As we look back at the last couple of weeks we thought we could describe the difficulties we had with quite a severe case of the local gastro bug, or explain some of the interesting things we have noticed living in Lima. We opted for the latter! But we are both feeling almost back to normal.
As an afterthought (it is becoming common place) Craig and one of the Area Medical Advisors accompanied a missionary home to Buenos Aires, Argentina, leaving last Fridaymorning and returning on Saturday night. It was a quick turnaround, but this trip at least allowed a sleep in a hotel. Craig and Dr Sheffield (a general surgeon by trade who has missed his other calling in life as a tour guide) walked all over downtown Buenos Aires Saturday morning, from the famous cemetery, to various museums and memorials, and along the newly developed port area. The city has a very European feel, reminiscent of life as a younger missionary in Rome. We were attacked by pterodactyl poo-there was far too much for it to be a normal bird, but then again it could have been a local scam. Either way our suits and bags were covered and not pleasant. Again, no more details.
So, a few more of observations of our new home. The first thing one notices upon arriving in Lima, Perú is that people don’t speak English. They speak Spanish, if you can actually make out the words strung together without commas, or phrases. When you ask them to speak slowly they do, for one sentence, then it’s back to “rapido”. But, hey, what do you think our English sounds like to someone who has learned proper English? By now our ears are becoming attuned to the language and we can read it reasonably well. Speaking is still a challenge, but we can at least give directions to taxi drivers to get us home.
Speaking of driving, we have noticed strange looking signs on the side of the road that bear resemblance to traffic signs at home, but which we are still trying to interpret. For example:
Stop Sign - PARE. Here in Lima this sign is only a suggestion. We have come to understand that it has several meanings. One is nothing. Another means to stop if you feel like it, but then you incur the wrath and horns of the people behind you who want to get somewhere. Another is to speed up, close your eyes, and get through the intersection without hitting anyone or anything. Most often it means slow down a bit and keep going and only stop if the car in front of you has stopped. Then you can sound your horn loudly-as if that helps.
Speed Signs - these are aspirations not limitations. In other words a sign saying the maximum velocity is 60 kph is a taunt. It suggests that in some alternate universe you might actually reach that speed. Unless of course you are on a country road and then it is just to be laughed at with derision, offer asmile and wave (and of course the sound of a horn) at the police carand officer sitting next to it as you blur past. The aim is to see if you can double or triple it without killing yourself or the passengers in your car or small children on the side of the road. We won’t even mention the signs to reduce speed “diminuir velocidad”.
We have an interesting sign on the corner near our apartment “No Entre - Sentido Contrario”. In English this is understood to mean “Do Not Enter - One Way”. This sign means as long as you can get through then have a go. If you can’t get through weave around the cars coming the right way and see how you go. Or wait until its clear then drive the wrong way. Or, if there is a policeman sitting on his motorbike on the corner by the sign, start to turn in, see what he does, think better of it, then go back to the main street and try another street.
Line markings on the road are a job creation scheme. For example our favourite roundabout (“el ovolo de muerto” - the oval of death) has three lanes into and out of it, but we have seen eight or nine “lanes” with cars weaving in and out of each other. There is no give way to the right or leftrule. And this is all with the traffic police on their little stand blowing a whistle and waving their hands, which means nothing.
Down the street are some yellow caution arrows indicating there is a curve in the road that were installed after someone did not take the curve in the road and drove straight through the brick wall at the end. But, the wall was replaced and painted within 24 hours and the signs installed a week later so no harm done, except to the car and maybe the driver.
A favourite sign is “No Pisar El Jardin”. Those of you who are familiar with the Spanish language will of course recognise that this means “Do Not Step on the Garden”. What did you think it meant? It could mean that as well.
There are also disconcerting signs about what to do in the case of earthquakes or tsunamis - RUN.
Finally, there are also obvious lack of signs, such as small busses that give no idea where they are going and no identified bus stops. Just stand on the side of the road and a bus will stop, maybe. You then have five seconds to ask the guy leaning out the door where it is going and get on before it takes off again. Get off wherever you want as long as it stops.
To be continued at a later date….we are still learning.