Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Chiclayo Street Scenes
Selling grapes outside the post office
A newpaper seller's siesta
Quail's egg trolley
Ch– Ch- Ch– Changes to Chiclayo
It is a place of contrasts. Shiny-floored new restaurants boast eclectic menus; shops are crammed with clothes, computers, mobile phones and shoes; markets are heavy with the smells of too many people, squashed fruit, animals, witches’ herbs, sewage and street-side cebiche. Street sellers crouch on the dirty curbs to sell sweets and biscuits; street children pester for small change. It’s now safer to drive with the re-surfaced roads and new traffic lights – but it’s still hair-raising amongst the moto-taxis and carts.
In the Plaza Central, in front of the vast, banana-yellow cathedral, there is a now a seasonal twinkling display of Christmas lights and gift wrapped trees sponsored by big companies and universities. It looks really cheerful and festive, and draws great gaping crowds there to mill around aimlessly - and others to persistently attempt to flog candy apples, candy floss and Winnie the Pooh dolls made of balloons to them.
I was amazed at the size of Tottus, a brand new supermarket that we visited last night. It is at least four times as big as any of the supermarkets that existed here four years ago. There are two of these huge new supermarkets on the edge of the city, surrounded by vast shopping plazas and other large hardware and electronic shops. Although these developments have brought a another dimension of shopping experience to Chiclayo – something clean, orderly, safe, as pricey as America or Europe – the chasm between the rich and poor means that the centre of town and the lively markets continue to thrive. And I am happy to say, so do the corner shops, which provide a meeting place and sense of community that I hope will never be lost.
Many restaurants seem to have been re-done, including a place where we always used to go for cheap fried yuca chips and anticuchos (skewered beef heart). It was a bit of a dive, but now by all accounts it is too big for its boots and not as tasty. There is a gigantic ‘Roky’s’ chicken restaurant with plate glass windows and comfy booths, the likes of which we had previously only seen in Lima. Half a ‘broaster’ chicken with chips and salad costs an extortionate 19 soles ($6) instead of the 14 soles next door, but the place is big, bright and has a kids’ play area resembling a castle filled with balls and slides. Move over McDonalds!
On that note, I am happy to say there is still no McDonalds, but there is a Starbucks and small branches of Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken in the
José Alejandro’s Baptism Shock: Vanessa Lies to a Priest!
The church, ‘Capilla Centenaria – Nuestra Senora Madre de la Misericordia’ is really rather quaint. Gold paint and varnished wood features heavily in the décor and a splendid Virgin with long black curly hair loftily presides from on high. The baptism ceremony felt intimate and special and the Father addressed me directly, checking if I understood what he was saying. I did indeed!
After the ceremony we went into a tiny room to sign as godparents. “So, you are from England?” said the friendly Father with a firm handshake – “What part?”. “Do you speak Spanish? How long are you here in Chiclayo for? What parts have you visited?” he queried with a kindly smile. Then: “Of course, you are a practising Catholic?” he inquired.
Having been to the talk the night before about how only baptised Catholics could become godparents I knew there was only one answer: “Yes, of course.” I smiled.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Peruvian Food Part One
After drinking half a litre of delicious creamy lucuma (a wonderful ancient fruit that I am more then slightly obsessed with) drinking yogurt and totally breaking my stomach on the first day, I have laid off the stuff. It is SO popular, with huge rows of different types of drinking yogurt dominating the supermarket aisles. I might dare to try it again soon. In the meantime, I have enjoyed lucuma ice-cream at the beach, and a lucuma chupete (homemade lolly) in town.
Of course, the national dish cebiche is ever-popular and highly celebrated. I have had a little, but would like to have lashings of the stuff. Basically, fish and seafood, raw but marinated in limon, is served with thinly sliced red onion and hot rocoto pepper. There are many variations – the picture here is of a cebiche Tito had in
Friday, December 26, 2008
I didn't post this photo of Tito enjoying the beach at Las Rocas yesterday on Christmas Day as I was exhausted after staying up until 6.30am on Christmas eve!
As is the custom, we stayed up until 12am, when Jesus is placed in the nativity. We all gave a little speech, and then sat down to turkey and garbanzos, paneton and cinnamon-infused hot chocolate. After this, the children could finally open their presents. Talk about patience!
At about 2.30am Tito and I went out to see some Cecelia and Elwin at their corner shop (it is a major social meeting point and is always open!). We crashed out when we got home, had turkey for breakfast at 12 noon and then went to the beach with my mum. It was totally packed with families celebrating Christmas. At this time of year the water is still cold, but the sun is blazing and it is so invigorating to dive under the strong waves.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Before the event we went to a very boring, two-hour talk at the church about godparents' responsibilities, and how you have to be baptised yourself to be godparents, so I was slightly worried that someone would discover I'm not Catholic at all in any way. But absolutely everyone in Peru is Catholic, so they don't check. Phew.
After the ceremony some serious Peruvian partying ensued, with a massive sound system installed in the living room that vibrated the walls. Of course, dancing was obligatory. About 50 people came and worked their way through the ten cases of beer we got in!
Saturday, December 20, 2008
I wasn't sure how she would react to our presence. I wasn't sure whether or not to take her out with us because we will have to leave her again so soon. But since life is lived in the moment we decided to simply enjoy her whilst we can...
Wanpi is just the same as she always was, absolutely devoted and following me from room to room. She even wants to come in the loo with me! She was waiting outside the bedroom for me yesterday when Celeste (5) tried to move her - she did not take kindly to this a gave her a nip!
Today is Keila's (10) baptism - we are going to be godparents! I am much more excited about this than I expected to be because it will give me an extra excuse to spoil her. She is a gorgeous girl, top of the class, extemely good-natured and pretty too.
I've got to go and get ready now. I am going to wear my red dress and black feathery fascinator - the likes of which may not have been seen before in Chiclayo! I fully expect to draw a crowd curious to know why on earth the gringa has a chicken on her head.
The reception will be held at the house. I've got a pink t-shirt with dimante studs and a sparkly blue collar for Wanpi to wear too. Yes, I'm insane.
Tito has just come back with the cake (it's white with a sugar church on top complete with baptism-inspired interior!) and fresh buns for breakfast so I had better go.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
It's Tito's 40th!
It's Tito 40th birthday today. I am writing this quick post whilst some family and friends sit around the table, passing a glass of Pilsen around, telling rude and deeply politically incorrect jokes about incest and homosexuality and laughing hysterically.
We are supposed to go to the church again tonight to listen to a 2-hour talk about becoming godparents. But 8 - 10pm on Tito's birthday is a bit tough. They don't take registration so I think we might have to play hooky.
Took our four nieces to the beach today. It's the beginning of summer here, so it's hot in the sun, but with a sneaky cool breeze. We squashed into the car along with my mum and drove out to Las Rocas (where we had our wedding reception). Loads of fun splashing in the bracing water and building sandcastles.
She doesn't use email and my phone Spanish is shocking. And of course, writing 'letters' is just too passé.
Still, I didn't expect this!
(Not the Santa, I mean. He's to be expected. It is Christmas, after all).
Yvonne is 9 months old, enjoys milk, hanging out with Santa and has lovely long eyelashes. Cecelia and partner, El Mono (the monkey!) are besotted!
She is absolutely gorgeous.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Back in Peru!
Being here in Peru feels so much different this time around - I feel like I have come home. I speak the language. Tito's family is now my family - I'm a Villalobos! Tito's friends are now my friends too - we shared a lot of good times.
Four days in we are getting into the swing of things. Just about over the jet lag. In Lima we had the loudest hotel room EVER (across from a road full of 24 hour discos!). That didn't stop us sleeping after the grueling 27-hour trip from London though!
Loving the food. Drinking yogurt is popular here, and I got a delicious 'lucuma' fruit flavoured yogurt from Wong supermarket. Unfortunately, that gave me explosive diarrhoea which I managed to sort out with four different types of medicine just in the nick of time before our 14 hour bus-cama (bed-bus) trip up to Chiclayo!
We arrived just in time for breakfast with the family...