The Land We Live In
Peru this Week writer and Captain of Peru’s only Women’s Cricket Team, Juliet Solomon was recently invited to speak at the Caledonian Ball about what she loves about Lima. Here’s what she had to say.
Five years ago I arrived in Lima pregnant, unemployed, and apprehensive but confident that my previous world travels had prepared me to tackle anything Peru could throw at me. But every time I pointed this out to my mother-in-law she would say “yes, but it’s different here.” Well she was right, there are so many things that are different and endearing about this land we live in.
OK, let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way first. I was at first puzzled that an entire nation could be so obsessed with raw fish and onions. I also couldn’t understand why a dish was considered incomplete if it did not have at least three types of carbohydrates in it or why on earth it was necessary to put potato chips in a perfectly good beef stir fry. But I have grown to appreciate ceviche and lomo saltado and am able to converse intelligently about things like cau cau and causa. At first I tried to be diplomatic when offered Peruvian delicacies like anticuchos and cuy. I have learned from my mistake. Neither are favorites of mine but because I was polite there is a cooked cuy in my fridge right now which was sent specially for me on a bus all the way from Andahuyalas by my nanny’s mother. I have been trying to sneak it out of the fridge and into a discreet dustbin all week. And this is a regular occurrence. I will either have to develop some sort of cuy allergy or keep sneaking it into dustbins.
But there are other, non-obvious things that I have grown to adore about Peru. The law about preferential lines for one thing. When I was pregnant it was fantastic, I just had to point my belly in the general direction of any counter I wanted and people would part like the Red Sea. Even after I gave birth I saw the possibilities. I was still unemployed and living close to the RENIEC on Ovalo Higuereta. I decided that if funds got low I could take the baby up there and rent him out to people so they could use the preferential line. Fortunately, I found a job before it came to that. However, I now have my 80-year-old father living with me and he is very useful at checkout counters.
I am similarly enamored of ‘Libros de Reclamo.’ Don’t you just love them? I love the concept. I love the accelerated way that things start to happen once you request it. Previously insurmountable problems melt away and service suddenly become personalized and polite. I am so fond of libros de reclamo that when I saw one of the signs in Sodimac I bought it for my new house. I wasn’t sure where to put it but my friend Julian said instantly “over the bed of course.”
Ovalos. I have a kind of fatal attraction to Peruvian Ovalos. When I first arrived in Peru I was under the impression that ovalos were supposed to facilitate the free flow of traffic. Clearly it’s different here. Peruvian ovalos are what I have described as the epicentre of vehicular chaos. But they are so much FUN! If you are into extreme sports, try using a Peruvian pedestrian crossing at an ovalo.
Finally, a disclaimer: I have received no monetary or other inducement to say the following. I am, however, open to grateful consideration after the fact:
Wong supermarkets. From the first time the person who carried my bags to the car refused my tip I have been in love with Wong. It is not just that you can often get a three course meal for free via all the tasting plates that keep circulating. It’s not just the unfailing cheerful and helpful staff. It’s also the fact that every year I get birthday and mother’s day cupcakes delivered to my door by Wong. If you use your Bonus card there on your birthday the entire store sings happy birthday to you. On my last two birthdays I toured four different Wongs making small purchases at each just so they would sing Happy Birthday to me. And each time I called my husband and held up the cell phone so he could hear. Yes, I know how pathetic I am! But I am unashamed. At the risk of being pelted with haggis I venture to say “If loving you is Wong, I don’t wanna be right.”
And on that horrendous note, I have clearly outstayed my welcome. These are but a few of my favourite things about Peru, I am sure you all have even more. Let me therefore propose a toast:
To Peru, the land we live in.