I’ve been in Lima for ten days now. I’m not sure how ten days can feel like such a huge amount of time, but look so short on my calendar. I feel very comfortable here, though I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss Canada (even the cold weather).
When I first arrived I thought the biggest difference was the sun. It’s much, much brighter here than it is in Canada right now, and the daylight lasts far longer. This means that there are lots of flowers around. I still find it incredible that I can get a sunburn in January, but experience has shown me that buying some bloqueador (sun screen) would be a wise investment.
Many visitors from our more orderly and sedate country find it difficult to adjust to the traffic here. The buses drive erratically in and out of traffic, streetlights are more suggestions than guidelines and all of the traffic laws I’m used to (tailgaiting, seatbelts, signaling, only one car at a time driving in a marked lane) either don’t exist or are not observed. I see traveling by bus here as being more entertaining than OC Transpo. That said, the mototaxis (basically a motorcycle with an extra covered section for maximum three passengers) are truly terrifying.
Although the sun and transit are different here, it’s the walls that I find truly strange. Most buildings are protected by high security walls with solid doors. In places where there aren’t any walls, the houses themselves are joined together so that each city block forms one continuous wall. There usually aren’t windows on the first floor and, when there are, they’re either protected by thick bars or heavy metal shutters that are pulled down at night.
I find the walls slightly oppressive for two reasons. First, for the simple reason that they feel confining. The second reason is psychological; the extreme amount of walls and security features here reveals a strong apprehension towards crime. In a survey released in the newspaper last Sunday it was identified by Limeños as the most pressing issue. While I have yet to see any crime here (excepting traffic violations), the attitude of the locals in both their behavior and in their building habits is extremely different from anything I’ve encountered before.
Despite the locals’ apprehension, I have not had any problems here yet, and am hoping to avoid theft or other difficulties during the rest of my stay. While I wait, I’m going to enjoy the weather and see as much of Peru as I can.