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Lima

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This page describes my life now in Lima, Peru. Most people arriving in Lima for the first time receive the impression of a dirty, polluted, over-crowded, noisy, chaotic city which it is for the most part, but it isn't all bad by a long way.

If it were possible to beam down StarTrek-style direct to my home you would find yourself in a mini-apartment on the top floor of a two-storey house in an attractive residential part of Miraflores. My apartment has three rooms; the main living/bed room has bookshelves and cupboards, a table with three chairs, a two-person sofa facing my television, a built-in wardrobe, and the double bed is in an alcove by a window facing west. At one end of the main room next to the entrance door is a separate kitchenette which has a worktop with a two-ring cooker built in at one end and a sink at the other. There is also an ancient but serviceable refrigerator. At the other end of the main room is a separate bathroom with a shower.

The essential luxuries I possess are a 19-inch colour TV equipped with Second Audio Program so I can receive more channels in English (around sixteen) from the eighty or so channels of cable TV; an active speaker system so that I can listen to the radio and music played on my Discman and Walkman; and a portable PC that I picked up very cheaply from a market stall in Stratford, East London when I was back in July 1999 and which I use for e-mail and to produce these Web-Pages.

The property owner Angela Alva, who is of course my landlady, lives in a larger apartment next to mine, and there is a family living as tenants in the apartment on the ground floor. The whole property is quite soundproof so I hardly ever hear any of my neighbours and since the whole surrounding area is relatively quiet; it is really quite a peaceful apartment.

On the opposite side of my street there is a small park of about 50m x 40m with flowering trees and shrubs and flowerbeds and a small religious shrine in the centre. Beyond over the roof tops looking east the first foothills of the Andes mountains about 3km away appear through the haze. If I turn left after going out of the door, walk 40m, turn left, walk 50m, and cross the road I am at a medium size, good quality supermarket (Wong). Just past that there is a shopping centre with six banks, a 24-hour pharmacy, and other shops, so as far as shopping goes my apartment could not be more convenient. This whole shopping area is called Centro Comercial Aurora. Then if I walk another 100m beyond the shops I come to a main avenue where I can take a microbus to Miraflores. There are buses every few minutes, the ride to the centre of Miraflores takes less than ten minutes and costs 30 cents. Alternatively, a ride in one of the plentiful cruising taxis would cost 90 cents. (All the prices I quote in my narrative are in U.S. dollars and cents, since the dollar is the unofficial second currency of Peru.)

Miraflores is a popular district of Lima about 7 km south-east of the city centre and the south-western boundary is the beach of the Pacific Ocean. In the centre there are plenty of hotels of all grades, small shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, discotheques, cinemas, casinos, and other entertainment.

All this may sound quite pleasant and civilized but as you walk around the streets you will soon start to register some alarming differences from that which you may have been accustomed to. Nearly all the houses are surrounded by walls or fences at least two and a half metres high, topped off with spiked railings or electrified fences. You will see more armed guards and police than probably you have ever seen. Vehicles will ignore stop signs and traffic lights. Pedestrians look both ways when crossing a one-way street. Then you start to realise that Lima isn't quite like any European or North American city.
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These pages last revised 19th May 2000.
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Copyright © Exilian, Lima, Peru, 1999-2000