Saturday, February 17, 2007

Peruvian Observations

Some initial observations:

1. People in Peru have been extremely polite and patient with our lack of Spanish language skills. At restaurants, bus stations, and taxis, everyone has tried to be as helpful as possible given the language barriers. One nice driver in Lima even attempted conversation with his limited English. (If I ever thought describing what I do for a living is difficult in English, trying to do it in English that a primarily Spanish-speaker could understand was pretty impossible.) But it has really made me think about how generally impolite and impatient most Americans can be with people for whom English is a second language in the states. I've witnessed annoyance, frustration and sometimes even anger that someone dare impose themselves on America without a full command of the language. And I saw a similar attitude among Americans here. Tyler and I went on a tour of Ancient Lima ruins with a group of four other Americans with an English-speaking guide. Our guide was quite earnest, though not the best speaker, and our fellow tour mates seemed aggravated when he couldn't understand their questions immediately, needed them to speak more slowly, or mispronounced something.

I've also already realized how much knowing more Spanish would have made this a richer experience. We're fairly isolated since we can't communicate easily with most people. And we've even encountered few English-speaking tourists as this early stage of the game. (I imagine that will change around Macchu Picchu but probably be the case again in Bolivia and maybe even Chile.)

2. There was a lot of security in Lima--security personnel, police with noticeable guns, gates, bars over first floor windows. This managed to make me feel both more and less safe. The police presence did make me feel it was less likely we'd be pick-pocketed in public places, but it also makes you wonder why they feel they need such security in the first place. We walked past the Belgium Embassy and the guard out front had a really big scary gun.

3. We have been touted/harassed/preyed upon as tourists surprisingly little. The most it occurred was when I decided (against Tyler's inclination) to refer to our map to find something. As soon as I pulled out our guide pages, we were surrounded.

4. If you go to eat at a restaurant listed in Lonely Planet, you will be surrounded by more white people than you've seen the rest of the day.

5. Peruvians must really like ice cream. There are carts and storefronts all over. Just out on the main plaza of Pisco, there must be a cart every 20 paces. They've been at every site we've been too--even on the highway between Lima and Pisco.

Oh--and Pisco Sours in Pisco are tasty, though a bit pricy compared to other options!

Tomorrow--another bus ride to Nazca where we'll fly over the Nazca Lines, then off to Arequipa where we might try to slow down our sprinting travel pace we've managed thus far.


Austin said...

Hmmm ice cream. I hope you guys crack the riddle of the ancient astronauts who made those spider drawing. I think that is why they have so many guns.

The General said...

Actualy after having seen the Nasca lines, its a safe bet that the ancient astronauts were just making them to attract my ice cream vendors.