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LIMA • PERU 4×4 Expeditio
JULY 5, 2006 • Wednesday
OK – well, this is my 3rd attempt to get this email typed & SENT. I typed for 15 min. last night & then hit the “MAGIC SPANISH KEYBOARD KEY.” Do you know which one this is? Well, it is the one that makes everything you just typed disappear!!! The kicker – IT HAPPENED AGAIN TONITE!! But I had just typed for a couple of minutes. Which key was it??? I don’t know!!! These crazy Spanish keyboards and driving me nuts! More on that later . . . the keyboards, not on me being nuts.
This was our first 4 hours of INTENSIVE SPANISH. What a trip. Our teacher is good. She was getting a little concerned about Michael when after the 1st hour of class, he kept uttering these guttural moans about every 5 minutes (strange way these Americans have of learning). The reaction from Michael could have been from the fact that she STOPPED SPEAKING ENGLISH AT ALL after the 1st hour (come to think of it, it made me want to do strange things, also)! We did finish the 4 hours, (she gave us NO BREAK the entire time). I guess we will go back tomorrow. Hopefully we did not scare the teacher off with our behavior.
We used the SAE (South American Explorer) office for a launching spot for our afternoon activities. The people there are wonderful. They had a list of embassies, which I had them email to me to forward on to the ones at home that worry about such things. The office (clubhouse) is a old colonial building, 2 stories, with great wood parquet floors, a big staircase that creaks, drinks, and LOTS & LOTS of information. There are travel books, travel logs, maps, computer & very friendly people. Mike was having email withdrawals and sat down to have a fix at the computer. Again, there were strange sounds coming from him. Curious as to the cause this time, I had to inquire. He explained to me that no matter which key he typed, the character that was printed on the key was different than what appeared on the screen. KNOWING that this could not possibly happen, I tried my fingers at it. He was at least partially correct. The “m” and “n” keys had been switched, and as for the symbols – NOTHING WAS AS IT APPEARED. I was able to do his typing for him, with much difficulty, at least because I don’t have to LOOK at the keys to type. As for the punctuation and symbols – it went out the door with the 3rd email.
As you have seen in some of the email messages I have sent, there is still plenty of punctuation, but maybe just not the right ones!! I had to type the entire top row to find the parentheses, and still never found both sides!!! I think I whole string of the comic strip bad words going on, but could not figure out what else to do!!! So pardon the bad punctuation. I actually DO know how to do it, just not from Spanish keyboards. (maybe that is why they talk so fast? They don’t have any punctuation!!!)
We switched hotels to one within walking distance of the SAE – Hotel Carmel. It appears quite to be about the same standard as the Best Western, but $25 cheaper. As SAE members, we pay only $35! Includes breakfast! We’ll let you know. The NOISE CONTROL HAS TO BE BETTER. We were situated right over the “bussing” area for the kitchen of the Best Western. I mean RIGHT OVER. There was a open chaise (no roof) one floor below us where all of the dishes went back and forth (dropping of silverware was also accomplished in this area). What we didn’t count on was that there was no A/C in the room and had to have the window open to be able to have a sleepable temperature. The other unaccountable factor was that they started prep for Breakfast AT 4:30AM!! I know this because I woke up each morning to the chatter of the cooks telling the tales of the night before at 4:30. How miserable. Also, there was some sort of construction, sledge hammer pounding against concrete sound that started about 6am. When we had not arrived until 1am on the 1st night, this was quite annoying, enough so that I was severely tempted to holler out the window to please be quiet. Then I re-evaluated where I was . . . well, you get the picture.
Ok – Hotel Carmel seems better already – A/C (no open windows tonight!) We are within 1=2 blocks of the main square of Miraflores – restaurants, shopping, banks, FedEx . . . This will be good!
|Lima City Gallery|
|July 6, 2006 – Thursday
Lima – Citibank Plays Monopoly
| Some people will do anything to avoid Spanish class!!
Yesterday, we learned that we probably had to have a visa to enter Paraguay. We don’t have one. We were on the steps of the Paraguay embassy at 9am when they opened to check our plight. Correct, we need one, but not a big deal. Fill out form, passport photos, leave passport with them for 1 day, and pay $65 each. So, Michael volunteered to go back to the hotel to get the passport photos while I went to SPANISH class. (how nice of him)
After about 1 hour I could hear Michael downstairs telling a lively story. When he came to class, he proceeded to tell us how the taxi driver accused him of giving him a fake $50 soles. So, Michael gave him a different one, which the taxi said was also fake. Another one was offered, same reaction. Then Michael, suspecting something, told the taxi that he would go ask the people of the Paraguay embassy if it was real or fake. The taxi then decided he would take the 3rd bill offered, but tried to give Michael all paper currency as change. Again suspecting something, he insisted on part coins and part paper. The embassy personnel told him that the money WAS COUNTERFEIT! Michael went to Citibank, where he had changed the USD to Soles, and had the same teller which remembered him from the day before. When Michael asked if the bills were good, he was told that not only were those 2 bad, but EVERYTHING he had was MONOPOLY MONEY!! The teller would not replace the money, even though he was the one who had given it to us. Michael then asked to at least have him show him how to tell the difference and changed another $100 USD to soles.
Who would think that at a Citibank you would get fakes????
Our Spanish teacher was appalled that we changed money at a BANK. She said to NEVER change money at a bank, only change it at Western Union, or some other money exchanging business which guarantees the bills with an ink stamp. What a scam!!
We were told later that another good way to change money was from the “Euro” vendors – men wearing blue or green vests walking up and down the busy street carrying large wads of bills. My thoughts are that I would not trust those guys as far as I could throw them! I know that this gringo would get her real USD slipped into the middle of a fake wad and then told that mine was fake. No way! Oh, also told that the ATM’s give counterfeits, but not to use the ATM’s because bad people watch for persons coming out of the ATM areas and mug or kidnap them. Oh yea!!!
Oh, did I forget to mention that we actually waited in line for 25 minutes to GET the FAKE cash. The Bancos (banks) are unreal here, either they are a new phenomenon (which they aren’t) or they are just incredibly inefficient. There seems to be plenty of banks, just like at home – one on every corner, yet they all have lines . . . even hanging out the doors! When we were playing Monopoly with Citibank, we were the last ones allowed inside before the security guard locked the door behind us (weird feeling to be locked IN the bank.) Then he proceeded to shoo people away as they approached. Then a line began to form OUTSIDE the bank. As 1 customer left, another was allowed inside! In trying to figure out this strangeness, I noticed that the tourists were the only ones actually doing cash transactions (now I know why). The locals seemed to be paying what appeared to be a Citibank credit card bill. I wondered how much postage was when customers were willing to wait in line 30 minutes to pay one bill. (Now I know that it probably was that they did not actually have money IN the bank, for fear of it being used to buy Madison Place or lost when they Passed Go, but were using other banking services.
| July 7, 2006 – Friday
Michael’s Cell Phone Lifted
|Again to avoid the 1st hour of Spanish class, Michael graciously volunteered to go to “retrieve” our Paraguay visas. When he didn’t arrive for 1-1/2 hours I became concerned. He told me that he decided to walk to get to know the area better. Couldn’t he have done this research AFTER Spanish class? Would not a taxi had him back at class in less than 30 minutes? Go figure. He says that I can just be his interpreter. (How did we go from he is going to take classes, to I can just teach him at nights, to now I am the interpreter after 3 days? He does have a way of working things.)Senora Melanie (teacher) spent the last 20 minutes of class putting the fear of God in us by telling us stories of theft, kidnapping, terrorists, etc. Wow, what a way of ‘teaching”. Maybe she had decided that we would never get it unless we HAD A DESPERATE NEED. But I already felt the desperate need. All the stories did was make me too scared to think!
We had lunch at a middle eastern restaurant. I decided to be brave and start eating marginal things like vegetables not peeled, tomatoes, etc. (not lettuce yet), to start indoctrinating my stomach. I had a delectable “Ensalada Aribica”. Yum, it was finely diced cucumber, tomato, onion, in a lime and Arab dressing. I want to have this again. The kabob was very good, too.
The Lima SAE manager, Miles, was meeting us for dinner tonight. While waiting the lobby for him, Michael was using the internet computer and saw that he had a message from Stephen Stewart (PanAm group), stating that he had not received Michael’s text message response, and was concerned that he had not received the message. (We were hoping to communicate with them about rendezvous locations thru text message.) As Michael reached for his phone to send another message, I saw a ghostly look on his face and knew exactly what it was all about. While his phone case was still attached on his belt, the razor phone was missing. I ran to the room searching desperately for it, calling it, with no answer. We both knew what and when it had happened. On the sidewalk after lunch, we were mobbed by 3-4, I hesitate to say children, but they were 10-14 year old boys. They were slap/hitting us and pushing. It was intrusive enough that I started yelling and shoving them away. Michael had enough and threatened much more severe consequences if another one touched us. Then they left. We had NO IDEA. I was not carrying anything on me, more than 10 soles ($3), Michael had his backpack, but I was watching it. Who know that a phone on the belt, under a shirt could disappear so quickly? We are a little more “streetwise” now than before. We may be stolen from again, but I guarantee not in the same manner!!!
That kind of put a damper on dinner, but our wonderful friend Robin said she will go get us a new phone tomorrow and Fed Ex. What would we do without her?
July 8, 2006 – Saturday
We sat in the room – the day digging on the I-net for information regarding this International Accord, specifically about the part of reciprocity between countries for accepting vehicles/vehicle-accessories from their home country if they are traveling through, as opposed to staying in the country. We DID find a listing that lists the accord, but we can’t find any way to find the actual document. We found the local I-net cafe very easy for printing of documents from CD. The I-net rate was only 2 soles per hour (66 cents). How different from China @ 30 cents per minute.
We sent a FedEx envelope, and all seemed pretty normal, except the 20 minute wait for the 1 attendant.
The Carmel Hotel is just 1 block from a main ovalo (roundabout) in Miraflores. It is a busy walking area for both locals and tourist filled with cafe’s, storefronts, pharmacies, McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, movie theater etc. We are not lacking in places to eat, for sure. Across the street from the Carmel is the famous “Norky’s” or Norky’s chicken. We had not eaten there the first few days until we were told that they had super chicken. The chicken is roasted on a coal fire, spits style, and is superb! A – chicken, fries, and salad is 11 soles ($3.50). A – chicken served the same is 15 soles ($5), and the portion of fries is fit for 2. We actually had marinated mushrooms and beef on our first experience there. We did the chicken on the 2nd.
The hotel has a nice light breakfast each day included with our $35 per night price. The desk persons all speak some English, and the doorman is always smiling. We like this place that we are now calling home. Our 5th story room, overlooking the street provides us with some free entertainment (and plenty of free noise.)
We walked down to the beach area (which I really do not know how to call it). Lima sits on top of a 300 foot cliff of gray sandy, pebbly earth. There is a small “beach” area below with a few restaurants, shops, etc., but the whole of Lima is on top of the cliff. The “posh” things are right on the street at the cliff, i .e. Marriott, very expensive clothing, restaurants. We strolled around a bit and just took in the view of the gray sky, gray water, gray misty fog hanging on everything . . . get the gray picture? This is typical Lima in their winter. Although it may mist, and mist heavily, it NEVER rains. Unknown to us, they had what they called “rain” on July 5, and I guess it was quite a disruption for workers. Some people just decide not to go to work if it “rains” and makes the streets wet because there are too many accidents. I guess like the Southern U.S. when it may predict snow, they close schools . . . but RAIN? The rain they got was really just a heavy mist all during the night which DID accumulate and make small puddles in the low areas of the road, and put a fog on the windshield. I guess it is all what you are used to.
|July 9, 2006 – Sunday
Futbol – World Cup – Italia!
Did anyone know the World Cup of Soccer was going on??? Just joking, we did, but you would think that Peru had a team that actually made it in the finals, well maybe semi-finals, maybe the quarters?? But no – they are just soccer crazy anyway.
We decided we would venture on to Calle de Pizza (Pizza Street), which we had dodged through the 1st night but could not understand WHY EVERY restaurant/ cafe / bar has pizza? It did not matter as to the nationality of the food. The Mexican restaurant had their hecklers out front shoving their menu in your face saying something about how wonderful their pizza was, same with the “traditional Peruvian” restaurant, “non-denominational” restaurant, and of course the Italian. We learned from SAE that we have ventured on to Pizza Street. But does that somehow explain the verbal accosting that seemed to be the norm, rather than the exception of the hostess literally begging you to enter their”better than the rest” pizza joint?
Ok, back to the World Cup . . . we chose a less crowded cafe where we had good viewing of the TV. We did not know that we were in the “Italia” fan joint, (which as it turned out, was good.) Next to us was the “France” fan club. Meaning, they had hats, painted faces, balloons, flags, you name it!!! With the low scoring, it was not entirely crazy until the infamous Zidane “head butt”. Then it all came unraveled. We had finished our pizza long ago, and kept ordering “lemonade” which is actually a lime drink, to secure our table. As the winning penalty kick was completed, we gracefully escaped to our “quiet” 5th story home. But actually there was not much quiet happening in Miraflores for the next few hours. Again, you would think that Peru had won, or at least a South American country. People were hanging out of cars and loaded in the back of trucks flying flags and banners, shouting “ITALIA” Oh, I forgot the best part, the ever blessed South American horn honking. Beep-beep-beep (that stood for Italia today – what does it stand for the rest of the time?) The honking went on way into the night . . . with our window open we drift off into a dreamy, horn honking heavenly sleep . . .
July 10, 2006 – Monday
It was our intention to go the the American Embassy and register. When we arrived, we found a huge concrete megastructure, guarded by men with machine guns. The taxis are not allowed to come to a real stop, but have to do a kind of “rolling stop” as you quickly get out and throw the fare to the driver as he drives off. The leviathan was about 2 blocks long and very intimidating, even us us, as Americans. In short, we came away with a piece of paper telling us how to register on line, which after viewing the length of the line and the “warm” personalities of the faces behind the bullet-proof glass windows, we decided on-line was best.
We had an appointment at Navesur at noon, but arrived at 10:30 in hopes to get the truck faster. Navesur is the shipping representative for Interocean Lines, who was hired by Best Freight, who was hired by Global Relogistics, who WE hired from Miami to ship the Unimog. We had no idea there were so many middlemen. We will do it differently next time. We have been to the Navesur office 3 times last week, and have spent many hours sitting in their conference room while Renzo (Operations) and Noelia (Customs) scurry around to get us answers. They have been our contacts as to the status of the ship. They told us that the ship was NEVER scheduled to be in on the 5th, let alone the 3rd, line we were told in Miami. They were also the ones who told us that the Greetsiel was NOT a Roll on/Roll off and that it was not a direct sailing, but made stops in Panama, Columbia, and Ecuador before arriving in Lima.
We started off with the stunning information that the shipment of our Unimog had NOT BEEN PAID FOR. Even though we paid Global for it on June 18!!! Therefore, they could not even give us the Bill of Lading at Navesur that we needed to even BEGIN the “get out of jail” process. While we waited, we were picked up by Noelia’s fiance, Paul Smith, from Ireland. Paul is going to be our interpreter through customs. Renzo called from the port to tell us that he has SEEN the Unimog and that it looks fine, but does have a long scratch on the side. Renzo called a 2nd time asking Michael to come to Cayao Port to drive the Unimog off of the flatrack, as no one could figure out how to drive it. About 3:30 and after numerous phone calls to Glodabal Relogistics (some of them rather heated), we were able to get the document. Navesur office sent it to port by a motorcycle courier. By the time we waited our turn in line, the customs agent told us it was too late to send an inspections officer over to inspect the truck at the warehouse. This was very disappointing. To think that we have been worried about Peru customs and all of our problems today were caused by MIAMI, not Peru. We will get another chance to have Peru customs problems tomorrow.
We met Renzo about 4:30 and he asked if Michael could go ahead and drive the Unimog from the port to the warehouse about 15 minutes away. Mike and a port official took the Unimog to the warehouse. It does have damage. The graphics and awning were badly damaged due to the fact that it was FLATRACK shipped, as opposed to Ro/Ro. Flatrack is driving the truck onto a rack, then the rack is lifted from the pier and placed onto the ship. Our guess is that during the lifting, the 4 straps grabbed into the sides of the truck, causing the damage. It has NOT been vandalized though, which has been a huge concern for us. Even the backup monitor, which we unsuccessfully tried to remove in Miami, was still in place in the cab.
At the warehouse we were able to inspect the Unimog and take some pictures. We didn’t feel that we dare open the camper to inspect it until we knew that we were going to be able to drive off with it. It feels good to just be able to see it.
|Lima Port Gallery|
|July 11, 2006 – Tuesday
Unimog Out of Jail
|As Mel Fischer said every morning of his treasure-hunting career, “Today’s the Day!” We had positive attitudes as we left Lima for Cayao at 8am with Noelia and Paul. It was sure nice to not be in a taxi yesterday. Noelia is so graciously allowing us to be carted around in her personal car, so expertly being driven by Paul, who has honed his driving skills quite well. He is an superior horn honker, lane cutter, butter-inner, plays chicken well, etc. Get the picture? Although it is a MUCH safer way to go than a taxi, (Paul has mentioned that he has had to use the “metal beater” twice. I didn’t know if that was a Irish slang or a Peruvian slang), he explained that he has been in 2 slight accidents and had to have her car fixed.|
| Noelia and Michael went to the window of our customs guy from yesterday that promised that if we were there at 8:30 that he would send an inspector right away. He pretty much held to his word. It took about 30 minutes to stamp the paperwork, discuss the same documents we presented yesterday.After waiting on the inspector for 45 minutes outside, we took him to the warehouse in our car. Noelia and Paul tried to talk to him, but he was a very gruff, stiff-shirt and wouldn’t make conversation with them. When he saw the truck, you could tell he was just trying to find something “wrong” with it to make a little side money. We had some concerns about our food. She said that no food is allowed and they could take it all, or may require a bribe to keep it. He made us open each compartment and tell him what was in it, but didn’t really ask that too many things be taken out (thank goodness. Clair – aren’t you SURE that he would have had a heart attack if he had seen how much stuff we were able to cram in the storage compartments? Nothing we had was illegal, but we were warned that the customs people make up some rule on the spot to “make problems for you.” Then he opened the camper door. He asked about the bed, kitchen-I showed silverware and pots and pans. When he asked about the refrigerator, Paul started to open it, then wisely opened the Freezer door (he didn’t know that I even had food stored in there for shipment over, but I think he heard the groan.) Then he asked about the cabinets beside the sink. I quickly gave Paul a poke in his side when he reached for the pantry door, and opened the clothes closet door instead! No problems. He didn’t even ask to see in the food storage cabinets above the sink and table. Someone was taking care of us. When all was said and done, Noelia slipped him a $100 soles ($33 US) just to expedite things.
Now we go back to the customs office. Noelia is back up to window to discuss again the same papers they have now seen twice. The customs guy wants to know more information AND talk Noelia out of her phone number in the guise of wanting English lessons. She was so cute. We were appalled that she gave it to him, but she said that she 1st gave him her business card, but he asked for her cell phone, and she did not want customs to make many problems with customs, so she did it. (Oh, did I mention that when we left the same window yesterday, that Michael noticed that her blouse button was undone? She was terribly embarrassed. She will forever be teased by us for trying to entice the official to get our truck!) We DID happily get the papers. Now off to the warehouse to get the truck. (It is noon now)
Read Michael’s email here about the warehouse fiasco. We thought it was a matter of showing the customs approval papers and driving off. Wrong! The short of it is that $1,000 and 3 hours later the Unimog finally is driving through he gates. What a blessed sight to see!
I don’t think Michael says this, but he came out of the warehouse with literally $1 US to his name! He said it was like they had x-ray vision and made up the invoices and bribe amounts to equal exactly what he had on his person.
While Noelia and Michael were in dealing with the warehouse, Paul and I were outside in a skanky parking area trying to figure out how to retrieve the UPS package (satellite phone handset), and more importantly the FedEx package with the replacement cell phone. When the truck was out of hock, we went to the UPS distribution office in Cayao and had the 2-week system explained to us. Basically, the Ministry of Transportation office (wonderful downtown Lima) has to sign off of the form’a 3-4 day process, then back to the shipper for a few more days of what I don’t really know. We decide that we REALLY need the cell phone, as mine doesn’t pickup the different country carriers as well as Michael’s razor phone does. SO, we decide to sacrifice Wednesday and try to do the 2-week process in 1 day.
A crazy thing – UPS would not let us have the Satellite Phone because it was communications. They then told me that I could not have the Map that was sent with it because maps were illegal to import (why?) I knew that I didn’t have a map sent, so I asked to see what he was talking about. It was a BOOK with a map of South America on it. Well, sort of a map. Paul and I decided that we could draw that outline of South America as well, blowing paint out a straw, as it was drawn on the book. Oh well, I explained that I could care less about their “illegal” cover. I wanted the BOOK. It is a travel book by a guy who traveled South America by truck, like we are doing, and supposedly lists all of the countries “Auto Clubs”, which I understand is a great source of information. Paul made a deal with him to cut the cover off and give me the book. He opens the box, pulls out the sat phone handset (so close, but so far), and cuts the cover off of the book. Great! I’m getting the book. WRONG. He hands me THE COVER!!! BUT WON’T GIVE ME THE BOOK!!! What is wrong with this picture? If the cover with the “map” is ILLEGAL, why is he letting me have the COVER? He will still not give me the book. We thought it was a setup for a bribe, but I guess not. They are just crazy! We will try tomorrow with the forms.
Noelia has an appointment with a client all the way back in Lima at 4pm, and it is 4:10pm now. She tells him she will be there by 4:30. Using the Unimog as a blocker, Michael and Noelia lead Paul and I back to Lima. This is perhaps the craziest ride of my life!! It is pretty heavy traffic, horns honking everywhere, and no one giving way to anyone trying to change lanes. We make it (although Paul almost rear-ends the Mog at least once, maybe twice). Noelia makes her 4:30, and we all take a deep breath.
Next we go to the Mercedes dealership, which is very close to Noelia’s family’s apartment. Paul calls her dad and he comes out on the balcony to wave at us as we go by. I guess he has heard about these Americans trying to get their truck for a week now! Drop the Unimog for changing the hydraulic fluid and filter (Freightliner Utah says to try changing that “as their 7th attempt“ to fix the overheating problem.) We find 2 English speaking people. It was a very professional dealership. The Unimog N. America rep, Yanni, in Seattle, used to be the South American Unimog-Mercedes rep, and knows people at every dealership. He provided us an introduction, so that makes it a bit easier.
We collect Noelia and head off for some dinner. These people have literally adopted us! They have been wonderful. We would still be in Cayao Port trying to do customs if it were not for them. We go to Rosa Nautica – the best seafood restaurant on a pier in Lima. The restaurant is beautiful and the food is good. When Noelia and Paul take us to the hotel, we try to say bye, but they tell us this is not bye. They have decided that Paul is going to be Michael’s translator in trying to get the 2 packages tomorrow. We graciously thank them both, knowing we need their help.
We went to diner with Noelia and Paul at TGI Fridays. They are 2 truly nice people. Paul was bi-lingual in French when he came to Peru 8 months ago on a humanitarian project. He loved the area, and fell in love with Noelia, and decided to stay. He went to a 6-week intensive language school (8 hours a day) in Cusco, and thought he would never “get it” even after 3 months. He said it was about 5 months that he told a joke in Spanish, and everyone laughed. He knew he had it then.
|July 12, 2006 – Wednesday
Mike and His Pink Phone
|There was a huge fiasco with the cell phone and the sat phone hand set. Read Mike’s email for details. Basically, at the end of a very frustrating day, the guys show up at 6:30 with neither package. But Mike is now sporting a PINK razor phone, yes, PINK along with a pink holder (which he promptly gave to me.) He was able to retrieve his SIM card from the replacement Black razor phone that Robin sent for a $100 bribe. At least he is back on Cingular services and has his phone numbers. (I will get his pink phone when he is able to get his black one – the razor fits into a pocket, where mine will not).
We left Mercedes for the “Hitchhikers Hostel” on Avenida Bolognese, there is barely room for us. It is only about 10 blocks from the Carmel Hotel. We pay $4 US each to park and use their showers.
Saying bye to Noelia and Paul was hard. They have gone above and beyond anything that could ever have been expected. We have made 2 good friends here.
We spend the next couple of hours putting the Mog “back together”. Before it was left at the Miami port, everything from the cab was removed that could be: CB radio, speaker wires were cut and removed, etc. All is now back in place. Then the 2 bags of “stuff” that we should have packed in the Mog before it shipped were put into place. We both have too many clothes, but we can remedy that along the way.
OBSERVATIONS ABOUT LIMA:
CHILD RESTRAINT SEATS – The restaurants are so nice to families here. Everywhere we have eaten, McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, the local cafes, and even TGI Fridays . . ., they all have hook-ups for the children. The hook-up is either a piece of chain or nylon webbing with a clip or snap on the end. How nice that you can take your wild kids and just hook them to the table so they don’t run off. Wait – it’s not for kids???? Oh, I am told that it is to hook your backpack to so that it doesn’t get stolen while you eat! How was I supposed to know? Maybe we should modify this idea in the US for children??!!
VI VANDA GROCERY – We walked to one of the larger groceries to check it out while we were waiting on the truck, so we would know what to expect. The store superseded our expectations. It seemed that they had just about anything we could possibly want. There were a few anomalies: eggs were not refrigerated (which I have now been assured several times that they do not have to be), olives and pickled things in open containers, milk in BAGS – not plastic containers. The fresh milk is in bags, the long shelf life, UHT??, non-refrigerated milk is in quart boxes. We buy milk in the bags, hoping not to have to ever use the long life stuff. We also buy lunchmeat and sliced cheeses, hamburger, chicken breast—just like home. I know this is probably too good to be true, but it was at least nice to see that we might be able to find some things that we thought we could not. Oh yes, there was even peanut butter, although very small jars, like 1 cup size, but at least they had it!
LIMA: NOTES FROM MIKE
After 10 frustrating days of waiting in Lima, we finally have our truck and are on the road. (Today is Thurs. July 13). You would wonder why it takes 10 days to finally have our truck. The ship was late by almost 1 week, which was preparatory to provide us with the patience necessary to get the truck out of the port and customs. This was a very frustrating experience. The ship was delayed until the weekend after we arrived, which allowed customs the opportunity to close for the weekend, which seemingly was not much different from the weekdays except for the signs which stated when they were SUPPOSED to be open.
The Roll on/Roll off ship which the truck was supposed to be on had been magically replaced by an old greasy freighter. The truck sustained about $10,000 of damage while being lifted onto a flatrack in Miami, but nothing that keeps it from being drivable. Most damage is to the paint, graphics, and awning. Oh yes, and 1 missing “UNIMOG” license plate. I really liked our Custom License plates, but evidentially, someone else did, too. At opportunity to replace due to time constraints in Lima. However, we did have an offer to have one fabricated for us. Apparently you can make your own license plates down here, which seemed in keeping with everything else we have experienced.
The procedure for getting a vehicle released is that it moves from the port to a warehouse for storage while customs is dealing with it. I had asked if I could at least SEE the truck, prior to it going to the warehouse. I was told it was impossible, but the next day it was requested that I come and drive the truck off of the flatrack, as no one could figure out how to drive it. (It appears from the seat, door panel, and steering wheel that EVERYONE who works in the port had tried to drive it. In fact, it was SO dirty that it looked like they had maybe opened it up to the general public.) I was allowed, generously, to drive it the 20 minutes from the port to the warehouse, which technically was a fenced in sea of containers. Then I had the pleasure of paying $250 the next day to have been ALLOWED to drive it the 20 min. across town. This was in addition to the $800 to leave it parked at the warehouse, for about 15 hours, while we completed customs. Both costs were itemized along with the other necessary charges on the invoice that I had to pay $120 to have prepared. This invoice preparation fee had to be paid with the cooperation of 3 windows, 5 stamps, and a trip to the bank to deposit the money into their account, (I guess they do not make their own bank deposits), which was the other stamp. It seems the bank has to stamp for them also. Then upon returning to the warehouse office, we were presented with the invoice. Then back to retrieve stamps at all of the various windows and the bank, but this could only be done after the necessary bribes to customs. It seems that they had to be bribed to allow a spare tire and a way to change it. But this fine could not be presented in public. This fine had to be slipped, the same as all of the other “fines” (“bribes” – it seems they are interchangeable), in a folder, papers, book, handshake, whatever.
My cell phone was stolen last Friday night by a pickpocket. A good friend in Missouri quickly overnighted us another one. It is much easier to buy a cell phone in Missouri and have it shipped to Lima, then it is to get it out of the hands of the delivery company (whether Fed Ex or UPS). It seems that everything has to go through customs, which is an acronym for an endless line of windows and stamps, all of which require bribes. The delivery company actually removed the satellite phone receiver which had also been shipped overnight from its packaging, handed it to me to hold for a brief moment, and then immediately required it back, and no amount of bribe would get it released. I did finally succeed at Federal Express to bribe 1 individual for the agreed upon price of $50 US to allow me to HOLD the SIM card and put it into another man’s phone to see if it would work. It DID work, which cost me another $50 to another man (who showed up out of no where), to allow me to KEEP the SIM card. But alas, they would not accept any of the counterfeit money that Citibank had so generously passed onto me the 1st morning in town. In fact, no one would accept it, so I finally gave it away to a person who was going through the trash at the hotel. But, I do expect to have it handed back to me before I leave the country.
After numerous attempts, I finally found a cell phone store that would sell me an unlocked cell phone in which I can use my SIM card, so I will be able to have my phone number and voice mail. The catch is, that the phone is HOT PINK, along with the beautiful fake leather PINK case. I am a bit more optimistic that this one will not be stolen. I am also optimistic that no girls will be hitting on me while using the pink phone.
All of this aside, and all the experiences we went through, the offices, windows, and possessors of stamps, did not help teach me any more Spanish than I had when I left America. Although, I did seem to lose a lot of English, and I am now speaking in “pigeon” English and short guttural sentences. I hope all will be patient with me upon our return in teaching me English again.
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