I for one, am finding it hard to grasp the fact that I came to Lima 30/31st May and started my español class on the 3rd June, that is over a month ago, Wow! where does the time go?.
Life here in Lima is so different in many ways, It´s a big city with over 10 million people and at times I feel we are all heading for the Metropolitano, (the official bus service) all at the same time in the mornings. Crowds, major crowds at 7.30am heading for offices or schools, packed into buses, “up close and personal” would describes it, but, there are some mornings instead of being in the standing line back to back, a third line is created and then it’s breathing space and watch your footing as we turn the corner or take the junction at breaking speed, I feel as if we go around the corner on two wheels.
Now if you were of a nervous disposition well the morning traffic would send you back to bed in a hurray. Between the combi mini buses,privately owned, so they are vying for customers and in competition with each other and there are many. They are a law unto themselves, swerving and pulling in and out and stopping rapidly, to allow the people jump on and off, every space on the combi is precious, the word claustrophobia comes to mind as one morning I just couldn’t catch my breath. Now imagine all that and then you come to what I can only describe as spaghetti junction, up to 5/6 junctions with no traffic lights! well they come within a hairs breath of each other no one backing down all wanting to get ahead.. I just sit back and laugh, that is if I have a seat otherwise we are thrown together even closer as the driver negotiates the corner and given its size, it only sometimes wins out, because into this mix is the little metro taxi, “daredevils”, who know no fear and zip around cars sometimes on the wrong side.
Did I mention the horns, well noise is a constant here in Lima, everyone uses the horn, whether its the taxi, beeping and letting you know they are available, if you want a lift. Ambulances and Fire engines, well tough luck because the traffic doesn’t part like it does in Ireland. You might well ask where is the pedestrian in all of this, forget it, we are an “endangered specious”, even the zebra crossing doesn’t give you right of way, that is unless there is a timer on the lights and it tells you when it is safe to cross, still, I wouldn’t presume anything, watch and double watch, stick the foot out and be ready to pull back or go for it and a good act of contrition helps, preferably not “nearer my God to thee”. Oh! I nearly forgot to mention the traffic pólice well, they are everywhere keeping the traffic flowing with their Green florescent color gloves and of course the whistle in the mouth, they are amazing people.
After all that I love the hustle and bustle of the city life, there is one stree called Hudylas sounds like “wireless” the length of it is a good hour and half walk, but the variety of shops and stores, signs, smells you name it its on this road so whenever I am going to the post box I organise myself to get off the metro and walk the length of it call in for the post ‘hopefully’, post takes between 6/8 weeks, got a letter today posted 7/5, so I never give up hope…
Anyway back to Hudylas… the women’s prison is on this street I often wonder how the Irish and Scottish women are, remember they were caught up in drug trafficking. I don´t like the look of the prison, there are always queues of people outside with food for their loved ones. There is a mega store called Metro, not to be confused with the shortening of the metropolitano, metro, where you can buy anything and yes I mean anything, I love their integrated rolls, that is Brown bread rolls, very tasty after a hard day at class.
Espanol, yes I am certainly improving, there are days when I think its one foot forward and 4 backwards. To be honest I feel I am learning two languages English and Español, It’s a crash course in English I’m doing with the dreaded verbs, past, present and future tenses I can just manage, then it’s into combinations like present tense with future meaning, and as for the irregular verbs, phew!, throw in some verb pronouns with a bit of direct and indirect objects.
Scrambled eggs would describe my brain after the 3 hour one to one intense class and then wait for it about 2 hours “terra”, that is the dreaded homework for any student. It is when I get a glimpse of now much I am understanding through listening to conversations on the bus or reading the paper in a posh hotel every morning before class, or when I go back to San Clemente and start to feel not so much the stranger but can hear (at times) what is being said, then it’s worth the effort and to be really honest, unless you can speak the language you will never feel comfortable or at home or understand what life is like for the people or develop good friendships.
So with a bounce in my step and a song to encourage, I sometimes feel like one of the 7 dwarfs “ Hi Ho, Hi. Ho, it’s off to work I go…… I work all day and get no pay, Hi Ho, Hi. Ho… as you can see I’m not a candidate for the “Voice”.
Yes, I have developed a routine on my way to class, first its an early start 6am morning prayer, Im staying in Las Delicias, a community of Notre Dame Sisters, they are Mary Kilpatrick´s congregation, Mary who I live with in San Clemente. Anyway it a great way to keep learning the Español, stuttering through a song or trying to listen to the gospel story (I usually read it in English the night before, thanks to a lovely Loreto Sister Mary Elizabeth who gave me a Spanish/English bible).
Breakfast is normally toast with banana or egg and plenty of hot water. Shower, well not every day as the water is scarce but at least twice a week, I convince myself it’s good for the oils in my skin or remember when I was a child and we had a bath in the tub once a week, usually Saturday evening just before Dr. Who, Wow! there is a remembering. Of course you never went out to school unless you had washed behind your ears and a good rub of the face cloth!
Quite by accident (well, a call of nature really) I found this hotel ”Andes” where they have a reading library and while looking through the many and quite a varity of novels and Peru tourist books I found a book by a Peruvian/German autor Kurt Schuetze-Rhonhof, called “Beyond Machu Picehu”, beyond the tourist perspective, it’s fanasating, a great read of the cultural developments, the many influences that have impacted on the traditional Inca livestyle and its development now into a real city rural divide. Plus a great history and political insight into how Peru functions today. What he didn’t cover was the football. So, I pop in every morning for the cup of café and read for nearly an hour, use the facilities, read the paper headlines with my dictionary and head off to class.
We have just had the Copa America 2015, it was great, a great buzz and plenty of football jerseys worn (white and pink stripe). It was so like Ireland. Peru got to the semi finals. fell to Chile, unfortunately they had a player sent off within the first quarter for a leg raised too high and catching the player in the back. No if’s or buts, straight red. But even with 11 players they created many good chances and were a bit unfortunate to loose 2/1. Still they beat Paraguay in the play off for third place bronze medal, the place was electric and flags everywhere. I watched the final with a friend Rosa, a true and true Peruvian, well I appeared with my red flag for Chile and she nearly closed the door in shock, like us Irish any country bar Chile, so they were up for Argentina. There was a group gathered outside the church after mass that evening and Rosa couldn’t wait to tell them I supported Chile, how I would have loved to be able to talk and interact with them, of course I did my usual impressions to get myself heard, hands and feet demonstrating with the odd name thrown in like Messi, phew.
Now I am going to have to get down to do my homework “tarea”, so that will take a good 1 to 2 hours. I take a class on Thursday in the local school “English conversation” and have nothing but compassion and admiration for the students 16/17 year olds with great expectations for their futures and very polite and eager to learn.
Overall my impressions are of a polite people, a generous people who would give you whatever they have and share all with you.
Oh and the bus there are seats red ones, reserved for Pregnant women, parents with children, elderly and invalided and if as it has happened to me people see you standing and there might be a young lady, its usually a young educated women seating they will remind her of the ‘law’, yes, I fit into the elderly category because of my white hair and of course, I am now 60.
Don’t forget to keep me in the prayers as I do you, family and friends.
Next installment will be all about the 28th Julio, which is Peru Independence 1821 from the Spanish, also the retreat we are having for the Young confirmation students in the parish this week end, I’m looking forward to getting back to San Clemente as the pace of life is so much more relaxed and tranquil.
7th July 2015
Phone Peru 943837192 mobile