Monday, January 16, 2017

Unraveling a Musical Mystery

16 January 2017

We're still in Lima, we had a few more tasks to take care of and it was just easier to do here than in a new location.

Richard found a doctor who is a specialist in tropical diseases, and we've visited him twice to deal with the pirate parasites.  Richard is now armed with other antibiotics and we're giving those evil hitchhikers a one-two punch, first a left and then a right hook.  Or something like that.

We also needed to take care of the yellow fever issue.
Apparently one needs a World Health Organization (WHO) card to enter Brazil, stating that either we've had yellow fever inoculation, or that we have a medical reason to not do so.

Turns out that the CDC recommends people over 50(ish) NOT get yellow fever vaccines, there's an increased rate of adverse reactions to the serum used.  And we're both over 60.  (Although I had a yellow fever inoculation in 1981 or so, before going off to Liberia in the Peace Corps - but I don't know if those records are available, nor if I can get a new WHO card with that old information.)

So Dr Tropical Diseases wrote a nice letter, in Spanish, saying we're too old to get the yellow fever vaccines (vacunacion de fiebre amarillo in Spanish), and told us to go to one of the national health centers to get the certification.  Of course, the place nearest our hostale turned out to have problems so that the staff person who does the certificates wasn't there.  We ended up at the children's hospital.  Surrounded by families with babies under a year or two old, getting their baby inoculations.  (Including fiebre amarillo, at about age 15 months.)  It was just funny, and ironic, or ludicrous, to get our WHO cards at the children's hospital, saying we're to old to get our yellow fever shots.

Between fun things like that, we visit the kitty park, read in the parks, and explore other parts of the city, or even more areas in our neighborhood.  We found a café and bakery that seems to specialize in small and almost miniature sandwiches and sweets, featured in the photos here.  I loved it, because I could try three different sandwiches, each one being only three to six bites (and the price was roughly 30 to 60 cents each)!  Plus look at that macaron, smaller than the bowl of a teaspoon!  So with sweets that tiny, I had a baby macaron and a teeny little truffle.  I thought it was great fun, but Big Rich wasn't quite as enthralled as I was.

And then, one afternoon, I encountered the oddest musical mystery.  I was having lunch in my friendly little neighborhood cafe today, and I heard a very familiar melody on their sound system. I listened a bit more closely, and while I couldn't understand any of the words (since I'm in Lima, Peru, and much of the music is in Spanish), I could have sworn I knew the melody.

I listened more closely, and suddenly I knew - this was the tune for "A Groovy Kind of Love" - a song from my youth!  I kind of hummed along, and while there were a few parts that weren't in sync with what I remembered, most of it was there.

So I asked my friendly waitstaff, since we chat every time I'm there - and here's the piece I heard. A song named "Agnese" by the singer Ivan Graziani. And it's in Italian:

Here's the Phil Collins version of "A Groovy Kind of Love" - it's slower than the original version by the Mindbenders, from the 1966 version. (Next post.)

So, Phil Collins:

And the Mindbenders:

Bizarre, isn't it? Not even the same song, and the Italian one is from some 13 years after the original English version.

I couldn't figure out what happened - how did these two songs end up with the same basic theme music??  Was it a spontaneous thing, like people in various parts of the world figuring out how to weave at the same time, without having contact with each other?  Or was it something else?

So, after more research, I found this gem: Wikipedia (useful despite its frequent inadequacies) says that "Groovy Kind of Love" is HEAVILY based on the Sonatine Op. 36 No. 5 - Rondo by Muzio Clementi, who wrote it in 1797 - and here's the link to that piece:


I'm guessing that both the British and Italian composers of the modern songs "borrowed" that distinctive lilting melody from Clementi - and since it was about 200 years after his original, there really weren't copyright violations.  

I felt like a detective, researching and figuring out all of this.  Pretty easy in the internet age, but I'm not a music person, so this was quite exciting!

So of course, the next day I had to explain all of this to my buddies at the café, in sort of a mix of English and Spanish.  And being young, they looked up the music on their smartphones, and connected the phones to the sound system, so everyone could hear the classical original and then the two modern variations on a theme.

Plus the original is allegro molto in tempo - Italian for "very fast" - which of course in Spanish is muy rapido.  While the two modern versions are slow and soulful love songs - in musical terms, lento, tardo, even adagio.  Modern Spanish would be despacio (which we see on traffic signs, as in SLOW), tranquillo, or even lentemente.  Yeah, you can imagine the conversation we had, tossing around all those terms!

Oh, I also took another ganache and truffle making class at the Choco Museo.  I was the only student, but they basically gave me a private class, which was wonderful!  My teacher was Fiorella, which means "little flower" in Italian.  She told me what to do and had me do pretty much everything.  We had a great time, and of course Richard enjoyed the truffles!

Lima never gets boring!

But we have a new adventure planned, and we head off on Saturday.  We're going to one of the major natural sights in South America, and I'm excited!  I don't want to give too much away, so that's all I'm going to say at this point.

Look for our next post to find out!!!

Friday, January 6, 2017

We Saw Three Kings Bearing Gifts

6 January 2017

Today is Three Kings Day, in many parts of the world.  Also known as Epiphany, and Twelfth Night, as in the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

In much of the Spanish-speaking world, Three Kings Day is a big deal; in Spain, this is even bigger than Christmas Day.  This is the day the three kings (or wise men, depending on your translation) brought gifts - the frankincense and myrrh and all.  So the tradition is that gifts are given to children on Three Kings Day.

We asked around, thinking that perhaps today would be holiday, offices might be closed.  No, it was a normal working day as far as everyone was concerned.

But then, we saw three men dressed as, well, someone's idea of what kings in the Middle East might have dressed like some 2000 or so years ago.  

Riding horses, because camels aren't as available in Peru?

There were police on motorcycles stopping traffic and escorting the Three Kings down the road.  And they were followed by two trumpeters on horseback. 

Not exactly angels we're hearing on high, but, well, they do make people hark.  Or hearken.  Or stop and take photos.

And accompanied by the official cleaner uppers, because, well, these are horses.

The kings would stop every so often and hand things to children, maybe candy.  By the time they started handing out their non-myrrh and non-frankincense, they were too far away for us to see that it really was.

But it was pretty exciting, and we passed them again, riding in a taxi on our way back to to our hostale.

I love local color, and this time we even had a vague clue what was happening!

Oh, final photo - a few blogs ago I wrote about the triple sandwiches.  I don't know if this is called a seituple or what, but it definitely has at least seven layers of fillings in there!  Green beans, carrots, avocado, cheese, tomato, maybe hot dogs on the bottom layer.........and beets or purple cabbage?  Not sure, but it's like a mosaic sandwich!!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

A Peruvian New Year's Eve

4 January 2017

Hard to remember to type 2017 - and wow, we're well into the 21st century!  Amazing!  Plus that means we've been on the road for 4.33 years already!

Last year we were in Valparaiso, Chile, for New Year's Eve.  This year's celebration in Lima wasn't as spectacular, but it was definitely more homey.

Just as in Chile, yellow is a major color for celebrating the New Year.  In Chile, we saw stands of yellow underwear for sale.  Didn't see the stands here in Peru, but one of the people working at our hostale said that his wife bought the entire family yellow undies, and everyone would wear them that evening.  The yellow is for good luck.  If a person wants to get more money in the coming year, then they wear green.

I have to add that I don't own any clothes in either color!  Both are just bad with my coloring, LOL!

So, our hostale staff prepared another fabulous feast and invited everyone for the celebrations.  Richard and I went downstairs about 9 PM to see what was happening, and I happily assisted in decorating the dining room.  The daughter of one of the staff and I blew up the bright yellow balloons, decorated with grapes (good luck), wine bottles, cheering people, etc.  We added streamers, and taped them across the long wall.  Not the classiest of decorations, but cheerful and, most importantly, YELLOW!

We also handed out the yellow plastic leis to people waiting around, and also hung them on the backs of the chairs.  The manager also put one on her chihuahua, who happily wore his lei the rest of the night.

The usual firecrackers and small fireworks started going off as soon as it was dark outside, and continued all evening.  We were in and out to see some of the bigger blasts.

Food was finally served, about 11:30 PM.  I'm guessing that eating certain foods about midnight and into the New Year is considered lucky - we encountered this in Spain, so that might be part of why dinner was served at what we think of as a really late hour.  (We had a lovely roast pork, sort of a Waldorf salad mixed in with lettuce greens, potato salad, and pasta salad.)

At midnight, the night erupted again as everyone started shooting off their fireworks - and then the city-sponsored fireworks started off over the shore!  They were huge, mostly white-gold-yellow-red, and went off at intervals along the coast.  We could see three separate sets exploding from the corner closest to our hostale, and they continued for maybe ten minutes.  They eventually stopped, though the other, smaller fireworks and firecrackers kept going for a few more hours.

There were also a few young people running around the neighborhood, with their rolling luggage.  I read that people do this in Chile as well, to ensure that they travel in the coming year.  It was quite a sight to see people racing around with their luggage bumping along behind them, based on an old tradition.

We went back inside, just in time for cake.  Richard and I bought the cake, because that's just the way we were brought up.  We bought the big sacher torte at the local supermarket, we weren't sure how many people would be at this celebration.  The cake ended up lasting two days, because Peruvians serve very small slices of cake.  (It was really good cake, but a small slice was plenty.  They even offered us more cake for breakfast, which we thought was really funny!)

Of course, then there was music, and people dancing, late into the night.  Things started quieting down maybe about 3 AM, although people were still partying in the street.  Yeah, not the quietest night.

The first was a slow day, with the usual kinds of places closed.  Of course, the kitty park was open, and the kitties were their usual adorable selves.

By the second, life was back to normal, and we've been dealing with the usual things - Richard's dental work, plus seeing the new tropical disease specialist who is advising us on the piratical parasites.  We're hoping to have everything taken care of by next week, so we can head somewhere else, and head off on new adventures!!!

Here are a few more photos of Peruvian holiday decorations - I think some of the tradition arts and crafts kinds of decorations.



Monday, December 26, 2016

The Salsa Carollers (for a Peruvian Christmas)

26 December 2016

It's always interesting to experience a holiday in another country.
So, Christmas in Lima.  We missed all of this last year, because we flew to Santiago, Chile.  Didn't know that Christmas in Lima is a blast.  Literally!

On Christmas Eve day, our hostale manager invited us to dinner that evening.  She said there would be other guests there, they had a big turkey, and it would be fun.  Things got started a bit after 9 PM, with a gathering of other people staying here - the group was mostly people from Colombia and Brazil, and a few people spoke some English.  So we had some conversations in English and Spanish, while music played in the background.  (I recognized one piece which we danced the merengue to in our ballroom dancing class!)

Of course, we wanted to bring a gift for our hostess, so we picked up a paneton (the Spanish word for panettone, the Italian Christmas bread) after sampling this brand at the supermarket.  (And it was served for breakfast this morning, the day after Christmas.)

Anyway, dinner was served maybe around 9:30-10 PM, with wonderful turkey, rice pilaf with raisins, and a tasty potato salad.  Red wine, and dessert was a cheesecake with sort of a blueberry topping.  
Then people got up and danced to the music - I'm guessing it would qualify as salsa dancing, but like tango, there's the North American version and the South American version.  So not exactly (or much like) what I know, but still lively and fun.  Not that Richard and I danced, but I watched for a while.

We went back up to our room - and there were occasional firecrackers, Roman candles, bottle rockets, and even huge fireworks going off.  A few right outside our window, so we could see the flashing and exploding colors.  Others down the street, loud enough to hear but not close enough to see.

Until midnight!  At midnight, the festivities absolutely erupted!  Huge fireworks, tons of firecrackers, things flashing and banging and booming and exploding all around us!  I love fireworks, so we ran downstairs to see what was happening - though everyone else was still dancing and/or hugging each other and wishes everyone Feliz Navidad.  I was grabbed for a few hugs, gave my own Feliz Navidads, and headed down the street - and there were actual huge exploding fireworks going off randomly all around the sky!  Some we could see, some were reflected in apartment windows.  Like a chaotic New Year's Eve but for Christmas!!!!!  How exciting!!!!

Things continued for a while, with people running around setting off strings of firecrackers on the street, but it was quieter by about 2 AM, so I finally went to sleep. 

Christmas started out fairly normal, with things quiet and slow.  Breakfast at the hostale.  Back to our room to check email and figure out what we wanted to do - and then we could hear a small brass band playing Christmas carols, getting closer and closer!

They came wandering down our street, about five or six men wearing Santa hats, with a saxophone, a trumpet or two, a couple of drums - playing music and holding out baseball caps for monetary donations!  They played "Feliz Navidad" and a couple of carols like "Joy to the World" - all with a very salsa beat in their style!  

I stood at our window and took some photos, but didn't have any change to toss down to them.  (And I know, from Myanmar, that bills thrown out of windows tend to waft and not go directly to people.)

It was just a very funny way of carolling, to come walking from house to house with this little salsa band!

This is one of the things we've noticed in travelling around South and Central America:  things seem familiar, because these are western cultures, and predominantly Christian (usually Catholic), and so it feels somewhat similar to the US, where we grew up.  The culture doesn't immediately come across as so very different and foreign, the way all of Asia and many of the Pacific islands felt - when we not only didn't know the language or culture, but we often couldn't even read the signs on buildings or streets.

But Central and South America really are very different from North America, and we feel that every time we come to something like a celebration of a holiday.  When was the last time you had fireworks for Christmas?  (I've never seen this, ever - though I don't celebrate Christmas.  But have you ever seen fireworks anywhere in the USA for Christmas?  And isn't it a fun idea?)

So even though the culture feels familiar and similar, then there are these startling differences that make us think, "Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore."

Sandwiches.  You'd think sandwiches would be, well, sandwiches.  And yes, there are some vaguely familiar sandwiches.

But most sandwiches are presented in a triple - which is pronounced TREEP-lay.  Yes, this is a triple-decker sandwich.  Four levels of bread, three different fillings.  Always served only a half at a time, because you really are getting two slices of bread, and a half portion of three fillings.

My favorite are the tuna salad-egg salad-tomato triple.  Then there's the egg-tomato-avocado triple.  A mixto (pronounced MEEX-to) is pretty much always ham and cheese, and is often served either as a double-decker sandwich, or on a croissant.  Plus almost always heated so the cheese is a bit melty.

We've also seen seven layer sandwiches, some a work of art.  Really, picture seven different fillings, lots of vegs in there with the cheese, egg, ham, or chicken.  Each layer of filling a different color.  No idea how someone opens their mouth big enough to take a bite.  

And the money!  I love the bills!  You know how in most of the world, paper currency usually has a picture of a famous person on one side of the bill.  The other side usually features an historic building.  Right?

So this is Peru.  And what is the single most famous historic building in Peru?  Okay, not one individual building, think group of buildings, or archaeological site.  Of course, Machu Picchu.  So the ten soles bill features Machu Picchu on the back!!!!  With some pre-Columbian artifacts as well.  How cool is that???  I absolutely love it!

The twenty features a wall of the ancient city of Chan Chan, which is up north near the modern city of Trujillo.  This city flourished in the period between about 850 to 1470 CE and was the capital of the Chimu civilization.  This civilization lost influence after the Inca gained power.

On the back of the fifty, there's the New Temple of Chavin de Huantar, another archaeological complex north of Lima (and at an elevation of over 9000 ft).  This temple was built by the Chavin culture in (approximately) 1200 BCE, so it's some 3000 years old!!!

Finally, the back of the 100 sol bill features the Gran Pajaten, located in the northern Amazonian region.  This is an archaeological complex that goes back to about 200 BCE, built by the Chachapoyas civilization.  It also is possibly the city thought to be El Dorado, the city of gold, which the Spanish conquistadors sought.

Who knew money could be a mini art history lesson?

If you want more information, I found this great website:

We're still enjoying our time in Lima - it's a great little city.  We visit the kitty park, visit our neighborhood cafés, eat takeaway meals in the park, and spend a little time in our nearby casinos.  (Where we were served the holiday snack of hot chocolate and a small slice of paneton one afternoon!)  

We now have our Brazilian visas in our passports, so we're good on that.

Richard still has a bit more dental work to finish up - his dentist is on a holiday break, so we're just waiting until he's back and things can get finalized.

Once we know when we can leave, we'll figure out where we want to go.  We have a plan that begins in early February, but that leaves part of January to maybe visit another country.

We'll keep everyone posted!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Return to the Kitty Park

19 December 2016

We came to Lima for two main reasons - Richard needed some dental work, and he likes a dentist here in Lima; and we need to get visas for Brazil.

Yes, there are Brazilian consulates scattered around the US.  The closest one to Bellingham, WA, is in San Francisco, roughly 1000-plus miles away.  The usual practice is to contact a visa service company in Seattle, submit the application forms, photos, support material, and the visa fee as well as the service charge - and the company sends all of that, with your passport, to the regional consulate.

We called in early September.  And were told that the visa applications couldn't be submitted to the San Francisco office until December, at the earliest.  

Additionally, we were told that all the Brazilian consulate staff were on strike.  ALL of them.  So nothing could be done until some unspecified time in the future.

A Brazilian friend of ours helped by contacting a friend of his in another regional Brazilian consulate, who offered to expedite our visa paperwork.  However, just sending everything off to some person we didn't know, in a place we weren't in, seemed, well, unsettling at best.  Potentially problematic.

So we came to Lima, and settled into our usual and favorite friendly hostal.  Sort of a cross between a hotel, B&B, and a hostel.  Or as another guest called it, a "poshtel."  As in a posh hostel.

Anyway, the Brazilian embassy and consular office is just around the corner and up two blocks.  Easy.  We visited and got all the info - we were told to go to their website, they have the application forms in English, we just fill out all the information and bring it back with a photo, the money, and the support information.  And it would only take five days.

It took a while to navigate their site, of course: because this is the Brazilian embassy in Peru, the website is in either Portuguese or Spanish, your choice.  

We managed to find the section on visas, and once there we found the button to turn that into English.  Attached our digital photos, scanned driver's license as well as the passport (personal info page only), our signatures.  Turned out the support documentation was proof of finances, as in three months of bank statements, so we printed that out.  Oh, and either a plane ticket or an itinerary, so we included that.

And submitted all that information.  (The guy at the desk was happy to see we had old and expired Brazilian visas.  They used to be for five years - the new visas will be for ten years!)  We had to go across the street to a bank and pay the visa fee, and return with a receipt which was attached to our application.

And that was it.  Well, accomplishing all of that was a bit more complicated, with a few visits to the one English-speaking guy at the embassy office to double-check we had the right website.  Plus more navigating around trying to figure out if we had the right form, and forever to download the bank statements.

We've checked their website, and we were approved to get our visas within two days!  Now we just have to wait until they say the passports with new visas attached are ready for pickup.  YAY!!!

Between all of that, Richard has had some of his dental work done - I won't go into all the details, but it was a little complicated and not a quick fix.

Fortunately for me, his dentist's office is up by Parque Kennedy, known to us as the kitty park.  This is where people used to abandon their cats, and a cat community sprang up.  For over 20 years, the cats have been cared for by the "Feline Defense Volunteer Group for Kennedy Park Kittens."  They make sure the cats and kittens are vaccinated, checked by vets periodically, fed, and hopefully adopted.  

Their little kitty info house has a sign saying that they've sponsored over 1,200 cat adoptions since they began.  They host adoption campaigns every weekend.  However, they caution that they only allow adoptions after a serious scrutiny of the people adopting a cat, including home visits.  They want to make sure the cats will be well taken care of and loved, as they deserve.  (And, like many animal shelter agencies, they require that the adoptions include sterilization of the animal if it hasn't already been done.)

Their info says that cats have been living in this park for over 25 years, and there are actually two distinct communities of cats.  Of course, we envision the Sharks and the Jets and kitty rumbles - but we haven't seen any kitty fights.  Maybe just a little alpha male posturing.

We've been through the park three times already, and the cats and kitties are as wonderful as always.  During the middle of the day, the cats nap among the flowers, or check out if someone having lunch in the park might be willing to share.  By late afternoon, people begin to gather in the tiny amphitheatre (which I call the kitty colosseum), talking, playing music, and of course visiting with the kitties.  And friendlier kitties find willing laps to sleep on.

In the evening, the nocturnal cats are more active, and they come out of hiding to wander around, find their feeding stations, and see what's happening.  Often there are impromptu music gatherings.  And this time of year, there are small craft markets for tourists and locals to buy gifts and food items for the holidays.

There's even a life-size Nativity scene set up - though no cat had yet found the crib, or at least wasn't sleeping there when I looked.  No, just visitors taking selfies in front of it.

Plus we're doing the normal things we do while travelling long-term - sitting in parks and enjoying the flowers, since this is late spring early summer here.  Getting haircuts, always fun to explain in a foreign language.  I usually resort to drawing a sketch of how I need to get my hair cut.  And a pedicure, my new indulgence.  Not so easy to explain that I have tender toes so don't over scrub, or that my white hair streak has a cowlick, or that my hair is a bit crazy in humidity.  But always an adventure to do these perfectly normal kinds of things!

We've also booked another adventure for February and most of March - but I'm going to leave that for later, closer to when we get to those dates.  However, it means we need to maybe get a few clothing items to be ready - some adventures require special clothing or toiletries, so we're trying to all of that in order.

We found a great burger restaurant for Richard's birthday, since that's something that we can't always locate.  Turned out that the restaurant gives a brownie sundae to guests with birthdays, so I managed to alert our wait staff and they brought this over at the end of the meal, complete with a candle that wouldn't go out!  And two young waiters singing in English and then Spanish, much hand-clapping, and of course an embarrassed Richard and me giggling uncontrollably.  Great fun!

One of our former hangout spots in Lima was a little cafe up the main street from our hostal, and we got to know the two young men who worked there.  One spoke English very well, the other not so much - but that made it easy for us to talk with them.  We hung out there, chatted, found out more about Peru, shared our views about our travels and where we've been, all that.  So we went back, and there's a whole new staff, and our friends nowhere in sight!  Finally, one day the English-speaking guy was there, and of course we had big hugs all around - he's starting a new job, his buddy has another job, and this was his last day.  But it was wonderful to see him, and get caught up again.  And he'll check the blog so we can stay in touch better.

I think this is one of our favorite things about travelling the way we do - yes, we go around and visit the famous sites and sights in the countries we visit.  But because we travel slowly, we don't need to rush.  We have days where we just LIVE in the location we happen to be in on any given day.  We don't have limits or constraints on our time, nor an itinerary.  We can sit in a cafe and chat with someone for an hour or two, and go back there over a couple of weeks.  Or we can chat with someone in a park, and see them again, and become more than just acquaintances. 

And with the wonders of the web, we can stay in touch.  We actually have stayed in contact with people we met in New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Chile - we're in touch on Facebook, or email back and forth.

It amazes me how easily this happens, and how easy it is to maintain a friendship in this internet age.  Even though we see people everywhere with their faces glued to their handhelds, seemingly isolated and barricaded from the outside world, that same technology also connects all of us if we choose to use it this way.

So hi to all of our friends and family who follow our blog.  Hi to all of our new friends who we've met along the way.  

(And hi to the 600 or so hits the blog received in one week from Russia!  I occasionally wonder if these are serious people looking at a travel blog, or if they think they can hack in and do something else.  But hi to you - and yes, this is just a simple travel blog.)