For comic relief – I need it after the Bagua disaster.
Here’s a place down the street that got temporarily closed down for “sanitary reasons” or “disturbing the peace”.
These guys don't mess around
The brick wall behind the load of dirt is where the entrance is supposed to be. You see this kind of thing once in a while here in the regular neighborhoods in Cusco. Typically it’s a local watering hole that was too loud or unruly for its neighbors.
Ready for the big day!!!
We got the crib ready, the baby shower out of the way, and got lots of cute ropitas ready for the big day.
My birthday was this past Friday. Patricia thinks anyone with living memory of the 1970s is positively antique, so that makes me a viejo (old guy).
That Peruvians have a different concept of age is not really surprising, considering the population in Peru is very young. The median age is in Peru is 26, fully 10 years lower than in the US. One disadvantage is that age discrimination in the workplace is common here. At 35 I would not be considered for many jobs, but that’s not a great loss since working for someone else is often a sad proposition in Peru, with poor wages and working conditions. I think I’ll just make my own luck.
Here’s a few pictures of my birthday. We’re bad with math here in Cusco so we just put one or two candles on the cake, no matter what age. A fun part of the birthday celebration in Peru is that you get to take a “bite” out of the cake after blowing the candles out, and someone gives you a gentle push on the back of your head… that explains the whipped cream on my face 😉
Viejo getting ready to blow out the candle
After I took a bite from the cake
We’ve been living like the Roman Emperor for almost a week now. We’re eating three-course meals with silver and porcelain every day – for breakfast. The reason for all this goodness is that we’re visiting a good friend of Patricia in Trujillo, the North of Peru. More on that later.
Monday night I had an Algarrobina, a drink typical of the North of Peru. The picture does not do justice to the presentation, it looked perfect before I got my grubby hands all over it.
Carlos, the owner of La Taberna, with Patricia and other friends.
We were invited to “La Taberna II” by the owner Carlos, who is a good friend of our hosts. The restaurant is located at the corner of Avenida Huamán and Prolongación César Vallejo. It is one of the nicest restaurants in Trujillo, it would not at all be out of place in West Palm or Wrightsville Beach.
I flew to the US on Thursday to renew my IA license and take care of some other odds and ends “back home”. On my arrival in Miami I got fingerprinted and my picture taken by the immigration folks. I noticed they did the same thing to other US residents (greencard holders), so I assume it must be new procedure.
Between US immigration and my Peruvian carné de extranjería I must have been fingerprinted at least a dozen times in the last 10 years or so. During the 4-year ordeal that was my post 9-11 green card application, I once got notified that my “fingerprints had expired”. Isn’t biometric data supposed to be permanent, and if fingerprints somehow expire, what’s the point?
Back to the trip home. As always, my first stop in the US after Miami is beautiful Conway, SC, since I leave my car there with my friend Dennis. Flying to Myrtle Beach is usually expensive, so I rented a car to get to SC. When I made my reservation online I got 2 options for the ridiculously low rate of $10.90: a van or a convertible. I thought I’d get a sneak preview of what my mid-life crisis will be like, and chose the convertible.
That worked out nice until I tried to put my suitcase in the trunk… Then I put the top down and cruised up I-95, next stop: a cheeseburger.
I got my fix of junkfood and had an uneventful drive to SC. After I dropped of the rental car I got lost driving around Myrtle Beach looking for million $ homes with Dennis and one of his equally proud redneck friends, but that’s another whole story. We eventually found the home they were looking for and afterwards went out for dinner to one of the nicest restaurants on the beach (“the Library”), thank goodness I was a guest!
A friend of mine, alias “C”, was in town for a visit last week. Check out his story, a must read. While your visit will (should) likely be much more uneventful, his account gives you a good idea what to expect in Cusco from the viewpoint of a young, single guy.
- “C” is absolutely right that visiting the tourist areas of Cusco and Machupicchu does not constitute knowing Peru.
- Service in the tourism industry here can be mixed, to say the least. Sounds like “C” got the typical treatment on the city tour: because you’re a gringo we’ll nickel-and-dime you to death.
- Last I checked (about a year ago) you could buy a “city touristic ticket” for around 25 Nuevos Soles, and it gives entrance to nearly every tourist site around the city (including Sacsayhuaman). Instead of taking a city tour, just take a walk around the city yourself. “C” posted a pretty good list of places to see in Cusco on his blog.
- I like Sacsayhuaman, but I agree listening to the tour guides can bore you silly.
- Around the Plaza de Armas and San Blas you do find a ton of “gringos” in the bars and discos. But the residential areas where you can find bars and discos packed with mostly locals are only a few blocks away. Best to go in a small group though.
- Sicuani is really not the smallest, poorest town around. It’s actually pretty representative of a provincial Andean town. If you really want to know how people live in the Andes of Peru, just take one of the local busses (like “C” did) and talk to some of the people. The bus “C” took was not for poor people per se, it’s what ordinary Peruvians use to travel in the provinces.
- Your visit should by all means be less eventful than “C’s”.
- If you do get in trouble, there is a “tourist police” agency on the Plaza Tupac Amaru.
- Don’t drink like you’re at home. The elevation in Cusco is 3,460 meter (~11,000 feet), or about twice as high as Denver. Being away from home, combined with thin air, alcohol and bricheras makes for some wild scenes at the nightspots in Cusco.
We took a walk through some residential areas of Cusco on Sunday. Wanchaq, our neighborhood, is a fairly nice, middle-class part of Cusco. Some of the nicest residential areas of Cusco are Larapa, Magisterio and Huancaro Residencial. There are also poorer neighborhoods both near downtown as well as on the outskirts of the city. The residential areas of Cusco are growing fast, new buildings are going up everywhere. True to Peruvian form, some unfinished buildings linger around for years.
Cusco is an expensive city by Peruvian standards, thanks to the tourist industry. The cost of real estate is entirely out of line with personal incomes. Asking prices for nice apartments easily exceed $50,000. Consequently, as in all of Peru, it’s not uncommon for 2 or 3 generations of a family to share a home, which is also why you find lots of young couples making out in public places.
These are pictures of middle-class residential areas in Cusco. I’ll try to get some pictures of the other districts later.
New building going up
New office building
Sidewalks in Cusco are terrible
Nice residential street in Cusco
Park in a residencial area of Cusco, Peru
More bad sidewalks
We spent 60 Nuevos Soles (about $20) to buy new doggie beds for our bi-national, US-Peruvian mutts this weekend. Here’s how they ended up:
Roxi and Manchita
Funny how Manchita’s big bottom doesn’t quite fit in Roxi’s bed. Manchita looks tough but Roxi is a bossy little terrier, and she’s also older than Manchita. We think Manchita is a Blue Pitbull, but without Roxi around she’s just a big baby.
We bought their new camas at the weekend market on the Plaza Tupac Amaru. Unlike in the US, local markets still have a big economic significance here in Cusco. At the Plaza Tupac Amaru vendors sell anything from furniture to flowers, handicrafts, snacks, nectar de sabila, etc. Unlike the markets in the downtown area, this market is mostly for the locals, you typically only find a few gringos strolling around.
Sundays the market is rather quiet, on Saturdays it's busier
lista para cantar...
Si pues, ayer celebre mis 21 años…pero de vida artistica. que cuantos cumpli? bueno como todas las mujeres dirian… Eso no se le pregunta a una mujer… asi que mi edad queda en secreto.
Como todos los años la pase con mi familia, prepare mis infaltables gelatinas, mazamorra morada, flan, pop corn y otros, yo se que estas cosas son para fiestas infantiles, pero como hace tiempo en mi familia ya no hacemos esto porque mis primos ya crecieron y como siempre me ha gustado comer estas cosas en los cumples, pues no dudo en prepararlos ya sea para mi cumple, la de mis hermanos, la de mi mama y ahora para el de Ward, y yo supongo que lo seguire asiendo por largo tiempo mas.
Algo que si cambiara en las celebraciones de mis proximos cumpleaños es que tendre alguien mas que me dara un abrazo pero no como mi tia, prima, sobrina , mama, hermana o amiga sino que sera mi hija quien este presente en estas celebraciones.
Summary / Translation:
In the best Peruvian tradition we celebrated Patricia’s birthday with food, drinks and family 🙂