Where can you find $1 taxis that provide a panic attack, food that can make you sick or leave you wanting more, every climate ever imagined, and really sketchy areas a block from the nicest neighborhood in town?
Peru, of course! Get ready; you’re about to be cultured.
The transportation tactics in Peru are matchless from the United States’. For only three soles (sometimes more if one decided to take advantage of a tourist), you can go anywhere in the city. But there’s always a catch: you first had to survive the scare of the ride. Cars honking in every direction and paying no attention to the lines painted on the streets, there were many, many close calls concerning my life. The incredibly awful driving was one thing, but the taxis also were so cheaply constructed that even hitting a pothole in the street made me scared that the old vehicle could carry on!
Peruvian cuisine was only made popular a few years ago with a famous chef who perfected gastronomía del Perú. There is not one meal served without both rice and potatoes, much to my father’s dismay. I’ll never forget the appalled look on this face when he ordered an expensive plate of Alpaca steak and was served plain rice and a fatty, plain, dry potato on the side. That was hardly his idea of a costly dinner. But other than the carbs, Peruvian food is cooked creatively with the use of many fruits and vegetables indigenous only to Peru, such as quinua, chirimoyo, saúco, and more. Oh, and 3,000 varieties of potatoes of course.
I think what made Peru so physically beautiful to me what the diversity that it provides. There are some of the best surfing beaches in the world, along with desert, rainforest jungle, and high mountains, and then mixtures of all of the above. I spent some time in the capital of Lima, along the coast, to enjoy a few days of humidity and fish smell. I lived among thehermosa mountains, but my favorite trip was to the Amazon jungle. And this was all within Peru!
Speaking of diversity, the people within each city in Peru can be relatively assorted as well! The income gap is vast. I lived with a family of the highest class, who owned their own petroleum business and had a country home to escape to outside the city. But I made friends with lower class citizens who made the equivalent of $0.36/hour in their jobs. And there really is no middle class. Because of all of this, I could be walking in my neighborhood (the safest in the city), get sidetracked for a block, and find myself in the worst part of town. One quickly has to learn the ropes and culture of the city.
Because of this gap, or perhaps the cause of this gap, there aren’t many large corporate businesses like Alltel or Nike in the United States. Most businesses are kept small just to get by, not to be world-renown. Consequently, the only farming that I came in contact with was subsistence farming. This made my experience much less “European” and more towards third-world, as there wasn’t even a movie theatre in my city populated 300,000!
I’ve definitely learned how to do some things and how not to do others, and everything I’ve seen and done tells me that I’ve had a unique experience that is unlike any other, which I think that’s true for all travelers. Hopefully this blog-post helps with my culture shock upon coming back to the States!
I want to encourage travel and new types of living for everyone. I believe that visiting areas vastly different helps you to both embrace a culture you know and to yearn to help and think in a more world-view.
By Emily Mashie