Dramatis persona*

helenhead Helen Chick

I've always wanted a bumper sticker that said "I'm a female, LDS/Mormon, Scout leading, geocaching, piano-playing, bicycling, mathematics educator with a PhD in maths ... and I VOTE"!

I think this makes me a minority group of cardinality 1!

* Since there's only one of me and "personae" is plural (I think), I've gone with dramatis persona.
October 2019
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BT – A tale of two cities II – Lima

We arrived in Lima fairly late at night and so didn’t get a good sense of what the city looked like as we were driven to our hotel. The following morning, however, we were picked up by our tour guide for a city tour. We had a look at some of the dramatic coastal escarpment (of which more later), and a sculpture known as El Beso (the kiss) in the “Parque del Amor”, where locals and tourists come to kiss at sunset … and other times of day.

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We then made our way to the city centre (S 12°2.7′ W 77°1.8′). In the main plaza we saw the neo-classical architecture, some of it rebuilt after devastating earthquakes. There were black vultures wheeling overhead, mixing it with the pigeons in terms of taking over buildings. We were also very aware of the more humble accommodation that was visible, crammed onto the nearby hillsides, an early suggestion that Peru was going to be very much a land of contrasts between rich and poor.

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The morning’s highlight was to visit the monastery of San Francisco (St Francis of Assisi), with its imperiously dark Spanish-Latin American Catholic ostentation: tiled cloisters with large frescoes, massive paintings for the stations of the cross (from the Rubens school), gilt ornamentation, and an abundance of depictions of martyrs (though we couldn’t take photos). The thing it is probably most famous for is the extensive set of catacombs that run beneath the church, with piles of skeletal remains, sometimes ordered, sometimes disordered, with skulls and thigh bones particularly prevalent. I found it less macabre than it might sound (depending on your sensibilities). The amusing — and slightly scary thing — about our visit was to watch two painters precariously working on the cupola on one of the towers (Australian workplace health and safety would not approve!).

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We also learned how aspects of local culture had been integrated into religious iconography, with guinea pig being served in the painting of the Last Supper, and the depiction of Mary as a mountain shape in honour of Pachamama, the Andean mother earth goddess.

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After the tour we ended up on the coast at the Larcomar mall (S 12°7.9′ W 77°1.8′), a rather ritzy shopping area cut into the conglomerate escarpment overlooking the coast (the suburb of Miraflores, where we stayed, is one of the posher areas of Lima). After some hesitation deciding where to eat (there was a lot of choice but it wasn’t always clear what was on offer) we settled on a restaurant where I had an interesting Peruvian stew of octopus, scallop and potato, which was very nice.

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After a leisurely afternoon we headed out again in the evening, back to Larcomar, where we wandered along the cliff tops taking some night shots to celebrate New Year’s Eve. There was also a Paddington Bear statue … although I am not sure that this bit of Lima truly counts as “darkest Peru” from whence Paddington apparently came. By this stage we’d both decided that staying out until midnight proper was too much effort, not least because we knew we had an early-ish start in the morning. I put on a little light show with a pocket torch in a feeble attempt to be celebratory!

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On our way back to the hotel, a moment of mild madness saw us purchasing a couple of pairs of yellow plastic “Feliz 2017” festive spectacles from a roadside vendor, as yellow is the Peruvian lucky new year colour. It was not even 11pm by the time we returned, but, after sorting out some photos and Facebook updates, the roar of midnight fireworks going off all over the place let us know that 2017 had well and truly arrived (Peru is one of the last places around the globe to get the new day).

Feliz años nuevo.

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