The shore.

Discovering Lima

Written by Paula MacDonald, 2015 Peru: Mind and Body

In just a short 24h period, each of our planes has deposited us in the sprawling city of Lima. My own initial reaction is of yet another ‘big city’, offering the same amenities as home. There are tall buildings stretching out for miles, shops and restaurants lining the street, and even an upscale mall dotting expensive stores along the waterfront. With just 5 full days to explore this new metropolis, we get busy discovering the capital of Peru.

The most critical thing to tackle first is mastering the Spanish language – although I put ‘mastering’ lightly! Three of us had never before studied Spanish, while the other 5 had varying comfort levels of speaking it, being either a little rusty or having completed just a couple basic courses. We buckled down for a three-day course to try to improve our vocabulary to best integrate into Peruvian culture. Our instructors were fantastic and certainly whet my own appetite to further my Spanish studies, past my current eclectic vocabulary of words like baño (bathroom), aqui (here), and buenos días (good morning)!

Another evening in Lima introduced us to salsa dancing. We had a riot with our lithe little Spanish teacher who showed up in a red spandex one-piece salsa pantsuit, if you can conjure up an image of the amazingness of this fashion statement. We stepped and twirled our way through a few simple hip-swaying dance routines, with our lone two male group members Carson and Gordon hardly getting a chance to breathe before they were spinning around the next partner. All in all some great preparation for our outing to a salsa bar a couple nights later, where even one of our Spanish teachers showed up to bust some moves with us!

In Lima we were also introduced by our group leaders, Gordon and Meg, to ‘Puelas’, meaning a group activity of anything from silly games to deep discussions. We talked about our initial reactions to and expectations of Lima and Peru as a whole, compared to the privileged lives we lead at home. This was a great reminder to constantly acknowledge, respect, and digest the differences we will encounter on our journey through Peru.

Meg also introduced us to ‘Ujjayi Breathing’ during a morning meditation and yoga practice overlooking the ocean on Lima’s coastline, in preparation for the high altitudes and strenuous activities to come. It was a beautiful and relaxing morning where the sun even came out (after several days of overcast winter weather, much appreciated!) and gave most of us a bit of a sunburnt face!

Our last day in Lima before our grueling 22…23…24? hour bus ride to Cuzco was free time, so naturally most of us went on a chocolate tour at the chocolate museum, where we traced the bean from the farmers’ fields to the chocolate we got to make in house at the end of the workshop. If I had only to eat the fresh chocolate produced in this shop for the rest of my life, I don’t think I would complain! In fact, as I’m sure you could guess, mine was fully devoured within mere hours… 🙂

Our time in Lima was relatively short, but we certainly accomplished a lot – in addition to the aforementioned, we also chopped, mashed and stirred our way through a cooking class, toured a museum outlining the history of the Shining Path and MRTA groups which terrorized Peru in the 1980s , and explored the old town square. Although it is always challenging to quickly absorb big city culture, these first days in Lima were a perfect beginning to our exploration of Peru – its people, its language, and its fascinating diverse history.