Karencita de Perú

Differences between Lima and Vancouver – Las Diferencias entre Lima y Vancouver

Posted on: August 4, 2010

Here I am once again writing to you from Lima.  It seems like forever since I have made a new post, but it has only been three weeks.  As most of you know I have been very busy during the past three weeks with my visit to Canada and then our trip to Cusco & Machu Picchu.   I have lots to write about with respect to Cusco and Machu Picchu and I have a tonne of photos to share, but today I thought I would mention some of the differences between Lima and Vancouver that jumped out at me during my visit back to Canada.

One of the biggest things I noticed is the difference in green space.  Having lived in Vancouver all my life I think I took the trees, plants, flowers and overall “greenness” of our beautiful city for granted.  Don’t get me wrong, there are trees, plants and flowers in Lima but nothing of the magnitude and quantity that we have in Vancouver.  There are no giant pines or cedars in the yards here and the streets aren’t lined with spectacular, mature trees that overhang the road and provide shade on hot, summer days.

I think there are two main reasons for the difference in vegetation.  One is that Lima is located in a desert and as such doesn’t have a lot of vegetation.  I know this sounds weird as I am always lamenting the humidity, but away from the ocean it is much less humid and the climate is quite dry.  The cerros (or hills) are mainly rock and dust as opposed to our tree-covered North Shore mountains.

The other main reason for the lack of green space in Lima is that it is much more densely populated.  The majority of the buildings butt up against one another with no space in between.  This is true for both commercial buildings and houses.   Houses here don’t have front and back yards like we are used to in Vancouver and buildings aren’t surrounded by beautiful, green landscaping.  Below is a picture of my mom’s apartment building in Vancouver and my apartment building here in Lima.  The difference in the green space around the building is quite noticeable.

Another difference is the traffic.  There is much more of it in Lima and, as I have mentioned before, the drivers are crazy here.   When I was in Canada, I drove again for the first time since I had left back in April.  Even though I had never driven in Lima, initially I found myself driving like one would have to drive on the streets here.   Then I remembered I was in Canada and didn’t have to be ultra-aggressive or expect people to cut me off at any moment.

Some interesting things about the driving in Lima are that the lines on the road appear to serve no purpose.  Lanes are not adhered to and people weave in and out (without signaling) constantly.  Another really strange thing occurs at major intersections when turning left or right.  In Vancouver, only cars in the left lane can turn left.  In Lima cars in the left, center and sometimes even right lane all turn left.  Everyone enters the intersection at once and this usually results in cars blocking the traffic going in the other direction when the light changes.  The same goes for turning right.  Cars in both the right and center lane with turn right.  This is where, as a pedestrian, you really have to watch out.  Finally, there are a lot of major intersections where, instead of having traffic lights, they will have police officers directing the traffic.  This seems highly inefficient to me and when I asked Luis about it he said it was cheaper to hire police officers than to buy and maintain traffic lights!

Also, as a pedestrian, after being in Vancouver and actually having people stop when I entered a cross walk, I had to re-adjust again when I returned to Lima so I didn’t get killed by the on-coming traffic when crossing the street.  I also had to remember that we don’t wait for the light to turn green here to cross the street.  We just wait for a break in the traffic and when there are no cars coming we cross the street regardless of the color of the light.

The final difference I noticed is a somewhat obvious one which is the language.  It was so strange to be in the Toronto airport in the line-up at Tim Horton’s and to be able to understand all the conversations around me without even trying.  In Lima when I am in a line-up at the supermarket or just standing on the street and there are conversations going on around me I can’t really understand them unless I specifically listen and concentrate.  It is just like ambient noise, more than a language.  But in Canada, whether I wanted to hear the conversations around me or not, I heard them and understood them.   This made me realize I still have a long way to go in learning Spanish but I hope that one day I will be able to subconsciously understand the conversations in the streets of Lima.


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