Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Peru Day Four
Another very fun and successful day at the language school. I am starting to understand a lot more of what I hear around me, which is exciting. Right after classes we are whisked away to the Larcomar shopping center in the Miraflores area of Lima. This is the primo shopping mall in Lima, and it is in a stunning location, perched on the cliffs overlooking the ocean. There is a lot of security surrounding the mall, which is outdoors but has limited access points.
We have a quick lunch and then everyone goes in their own direction to do some shopping. I poke through some stores, wander around, check out the view. Visiting the famous Alpaca 111 store, I decide to buy my husband a beautiful blue alpaca sweater. Wandering around some more, I realize that I am listening to piped in music, the Beatles Andean style. Little did I know that I would hear the Beatles Andean style just about everywhere else I would go on this trip. I pass by a fast-food burger stand which offers a special Ham and Roses burger. Not too sure what's in that one.
After leaving the shopping center, one of my friends and I decide to take a taxi back to the hotel. We were a little nervous hailing a cab outside this mall populated by tourists and surrounded by guards, carrying shopping bags. Wait a minute! There is a Marriot Hotel right across the street. We go over and ask the concierge to help us get a taxi back to our hotel. He shows us into a very nice taxi and we are about to take off when we remember we are supposed to ask the price first. The driver hesitates for a bit and then informs us it will be $30. Now just yesterday we took a long exciting ride for only $4. Something is wrong here. We say no thanks and climb back out of the taxi. Now what?? We walk around the entrance to the hotel, just to the other side of the block and a taxi pulls right up. Quanto cuesta? The price is $6. We take it and have a very calm ride back to the hotel.
Once back at the hotel we hurry to make our appointments across the street. My friend and I have booked a facial and massage at a spa. We rush over. Greeted by a hostess, we do our best to follow her through a warren of rooms, some with sliding doors, to a changing area. Once changed, I go off for a facial and my friend for a massage. I follow my facialist to a room with sliding walls on both sides. As I settle in, people are going through the room I am in, which is not exactly relaxing. I put it out of my mind and proceed with the most unusual facial I have ever had. Maybe in the southern hemisphere, they do facials exactly the opposite of what they do where I live. Where I expected heat or steam, I received cold creams and massage with glass balls filled with ice. It was not entirely unpleasant, just puzzling. I was never sure what was coming next.
Once my facial was over, I met my friend in the waiting area. She had the most curious expression on her face. She quickly told me in a stage whisper, "My God that is the strangest massage I have ever had. Just try not to laugh, I got the giggles." I start to tell her about the facial when the masseuse, Pedro, comes to get me and seems in a hurry. I steel myself and trot after him.
I had to concentrate really hard for an entire hour to control my impulse to burst out laughing. I think it would have been very rude, because Pedro was putting a whole lot of effort into this massage. He vigorously and quickly massaged my body in a way that was not relaxing at all. It was, well, invigorating. It kind of hurt. I felt like I was getting a workout. I felt like I might also be bruised in the morning. When he got to my feet, which are ticklish, he moved them around in a rhythmic way and then slapped them repeatedly. I fiercely fought my urge to laugh. Then, to my surprise, the massage included areas on my body that are normally off limits to a stranger. Peruvian massage covers almost everything, making sure all parts of the body do not feel left out; the inner thigh, the butt, the stomach. As I was experiencing this, I kept thinking about my sister and mother who had a very strange massage experience one time in Korea. OK, this was not as weird as theirs, no one walked on my back and there was no avocado involved.
Afterward, I felt really invigorated. We made our way back to the hotel to get ready for a group dinner out. We had reservations at La Juaca Pucllana, a restaurant on an archeological site. When we arrived, we passed through the very heavy security outside. Not just anyone can come to this restaurant apparently. We all sat down at our long table overlooking the dramatically lit 2,000 year old ruins. Pisco sours all around, and then dinner. One person in our group was brave enough to order cuy. It's pronounced coo-EE. I tried a bite. It does not taste like chicken. Maybe that is because it is guinea pig. Yes, cuy is a traditional food eaten mostly by people who live in the Andes Mountains. This preparation was a pretty normal looking meal and the person who ordered it really enjoyed it. I was to see a much more interesting example of how cuy can be served later in the trip.