Monday, October 15, 2007

Peru Day Two

I started this post during my trip to Peru. I am going to publish this one as I wrote it, then the remainder of posts will be recollections.

Starbucks is across the street from the hotel! My roommate hates this fact. I love this fact. The Nescafe is getting to me. Or maybe it is the evaporated milk that is getting to me.

?¿?¿It´s only day two?¿?¿? Spanish keyboard is so fun!

What a long day. Spanish class this morning at Del Sol Language School. There were four of us in class together, and we covered a lot of ground. The teacher didn´t speak English to us at all. We learned useful things like party pooper = fiesta pooper. For some reason, this and many other phrases sent us into fits of laughing. I´m sure we are the most fun (or irritating) students in the entire school. At the break we watched a crazy home-made video of other things the school offers, like cooking classes, kareoke in Spanish, and salsa dancing. They offered coca tea, a traditional tea in the mountains for altitude sickness, even though we are in Lima at sea level. The tea made me feel funny, like I was at a high altitude though. Weird. After class, we walked in a group several blocks away to a lunch place that looked exactly like a french cafe, but with lots more waiters. One member of our group asked if they served alpaca there. The workers laughed and the word quickly spread that the crazy nord americanos want alpaca. I had an empanada and also a sandwich, both could have been served in France. To top it off, I had and excellent eclair. Many people here drink Inca Cola, a soft drink that tastes like bubble gum. It is a shocking yellow color, exactly like urine after taking vitamins, very unappetizing.

After lunch, we got on a small bus for a tour of Lima with our tour guide Fernando. Fernando had the craziest Spanglish I have ever heard. I had to really concentrate to understand him. His word combinations were sometimes so funny that we´d have to stifle giggles. At one point I had tears running down my face, thank god for sunglasses. Fernando had a LOT of information and history to share, and was so passionate about his subject. Before we got out of the bus to walk to the cathedral, he told us, "the ruler is, please not to give monies to the childrens, they will rape you," and "the muscle mans, they have exciting when the ladies to be seen."

We toured the main square and cathedral in Lima, both in sadly shabby condition. The square happened to be closed to traffic, so we could walk in the street and could clearly see and take a picture in front of the tank, armed by a man with a machine gun. A dog, dressed in a sweater and beret, walked by the tank, which also happened to have a fire hydrant just next to it. We peeked into a shabby little bar where all the important government people eat lunch or have a pisco sour. Bars on windows, barbed wire, electric fences, and armed guards protect many many buildings. It is unsettling to walk around near these places. Most of the buildings are drab and ugly, concrete, brick and glass. No landscaping, but most areas are quite clean. Grafitti and garbage are minimal.

Later we are picked up by our bus and taken to what is essentially a Peruvian luau. It is a very nice restaurant in the Larcomar, the most upscale shopping area in Miraflores, the most upscale area of Lima. The restaurant, La Dama Juana, had a buffet with typical Peruvian food, and a music and dance show. Only tourists were in the restaurant. The dancing was really quite good, and the traditional costumes beautiful. Then at one point, two men and two women came out to perform the Alcatraz dance (named after the bird, I assume, not the island prison). Each woman had a white napkin pinned to her butt. Her partner had a large candle, which was lit. The object of the dance was for the man to light the woman's fire, so to speak. She does not make it so easy, shaking her hips and moving in such a way that he has to work at lighting it, of course watching her hips sway close to his face. It was funny, erotic and fascinating.

Then, the dancers came and asked for me and one of my travel companions to join them onstage. They pinned the napkin on our butts and told us to "move your body," which we did our best to do so we were not lit on fire! Then we had a chance to take the candle and try to light the napkin on the guy's butt. It was much harder than you can imagine. So my friend decided to grab the napkin and hold it to get a better chance at lighting it. "No no no!" said the man, not what she was supposed to do! We sat down in fits of laughter and watched as one of the woman successfully lit her man on fire.

After this dance, a group of young men --wait, they are boys-- came out to perform the scissors dance. They had a large pair of scissors, which looked as if they were not hinged together, in one gloved hand. They had crazy outfits, brightly colorful and embroidered, many layered and not unlike what you might imagine as a Peruvian clown, and Converse high tops. They proceeded to perfom a very athletic form of what looked to me like break dancing, all while continuously clanking their scissors to the beat of the music. I know my boys would have loved to see this. It was a cacacphony of sound and movement, completely mesmerising. It was so different from anything else I've ever seen, that I didn't mind having to eat at the buffett to enjoy it.

Music and dance are fundamental to the very fabric of Peru, my guidebook says. I am certainly glad we got to see some excellent dancing, even in the most touristy of establishments. Hey, I'm a fan of luaus, what can I say?

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