Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Our Journey Begins

Our first stop was in Lima, Peru.

We were placed at an airport hotel which happens to be in the thick of the real Lima - the Lima that the travel guides, brochures and guides do not show you. The disparity between those with money and those without is on grand display in Lima, and it is not recommended that one venture far with a camera hanging around one’s neck - that is, unless you want it yanked off. We were instructed to be sure to not get into any cabs not arranged directly by the hotel. They said that the cab drivers or mini-van cabbies will simply rob you. The area we were in was rife with graffiti, bars on windows and doors, squatter constructions made of available materials like corrugated metal and amateur masonry attached to existing structures. Kind of like parts of East or South Central Los Angeles. Due to the fact that I live in a city where the grand divide between people with money and people without is growing daily, and the number of homeless people approaching me in my car has increased tenfold since I moved here - I wasn’t all that bothered or alarmed and my friend brought her camera anyway. We already have our urban training. I actually didn’t take any pictures of Lima out of respect for the people living there that might not want me showing their roofless, caved in, graffiti decorated dwelling. It was depressing. I show a picture here of the Plaza Mayor; an approved version by the Tourist Board. Add a thick layer of grime, and it’s closer. Add 8 million people and you’re closer still. I couldn’t help but think as we rode in our hotel approved transportation, that if the U.S. keeps going in the direction it is being led to go in, we are simply not that far behind.

There’s something we ordered at a café in Central Lima - a novelty of sorts. It’s called a Coca-Cola. You might remember it. It was a soda we drank as children and is no longer available unless one travels to a foreign country that doesn’t have a High Fructose Corn Syrup trading agreement with the U.S. That’s right. Actual cane sugar. That stuff they are selling here in the U.S. in a Coca-Cola can or bottle is something passing itself off as Coke, is much cheaper to produce - but it’s not it. The second I brought the glass of the real stuff up to my nose I could smell the difference and the taste was just what I remembered from my youth. The Coke we drank years ago was not the stuff one can chug - but was more a sipping soda. No chance a kid could down 3 of those in a sitting and then wonder later why they have juvenile diabetes, ADD and are obese. Oh wait - that’s right - they are using high fructose corn syrup instead of cane sugar in EVERYTHING now, including those Wheat Thins in your cupboard sitting there waiting to send your Liver into hyper drive. No high fructose corn syrup in Peru. And guess what? Despite the poverty and the diet high in white rice and pasta and eggs that are used as filler foods - there are no fat people like we see in our poorest neighborhoods here. None. Curvy yes, fat no. You got kids? Check your labels and if you have anything with it, including that Yoplait you like for breakfast, throw that shit out.

But I digress.

We didn’t have time to go to the areas that the Tourist Board would prefer the Gringos go to - the posh sections with miles and miles of flowers. I hear it’s quite lovely. But there are 8 million people already living there that generally don’t get to see it either.

When in Rome.


Blogger R said...

It sounds amazing. I had no idea about the coke....
I do know that when I went grocery shopping with my daughter in mind for the very first time I screamed in the middle of the store "There is not a damned thing in this place she can EAT!"
It's also expensive to be so high minded, but I guess it's better than her having double d's at 8.
More milli...MORE. Keep it coming.

08 August, 2006 15:42  
Blogger Laura said...

There is a Latino neighborhood in Minneapolis where you can buy "Mexican Coke"... no, we are not talking about cocaine, we are talking about old-fashioned real Coca-Cola, made with cane sugar, that has been SMUGGLED across the U.S./Mexican border. Seriously. It violates the agreements the U.S. bottlers and distributors have with coke, but it has a faithful following. I'll bet you can find it in L.A. in the right neighborhoods. Being a Diet Coke person myself, I have not sought out the illicit real-cane-sugar- stuff, but your description brings me back to those carbonation-going-up-your-nose days...you are right, you couldn't chug it, it was too fizzy. I wonder if real sugar makes Coke fizzier? Hmmmm.

08 August, 2006 17:18  
Anonymous pia said...

I spent high school summers in Mexico and remember real Coca Cola--it was wonderful

Will be following your adventures--and might be living around LA sooner rather than later as NY is twice as expensive--really--and no longer the NY I loved

11 August, 2006 01:47  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

The real Coke -- that would sure bring back early memories.

I have a niece who was living in Lima a few years ago. She was a high-ranking bank executive, and I'm sure she never set foot in the "bad" neighborhoods. Sounds like an interesting city.

11 August, 2006 09:17  
Blogger I.M. Dedd said...

I bought some of that coke from a guy in my neighborhood who wears a trenchcoat and dark glasses. He starts his pitch with, "Psst...kid..."

13 August, 2006 13:11  
Blogger Seamus said...

We had a very similar experience while in Caracas, Venezuela - that disparity between the haves and the have nots. We landed at dusk and after making the climb up the mountain and coming thru a tunnel, everyone was oohing and ahing over the twinkly lights all along the mountains surrounding the city - the guide simply remarked "Wait until daylight". The twinkles were the single lamp that most of the clay tile hovels had and the distinction between the rich and the poor was simply overwhelming.

31 August, 2006 01:19  
Blogger Janet said...

I dont know why I get slightly giddy whenever I see Coca Cola in the old fashioned bottles, but I do.:)

16 September, 2006 18:33  

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