Ahh, Holandés

Last week while I was in Lima I had breakfast a couple of times at a small, local restaurant by Benavides and Porta in Miraflores. A typical family business, there were 2 girls working in the front, a cook and his “ayudante” in the kitchen and dad keeping an eye on the place.

Since it was a local place I was usually the only gringo there, and the girls in the front started to ask me some of the typical curious questions:

Are you visiting Peru for vacation?
Where are you from?
How long are you staying?

All pretty innocent stuff.

When I told the girls I was from Belgica, they didn’t really know what to make of that, so I told them a bit about where Belgium is. “Between France, England and Germany.” After all, Belgium as we know it was created back in the day to be a buffer between those countries and keep them from going to war all the time, but that’s another story.

“Oh, Belgica. En Belgica hablas Alemán?”
“No, Holandés”
“Uuh… Holandés.”

I could tell right away the younger girl was taken back a bit and she became all quiet, while I kept eating my yummie pan con bisteck and her older sister went back to squeezing the lemons for that afternoon’s ceviche.

“So what do you think about that Holandés Joran van der Sloot?” asked the younger girl after a while, kind of embarrased and not wanting to look straight at me any more.

What could I say. I believe in “innocent until proven guilty” as much as anyone, but 2 young women are dead after they were both last seen alive with this guy. He destroyed the reputation of Aruba and now young women in Lima are on edge at the mere sight of a tall gringo.

“I guess probably not all gringos are like that…” the girl said after a while.

Joran van der Sloot in custody in Peru

Joran van der Sloot in custody in Peru

I hope the Dutch realize how much damage this guy has done to their reputation in Peru, with his picture in every tabloid newspaper until he gets convicted. Worse, since there are essentially no guards inside Peruvian prisons, a psychopath like Joran Van Der Sloot may end up thriving in that environment.

Note: check out Stuarts post on Peruvian prisons.

Chicas peperas

Single guys who visit Cusco read this and consider yourself warned.

I had my students do one of my favorite writing exercises last week: write a story in groups, with each student contributing one line at a time. This way the story develops itself instead of following a pre-determined storyline.

Here’s how one group started their story:

(student 1) “One day I woke up in the gutter…”
(student 2) “There I found Romulo Leon…”

And a little further down:

(student 3) “Then we went to Don Diablo disco…”
(student 4) “Where we started dancing with 3 chicas peperas

Chicas peperas? I’d heard many students say that Don Diablo is a dangerous place, where you can get robbed or get in a fight. But chicas peperas was new to me.

My students explained chicas peperas are girls that typically hang out at the less reputable discos in Cusco. They get guys to buy them a drink, or bring the guys a drink themselves (servers typically don’t wear uniforms, so you don’t know). Next thing the poor guy knows is when he wakes up in the middle of the Plaza de Armas…

  • Where’s my wallet?
  • Where’s my cellphone?
  • Where are my clothes? What happened?

We usually go out to the typical tourist spots on the Plaza de Armas such as Mama Africa, which have always been safe to us. If you’d prefer to get away from the tourist traps, I believe most of the neighborhood discos in Cusco are safe as well, but best ask the locals first.

Mama Africa, early in the evening

Mama Africa, early in the evening

Update: the scoop on peperas in Lima, from a reliable source.

Parque Kennedy in Lima is even worse than Q’osqo for the peperas. My best moment was while drinking sundown pisco sours with my brother, newly arrived that afternoon and off the plane. We dumped our bags at the overnight hotel and i took him to Cafe de la Paz on Kennedy for the best pisco sour i know (nice outside terrace, excellent sandwiches, too).

So my single, younger brother notices after 15 mins that he’s getting stared at by a couple of v pretty girls. As soon as he makes eye contact with one of them they’re at the table like a shot. I fake that i don’t speak Spanish (my brother doesn’t need to fake that bit) and it took about 20 minutes before they invited us to a disco later that evening. They leave to “Go get ready for later…see you boys there!!” and only then do i tell bro what a pepera is and how it all works.

He decided not to turn up for his date.