Lunahuana, where I expected to meet Zorro

Lunahuana Peru

 

Luscious clumps of grapes dripping from vines with leaves twice the size of my outstretched hand. Rocky roads, dirt roads and pot-holes too numerous to ignore. The distinctive sound of a full and fast river, the feel of fresh air in our lungs and the sight of mountains layered with glorious shades of blues and greys.

Seventy cents for six mangoes, the smell of charcoaling chicken and colourful soda’s displayed at every turn and other nook and cranny. Jewellery stalls, restaurants galore and rows of rafting boats, quad bikes, life jackets, oars and helmets.

A mixture of ancient and current with the occasional sprinkle of the new.

At the centre of town, an elevated crucifix dwarfed by the surrounding monstrosities called montanas.

Such montanas are softened from the plush clouds in the evening, and in the morning so noticeable is the top layer cracked from intense heat, however from a far enough distance appears to be covered with a blanket of soft fur.

This is Lunahuana.

Located approximately 140km south of Lima, yet takes 3 hours to travel from Peru’s capital.

Our destination, La Confianza, was well worth the extra-unexpected bumpy travel time. I managed to take advantage of the pinky dusk light highlighting the softness of this quiet and remote location.

Seriously though, I honestly thought at any possible moment I was going to personally meet Antonia Banderas as ‘Zorro’.

Alas, we met Pedro and his dog Pisco who both became our hero’s. Pedro opened up his home and made it ours, fed us with many dishes of scrumptious Peruvian food, organised our every need from taxi to rafting and at the end of our 3 night stay, waved us off like much loved friends. And Pisco? Well he entertained our boys, escorted us on our walks and greeted us in the mornings with the exaggerated wag of a tail only a Labrador can master.

While standing on a street

Today I was standing on the footpath with our bikes waiting for Simon to have his haircut in somebody’s tiny lounge room. Why not? Her home is situated between a florist and home needs store on one side and on the other, a shop slightly bigger than a vending machine offering chips, sodas, cigarettes and ice cream. Hang a sign on your front door and business starts to drip in.

While waiting on this footpath, the shade from the trees planted on the side of the road and the shiny footpath leading my eye in opposite directions bore enough resemblance to home to remind me that I wasn’t at home. A sudden surge of panic rose through my chest in search for an explanation and thankfully, my mind obliged and reassured my panic that home is only a plane trip away. No need for specifics on costs or time, it just needs to be possible.

Once I had that out the way, I could focus on the present without wanting to hyperventilate (might I add that my husband finds my neurotic need for drama amusing and possibly even endearing). So I began to enjoy the swarms of mist surrounding me, even ever so fleetingly for the refreshing change from the humid globs of air. This isn’t a cool breeze that I am referring to but the mist we typically see streaming from a sprinkler, except here it is directly from the sea over a kilometre away. Standing here likens swimming in the ocean, finding the cool spots and the warms spots, the association almost a purposeful toying with my fondest memories of swimming in the gorgeous beaches back home.

Truck in PeruThe sounds and sights of cars that belong in scrap heaps continued to astound my sensibilities. Their ability to keep a car alive beyond its last days is either foolish or genius. It doesn’t matter if you can visibly see parts under the car or hear them scraping the tarmac or doors delicately jangling in place or roofs secured with duck tape. While here, I have chosen to believe Peruvians are natural engineers and magnificent mechanics, able to assess and fix anything. This belief system helps when entering a cab with the back seat dissipated into almost nothing or the smell of petrol penetrating my nostrils. After all, the need for safety here is a myth, especially when all accidents are just freak accidents. So long as the door can close and I can buckle my seatbelt, I’ll be fine. This country is leading the way in the future trend of rustic vehicles after all.

My mind digresses, back to the street. Amongst the rattling engines I hear Latino Spanish from children choosing their ice-cream flavours and adults using big stationary boxes we once knew as pay phones. I peak around the corner into the hairdressers lounge room eager to catch a glimpse of the delay. Instead I am met with a faceful of conversation. These people are a reserved bunch at first but once they decide to open up, out flows a shower of expressive versions of vowels and consonants, focusing on particular favourites such as o (oh) and a (ah).

After a mini Spanish lesson I retreat to the street again where sights and sounds are becoming familiar, like a certain humming in a Latino rhythm. Then, as if on cue, completing the picture and topping the experience, one of the many stray dogs makes an entrance. Beautiful colour on the dog, even though it is missing a tail and possibly the tops of his ears, nevertheless, he seems to be on a mission and forges ahead to some place, leaving behind only the echo of his un-groomed paw nails hitting the cement intermingled with the toots of cars and the scraping of their parts.

The same and the different

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Unprovoked images of NSW countryside have been flooding my mind. I see the rolling hills in all shades of green and brown, large grey rocks scattered over hardy grass and sturdy tree trunks supporting the voluptuous sprays of eucalyptus leaves. The water in Lake Jindabyne, the location of our last stay in Australia before departing for Lima Peru, looked calm and inviting despite appearing like shattered glass jutting into the surrounding mounds.

In such visions I can almost smell the familiar sun-rays hitting the wet grass under my feet. I must be missing home? The warmth from the fire in winter, the comfort from the sunshine in summer, the sound of the cicadas on a summers evening, the songs from the birds at dusk, the ‘yes love’ and ‘no worries’? Yes, I think I am missing home.

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I realise how easy it is for everything to be either practiced with complacency or experienced from inexperience. Just a whole lot of living the old and the new, the same and the different really.

When the new and the different outweigh the old and the same, I search for a safe haven. I imagine sitting under a gum tree overlooking the wind in the wheat fields or walking through a sunlit forest after the rain, or watching the whitewash of the ocean against the steel blue stormy sky on a freezing cold day. Yep, I think I’m all newed up. Need a little of the old so I am munching on a milky way.

But!!!! The sun has finally made an appearance here in Lima. I have been relishing its magnificent saturation of warmth …. a welcomed familiar sensation and thankfully a global one.

Thought I would share some photos of the Malecon in Lima Peru. Still taken on my iPhone from inside the car I’m afraid. Call me the world’s laziest photographer if you will.

My new identity

I know, these are the best years of my life, rearing children but time out for mum is vital. So imagine what it would be like to have a driver? I mean, I usually pack all three kids into the car, drive while instructing them to stop fighting, explaining where we are going, negotiating treats and surprises and then having to shuffle them through the car park like a border collie herding sheep. With a driver, I have someone who helps shuffle them through the car park, carry my bags, read the road signs, concentrate on the road rules so I can concentrate on the demands to stop fighting, answering endless questions and negotiating the allocation of treats and surprises. Sounds nice but not entirely considered a luxury.

So …… what if I had someone at home who could look after the children at any time so I could pop out and do my own shopping without any of the above concerns? Brilliant, and trust me, it is. So I am sitting in the back of a car, by myself right, no kid noise, fights, cries, tantrums, wish lists, cuddles (miss those) or runny noses. Nope, just me, my thoughts and pen and paper for that ever elusive shopping list.

So I’m feeling pretty special right? Just popping out without having to organise a babysitter before hand, just hanging in the car with my very own driver, relishing the city of Lima, the colours, the contrasts, the interest, the unknown and endless possibilities. I mean, I am living in South America!!  All of the sudden, with this new realisation remembered, I begin to feel pretty tough, like I have been let out on good behaviour. Yeah, you heard me, I’m bad ass man. I’m just cruising around Lima South America. ‘Hey! You lookin at me??? Well you should be’. You get the picture right. Then I decide to turn to my driver to soak in the whole atmosphere, after all, he’s my compadre, my partner in crime, we’ve got this you know!

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Feeling pretty special, I expect to view my driver/security guard with one hand on the wheel, the other on the windowsill with a slight slouch to the left and a possible subtle movement to the beat on the radio. Is that what I see as part of my new identity in South America? No, instead I see my driver bopping side to side like a metronome with the same amount of badass grace as a nun. I’m thinking it’s just a cover …. right?

Just Pondering

Being my first time in another country I realize how little I have pondered all the things worth pondering and if you know me at all, you know I love to ponder.

My husband visited a steel fabrication yard, massive in size yet disorganised in some form of calm chaos. The welding exceptional, faultless even and all from men living in shantytowns with homes constructed from tarps, broken pieces of timber and scraps of bricks. Despite which end of the economic spectrum one may sit and regardless how far the two extremes may lie, we all do the same thing in the end and that is make the best of any situation.  Some just try harder than others, learn more in the process and accept the things they cannot change. I wasn’t one of those people so as I drove past homes transformed into places of business along a dirt road in a dessert, surrounded by nothing but mountains of more dirt (like the dust weren’t reminder enough), I found myself a little jealous but grateful. Jealous that I didn’t make the most of the opportunities I had with the same amount of dedication and determination as what we have witnessed here but grateful I don’t have the time over to try again because what I saw looked like hard work.

So the first thing worth pondering is opportunities, something I have clearly thrown a blind eye towards.

There are opportunities and then there are the opportunistic. It’s true; crime and corruption exist here but we see crime in all shapes, sizes, forms and economic circles all over the world. There are many many more honest ones; the eager one and then you hurt his feelings. Well maybe not you, but me.

We went shopping for furniture at what would be best described as the markets. Hundreds of small stalls of furniture well under what you would pay in the shopping malls. Simon and I were advised that bargaining was the norm so when we attempted to bargain I was surprised to get the reaction I did. The look on this young mans face, patient young man with the language barrier taking up a great deal of his time, was a look I misinterpreted at first. I assumed he was annoyed and a little surprised perhaps. We agreed to go half way but I couldn’t let go of that look he gave me.

After weeks of this look haunting my memory, I finally settled on the fact that I offended him. It was not a look of eagerness to make a sale but one of eagerness to provide a quality piece of furniture at a great price, by far the best deal in the entire premises. Perhaps a family member, his father, uncle or grandfather made the furniture. I have seen many furniture making shops/homes on the side of road in many districts and there would be many more I would never see in this vast city with millions of people. Is it possible that when we bargained, we belittled?

If I could take that moment back, I would. Of all the people and organizations and shops we have dealt with to find our home and furnish it, this young man, the one with a beat up station wagon and torn sneakers, provided the best and most professional experience we have had to date. Thank you young man.

What would one feel when you are proud of what you have, what you can make with what you’ve got and the length you can go when you don’t look too far ahead?

Freedom.

I need a tan. My arms are blinding me while typing on the computer.

Shopping

For the last two days we, as a family, yep, the whole five of us, went shopping for hours and hours. We were meant to be purchasing necessities in furnishing and fitting out our new apartment but instead, we ended up playing charades with the shop attendants. Hilarious I tell you. In search for a toaster I say ‘pan’ since I knew that meant bread and throwing my right hand up while simultaneously saying ‘pop’ I had at least 3 attendants playing along with me. They knew exactly what I wanted.

Before our shopping trip, I had already learnt that pronouncing English words with a Spanish accent does not make me any more understandable and since my dictionary doesn’t include every word in the Spanish language I had to improvise along the way. It was a valuable experience however, as it taught me which words were the absolute basics if you plan to go shopping local language free.

Of course, google translator would be good too but I couldn’t get the app – long story.

Here goes the list:

Manners and greetings – Of course know please and thank you and the correct greetings for politeness.

Know your numbers 1 – 10. You can use your fingers if you like but you don’t want to be saying peace instead of 2 or stop instead of 5. To really drive this point home, I have found that it doesn’t matter how clearly I show the number with the use of my fingers, the waiter or shop attendant will always double check with me. If I am holding two fingers, I will always be asked ‘dos?’ So know your numbers!

Knowing your numbers is especially important when purchasing items larger than 10 or understanding the cost in the hundreds. For example, the Spanish equivalent to 549 is something we can’t translate so we take a stab in the dark and say cinco, cuatro, neuve and they correct or agree. In equivalent English terms we say five, four, nine instead of five hundred and forty nine.

Know the equivalents to like and not like. You could just say no if you don’t like it but they don’t know what you are saying no too. If you say ‘no gustar color’ they know you are saying you don’t like the colour but still might like the product or merchandise but want to see other colours.

Know the equivalents for more and less. For example, if you want a set of saucepans but for less you could say ‘poco quantas?’ meaning less cost? Also, if you wanted to know if there are more colours you could say ‘mas colors’?

Specific descriptive words – choose a bunch of words relevant to what you are shopping for such as leather, cotton, handmade.

Well I hope this is useful for someone. Really I just wanted an excuse to write about shopping so I can document some of our less than absolutely necessary necessities. A handbag for me and a jumper for Simon.

Pronunciation day

I have found a new appreciation for tourists, complete with their blank looks suggesting a few quid short, not to mention their broken English and difficult pronunciations. It’s understandable now that I am sporting the same simple blank look, especially at the most important part of the day …. while ordering coffee.

The line is getting longer as more people join the queue but I don’t let pressure quench my determination. I continue to practice my pronunciation under my breath while keeping two boys from either punching or squeezing each other and picking up the youngest boys shoes and socks off the floor all because we came to a halt. Yep, the line just keeps getting longer and it is almost my turn. Ah, there is the other sock, boys are punching again, Beau’s flinging his arms around, now Austin is tickling Loxley which is why Loxley is now screaming …. loudly. Beau stop swinging before you … oh too late. So sorry, perdon, perdon, ooh you are lucky you didn’t knock her coffee right out of her hands. Austin I said no tickling and definitely no peek-a-boo, I can’t concentrate with Loxleys half scream/laugh. Beau – seriously?? Those arms need to be strapped to your side – I wonder if I could legally do that?

Okay, here it is, ‘Buenos dias, puedo tener cappuccino soja descafeinado’. It’s not perfect I know but I am concentrating on pronouncing the main words and letting them fill in the bits and pieces and rearranging the grammar. You see, the other day I ordered six bottles of water. He asked me how many and I said ‘seis’. He looked confused so I said it again, and again and again. Then a kind gentleman stepped in on my behalf and said ‘seis’. Apparently all I had to say was ‘seis’. So my pronunciation obviously needed work.

Anyway, back to ordering my coffee. She repeats back to me everything but the descafeinado so I say it again to which she replies with a puzzled look, something I was becoming quite akin to. I attempted it two more times and then just gave up for the sake of the people waiting behind me but also for my own faith that I will one day speak this language.

I had resigned myself to drinking the real stuff, which I really wanted to anyway. Ever since my arrival, almost two weeks ago, I had been too scared to pronounce this word, so it was always ‘cappuccino’, but the problem was, I was becoming dependent on the caffeine and turning into a grouch until I had my coffee and I am already a grouch because the kids woke me at 5.30am so I really didn’t need to add to the mix, hence why today became the ‘pronounce descafeinado’ day.

Just when I thought I was going to enjoy one more day of the real stuff, it suddenly clicks and she asks ‘decaf?’

Our attempt at taking family photos in the park…

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