Little things

Posted on October 14th, 2011 by

 

I don’t have any big news, but here’s some little news.

Winter in Lima is cold, damp, and cloudy, nearly always gray. But we’re getting into spring now, which means that the sun peeks out every now and then to warm us up. Everything is suddenly brighter, warmer, more colorful, more alive.

In case you haven’t noticed, I love food. There happens to be a fine selection of fruit in Peru, much of it arriving in Lima from the jungle and the mountains. This here is one of my favorites, the granadilla, native to the Andes. Roughly the size of an apple, it has a smooth, hard exterior which, once cracked, reveals a soft inner lining to protect the delicious fruit within. It contains many little pouches of juice with little black seeds in them – the seeds are edible and pleasantly crunchy. The juice pouches are sweet, almost like candy, the size of pomegranate juice pouches, only much softer. My friends and I joke that it looks like something from outer space, containing hundreds of alien eggs ready to hatch in your gut. Enjoy!

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Mashed palta (avocado) on toast is always a pleasure. With a Gustie mug of tea.  Note that the granadilla is from the Andes, and I assume the avocado is from the drier coastal regions? Not sure. And all kinds of tropical fruit arrives in Lima from the Jungle. Peru is a hodgepodge of ecosystems. Even within the Andes, thousands of varieties of potatoes, quinua, kiwicha, oca, etc. were developed by the Incas so they could grow food (or raise animals where they couldn’t) at any altitude microclimate.

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Sunday lunches with my whole extended host family are becoming a thing. Everybody brings some food, potluck style. We eat well and have fun. My host mom Pola’s brother and sister come, as well as their sons and daughters, who in turn bring their sons and daughters. It ends up being 15-20 people. Not such a little thing, I guess. The point of it is, my host family has had a lot of health problems lately, and this is a way to bring them together and share at least one afternoon a week.

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I’ve realized that I love hearing people tell ghost stories, particularly firsthand accounts of seeing supernatural things. I have a hard time believing in ghosts – I have never seen anything I couldn’t somehow explain. But I have met people who claim to have seen and felt things beyond explanation. I guess I’m fascinated by ghost stories the way people are fascinated by UFO’s and Bigfoot: it’s something beyond what we know, and even if it doesn’t exist, I’m fascinated that people want to believe it. I’ve taken to asking everyone I know if they’ve ever seen a ghost. If I hear enough of them, perhaps it’ll teach me a thing or two about the cultures here as well.

Apparently in the jungle of Peru, people see duendes. I’ve seen it translated as goblin, imp, elf, spirit, but it’s generally some sort of magical being. These duendes look just like people, only they float through the air. Generally they only go for weaker-spirited people. If the look at you, you might faint.

I enjoy this artists work, which I see in the street here and there. It’s kind of a fun, quirky style, reminiscent of Jhonen Vasquez. Now I’m always on the lookout.

I wonder how this fits into the planning of public space – I have a class studying the history and anthropology of public spaces in Lima. How were things planned/not planned and how are they actually used? So far, we’ve mostly looked at the middle/upper class conceptions of public space until the early 20th century. As a vast generalization, they saw urban planning as a way to create a national identity, a way to make Peru modern, a way to improve public hygeine (and through that, improve race in Peru. I know it sounds crazy, we have Positivism to thank). But in the middle-class neighborhoods where I live and go to school, where was the transition to allow this playful monstrosity?

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Savor the aroma of your coffee, feel the thrill of a bus ride, and let the wind caress you through the window. Peace, Ian

 

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