I was going to come and write about all the pretty that there is in Lima, but that requires photos, and they are deeply ensconced in my camera and I can’t be bothered to get them, and anyway, I took my pictures at night, and from a moving vehicle, and I don’t care how high your ISO is, that’s a recipe for blur. Later my lovelies, later.
Instead I will talk about a woman that befriended/bevomittedinformation on me just now in the plaza. I am in Arequipa, you see, which has a large colonial center, made of sillar, which is a white volcanic stone, and everything is pretty and cobblestoned and perfect and then there’s Starbucks and speaking of vomiting, some things don’t really belong places that they are.
Well, the woman sat down beside me on the left side of a bench in the plaza, a short-haired, blue-sweatered woman with meaty earlobes pierced with a single gold stud on the left (maybe on the right as well, though I didn’t see this side). We sat silently for some time, until some non-Arequipeña girls passed by, all bare legs and sandals as the locals were bundling up, and I was getting a chill in short sleeves.
“It makes me cold just to look at them,” I said.
“They’re provacateurs, all of them, wearing shorts. They’re looking to fall in love,” she responded.
And then the floodgates opened. She’s 78. She was born in Arequipa and after she dumped her husband with whom she had five children (four boys and a girl, and one of the girls is very white, since my benchmate’s father was white like a Spaniard, she said, pointing to my bare arm). She (bench friend) dumped her husband because he moved them from place to place, working in the mines, and he spent all his money on “street women” and didn’t bring any home, so one time when he moved them back to Arequipa she went back to her parents’ house and that’s where she stayed together with her five kids, though one has since died. The one that was white like her father.
“People now in Arequipa are seldom from Arequipa,” she told me. She pointed to a woman who passed by in a broad skirt made of a synthetic material and with silver thread. On top she wore a beige woven poncho and atop her head, a small bowler hat. “She’s from Puno. They come from Puno in trucks and they bring cheap clothes from Bolivia, like what she’s wearing. She’s a business woman, coming back and forth, buying and selling.”
“What does she buy?” I asked.
“Food,” she said. “Food is cheaper here, and clothing is cheaper there, and so that woman from Puno does good business in her truck.”
“It used to be safe in Arequipa” she went on. I think she was inspired to continue by the fact that I asked what the bowler-hat wearer purchased.
“The delinquents come from Lima, once they’re well-known there, they come here. From Puno, too,” she added. And then there are the strangle-muggings. You know, when you’re walking down the street (here she motioned south of the plaza) and someone grabs you from behind and puts something around your neck. No one who sees it says anything, no one will defend you, because if you do, they’ll slash your face.”
She went on. “And then there’s the taxi situation. You used to be able to just take a taxi anywhere. Now they drive you three or four blocks away, take everything, even your credit cards, and leave you on the street. You have to call for a taxi, don’t take one on the street.”
I considered what she was telling me, not so much about the delinquents and the provacateur teens and the woman in the bowler hat, but about the warnings, the same ones my mother had been reading me from the guide book for the last two days, and finally said the third thing since we started talking.
“Have you ever been strangle mugged? Or taken for a ride by a taxi driver?”
“No,” She said.
And I showed her that I was getting “piel de gallina” (goosebumps) because though my legs were not bare, my arms still were, and she shook my hand and wished me a good visit to Arequipa, inviting me back to come and talk to her any time.
And I walked home, and got neither strangle mugged nor taken in by a shifty taxi driver, but I did take a picture of a sign inviting Peruvians to talk about the realities of immigration to other countries, including Chile. Which is a topic for another post.
And to think, if my bench buddy had a line on The Secret Blog of Bloggers she wouldn’t have needed to tell me about her husband and the women on the street or any of the rest. Not that I minded.