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To Arequipa

Monday, October 31st, 2005

29 October 2005 (Saturday) – 30 October 2005 (Sunday) – Lima to Arequipa, Peru

This Sunday, there is an election happening in Arequipa to decide if they would be united with 2 other states, Puno and Tacna. So, those Arequipeñas living in Lima are making their way to Arequipa this Saturday. I am not going there to vote, of course, but I am heading that way today and nearly all the bus tickets were booked up. As such, I settled for a really fancy bus that cost me 100 soles!! Super expensive because the bus companies took advantage of the occasion to raise the prices. Sheesh… The catchy phrase for this company CIAL is ‘Somos Peruanos’ (We are Peruvians). It was more like ‘Somos Ladrones de Peruanos’ (We are thieves of Peruvians).

Oh, bye bye to Emiko, Dante and Señora Maria who works in their apartment!! Sob-sob… How I would miss Señora Maria’s cooking!! Actually, I think Percy and Dante will find it impossible to travel in the future, since they cannot pack Señora Maria along! Well, I wish them all the best, especially to Dante who would be going to Japan next year (without Señora Maria) to study and find a job, and hopefully, get a Japanese passport (like Fujimori) as his father is a Peru-born Japanese.

With Dante, Emiko and Percy and the glass display plate I made for the family

Percy brought me to the bus company and stayed til he saw me safely tucked into the bus. What a fantastic and caring family!! I thought back and realised, when I was not at the glass workshop, I had spent nearly my entire week talking to each and everyone of them in rather deep conversations! It had really been wonderful sharing everything with them.

The bus was superbly comfortable. The stewardess served us a very tasty dinner as well. 6 years ago, here in Peru, I did not remember such buses existed. Then, 2.5 years ago, they had appeared and I was mightly impressed. Now, they seemed a common sight. If I had to rank the comforts of buses in the various South American countries, minus Guyana, Surinam, French Guinea, Paraguay, Uruguay and Bolivia where I had not been to… I would say Argentine and Peruvian (good) buses are the best! Next, would probably be Brazil. Then, Chile, Venezuela and Colombia get so-so reviews. And lastly, tiny Ecuador, but well, for its short distances, I guess, the buses were tolerable.

After a very comfortable 15 hours-odd ride, we arrived in sunny Arequipa the next morning. Arequipa now has a bus terminal where all the bus companies gathered. Now, this was more like it! Unlike other cities, it would be much easier to compare prices amongst the bus companies and change buses.

Teresa (not her real name), from Hospitality Club who had replied to my request for hosts, came to pick me up. However, she was not able to offer me accommodations as her apartment was full of aunts and uncles who had come to vote. So, I gave Fernando, another Hospitality Club member, a surprise call. He had responded as well, but I declined his offer as I thought I could stay with Teresa.

Anyway, he was very welcoming and suggested that we go to his apartment in an hour’s time. Teresa suddenly had a suggestion, that I should stay at her sister’s apartment. She told me the apartment was very small but I could sleep on the sofa. At first, I thought the apartment just had her sister, so I agreed. But when I arrived, I realised her sister has a husband and a baby. With such a tiny apartment, with no doors to separate the bedroom from the living room, I actually felt it was not such a good idea. I felt that I would be too much trouble for them.

Well, we agreed to this arrangement for the moment, as we headed off to meet Fernando. My first impression of Fernando was that he is a nice person. Although he lives alone, I felt that I could trust him. And he had a separate room and bed.

As Teresa had to run off somewhere, I spent the day with Fernando, who later invited me to his parents’ apartment for lunch. We then took a short walk around the city centre to check out prices of the tours to Colca Canyon, but many tour companies were not opened as it was Sunday today. Well, 6 years ago, I was robbed here in Arequipa. So, I would be honest to say that frankly, I felt a little afraid of walking around Arequipa by myself. Meanwhile, Teresa and her family and Fernando’s parents had piled me with warnings. Glad to have Fernando around.

By nightfall, I decided I would stay with Fernando, so we returned to the apartment of Teresa’s sister, thanked them profusely and took my bags and left. That night, when I opened my bag, I was shocked. Everything in my bag had been rearranged. It seemed someone had run through it, searching for something. My first thought was my money. Well, they were right there, all intact. Hmmm… I felt very suspicious, but as my money was here, it seemed nothing had been taken. I reluctantly decided perhaps it was the movement of the bus that had created this disturbance. But seriously, in my 5 months’ of travelling on even worse buses, this had never happened to me.

No Flag For You

Sunday, October 30th, 2005

28 October 2005 (Friday) – Lima, Peru

Danitza arrived at Percy’s home to deliver my glass items. However, as I had to go with her to buy the silver fittings for the glass jewellery, I simply left them at home without looking.

If I have to buy silver, I should buy them in Peru as here, they MINE silver. But still, I could not buy everything, it will cost too much and I still need money for survival for perhaps another month! I looked through my glass creations. Wow, some of them turned out quite nice but perhaps half of them were so-so or downright awful. I guess this is the element of surprise that I like about this craft. You can never know for sure what to expect… the colours changed after baking, the colours spread around and mixed everything up, sometimes there are bubbles, some big, some small, sometimes no bubbles. So, you can never be sure until they all come out after more than 24 hours.

We tried the various silver fittings and I bought just enough for my budget and eagerly returned home to check out the rest of my creations. The display plate turned out rather nice. I also adore the ash-tray and the candle-holder, but the soap dish was a little off. The salsa dish was alright, but I guess I do not quite fancy the black outlines. Wow, I am so excited as I already have a lot more ideas in my head. I guess I am really going to continue this craft when I return to Singapore.

I sat down and stuck the silver fittings to my glass jewellery to make rings, necklaces and ear-rings. Oh, they looked rather nice.

Later, when Percy’s mother came home, I gave her the display plate. She was delighted. It was too big for me to carry but I was more than happy to give it to the family that had been feeding me and taking care of me… well, my Lima family!! I later also gave a pair of earrings to Emiko.

At 9 or 10pm, Percy’s mother, her friend, Dante and I prepared to go to a restaurant where folkloric dances were performed. We called Emiko, who was still at work, the poor thing, and she was game to join us as well. So, we drove to pick her up and headed to this restaurant called La Candelaria in Barranco.

Wow, the restaurant was nearly full. Folkloric dances from all over Peru were performed to great ‘live’ music and much enthusiasm. The Peruvians and tourists were all very responsive and spontaneous.  Whenever the music played for the floor, everyone ran up excitedly to dance. There was no hesitation at all. It was great to feel the energy here! Percy’s mother loves dancing and we, except Dante who refused to dance, got up and danced to the folkloric music or merengue or whatever.

Traditional dance performance at La Candelaria

Percy's mother (right) and her friend

Pretty Emiko and I

The compere went through the entire restaurant asking foreigners which countries they come from. Estados Unidos… Holanda… Inglaterra… España… Portugal… Suiza… Panama… Chile… Colombia… Tailandia… SINGAPUR… Argentina… etc…

Later to our surprise, a tray of flags was brought out. The compere asked representatives from each country to come out to collect their flags. I guessed there would not be a flag for Singapore. For, what are the odds that another Singaporean had been to this restaurant previously for them to prepare a flag of ours. Indeed, they even had a flag for Thailand but no flag for me… Still, the compere remembered SINGAPUR and beckoned me to come right up to the floor, apologizing on behalf of Peru, that they had no flag for me. Haaha…

No flag for me, but I still have to perform

Now, here’s the funny bit. The compere wanted us each to perform our country’s traditional dance!! The music started for the Chilean lady and her hankerchief dance called Cueca… Wow, very sporting of her! Then, samba for the amazingly svelte Portugal lady who was superb in her rapid and sexy samba moves… The Colombians did a little cheesy cumbia… The Spanish guy faked a flamengo… The Thai girl tried her best with some graceful moves but the musicians had no clue what Thai music was and simply played something which was what they thought to be Oriental-sounding. The Argentines circled the floor with a slow tango… And thank goodness, for the rest of us with seemingly no traditional dances, we did YMCA. What a fun evening!! My final night in Lima and I was one of the stars of the evening… haha…

The Smell of Fear

Friday, October 28th, 2005
26 October 2005 (Wednesday) - 27 October 2005 (Thursday) - Lima, Peru I had these two days free because my course instructor Danitza was busy in an exhibition. But I also had to wait at least 24 hours for the glass ... [Continue reading this entry]

V for Vitrofusion

Wednesday, October 26th, 2005
24 October 2005 (Monday) - 25 October 2005 (Tuesday) - Lima, Peru I spent these two days at Danitza's workshop learning how to make the glass items and jewellery using the method called vitrofusion. She taught me how to clean ... [Continue reading this entry]

To Lima

Wednesday, October 26th, 2005
23 October 2005 (Sunday) - Huaraz to Lima, Peru I left Huaraz on the morning bus to Lima. We crossed the high plateau for a while, surrounded by yellowish-green licho grass and soon, we could see the gorgeous Cordillera Blanca in ... [Continue reading this entry]

Chavin de Huantar

Wednesday, October 26th, 2005
22 October 2005 (Saturday) - Huaraz, Peru Same orgy, different day. I made friends with Julie, from Canada and David, from Italy who were also going on this tour to Chavin and the 3 of us lodged ourselves in the front seats ... [Continue reading this entry]


Tuesday, October 25th, 2005
21 October 2005 (Friday) - Huaraz, Peru After the orgy of harrassed guides, indifferent bus-drivers, confused tourists and more confused organisers at the meeting point, we headed north along Callejon de Huaylas. If the clouds would just go away, we ought ... [Continue reading this entry]


Tuesday, October 25th, 2005
20 October 2005 (Thursday) - Huaraz, Peru Yesterday, I had bought 3 tours at one go... I know, how extravagant of me but together, they come with a discount... heh. The guy who sold me the tours told me that I ... [Continue reading this entry]

Along Came Diarrhoea

Friday, October 21st, 2005
19 October 2005 (Wednesday) - Huaraz, Peru To avoid the Cajamarca incident of early-morning-wandering-around-and-unable-to-find-a-hostel-with-available-room, I had called up Hostal El Tambo yesterday and the guy, Miguel, said he would send someone over to pick me up from the bus terminal. Wow, ... [Continue reading this entry]

To Huaraz

Wednesday, October 19th, 2005
18 October 2005 (Tuesday) - Cajamarca to Huaraz, Peru Long day of travel today, as I took the afternoon bus to Trujillo and then, the night bus to Huaraz. Gosh, while I had sung praises of the superb mountain sceneries in various ... [Continue reading this entry]