(For you english only readers you can proceed to the second paragraph without pause...)
Pense que seria apropiado empezar el blog esta vez en Espanol porque, como Fran (Mr. Shy) ha comentado, es un pais hispanoblante y hay que representar la cultura en todo, no? Pues, una mierda, pfff, la cultura. Hay un par de cosas que he notado acerca del Espanol en este pais en mi breve estancia aqui. El primero es que si te diriges a alguien con una referencia a su lengua como "espanol" siempre te responden que no hablan espanol, hablan castellano. Hacen esa distincion en Peru (y quizas en otros paises de sur y latino america) porque creen que promueve alguna relacion de dominacion que existe con los espanoles desde la conquista; a mi no me importan esas cosas politicamente correctas y yo sigo con espanol, aunque puede que haya entre ustedes alguien que quiere parecer sensible y educado y es por esto que he puesto la nota. (ya no me acuerdo que fue la otra cosa que iba a notar, pero voy a seguir con el blog).
Ok, onto more important daily business. I wanted to write a bit about life in Lima on the public transportation system. I think it would be impossible to exaggerate the importance of public transportation here in Lima. A few of my own observations are that, contrary to the US, buses, which are run by many different companies in addition to the single public system, far outnumber the cars owned by individuals. I would also guess that the taxis outnumber the buses by a considerable number. I can ride the bus here from my neighborhood, which is called Pueblo Libre, to a neighborhood about 8 miles away called La Punta, for one Sol and twenty cents or about 35 cents american. Buses here come in many shapes and sizes- there are the large buses we use as school buses, buses that resemble our own public buses, smaller buses that are called combis (See picture below), and everything inbetween ranging from 4 passenger minvans to full sized tour buses outfitted to carry over 100 people. Each of these buses bears the name of the company, usually painted in bright colors that correspond to the individual company, and then has the streets that the route passes on painted on the side. This is great because it allows anyone with a map to figure out which bus can get them to any part of the city.
This bus is a combi bus and you can see the bright colors of the company and the neighborhood that composes its route, Callao, on the front. In most cities I have been in the difficulty is figuring out the routes, you need a map and a bus schedule which can be hard to read, inaccurate, etc. In lima I think that where the bus is going is easy to figure out, but it's important to know which neighborhoods are safe to pass through in which bus. For instance, it would be a very bad idea to pass through Callao (one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Lima) in a combi bus after dark. Combis are often without locks on the windows, are poorly maintained, etc.
The buses here are really interesting to me since they represent a whole way of getting around in this city of almost ten million that is not nearly as heavily relied upon in most american cities. One example of a way this shows itself is in the words people use to describe things that come from the buses. For example, on every bus, big or small, there is someone who stands in the open door as the bus moves along and shouts out the streets that the bus goes on. If the bus stops this person will jump out onto the sidewalk, which is often almost a part of the street that has no curb or other divider, and try convince passers by to get into their bus. This person is called a cobrador. The verb cobrar means to charge someone, because this is also the guy who takes your money when you enter, but this word is also used in Lima to describe the guy at the supermarket counter who charges you, the bouncer at the door of a night club, and others who perform similar functions. To my knowledge, cobrador is not a word used to describe these positions in places like Spain. I'm sure there are other more prominent examples of ways in which the public transportation influences the popular culture here, but this was just a small, interesting thing that I noticed.
The taxis here are far different from those in the US with the biggest difference being that you have to know approximately how much to pay for where you want to go or you will grossly overpay because they expect you to negotiate (in other words, no meters). I don't want to go into too much about the taxis here, but I think that they too have an impact on the way of life here in Lima. One of the first things that everyone discusses when they arrive at a restaurant, for instance, is what kind of deal they managed to eek out for the taxi ride over. Taxis are also much more affordable here, even by Peruvian standards. For instance, that same bus ride from Pueblo Libre to La Punta (8 or so miles) that cost 1 sol and 20 cents, costs about 10 soles in taxi, or about 3 dollars. Imagine take a taxi 8 miles for $3 in chicago! And if you ride with a couple friends it is pretty much the same as the bus.
Well, there is no end to the public transportation talk in Lima except to say that while it is a way of life here, things are also very poorly regulated. Robberies in combi buses in the wrong place at the wrong time are supposedly somewhat common, Lima is one of the most heavily polluted cities in the world as a result of the incredible traffic, and I think that public travel here is far more dangerous than in many american cities- everyone who drives here takes a lot of risks and things move pretty quickly whether you are a passenger or a pedestrian. In any case, I am sure I will talk more about the public transportation as I learn more, there is a lot to know...
Let me wrap this up with a few pictures. I will put a little caption with each one and try to explain.
Just a sidenote on the chaos of traffic. Lots of minor accidents in the streets, I think the life of a car in Lima is a rough one. This is a taxi and a truck that hit each other in front of my house while both drivers were trying to execute u-turns.
I promised sea lions last time and here they are. There is a zoo called Parque de las Leyendas close to my house and I spent a few hours there the other day. It was very nice, and cost 8 soles to get in, or about $3.50 US.
This last one is me visting a popular shopping area called Larcomar that is built into the face of a steep hill that looks over the ocean.
lovely view of the ocean. That hill is Callao starting at the top of the hill and on the other side is La Punta. Some of the richest neighborhoods in Lima are on top of, around and inside of the poorest...
(I mixed up the order of those pictures, but you could've sorted that out on your own, so I will leave it...)
Thanks for reading. See ya later...