, find their feeding stations, and see what's happening. Often there are impromptu music gatherings. And this time of year, there are small craft markets for tourists and locals to buy gifts and food items for the holidays.
There's even a life-size Nativity scene set up - though no cat had yet found the crib, or at least wasn't sleeping there when I looked. No, just visitors taking selfies in front of it.
Plus we're doing the normal things we do while travelling long-term - sitting in parks and enjoying the flowers, since this is late spring early summer here. Getting haircuts, always fun to explain in a foreign language. I usually resort to drawing a sketch of how I need to get my hair cut. And a pedicure, my new indulgence. Not so easy to explain that I have tender toes so don't over scrub, or that my white hair streak has a cowlick, or that my hair is a bit crazy in humidity. But always an adventure to do these perfectly normal kinds of things!
We've also booked another adventure for February and most of March - but I'm going to leave that for later, closer to when we get to those dates. However, it means we need to maybe get a few clothing items to be ready - some adventures require special clothing or toiletries, so we're trying to all of that in order.
We found a great burger restaurant for Richard's birthday, since that's something that we can't always locate. Turned out that the restaurant gives a brownie sundae to guests with birthdays, so I managed to alert our wait staff and they brought this over at the end of the meal, complete with a candle that wouldn't go out! And two young waiters singing in English and then Spanish, much hand-clapping, and of course an embarrassed Richard and me giggling uncontrollably. Great fun!
One of our former hangout spots in Lima was a little cafe up the main street from our hostal, and we got to know the two young men who worked there. One spoke English very well, the other not so much - but that made it easy for us to talk with them. We hung out there, chatted, found out more about Peru, shared our views about our travels and where we've been, all that. So we went back, and there's a whole new staff, and our friends nowhere in sight! Finally, one day the English-speaking guy was there, and of course we had big hugs all around - he's starting a new job, his buddy has another job, and this was his last day. But it was wonderful to see him, and get caught up again. And he'll check the blog so we can stay in touch better.
I think this is one of our favorite things about travelling the way we do - yes, we go around and visit the famous sites and sights in the countries we visit. But because we travel slowly, we don't need to rush. We have days where we just LIVE in the location we happen to be in on any given day. We don't have limits or constraints on our time, nor an itinerary. We can sit in a cafe and chat with someone for an hour or two, and go back there over a couple of weeks. Or we can chat with someone in a park, and see them again, and become more than just acquaintances.
And with the wonders of the web, we can stay in touch. We actually have stayed in contact with people we met in New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Chile - we're in touch on Facebook, or email back and forth.
It amazes me how easily this happens, and how easy it is to maintain a friendship in this internet age. Even though we see people everywhere with their faces glued to their handhelds, seemingly isolated and barricaded from the outside world, that same technology also connects all of us if we choose to use it this way.
So hi to all of our friends and family who follow our blog. Hi to all of our new friends who we've met along the way.
(And hi to the 600 or so hits the blog received in one week from Russia! I occasionally wonder if these are serious people looking at a travel blog, or if they think they can hack in and do something else. But hi to you - and yes, this is just a simple travel blog.)