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I knew I should have made a left turn at Albequerque

Language is always fascinating to me, particularly in how linguistics can help to define a culture. For example, the fatalistic Chinese have no way of saying "If I had done..." because they believe if the event did not happen, it never could have. The famously rigid and traditional Japanese have no direct translation for "I love you" and the Navajo have no word for "History" because they do not believe in linear time. In the same manner, South American Spanish shows their lack of interest in having work be an all-encompasing part of their lives, unlike the life that many westerners lead.

It is not that they are lazy, simply most South Americans don't find importance in working twice as many hours so that they can save up to buy a fancier wisk or any other such infintitely important items. To that end, the Spanish word for "retirement" is "jubilacion" and one word for stress is "zozobra", where the verb "zozobrar" means to capsize; in North America, stress is a normal part of the working day. Here, it is believed to a deterrent to working well. Crazy folks, these South Americans.

I am now in Lima after finishing off an excellent five days in the paradise of Huacca China, aka Huacachina, aka Place Where I Want To Spend The Rest Of My Days. After a few more days of sanboarding, I decided with Justin and Nick and another Brit, Tom, to go and visit one of the vineyards in the nearby city of Ica. Ica is the major producer of Peru's finest wines, almost all of which is completely undrinkable. Most wines here are god-awful and totally unpalatable, so when we found an opportunity to drink them for free at the vineyards, we jumped at it.

We hired a taxi in the morning to take us between vineyards, the first of which was called Vista Allegre, where a 200-year old guide kept telling us "There are two great wines of the world: France and Peru." We figured he must have had a few bottles too many that morning to make such a comparison, but we let it go. We tried a few samples, most horrific, some worse, and then headed to the second vineyard, Tacama.

Tacama was much better - a very professional operation and with wines that were, in truth, quite good. After our tour, we went to the sampling section where the four of us were given a bottle of rose, one bottle of red and a magnum of champagne to drink. We polished off all three and our vision of the vineyard grew more beautiful while our occular vision grew increasingly dim.

Feeling quite good, we decided to do what all good foreigners ought to do when plastered in central Peru at lunchtime: we decided to eat guinea pig. Guinea pig, or "cuy", is a local delicacy and one buys it spit-roasted with bulging eyes still in the head and huge teeth jutting out over the spit, looking as appetizing as it sounds. Our taxi driver took us to the one place in town that was serving it, a fancy restaurant that didn't seem to be accustomed to serving gringos. We ordered, then found our way to the back where the restaurant had a beatiful swimming pool just waiting for four loudmouthed foreigners to jump into it. Not considering much (of anything), we all stripped down to our boxers and dove into the pool and swum about before getting out to eat our lunch. So there we were - sitting there, drunk, eating guinea pig in our soaking wet underpants in the middle of a fancy restaurant; sometimes life just doesn't get any better.

The next day was Sunday, my last in town, so we decided a good send-off would be to go to the local bullfights in the suburb of Gualdalupe. We went expecting romance and mystery, we arrived finding an empty stadium. Approximately 200 people showed up for the bullfights, making us feel even worse that they were going to kill some bulls for our meagre attendance, but already settled in, we decided to stay through it.

The first bull came into the ring and was forced to deal with three garishly dressed matadors and two poor bastards dressed as clowns that pretty much everyone in the audience wanted to see destroyed by the bull. All five had red capes and were trying to get the attention of the bull which just seemed thoroughly confused by all the hullabaloo. The bull moved about lethargically, deeply disinterested in doing anything bulls are wont to do, before being led back out of the ring due to lack of entertainment value, making this perhaps the world's smartest bull.

The second bull was then let in, all fire and brimstone, snorting and pawing the ground, majestic, awe-striking and powerful, and was promptly gored to death by three men in funny costumes. (Not the clowns. Their costumes weren't nearly as funny) After a few minutes of "Ole"-inspiring showmanship from the matadors, one went in and slid a sword two-feet deep into the back of the bull which intantly staggered, spat blood and died mere moments afterwards. Once the bull had fallen, the matador wandered about, bowing to the audience, as 8 totally unrelated senior citizens in capes came out of a side door and danced drunkely about the bull, pouring beer over its carcass, then sliced off its ears, which the matador tossed, still dripping blood, to a couple of lucky ladies in the crowd. Romance we wanted, romance we got.

We stayed about for two more bulls, neither of which were killed - I'm not sure I get the rules totally - and then I took the bus up here to Lima. Lima is everything you have heard it is, as long as you have heard that it stinks. It is overpopulated with over 30% of the country's population in one city, it is never sunny, it is incredibly crime-ridden and it is so badly polluted that you can't even see the ocean when it is less than 100 metres ahead of you. Some areas are nice, as is the architecture, but it will never be a place worth going to. I am just here on a three-day stopover before heading south down to Chile. Two days, if I can help it.

I left Paradise and am now sitting here, writing e-mail in the middle of downtown, situated right beside a massive concrete parking lot. I get the feeling Joni Mitchell is singing a song about me somewhere right now...