First Impressions of Lima
When I left the United States a mere week ago, I had no idea of what to expect upon my arrival in Lima. I didn’t know any Peruvians, wasn’t familiar with many of the country’s customs and I had only tried a few Peruvian side dishes in the United States. Though I’m far from becoming an expert and have only experienced a few of Lima’s many neighborhoods, I feel I’ve had a successful (but exhausting) first week of orientation abroad.
Lima is a mix of the old and the new. One of the first things I noticed about the city is that there are tall, new, modern, glass buildings built next to much smaller, colorful, intricate apartments or single-family homes that often look as though they could be hundreds of years old. Though admittedly worse when people go to and return from work, the calles, or streets, and avenidas, or avenues, of Lima always seem to be congested with traffic in both directions. The drivers are crazy, (there’s no such thing as “Minnesota Nice” on the roads here), and there’s rampant jaywalking and constant honking throughout the city.
Also vastly different from my home state of Minnesota is the unrelenting heat of Peru. Though the country is known for its geographic and biological diversity, Lima is located in the desert. At present, during Lima’s summer season, it is hot, dry and dusty all day long. Even though I always carry my bloqueador, or sunscreen, around with me and reapply it regularly, my fair skin has still been burnt a little bit every day. The power of the sun here is so strong that along the Pacific public beach, there are signs warning passerby of the threat of skin cancer, complete with pictures of dangerous moles. Living in the desert also means that drinking water is not as accessible as in the United States. Restaurants do not provide complimentary water with each meal and the sinks in buildings have comparatively weak water pressure.
Finally, it’s difficult for me as a tall, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, pale-skinned American to blend in here. Even though I can communicate sufficiently in Spanish (and always try to avoid speaking in English), people are drawn to me simply because I am different. Even if I’m not doing anything out of the ordinary, I still attract significant, unwanted attention on the street. I am starting to love the city and its people, and I’ve never felt threatened or unsafe by this. Oftentimes, however, it does make me uncomfortable.