September 10, 2012 by jiejie768
Things we’ve learned since leaving Seattle
Here are a few things we have learned since leaving Seattle. This is Ryan writing, so a couple of these are going to be specific to me, but for the most part these are lessons jointly learned since leaving Seattle.
1.) 4 a.m. is early
This one appears obvious, but it’s important to note just how early that is. I mean seriously, it’s so early it’s almost late. That is what time Meg and I awoke to leave her parents’ house for the airport on Sept. 7 for our 6 a.m. flight to Fort Lauderdale. This seems like a good time to express a big thank you to my wonderful mother- and father-in-law, who woke shortly thereafter to drive us to said flight. Also the best little sister-in-law ever, Lolo, who awoke simply to accompany us.
2.) Fort Lauderdale is NOT a walkable city
We arrived in Fort Lauderdale about 5 p.m. EDT, and quickly caught a cab to our hotel. It was shortly thereafter that we realized we were now limited to dining options within walking distance of the hotel, and our plan to visit the beach was thwarted due lack of an evening shuttle from said hotel (last shuttle left the hotel at 4 p.m., when were somewhere over the panhandle, or “Lower Alabama”).
3.) Walking distance is drastically reduced when it’s 90-plus degrees and super humid
This one pretty much speaks for itself. Fortunately Meg and I found an Italian restaurant about 5 minutes from the hotel and had a phenomenal meal highlighted by quite possible the greatest rolls ever prepared anywhere. If you find yourself at the Fort Lauderdale Hilton Marina, go to Bravo, you will not be sorry.
4.) Movies on demand are expensive
I can remember being a kid and traveling around to various baseball or softball tournaments of mine or one cousin or another. Often, as a cheap way to entertain us kids for the evening, my parents would by a pay-per-view movie from the hotel TV for something like $5 charged to the room. This is no longer the case. Meg and I opted to forgo Red Box and pick a movie from the hotel’s roster of recently released flicks. We had narrowed it down to three — “To Rome With Love,” “Safety Not Guarenteed,” and “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” — only to discover they cost between $16-$20 each. This, combined with the lack of a hot tub and a $13 charge to use the Internet, left us less than thrilled with our lodging. Though to be fair, the beds were EXTREMELY comfortable and the view from our room was pretty great. I guess you can’t win them all.
5.) There’s a reason budget airlines are cheap
This is one goes out to all our friends at Spirit Airlines. I’ll help you out with that first sentence since sarcasm is difficult to convey in print: We have no friends at Spirit Airlines. The first major SNAFU of our trip came as we were checking in and the agent asked for our return date. As you may know, we don’t actually have a return date. This was not OK with them and they insisted we could not be allowed on the plane until we provided them with proof of departure from Peru. My aunt, whom we are headed to see tomorrow, has lived in Peru for more than four years, has traveled countless times to Lima on a one-way ticket and has NEVER been asked to provide this kind of information. This was at 11:15 a.m. Fortunately the Ft. Lauderdale airport had free Wi-Fi and our flight, unbeknownst to us, had been moved from 2:15 to 4:55 for no apparent reason.
In a panic Meg and I (OK, maybe it was just me in a panic) went to work on figuring out how to buy a cheap bus ticket to Ecuador, Bolivia or Chile that we could show to the Spirit agent and later discard without losing too much money. After several frustrations with various South American bus lines, we finally decided to simply book a flight to Buenos Aires in November that we would in fact use. It was $750 trip planned in 10 minutes, but at least it would enable us to take our dream trip to Peru that we had planned over the course of two years. This worked, and as an extra bonus, our reservation was cancelled about five minutes after the confirmation came through, so we were able to show the gate agent the confirmation and we were off the hook for our $750 plane ticket.
Needless to say, we were not stoked with Spirit, and will avoid booking a return flight (or any other kind of flight) with them in the future. This is without going into the fairly ridiculous luggage gymnastics we were forced to perform just to be allowed to take our stuff with us (though we knew that would be the case ahead of time).
6.) It’s easier to speak Spanish that I thought
So this one is only me. Meg already knew about how easy it is to speak Spanish. I should note it’s not that it’s EASY, it’s just that even after not using Spanish hardly at all over the past six years, it’s been fairly simple to just dive into the language, and I’ve found I’m doing a lot better than just getting by. I can understand at least 2/3 of what I’m told directly (though it’s a little less if I’m on a guided tour or trying to understand the TV or radio) and I’ve had little issue being understood and carrying on conversations. More often than not, nervousness is a bigger issue than my actual ability. That said, I’m also beginning to notice several areas in which my grammar and syntax need to be improved and I am eager to begin working on them when my Spanish “classes” start in earnest in Ayacucho. I’m not worried though, I’ve got a lead on a pretty good (and beautiful!) Spanish teacher who’s moving there the same day as me … que conveniente.
7.) Movies in Peru are SUPER cheap
Last night, after a couple of days speaking Spanish and meeting the family of our good friend Fabiola, we needed a little mental break and headed for the theater down the street from the house where we are staying. Unlike in Spain, American movies are shown in their original English (not dubbed) with Spanish subtitles for the Peruvians — similar to how a French or German movie would be shown in US theaters. As our plan to watch “To Rome with Love” was foiled by the Hilton’s price gouging, we were excited to find it playing at the cinema in Lima. After reading the price matrix we determined it would be 18 soles (about $6) apiece to see the film. An absolute steal in the US for a movie starting at 8 p.m. But when we paid, the kid behind the counter determined we were students and gave us the student rate of 5 soles apiece for a grand total of 10 soles for two tickets, or about $3.50 US total for both of us to see the film. Additionally we were able to acquire a large soda and popcorn for a total of 17.50 soles (~$6). Meaning two tickets and snacks cost less than $10. A guy could get used to that.
8.) Taxi drivers are aggressive and creepy
After the movie, Meg and I found ourselves on our own for the first time since reaching Lima. Up until that point we had always had a member of Fabiola’s family with us on any excursion, save a brief morning walk to the seaside. We are staying in a pretty upscale neighborhood and it has a solid reputation as far as crime goes, but still, Lima is a city of 9 million people and it’s not hard to tell at a glance that Meg and I are not locals, so when we reached the street after the show, we weren’t eager to walk back to the house in the dark, even though it’s only a ten minute walk or so. Fortunately cabs are cheap, but there are multiple types and our hosts had warned us against using but the marked “Taxis Metropolitanos” The problem, though, is that the cab drivers do not simply wait for you to ask them for a ride. They approach you, especially if you’re an obvious fish out of water like us, and aggressively insist that you need a cab and there’s is the best. I do not like being rude and often get nervous when I am forced to ignore someone in this kind of situation. However, we had our recommendations from Fabiola’s brother and we weren’t about to risk it and hop into a random cab.
Thus, I felt several pairs of eyes burning into the back of my head as, in turn, I told cabbie after cabbie we weren’t interested while all the while we were clearly searching for a cab. Eventually, unable to find the specific type we’d been advised to use, Meg and I stepped into a nearby hotel and asked the employees inside for help. At this point I had become quite nervous (unreasonably so, but still, nerves are nerves), but the hotel staff was very friendly and led us to a cabbie that they knew. He was very friendly and only over-charged us by 3 soles (we paid 10, but Loti, one of our hosts, said we should only pay 5-7), but it was worth it for the peace of mind. Today, however, we have no intention of venturing out after dark (at least not without our hosts), and I can rest easy knowing that we’ve made it through the Lima part of our adventure.
9.) The Serra family is undoubtedly among the nicest in all of Peru
In all of the world, actually. Fabiola, our friend from Ellensburg arranged for us to stay with her older brother Ramon during the Lima leg of our trip, and we are extremely thankful. Ramon and his wife, Mari, have gone above and beyond to make us feel welcome, comfortable and ensure we have a good time — this all while corralling their two adorable young children (Marcelo is 5 and Daniela is 1). In addition, yesterday (Sunday) we had the great pleasure of meeting Ramon Sr. and Loti, Ramon and Fabiola’s parents. We were treated to a fantastic lunch at a local bakery/cafe and spent the afternoon walking through Miraflores Park as Ramon Sr. told us all about the various neighborhoods and Daniela and Marcelo entertained us with their escapades on the playground. All in all, I’ve liked Lima considerably more than most of my American friends told me I would and will be sorry to leave tomorrow (though I am excited to finally be at our destination in Ayacucho). I know for a fact this enjoyment is a direct result of the Serra family and cannot adequately put into words our gratefulness. We are sad to leave them, but are glad to know we’ve made all new friends and look forward to seeing them again when our travels bring us back through Lima.
If you’re still reading, thanks! We are trying to add photos to the post but so far we are experiencing technical difficulties. Please stand by. -mea