Look at This F@#king Alpaca

magdalena del mar

And the street is called Jirón Arica. The address is 131. I’m on the couch. I’m about to drink black tea mixed with a small amount of sugar.

look at this fucking vicuñua (alpaca???)

Look at this f#@king vicuña (alpaca???). Look at the way it extracts sumptuous morsels of biomatter from an otherwise barren landscape. Look at Misti in the background, in all of her nearly 6,000 meters of glory. Look at this alpaca’s (vicuña’s????) fur and imagine yourself wearing a shawl made from it. Imagine yourself naked in said shawl. Imagine yourself itching.

Seventeen and a half hours. That’s how long the bus is supposed to take. Of course, I’m hoping the driver has a bit of lead in his soles and we make it there in 17 hours and 20 minutes.

Also on this map you can see: My proposed route for after Arequipa, going up to Puno, by Lake Titicaca, into Bolivia, and then down into Northern Argentina (aka “The Inland Route”). You can also see the ALTERNATE ROUTE, which would take me directly into the heart of darkness, aka Paraguay (aka “The Alternate Route”). You can also see some black lines I drew on Chile, just because it looks kinda cool, and some pink polka dots on Brazil, for the same reason.

So that’s the plan. If the bus has WiFi I will try to post a blog from the bus, since that would be novel. I’m also going to try to read a novel.

Any recommendations?


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Lazy Lima Days

As of today I’ve been in Lima for five days. I got here on Tuesday, April 10th, 2018. I plan to stay at least until next Saturday, at which point I might go north to Trujillo to surf the legendary left-point Chicama, or head to the sierra, or head south to Chile.

Magdalena del Mar, Lima, Peru.

The thing I’ve liked about Lima so far is there’s almost always been someone to hang out with, whether it be Clara, the Airbnb hostess, her cousin Gabriela, or Cristina, one of the other guests. This is something I didn’t have in Mexico. In Mexico I spent most of my time by myself, watching videos on YouTube or walking around between various cafes, consuming, consuming, consuming. Not that I don’t consume here. Right now, for example, I’m consuming an instant coffee. I like instant coffee. I like being able to appreciate ultra-premium, fresh-roasted, 0.5 origin coffee, but I also like being able to appreciate coffee crystals that come from a jar you mix with hot water and a little bit of sugar. You have to mix instant coffee with sugar. Otherwise it tastes like battery acid.

lima corridor apartments

Lima has lots of buildings like that where to get to the individual apartments you have to walk down a long corridor. A bit like a motel.

Yesterday Cristina and I made arepas, by which I mean she made arepas, and I mostly watched. We didn’t have the right flour. To make arepas you need a kind of flour called harina pan, and we bought regular cornflour, which meant the arepas were considerably harder and denser than they should’ve been. It was a bit like biting into a two by six, albeit smothered with butter and cheese. In other words, not that bad.

la putna, lima, peru

Swimming at La Punta. Lima, Peru.

Yesterday I tried a new cafe called Puka Puka, located in the San Isidro neighborhood. I didn’t like it at first. It was hot and stuffy inside. I took my americano outside, began to bake in the sun, and then when I went inside they’d turned the air conditioning on. It was mildly life-changing. I grabbed an edition of The New Yorker they had hanging from the magazine rack. I nourished my brain. And I thought, I could stay here for several days. But then eventually I got bored and left.

A medium-rise apartment building in San Isidro, Lima, Peru, South America.

One thing I like about Lima, specifically about the San Isidro and Miraflores neighborhoods, are the parks. The parks are definitely neighborhood parks, in that the apartment buildings go up to the very edge of the park, and the parks are gated and only open during the day. They’re little oases in the midst of residential and urban(e) sprawl. Though Miraflores and San Isidro is tranquil urban sprawl. They’re gorgeous neighborhoods, but I don’t know if I prefer them to Magdalena del Mar, where I’m staying. Magdelena del Mar at least feels like Peru. San Isidro feels like Walnut Creek, California, which in some ways is wonderful, and in some ways boring.

It always feels like summer in La Punta. Lima, Peru.

I’ve decided to stop thinking of Sundays as “Sundays,” or as a day of rest. Why should they be any different? In the past I’ve used Sundays as a way to shirk responsibilities, and as a way to justify doing whatever I please. I’ve used them to justify sloth, gluttony. But there’s no reason Sundays should be any different. There’s no reason I shouldn’t write on Sundays. In fact, I should write even more. Sunup to sundown. With breaks only for instant coffee.

And now I should probably leave the house. I need to do my pull-ups. I’m almost up to five. I was looking at pictures of me in Costa Rica from 2012 and almost didn’t recognize myself. I had muscles. And now I’ve withered away, almost to nothing. Which means I must go out and do pull-ups. And seize the beautiful Lima afternoon.

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The Lima Diaries (part one)

lima peru

I got off the plane in Lima and tried to change money. The day before I’d been paid 1,293 Mexican pesos. This is about $71 USD, or 230 Peruvian soles. My goal was to trade these pesos mexicanos for Peruvian soles, and lose as little money as possible in the process. I’d asked about Peruvian soles in the Mexico City airport and the woman looked at me and said, “I have 10.” I said, “No, thank you.” She said, “Have a nice day.” I said, “You also.”

But at a different place in the Mexico City airport I didn’t ask about Peruvian soles. I asked about dollars. And this person had more welcome news. “I’ll give you $69 cold, brittle American dollars for your Mexican pesos,” he said (paraphrasing). I said, “Sir, that is wonderful news. What other wonderful news do you have for me today?” (again, paraphrasing). He said, “Kindest of sirs. I understand you’re going to the South American capital city of Lima, Peru. May I ask, kind sir, what you intend to do there?” (slightly paraphrasing). “That is a wonderful question,” I said, and I proceeded to give him an explanation in which I invoked the following elements, not necessarily in this order: Sir Isaac Newton, the strength of the Yen, hopscotch (the game; not the book by Julio Cortazar), compact objects, black coffee, tamales dulces de rajas, foxholes, rabbit holes, jell-o (sp?), continental breakfasts, Amazon (the company, not the rainforest), the Peruvian national soccer team, the US national soccer team, Christian Pulisic, Borussia Dortmund, Prussia, Swabia (a region in Southwestern Germany), Baden Baden, and finally, chess. He handed me the dollars and I was on my way.

On my way to Lima.

lima peru kids playing soccer

Children playing soccer at a school on the Lima waterfront.

The next night I was sitting in my Airbnb when a Venezuelan woman who’s also staying there walked through the living room on her way out to the street to buy some bread. I don’t know how we got to talking, (in my advancing years I’m less and less loquacious), but we did, and it was a charming conversation. Ah, yes, now I remember: I asked her how her job had gone. I’d learned previously she takes care of seven children in the afternoon, and I asked her how that had gone. I told her I didn’t think I could do it, even though at the exact moment of pronouncing these words I knew it was a lie. I was trying to ingratiate myself with her. Of course I could take care of seven children. It wouldn’t be at the top of my list of favorite things to do. I’d probably rather lie on a beach and look into Adriana Lima’s eyes or watch a Dortmund game alone, from the comfort of my couch, screaming at the computer screen, but I know logistically, if I were tasked with taking care of seven children, I could definitely do it.

“I don’t really like kids that much,” I said, “Except my siblings’ kids. I have seven nieces and nephews.”

“But could you change a diaper?” she said.

“Yeah, I mean, I probably could. I don’t think I would love it, but I’m sure I could.”

“What I’m really asking is: Do you want to be a father? I’m asking because I want to be a mother.”

The way she phrased it it felt as if she were saying, “Do you want to be a father in the next 15 minutes? Because I want to be a mother in the next 15 minutes,” but of course I knew this wasn’t what she was saying. And I said, “Yes, one day I would like to be a father.”

“All in good time,” she said. “You’re still young.”

“Not that young,” I said. “I have a lot of gray hair now. I’ve gotten so many gray hairs over the last three months in Mexico!”

She asked how old I was and I said 34. I immediately thought about how she might be older than me, and if I said I felt old at 34 it could be taken as me saying she was ancient at whatever age she was. It turned out she was 38. Her name was Cristy, and she was from Caracas. We didn’t talk much about Venezuela. The only said, “Things aren’t that good there right now,” and I didn’t ask more. I actually would like to go to Venezuela, and would like to go soon, but it didn’t seem like a prudent time to mention this.

We talked for a little longer and I found myself wanting to talk more, but she had to go buy bread and I had to return to my job of rating Instagram for the same cold, brittle American dollars I’d exchanged the day before. After finishing the job I went out to look for food, and found some in the form of two pieces of bread with oregano and meat at the grocery store for about 30 cents. Then, after talking to my wonderful Airbnb hosts Clara and Gabriela, I went back out to look for even more food, which, at their urgings, I found in the form of two empanadas from a place called Bon Ami. The empanadas were delicious. I ate them out of their styrofoam container on the way home, dodging traffic, dodging an old dog who looked like he’d been in a few fights and survived them all and had no grudges to bear against the world, enjoying the Lima night that’s never too cold, at least at this time of year. Then when I got home I hung out in the kitchen a bit talking to Clara and Gabriela, and they told me about various sights in Lima. I wished Cristy were there, so we could continue our conversation. But she was already in her room, talking on the phone. Eventually I went to my room, where I watched chess videos and read my book about uncontacted tribes in Brazil. And then, at precisely 11:30pm, I put my phone in airplane mode, stopped reading, had one last drink of water, and turned off the light.


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