Friday, July 29, 2011

Day Two of Peruvian Independence Celebrations: The Parade Route

Today was the second day of the Independence celebration in Peru. As I stated before I was surprised there were two days of celebrations for Peruvian Independence Day…but I guess it is worth it.
The official military parade celebrating Peruvian Independence Day wound its way through the city today.  I watched the parade on TV today instead of braving the crowds to see the various branches of the military on parade.

I did make it to the Plaza de Armas (main square) in central Lima just before the Presidential procession moved through. The police were on full guard in downtown as newly elected (and controversial) President Ollanta Humala wound through the streets to take his place at the Presidential Palace.

I am getting to know my new country and being here for the Peruvian Independence Day(s) makes me feel just a little more like I belong in Lima.

¡Arriba Peru!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Felices fiestas patrias from Peru: Independence day in my new country

Happy July 28th from Lima, Peru! For those of you who don’t know…today is Peruvian Independence Day.

I am in the process of receiving my carnet de extranjería (foreign residency card) so I wanted to meander around Lima and figure out where and how I might belong in my new country.

Red & white flags fly over the country. Apparently today is the official holiday yet tomorrow we will see the parades downtown. I constantly get confused about the date because both the 28th and 29th are holidays. I guess Peruvian independence is so much fun you need to take two days to celebrate.

I also noticed today online that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton issued a statement of support to the people of Peru as they celebrate. I think her message about the anniversary of Machu Picchu and the friendship between our countries is a good one. I appreciate that kind of diplomacy coming from the US government.

For my own less dramatic and formal commemoration I took a walk around the Miraflores and Barranco neighborhoods with friends who are visiting the Peru. The central park, Kennedy Park, in Miraflores is full of vendors and special exhibits commemorating the country’s heritage.
I also noticed a separate area where there was a temporary indigenous craft market across from the park.

The indigenous faces, the white European, Asian immigrants and a variety of others physical types form the unique cultural, racial and linguistic heritage which constitutes modern-day Peru.

To celebrate Peruvian Independence Day I did take time to eat one of the countr’s typical dishes…anticucho (beef heart on a stick). 

It is not my favorite dish but it did bring me a little closer to feeling that I belong in my new country.
¡Arriba Perú!

Monday, July 25, 2011

The White City in the Sand

Arequipa lies in the southern section of Peru. This is Peru's second-largest city...some estimates place the population at near 900 thousand in the metro area.

Arequipa is a colonial city with lots of typical tourist attractions. Stone roads, white volcanic "sillar" buildings and a frenzy of activity make this a bustling tourist center in the south of Peru.

Arequipa is a good place to buy traditional crafts and wool/llama products.

When you want to travel around the city you will find multitudes of tiny cabs...all with some sort of advertising sticking from their roof.

If you visit Arequipa I strongly recommend you taste some of the local specialties. My favorite was the stuffed peppers "rocoto relleno".

Arequipa is a mere 1:20 plane ride from Lima or a 15 hour bus ride on the very comfortable Cruz de Sur.

-- Desde Mi iPhone


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I live in Perú: Near Central America

I live very near Central America. No I am not exactly geographically challenged. I know that the Peru is nowhere near Central America. I live in the Miraflores District of Lima, Perú. I am sure. What is ironic and surprising if you will is that of all the 8 million or 10 million inhabitants of Lima (depending on whose estimates you use) I live just a few block from Central America Plaza.

Why is this funny? Well not is it only geographically confusing to say I live near Central America. It is also ironic. As I have lived many years in the actual Central America, mostly recently Nicaragua but mostly in Costa Rica.

In this plaza you find all the flags for the various countries, except Belize. I do not think many people count poor Belize as Central America. Though it must be.
 The flags are not the only reminder we are now in (near) Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica & Panamá. A statue to honor General Francisco Morazan, the liberator & father of Central America also stands guard over the park.

While the food, climate, language and people are different in Lima from Central America. 

I only have a 5 minute walk from my apartment to take a short visit to my beloved Central America.

Monday, July 18, 2011

It is so good and it is so Wong: A little advertising with your festival

Sunday night the skies in the Miraflores District of Lima, Perú lit up with fireworks, shiny bikini-clad women and floats that would make Lady Gaga look tame.

This is the XXIV Gran Curso for the Peruvian Independence Holiday (later this month)…sponsored by the Peruvian-based Wong supermarket chain.

The entire area around the the famous Kennedy Park overflowed with people who wanted to watch the parade and other events associated with the upcoming holiday and the store marketing plan.

While the floats were interesting, the woman were beautiful and the high school bands gave it all they had

…I could not help but notice that this seemed like one big marketing fest. Every float was a giant banner hawking a product…thinly disguised as a float or adornment.

My personal favorite was the giant Cristal beer drunk…that is blatant marketing but I can easily forgive it. It is beer.

To make the streets even more crowded all the bars were full of beer drinkers watching the Copa America soccer (futbol matches).

While this party is completely manufactured by advertisers for consumer consumption, it is fun. People enjoyed themselves. Even I had fun.

I say bring on the pre-packaged consumer made fun.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Yes you can have phone service, No you can't: Getting Connected in Peru

Finding cell phone and home phone/cable/internet service is a daunting task in any country. You would think it would be easier here in Peru since there are basically only three cell phone providers and two companies that have home service.

Since I am in the process of getting my residency card or CE (carnet de extranjería), I can only use my passport to make purchases and open accounts until my residency is approved. It is not a problem to get a prepaid phone which is the small flip phone you see below. Anything more than that is a hassle.
However, I wanted to use my iPhone which was NOT unlocked because it is an iPhone 4. I had to get a special device to use it which took about two weeks to find. That is a story unto itself. The three phone companies are Movistar, Claro and Nextel. 

Movistar is a company from Spain. Claro comes from Mexico. Nextel is the same as Sprint and works on a radio system. The only companies that sell the microchip I needed are Movistar and Claro. After going to four Movistar offices they finally told me I can’t get one without my CE. Claro offered me a “monthly” plan but required a two month deposit and I couldn’t use the deposit money until the third and fourth months. So one company refused service and the other offered a no contract monthly service with a four month commitment. Crazy but I finally got this service.

For home phone/internet/cable service Movistar offered me a special discount. They made my contract and took four copies of my fingerprints and told me they would install in two days.  After four days I went to the office to ask what had happened. Then they told me there was no record of my contract. I then filled out a new contract. The company then called to say they were “oversaturated” in my neighborhood and could not offer service. So then I contracted Claro. After two home visits to review the cables in my apartment they finally installed service. That same day out of nowhere Movistar (the company who said they were “oversaturated”) came to install cable and internet as well. I informed them that they had refused me service. They also had no record of that. Oh well, I guess you gotta laugh. I finally have home phone and internet.
Because of my lack of credit in Peru I was only able to get the 99 Soles ($36) per month plan. Be jealous…from the picture below you can see that I do get 3 Gigs of 3G Internet but only have 39 Soles ($14.18) of talk time and 40 text messages per month.

I am finally connected with home phone, cable & Internet as well as Iphone 3G service. Life is good.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The 4th of What? Just another day in Peru.

Happy 4th of July to all the folks back home. I am in Peru where today is also the 4th of July; but it of course is not a holiday here. Peruvians celebrate independence later this month. Today, it is simply the 4th of July, just another day.

The front page news here on major paper today, El Comercio, discusses the upcoming presidency of newly elected Omanta Humala and of course as you can see below the schedule for today’s matches in the Copa America.

Today the 4th of July is like any other busy Monday in Peru.

As I walk by the university campus where I work (Universidad San Ignacio de Loyola) I see flags. Part of me looks instinctively for the US flag on the 4th of July. It is of course not there. I am in Peru. I see the university and Peruvian flags.

I have not been in the United States for many Fourth of July holidays in the last decade. I have spent most of them in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and now Peru. I am still an American at heart. A gringo if you will. Hell, I might even go to McDonalds and have a hamburger today to celebrate. Happy 4th of July from Peru.