It’s tough to put down the camera, but here I am back indoors settling in to share some photographs and paint some mental pictures as well.
In October of 2012 I received an E-mail from Sean Kelly at CUSO International to cast another tempting opportunity my way, Would I be interested in signing up for another photographic posting, this time to Peru. It had to be a trick question, because it would be like asking a hungry man, it he’d like a three course meal. I felt a little like Sally Field You like me, you really like me.
It did, however, come down to timing and the initial timeline was for departing in mid January. Not bad weather-wise, but I had to consider other family responsibilities that were pressing on me at the time. However, by mid December I’d made up my mind and the wheels were set in motion. CUSO’s greatest challenge would turn out to be finding a Journalist that would also be interested and available, and who spoke Spanish. As a result it was the end of January before they were able to confirm departure dates and who my Hardy would be, this time around.
Someone at CUSO was thinking and Annie Theriault, from San-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec who is already posted in Lima, is taking a short leave from her current assignment to work with me.
My trip from Toronto to Lima on Tacca Airlines was uneventful, with one connecting flight in San Salvador. As you might imagine I left Pearson dressed lightly with just enough to get me from the car to the terminal in -5’C. San Salvador was a sweltering, humid 30’C and Lima wasn’t much better. The saving grace was that our arrival in Lima was under the cover of night and a cool breeze was blowing in off the Pacific.
Lima is a very large city on the Pacific, built on a coastal dessert with a population approaching 9 Million inhabitants. Now consider that the number of personal vehicles has doubled in the past twenty to thirty years and you have a pretty clear picture of the traffic mayhem. It’s crazy. Now imagine that we don’t start today to build a network of subways in Toronto and you’ve got a living example of the chaos to come.
Therein lies the adventure. My first day in Lima was spent on a refresher course regarding safety & security, diseases & food concerns and how to navigate the complex system of taxis and privately run busses. However, as the work day came to an end, it was back to the apartment that I’m sharing with two other volunteers, change out of my sandals and shorts, and out to navigate the streets in Rush Hour traffic, Fun Wow! I successfully found my way to the Metropolitano an articulated-bus right-of-way that runs from Miraflores on the coast, inland to the Casco Viejo or old part of Lima, to stroll the pedestrian boulevards and take in the night life around the central square, La Plaza de Armas.
A great number of streets surrounding La Plaza de Armas, have been transformed into wonderful pedestrian boulevards, and in my experience, wherever this is done, the locals and tourists alike, flock to these people friendly areas, like flies to… bright lights. There was a military band playing in the square, vendors hawking everything from children’s toys to cell phone covers, families with young children, teenagers holding hands, old men lining up for a shoe shine, woman arm in arm recounting their day’s challenges and the lovers. Ahh!! the lovers, taking over the benches and seemingly oblivious to the human traffic surrounding them, aware only of each others eyes. It’s the same everywhere. We are so much more alike than we are different.
For all our orderly by-laws and regulated urban planning, we have a lot to learn about humanizing our large urban centres, from places far more chaotic, like Lima. We could have the best of both worlds, if only there were the vision, the political will and the passion to see it through.