Wednesday, December 01, 2004


Take a Walk on the Wild Side

I'm sure I've mentioned, in passing, what it's like to walk down the street in central Chiclayo. However, I feel this topic deserves an entry all of its very own, such is the unparalleled intensity of the experience. Hmm... I'm trying now, to remember the unremarkable experience of walking down the street in a UK city. Old ladies getting underfoot, grating Big Issue sellers, and the occasional shove from a self-important business person are the hassles I am able to recall contending with. Not so in Chiclayo. First and foremost, let me say that the experience differs, not inconsiderably, depending on your gender. If you are a woman, and dressed nicely, you will receive assorted quality but generally plenteous random leers and shouts from taxi drivers and the public at large, along with polite (but sleazy) greetings from doormen and security guards, topped off with the occasional serenade from an old man. Sexual harassment aside, one still has to contend with:
1) Cambios - these are people who change dollars to soles and vice versa. I have absolutely no idea how they make any money, as there are dozens of them standing on central streets brandishing their calculators, and they only charge a sol per transaction.
2) Kerb-crawling Ticos - these taxis are desperate for passengers. Since Chiclayo's public transportation system has disintegrated there has been an explosion of Japanese made Ticos cruising the city streets. As they are badly regulated, there are far too many per capita. As a result, the competition is very fierce and they stop directly in front of you when you are crossing the road (making it very difficult to cross) and constantly shout out to innocent pesdestrians, to try badger them into taking their taxi.
3) Children and campesinos - begging (whinging) in a most pitiful way, showing you their family member's prescriptions, trying to sell you candies.
4) Vendors - vast numbers of people selling fruit, jelly, little ice-creams, super-glue, wallets, gum, you name it, roam the main streets searching for a sale.
5) Piranitas - this is the Spanish nickname for the youths who cruise the streets in pairs or gangs, looking for likely victims for pick-pocketing or purse-snatching.
6) Restaurant Promoters - who list all their dishes and try to drag you in as you pass.
7) Shoe shine boys - who would shine you flip-flops if you let them.
Of course, you quickly learn to become oblivious to all this chaos around you, if you don't want to be driven round the twist...

You'll be glad to hear the the old ladies continue to get underfoot over in Blighty. I always think they should only be allowed to wander the streets at certain times of the day. Other pedestrians will be banned for those hours so that all geriatrics can totter aimlessly about the place, stopping abruptly to admire a window display or shout at their deaf companion as often as they please. It's either that or I'm going to continue to mow them down as I scuttle impatiently from A to B.
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