Karencita de Perú

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As I walk around the streets of Lima one of the most obvious differences from what I had grown accustomed to in Vancouver is the architecture and the way buildings are constructed.  Apart from the fact that Lima is a much more historic city than Vancouver and many of the buildings are hundreds of years older, there are two principal differences that stand out to me.  As well, there are a few other interesting things that aren’t commonly seen in Canada.

First, the majority of the buildings in Lima have flat roofs as opposed to peaked roofs, as is common in Vancouver and most other parts of Canada.  This is because having a sloped roof to ensure that the snow and rain-water run off  isn’t a concern in Lima.  Lima is in the midst of a coastal desert and gets an average of 13mm of rain per year.  Vancouver has an average annual rainfall of 1117 mm!!

Another reason that homes in Lima are built with flat roofs is that they are often added on to after the original construction.  As children grow up and start to have families of their own, it is common to expand the family home so that the new couple can live with the parents, but have their own space in the house.   Lima is densely populated and there is no room to build to the side, front or back of the house, so they build up, adding subsequent floors as more space is needed.  This practice of adding additional floors to a house leads to one of the things that isn’t often seen in Canada which is that a lot of houses appear unfinished.  They commonly have pieces of re-bar sticking out of the roof  in preparation for the future construction.

The other major difference is in the construction materials used.  In Lima buildings are constructed with concrete, cinder block, brick and re-bar.  In Western Canada the most common building material for individual homes is wood.  Again, this is due to geographic location.  In Western Canada there is an abundance of wood so lumber construction makes sense.  Conversely, there are no forests immediately surrounding Lima and no lumber industry to speak of in Peru.

In a country where central heating and air conditioning are very rare, concrete construction has the benefit of good insulation.  In Canada apartment building are often constructed on the outside with concrete but the inner walls are still made of lumber and dry wall.  In Peru, even the inner walls are concrete.  This is good for sound proofing, but it does make hanging pictures a bit of a challenge.

Apart from the differences in architecture and building materials, I have seen some other things that have caught my attention.   One of those is the electrical wires in the street.  Lima has very few underground cables.  The majority are  above ground, attached to poles, as is common in the older neighborhoods of Vancouver.   However, what you won’t often see in Vancouver is the tangles mess or archaic cables that you will find here.  It is really quite a frightening sight.

Another thing that is more commonly seen here than in Vancouver is abandoned buildings or buildings where the construction has never been completed.  In some cases these partially constructed buildings sit empty, deteriorating from disuse.  But there is one building which always makes me wonder how it is possible that people can be living there.  It is in the heart of Miraflores, one of the nicest districts in Lima, on Avenida Benavides, a main street.  The building is obviously unfinished yet it is inhabited by many people.  Imagine trying to get an occupancy permit in a building like this in Canada!

The final thing that I have seen numerous times that always grabs my attention is a difference in construction techniques.  It is common to see wooden poles used as supports during the construction process.  In Canada supports are generally made of metal so the image of what looks like a bunch of sticks holding up pounds of heavy concrete somehow doesn’t seem very safe to me, although I’m sure they know what they are doing!

There are many things about Lima that are very different from Vancouver… but not everything!   Sometimes when I walk down the street and see something familiar I can almost imagine I am back in Canada, that is if I block out the traffic, the noise and the crowds of people in the streets!!

Scotiabank has a very prominent presence here in Lima. It seems like there is one on practically every block.  This is great for me as I can us the ATM to take money out of my account in Canada in either US dollars or Peruvian nuevo soles without incurring any service charges.  I have only done this once so far and the exchange rate seemed pretty reasonable.

There are also some retail stores in common.  If I need new shoes there is Bata and Payless.

If I’m looking to do a little exercise, there is Gold’s Gym.  Or, if I need electronics maybe I can find what I’m looking for at Radio Shack.

If I feel the need for a good old North American meal I can choose from Tony Roma’s, Chili’s and T.G.I. Friday’s.  For those of you who like Tony Roma’s, it doesn’t exist in the lower mainland anymore.  The restaurant in Coquitlam is now closed so you will have to come visit me in Lima for some ribs and onion loaf… yes, I checked the menu and the actually have onion loaf here!  There are currently two Tony Roma’s in Lima with two more coming soon!

If I have a craving for pizza I can choose from Domino’s, which is a block and a half from our house, Pizza Hut or Papa John’s.  We ordered from Papa John’s last week.  I had always wanted to try Papa John’s in Canada but never had the chance.  I have to say, it is pretty normal… not the greatest pizza in the world.  However, we did get our pizza for free!!  They have a guarantee that the pizza will arrive in 30 minutes or it is free.  Our pizza took 45 minutes to arrive.  So, after making a phone call and a bit of fuss, they finally gave it to us for free.  We were happy… free stuff is always good.

There are lots of other fast food restaurants here… Burger King, McDonald’s and KFC are everywhere.  I haven’t tried them yet, but am curious to know if they are the same.  Neither of us eat much fast food so I don’t know when I’ll have a chance to try it.  I might have to make a point of it  just for purposes of comparison!

And finally, most comforting of all is Starbucks!  I have been very good and have only been to Starbucks once since arriving.  The prices at Starbucks here are equivalent to the prices in Canada, which comparatively speaking makes it VERY expensive for the average Peruvian.  A grande skinny vanilla latte is 10 soles (approx. $4 CAD).  You can get an entire meal here that includes a starter, main course, beverage and dessert for 7 or 8 soles.  Kind of crazy, eh?

Next time I’ll tell you about some of the uniquely Peruvian things that are very common here.

Only 5 more days and I will be in Lima!   The countdown has begun and I am getting more and more excited every day.

One of the things I am really looking forward to seeing in person is our apartment.  We decided on this apartment over 2 weeks ago, but it has taken a lot of discussion with the owner’s representative, translation of the contract to English and emails back and forth to get to the point of signing the contract… which I finally just completed tonight.

Our apartment is located in the district of Miraflores, one of the 43 districts within the Metropolitan area of Lima.  Miraflores is known for its shopping areas, gardens, flower-filled parks and beaches and is one of the most upscale, tourist-friendly areas of Lima.   The apartment is located on calle Bolivar and by coincidence is 2 blocks away, on the same street as the apartment where I stayed the last time I was in Lima.  I am familiar with the area, it is safe and I will feel comfortable living here.

It is a one bedroom, 700 sq. foot (65 m2) furnished apartment.   Here are some pictures.

The kitchen…I hope I can get used to a gas stove.  The appliance beside the fridge is a washer & dryer in one!

The living room… it has a sofa bed so please feel free to visit if you don’t mind sleeping in the living room.  The area by the door is where I plan to put my desk and work from home.

The bedroom…it has a large closet, a queen sized bed and a dressing table which I plan to use as my desk in the living room.

The bathroom… it actually has a counter top around the sink which is a rare thing as most apartments have pedestal sinks, plus is has a cupboard where I can store all my stuff!

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Miraflores in Lima Perú