Landed in Peru

On friday the 11th of december, our neighbor and friend Nadine drove us to the train station where we took the last ICE that would arrive in time at Frankfurt airport before our flight. That’s how our journey started.

The first part of the Iberia flight was to Madrid and it was terrible. The plane was crowded and with seats that narrow, you don’t need a big guy like the one next to me to feel like in a sardine can. “Chicken class”, another passenger noted, quite to the point.

Although four or five times as long, the flight from Madrid to Lima really was enjoyable. I don’t know why, but we first got seats in two separate aisles and no place to put the baby. We had arranged otherwise with the travel agency. But the stewardess immediately promised to get us two seats in the front aisle where a baby basket could be fixed, after all passengers were on board. So she did and we spent the flight quite comfortably near the toilets where we could change Amalias’s diapers.

All in all, the baby took the flights quite well. Most of the time, she lay quietly in her basket. Carolin breastfed her at take-offs and landings to support pressure compensation, no problems here either.

Carolin and I are members of YCW (Young Christian Workers), a catholic youth organization whose Freiburg chapter has a longstanding partnership with Peru. When we arrived at Lima, our friends from JOC (Juventud Obriera Christiana) were already waiting for us and arranged the taxi drive through Lima to Barranco where the JOC has kind of an apartment where we would live for the first days.

Lima is an enormous, crowded, rotting, stinking place. At least that’s the impression I got from driving and walking through the Peruvian metropole. I immediately had an allergic reaction from the dust and smog polluted air and had to look for a pharmacy for medication. With one Cetericin pill a day, I got the sneezing under control, though. The traffic there is deadly. And I’m not only talking about the terrible exhaust from the cars, mostly taxis, filling Lima’s streets. There are almost no traffic lights and everyone compensates by using the horn. We witnessed right in front of us how a driver had come to a halt a bit too far into the lane and instantly lost one of his front lights. If you don’t cross the street fast enough, you’re dead meat. After all, Lima didn’t seem a place to be.

I’m sure that my perpective is incomplete. When we get back to Lima, I’d like to see the districts of Miraflores and San Isidro where the more wealthy people live, to get another view on Peru’s capital.

What a difference that is to Arequipa, where we flew after a few days to spend the main part of our vacation with friends Carolin made at her four month internship in 2003/2004 in the small Peruvian village of Pichigua. Arequipa is the second biggest city of Peru, also crowded but much less polluted. Maybe its altitude of 2300m over sea level plays a role here. Since Jacqui and Yimi live on the outskirts, neither the traffic nor the pollution are a problem here. But it’s also a 20-minute bus ride to go shopping at the bigger supermarkets.

The couple has a house here with their baby daughter Chiara and some children that would have to live under very poor conditions back at their families in Pichigua. In other words, they have a kind of private children’s shelter. All of the kids are really nice. Especially the smallest boy, Angelito, is happy to have a strong man visiting that can throw him into the air. Which is not that hard since he’s such a little guy.

The weather here is like on the Canary Islands — warm (about 20°C) and windy. Especially at this altitude, you have to put on sunscreen. That’s what my red arms tell me, anyway. Amalia also enjoys the warmth, we take every opportunity to have her lie around naked so the sore behind she brought from Germany gets better day by day.

I wasn’t sure if I really should spend four weeks of my vacation days at a place that has neither a pool nor a big buffet with waiters. But it feels like I’ll gladly trade the comfort of a hotel for the things I’ve been experiencing from the minute we arrived here: peace, hospitality and friendship.