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Lima Journal, Part I

Cathedral of Lima

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At breakfast, there is a magnificent spread. Within this spread are grapes the size of tennis balls and papaya juice the thickness of chowder.

There’s also chocolate milk — a very civilized thing to offer for breakfast, I think.

I discover something odd: It never rains in Lima. I mean, like, never. A lady gives me a geological explanation, but I can’t quite repeat it. Apparently, Lima is the second-driest city in the world, after Cairo.

A funny question occurs to me: Can you buy an umbrella in Lima? For the sun, maybe.

But look: It is rarely sunny here, I’m told. There are about three months of sun, and the rest of the year is cloud and mist. I get the geological explanation for this, too — but, again, can’t repeat it.

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My friend says to me, “No sun, no rain, and earthquakes — that’s Lima.” There are earthquakes or tremors here all the time. In buildings — a two-floor restaurant, for example — you’ll see signs with a big letter “S.” I believe the letter stands for “Seguridad,” or “Safety.” You’re supposed to stick close to that sign if you don’t have time to evacuate the building.

(I believe I have that right — don’t take my word as gospel.)

A piece of local intelligence: A lower-floor apartment or office costs more to rent. You don’t necessarily want to be on a higher floor. And are you worried about the view? Well, there’s that cloud and mist, so much of the time.

The coast reminds me strongly of California. In one stretch, I could be in Santa Monica. Where’s the pier? De Soto points out to me, “Well, it’s the same coast, just 4,000 miles to the south.” Now that you put it that way: True.

It can be an adventure to cross an intersection, or, even more, a traffic circle, on foot. I guess you just kind of wade in, boldly. I remember the advice an Egyptian-American friend gave me, as we were in Alexandria, and, later, Cairo: “Don’t think. Just cross.” Harold Hill, from The Music Man, had his “think system.” This was a “don’t-think system.”

Here is an interesting street sign: “Guillermo Prescott.” A striking combination of names. Later, I go in search of this figure. From Wikipedia: “William Hickling Prescott (May 4, 1796 — January 28, 1859) was an American historian and Hispanist . . .” Nice.

Here is another street sign: “Dos de Mayo.” It occurs to me that every date is significant, to someone. I mean, not just personally — birthdays, wedding anniversaries — but politically, historically.

So, do you want this journal in one part or two? One longish thing or two shortish ones? Let’s go for the latter — and I’ll see you tomorrow.



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