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A photo from Lima's Past

Posted by Marco Antonio Mendoza Sunday, January 30, 2011 3 comments

The blog Una Lima Que Se Fue is a vault full wonderful artifacts from Lima's past.  As the city of Lima continues to evolve the relics of a beautiful city slowly begin to erode from sight.  Thankfully this website is doing what few others have attempted and that is archiving the cities history and past, through the many aging photographs and documents. 

Today I found a photo that really caught my eye and just had to share it with you.  I'm not quite sure who the hooded women behind the baby is but the title reads: "Another Wet Nurse".  I'm not entirely sure what a wet nurse is but she looks like some kind of nanny.  Look it up on Wikipedia if you really want to know.

Iquitos and the Mighty Amazon

Posted by Marco Antonio Mendoza 0 comments

Tom Filipowicz in Chiclayo gives us the rundown on the popular Amazonian destination of Iquitos.


Article brought to you by Mochica Hostess Tours


Back in the forties and early fifties the movie houses always showed ‘news shorts’ before the main feature. Frequently there were 30 second clips on the ‘Amazon Jungle and the mighty Amazon River.’ The jungle had lots of monkeys and huge snakes and other dangerous things, but even worse were the Jivaro head hunters. These guys were fierce. I mean, before you could say “Hello, my name is…” Whap! - your head would be in a pickling pot with your lips sewed shut. We kids (and quite a few adults) used to fantasize about the Amazon and vowed that when we grew up we’d go there. It took more time than expected, but I finally made it.

Iquitos is a city on the Amazon accessible only by air or boat. It is the place I would recommend to anyone who could visit Peru only once in their lifetime, because Iquitos is a composite of almost everything Peru has to offer.

The city itself has three ‘faces.’ The inner city is not much different from any of Peru’s major cities or larger towns. Anyone from Chiclayo, Arequipa, Cajamarca or even Lima would feel a familiarity walking the streets.

A second facet of the city is the river shore inhabitants. This would include Belen to the south and the fringe area bordering the city’s east side, as can be seen while walking the malecònes Tarapaca and Maldonado.

A third distinct segment is what appeared to me to be new communities being carved out of the jungle on the city’s south side. I say “appears to be new” because in Peru what looks new may be ancient or vice versa, probably because the architecture and building materials don’t change. Houses in this section are being built with untreated lumber and thatched roofs as they have been for centuries.

Several characteristics stamp Iquitos with a distinct personality. First would have to be the comparative scarcity of taxis and other private autos. In their place are thousands of moto taxis and motorcycles. Only in the jungle or outskirts of the city can you escape the sound and smell of these metal beasts. The heat and humidity were to be expected but still, the first step off the plane at the airport was like being confronted by a hostile living force. Another difference is the speech pattern of the Iquiteños, which is sing-song and melodious compared to coastal city dwellers.

And speaking of the residents, I would bet that as a percent of the total population, Iquitos has the largest gringo population of any city in Peru. There is almost never a time when several are not in view. Some are tourists, but the majority we saw were unquestionably residents, with many of them projecting an image of having ‘gone to seed’ over time. Whatever it is in Peru that brings out that ‘free spirit’ look, Iquitos has more than its share. There is even an English language newspaper – the Iquitos Times.

There is more to do and see in and about Iquitos than I expected. We managed to see everything we wanted to in five days, but just barely. A trip to the excellent tourist office will provide the visitor with maps and most of the standard tourist options.

Among the standard attractions we saw were the Manatee Rescue facility, sponsored by the Dallas World Aquarium, and that same day the nearby Quistococha zoo/lagoon/park complex. Both were worth the time. One of the attractions I reluctantly agreed to was a boat ride up the Momòn River to visit the Yahùas tribe. I was reluctant because I expected to see a theatrical production followed by various approaches to extract the last penny from my pocket…which for me is exactly what it turned out to be. Enough said about that. Subsequent days found us at the Amazon Sculpture museum in the city, and the ‘Serpentario’ located on the Nanay River, also enjoyable experiences.

The Belen market is worth seeing, but it is not a pleasant area in terms of sight and smell. Most people we talked with told us to avoid the area after 5:00pm because of pickpockets.

The activities we enjoyed most were ones we created ourselves. Boarding a colectivo at one of the terminals and riding it to its destination terminal is a good, inexpensive way to see the city. It’s also a cooling experience during the heat of the day as colectivo windows have no glass.

If you’re willing you can walk a long way along the river front in either direction from the Boulevard. Each step reveals a different perspective of the river shore inhabitants and their daily lives/activities. It was interesting to watch the river boats being unloaded at the Produce Market. It was mostly bananas and charcoal we saw being unloaded.

One of our favorite activities was to ride a moto taxi to the port of Nanay, and there to charter a peque-peque to take us to various destinations we selected on the Nanay and Momòn Rivers. We were told they don’t go on the Amazon as the current is too much for a peque-peque to handle. You don’t need a guide. Simply point to the place on a map that you would like to go and then negotiate the price with the captain.

Though there is lots of boat traffic on the rivers, riding on the Momòn River instills the feeling of a wild river and jungle environment without having to travel for many miles at significant expense. Incidentally, during our five days in the city, on the river and in the jungle we never saw a mosquito.

Walking the boulevard; stopping for a meal or cool drink (camu-camu became our favorite) and people watching is a relaxing pastime, especially toward sundown when the place comes alive. It reminded us a bit of the bohemia feel of Lima’s Kennedy Park and of Mancora.

I can understand why people would be attracted to Iquitos. It’s got something for most everyone plus there’s the attraction of the wild jungle just around the next bend in the river. The Jivaro head hunters are gone, but hey!...you can’t have everything!

Tom

If you’d like to experience events like this and get a taste of real daily life in northern provincial Peru, speak to Tom & Maribel via Mochica Hostess Tours

Pasta with Tomato-Bellpepper Sauce

Posted by Marco Antonio Mendoza Friday, January 28, 2011 2 comments


Yesterday in order to kill the boredom of being under house arrest (not literally) I decided to cook lunch for the two of us.  Work is totally awful this month and I have been stuck in perpetual vacation status until further notice and while that might not sound so bad you should probably take into consideration the fact that Zdenka and I are practically counting down the days now until Rosemary is born.  Zdenka's condition has made it hard for her to walk which means she gets tired easily, and I mean EASILY, after one or two blocks she is so winded that she has to rest and often it's hard for her to push forward.  This has led us to spend quite a lot of time indoors.  Anyways with limited options for entertainment in my home I decided to cook as it is one of the few things that I enjoy doing while at home.  For yesterday's lunch the unanimous vote was made for the family favorite of pasta in red sauce, not very original but a dish that is well on it's way to perfection. 

I have said it more than once and I will continue to proclaim my love for community marketplaces in Peru.  In my opinion they beat any supermarket in the US hands down in produce any day of the week.  Fresh and inexpensive make it easy to cook wonderful meals from scratch.  All the vegetables that you see in the photos above only cost me S/.2 which is almost $1!!!!!  To make this wonderful pasta favorite we needed red onion, bell pepper, carrots, tomatoes, pasta, oregano, basil, cumin, tomato paste, bay leaves, garlic, and paprika.  Most of these ingredients make up the wonderful red sauce. 


For the onion, bell pepper, and tomatoes I like to cut them in halves and then grab a skillet or frying pan placed on med-high.  I add a little bit of vegetable oil or olive oil and fry the vegetables on one-side until they are a little charred.  I am not 100% sure but I believe that by doing this the vegetables sugars are caramelized in the process giving them a stronger flavor.  For the tomatoes and bell pepper I like to then place them in a plastic zip bag and let them smoke for at least an hour or so.  This makes the outer skin peel off very easily when I dice them up later.  The next step for me is usually to dice the onion, garlic, and carrots into small pieces.  Once this is done I grab a medium sized sauce pan/pot and on medium with a bit of olive oil, I fry the onion and garlic until golden brown.  Once the onion and garlic are golden in color I then add the carrots with a bit of powdered cumin and paprika (the powdered ingredients are all measured to taste, but I would recommend using very little cumin and paprika in the sauce as they tend to be very strong flavors).  This is all mixed together to make what Peruvians here call Sofrito, which will the base of the sauce.  after about  5-10 minutes I turn the heat down to med-low and add the an additional ingredient which may not be available in the US called Aji Panca paste (a paste made from the red Aji pepper), this gives the sauce an additional level of flavor that is subtle but a wonderful addition.  After this I push all of the mixture to the inside corners of the sauce pan, leaving the center exposed and pour the tomato paste into the middle where the heat will help to break down the pastes acidity (I also add just a pinch or two of sugar to help in this process).  After another 5 minutes I finally add the tomatoes and the bell pepper into the mix and let simmer for another 10 minutes on low.

Photo of my wife Zdenka preparing the pasta

Above you can see the tomatoes being fried on one side


After the ten minutes are up I turn off the heat and let sit for a few minutes before transferring it to the blender where it is then liquefied.  This process goes smoothly when you do it in batches rather than all at once, also I add a little bit of water to help it reach a puree like consistency.  Once the sauce is in puree for I place it in a separate bowl while I place the original sauce pan on the stove under low heat.  They say that when cooking the essence of flavor of a dish often is left stuck to the pan or pot, which is why it's so important to not leave it behind.  To do this I grab a red wine (we have wine from Chincha of the Southern coast of Peru) and add a splash or two to the pan and let that alcohol clean the pan and collect all those tiny bits and morsels of flavor goodness.  I let the wine simmer for about 5 minutes to cook off the alcohol (it's not a religious sin to cook with alcohol since in most preparations the heat burns off the alcohol only leaving behind the flavor, so relax!), once this is done I transfer the sauce into the pan with the wine.  IMPORTANT at this point you need to be prepared and move quick as the sauce will start to bubble and spit hot sauce everywhere.  This is where I add black pepper, salt, oregano, bay leaves, and basil leaves, they will help to really bring the sauce together and give it it's final form.  Let the sauce sit for another 10 minutes on low and then serve hot.  I like to serve this dish with a little fresh grated Parmesan cheese.  To make this dish you will need the follow to make the red sauce:


INGREDIENTS FOR THE TOMATO-BELL PEPPER SAUCE

  • 4 tomatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 bell pepper
  • a handful of fresh basil leaves (Albahaca in Spanish)
  • salt (to taste)
  • black pepper (to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • 2 teaspoons of Aji Panca paste (about 20 peruvian cents worth) Optional
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • dried oregano (to taste)
  • olive oil
  • pasta (I prefer screw pasta or fettuccine, but any thick pasta will do)
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 tablespoons of garlic
  • 3-4 bay leaves (In Peru these are called Laureles and they usually come with a wild black mushroom)

Photography in Lima, Peru

Posted by Marco Antonio Mendoza Tuesday, January 25, 2011 1 comments

Since I arrived in Lima I have been taking photos like crazy of anything and everything that best captures life in the big coastal city.  When I'm not on the streets I spend quite a bit of time searching the web for Limeñans and Peruvians who share a similar passion for photography and art, fortunately there are ALOT!

A favorite website of mine is PeruFotoLibre, which is a blog that covers everything interesting the photography world.  It is also a great page to find out about what is hot and current in the photography community in Lima, like events and art expositions.  The page is in Spanish but there is a lot of useful and interesting content on there page.


Another great photography page is also that of an private exhibition gallery in Barranco called Espacio Exhibe.  Their website has photos from several great Peruvian artists. 


Lastly another El Comercio, the popular Peruvian newspaper has put together a Flash photo slideshow of the Rimac river from it's beautiful beginnings high in the mountains of the Peruvian Sierra to it's appalling and depressing form found in Lima, the countries capital.  The slideshow documents the grim and sad reality of one of Peru's most well known rivers.  I highly recommend this!

Another Ultrasound

Posted by Marco Antonio Mendoza Thursday, January 20, 2011 1 comments

Today was a very full day with the trip to the Peruvian immigration office in Breña (conveniently located a block from Zdenka's parents house) to pick up our new Peruvian passports, followed by a trip to downtown Lima to pick up our OFFICIALLY translated marriage certificate (so much paperwork for a K3 visa!).  Our last stopped was not a mandatory one but one of personal interest, as we both decided to head over to the Policlinica Chincha so Zdenka could get another ultrasound.

The Clinic is one of many satellite hospitals run by EsSalud and is considered one of the more popular ones to visit.  Unfortunately due to its small size and the large number of patients that attend there the wait can be dreadful, luckily Zdenka had befriended the ultrasound technician during our first visit and so we were attended rather quickly (just another example that "who you know" matters in Peru).






The ultrasound office was a small one which consisted of a wooden desk, the huge ultrasound machine, the patient bed, and several windows draped with blue curtains.  The room was dark with the lights off so as to help the technician (a very pleasant middle aged woman) view the ultrasound machine.  Zdenka lied on the table and exposed her fairly small belly which was quickly greased up with some clear petroleum based gel.  Unlike other visits it did not take long for the technician to locate Rosemary resting in an upward position with her feet pointing towards the cervix opening.  We were informed that if the baby did not move from her current position before the birthing that a Cesarean would have to be performed.  The whole visit only last about 15 minutes but it was wonderful to see my baby again.  Definitely looking forward to the day when I can hold her in my arms!



My little baby!

I'm Back!

Posted by Marco Antonio Mendoza Tuesday, January 18, 2011 0 comments

I'm back from my extensive holiday vacation and while I blame some of my disregard for this blog on the gorgeous summer weather, I know that my massive procrastination is also at fault.  Let me just start by saying how much I am looking forward to my baby Rosemary being born.  Zdenka and I are practically counting the days now as we expect her arrival sometime in February.  Amazingly the pregnancy has gone well for the Mrs. with the exception of the dreaded hospital consults.  EsSalud (state run public health care) is a mad house run by a bunch of underpaid state employees whose diminished morale have converted them into soulless ogres (don't even get me started on the nurses who never take responsibility for anything), with the exception Dr. Valdivia. 


On a lighter note, I have been frequenting the beaches of Chorrillos at least once a week since the summer began in late December.  Zdenka is crazy about the beach (me not so much) so we've spent quite a lot of time sunbathing and relaxing to the sounds of the Southern Pacific coast.  Resting in a hammock style chair under the shade of an umbrella with a cold beer in one hand and a chicken sandwich or fresh ceviche in the other  (beach ain't half bad), and what makes it even better is the fact that it's only a 10 minute car ride from home.


Work is SLOWLY starting to pick up but somehow hasn't kept students from haphazardly canceling classes at the last minute on the basis of a whim.  I laugh when I look back and remember how I used to be a lazy ass (not 100% reformed yet) who would beg and plead with the gods for a sick day or snow day to skip out on work, ah memories. 

Today was Lima's anniversary as the city celebrated it's 476th birthday and to mark this important date the new mayor of Lima, Susana Villaran announced today that only new vehicles would be allowed into the public transportation system.  This decision was made to help combat the cities growing problems with pollution and old and unsafe transport vehicles which flood the streets.  This could be a good step for Lima but one which will definitely cause tensions in the public transit sector.  It should be interesting to see how exactly the mayor intends on putting her plan into action.  The general response of the public seems to be in favor of the mayor's proposal and many have addressed concerns as to what will be done to deal with the already massive number of combi's that circulate through Lima.  This should be an interesting year!

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A travel blog about living abroad in Lima, Peru and my travels to cities like Cuzco and Machu Picchu. Inti Aperture is a blog about travel, Peruvian food, culture, adventure, jobs, tourism, travel, news, teaching English, photography, and living abroad, making it a perfect resource for the traveling expat.
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