I know, I know…
Several folks have been asking for specifics about the Galapagos, and I fully intend to explain my encounter with this unique place. But the 15 days I spent there were far more complex than I had anticipated and it will take several separate posts to do justice to the visit.
Instead, I’ve got several shorter impressions that I need to describe here and now. These are more than just brain farts, but less than individual full-on posts that I prefer sending out. They are snippets of sights and sounds now assaulting me in this first week. They have a certain chronological order but really no cognitive relationship, one to another.
Thurs, 2ndOct2015 Now that I’ve just landed in Lima, for probably a stay of at least several months, I’m overwhelmed with new feelings and impressions of what can only be said is a major change in direction. Lima’s going to be fun.
OK, I’ve been here (on the street) maybe what, 10 minutes? And I’ve already found a friendly face: A young man, Jonathan, who is serving me breakfast. I’m in the upscale mall, Larcomar, and I’m sitting on a terrace overlooking the ocean about 600′ below. Jonathan is studying English and I just introduced him to SAEX; he’s duly impressed and promises to search them out on the web and get involved with their cultural interchange. My public duty for the day and it’s not even noon. Yet I’m not done though.
I just finished talking (via WhatsApp, insanely popular here in South America) with my friend Janina who is the manager of Hostal Gardner in the Galapagos. I recommended her to the director of the Quito SAEX clubhouse, John Caselli. John is looking for a point-person to direct club members to when visiting the Islands. And Janina is the logical best choice. A resident-native of the Galapagos, Janina is also a registered guide for the National Park service. She knows the flora, fauna, and also which tours allow visitors to view these wonders. Both John and Janina will benefit from this relationship, as it should be.
Now it’s time to reconnect with Michaela, a solo German traveler I met on several of the Galapagos islands. Michaela, like Janina, has her own travel agency in Germany and caters primarily to other solo travelers. She periodically takes these trips to build on personal experiences so that she can offer her clients choices based on real-world fact. Any travel agent can read from a catalog, but when you visit an agent who actually toured Kicker Rocks on a SCUBA dive trip, then you want to bring this person your business.
Michaela wants to meet Janina too. I guess that I’m the fixer these days. But that’s a good thing, since folks want to follow separate paths and often these paths parallel the goals they seek. And just like we learned in high-school geometry, these parallel paths share the same directions and goals but like all parallel lines, they never meet. So I interfere; I disrupt the trajectories just enough so that the 2 paths intersect. After that, it’s up to them to continue exchanging energies (and perhaps financial rewards) or not. My work with them is done at this point.
Sun, 4thOct2015 In Michigan it’s Meyer’s. In upstate NY it’s Wegman’s. But here in Lima it’s Wong. South America’s oldest and largest Chinatown is here in Lima and it’s several hundred years older than San Francisco’s. As one might expect, the Chinese here did well and now the largest, most complete, most extravagant grocery emporium in the country is Wong, and there’s a branch about a 10 minute walk from SAEX/Lima. I was on the lookout for not only food, but other items to make my room at the clubhouse a bit more liveable. Where else but Wong? Up on their 2nd floor, given over to school supplies, a kid’s barbershop, video games and Osterizers, towels and table lamps, I found what I came for, an embudo (a funnel).
Back down on the first level I was awash in Santa Clauses (12 degrees south of the Equator), flocked table-sized Christmas trees, and, being October, Jack-o’-lanterns. As those of you in retail know, it’s never too early to push the Holidays down peoples’ craws; even if the Holidays have nothing to do with this part of the world. But they weren’t pushing Hallowe’en at the store, they were celebrating the upcoming HalloWong! Indeed. What’s in (Wong)store, literally, for Turkey Day? I can’t wait to find out.
Wed, 7thOct2015 I was walking by the Honorary Consulate of Malta earlier this morning.
Jeez — I love saying that! Even though it’s only the honorary consulate, still: Malta?! I’ve heard of Bogart’s movie, The Maltese Falcon, the Maltese Cross of the Knights Hospitaller, and a Tunisian physicist I know in Quito tells folks that he’s from Malta, just to avoid conversations about terrorism. Moreover, these days Malta is square in the path of refugees streaming out of Libya in leaking boats, hoping to survive somewhere, anywhere, without getting shot.
Regardless, I’ve never had the thrill of seeing anything firsthand from Malta, honorary or otherwise. Yet from what I’ve bumped into so far, Lima is teeming with these little discoveries and I’m very happy to be here, walking and wondering. Two blocks in the opposite direction is an island of greenery with towering trees. It’s the Brazilian Embassy and I’d love to scale the iron gates and walk barefoot on the lush grounds.
Later today I’ve been invited to critique a traveling magic show which debuts in Barranco. This barrio, universally described as “bohemian” by the guidebooks, is just south of Miraflores, where I and most other gringos stay when in Lima. The SAEX clubhouse is in Miraflores, the yoga studios I plan to attend are here too, as well as the higher-class prostitutes, KFC, McD’s, BurgerKing, and oh, so much more.
But it’s also extremely clean and as safe as one could hope for in South America’s 3rd largest city. These days the streets are awash with federal police in their spit and polish. The IMF, the World Bank, and the other major money manipulators are here in town for their annual meeting. Armadas of limousines sail around the city with police escorts wailing and the parasitic press is here too. Yet we have nothing in common and so I generally ignore the pomp. But tomorrow’s pomp will not be denied. It’s a federal holiday with all major businesses closed.
October 8th, 1879 was the Battle of Angamos (a main thoroughfare, Avenida Angamos is 4 blocks from here). It was the turning point in what is also known as the Saltpeter Wars, and though Perú was defeated by Chile, Bolivia was the ultimate loser. And the navy of that land-locked country still grieves for its stolen seaport. However Bolivia will have to wait. Here and now I’m in Perú, where I guess they celebrate that they didn’t lose any land, just the battle.
For now I am enjoying the differences twixt Quito and here. SAEX/Lima provided me with the names of 2 Spanish teachers and we’ve been trading e-mails: Lilian, Jenny, and I. I was immediately struck by the fact that both of them began their responses to me in the 2nd person. That’s a pretty big deal, really. And in Quito it would have been completely unthinkable.
The Serranos (mountain dwellers) of Ecuador are known throughout South America as being a formal bunch, with clear social boundaries. Whenever 2 strangers meet, they always refer to each other as “Usted” a linguistic holdover from the royal courts of Spain. It is a polite address and in fact a standard way to talk to strangers in all Spanish-speaking countries, though up in the highlands they hang on to it more than any other place.
Ecuador carries this behavior further than other countries, and a good example was the personal relationship I had with my 2nd teacher there in Quito. Profesora Paty, perhaps 10 years younger than me, never once used the familiar “Tu” when talking with me, even after knowing each other for 5 months. We talked about all sorts of personal and even intimate subjects, often laughing to the point of tears. Yet I was always “Señor Karl” to Paty and because of it, I responded to her in the same, separated 3rd person fashion.
But here in Lima, on the street, in the markets and the banks, and via e-mail to 2 separate prospective teachers, it’s Tu, baby. And that feeling of informality repeats itself throughout the day. I’m lovin’ it. This 2nd person familiarity is a very warm and welcoming start to my new life here in Perú.