Meruert, 29, Journalist, Lima, Peru
It’s an early morning. The coast of Costa Verde is surrounded by sunlight and turquoise foam of the Pacific Ocean. Everywhere you look it’s emerald green. The long-awaited spring came in Peru.
For the second consecutive year, I have walked through the colourful winding streets of Lima, resting my eyes on the ocean view and wondering, how come does a girl born in windswept dusty Karaganda have the urge to hear the ocean’s salty breath every day?
She had peacefully lived for many, many years without sea urchins, spiny sprays into the face in a stormy day, unknown flowering plants along unfamiliar roads, and the sour-sweet orange aguaymanto jam, but suddenly…
Twenty-nine years I have celebrated my birthday wrapped in a warm blanket, eating the New Year’s Party food reserves. That’s how the fifth of January used to look for me. Here in Peru, January is like July in Kazakhstan: the sun hits the stomach, browning your forehead and shoulders. The only things you wear are bikini and flip flops.
I remember my first day in Peru: on a misty September morning my plane landed at the Jorge Chavez airport. Light rain instantly wet my face and neck… Later I learned that it wasn’t rain at all, rather the invisible presence of the ocean – 100% humidity. For reference, it never rains in Lima.
In the winter, a dense layer of clouds together with a thick bluish mist, Garoua, wraps up the coast, the buildings, the palm trees and the wooden bridges in the gray-white blanket so tightly that even the almighty Inti, the son of Viracocha, the god of the Sun leaves Lima for 180 days. And for six months we have to live without the sun.
Friends often ask me if I like or dislike it here. I don’t have an unequivocal answer. I love sunsets in Lima. The view of a huge pink-orange ball floating above the blue water makes me breathless. Check. But as this huge pink-orange ball rolls over the small island, which can be seen from the beach – I remember that it’s a prison, where a former president of the country, a thief and a murderer Alberto Fujimori, sits. Not cool. Sitting on the ocean shore – cool. But being surrounded by rubbish on the beach – not cool. And so on.
People are also interested, how does my regular day look like. Well, it depends. I have three (Dios Santo!) small kids, and my days often depend on the quality of the previous night. Sometimes I go down to the ocean with a blanket and a book … and sleep. Why would I sleep outside? Well, read above.
As for integration… It’s quite easy if you speak Spanish and have the desire to meet new people. Peruvians are quite sociable and easy-going. Sometimes even too much. Besides, there is a dense flow of tourists, expats and travellers that always surrounds you in the capital.
The average cost of living and quality of life? Hmm. Depends. Take for example my Peruvian friend called N., who has employed another Peruvian lady named L. for many years. One day N. decided to replace the windows in her apartment, and to discard the old ones. And she got to know that L. doesn’t even have glass in her window frames. That is, the frames are there but there is no glass in them – she doesn’t have enough money to insert it.
N., holding back tears, ran into her closet and started throwing designer bags and clothes into the hands of stunned (from happiness, of course, how could it be otherwise) L .. Is it graceful? Yes. From the heart? Yes.
What kind of Kazakh traditions I stick to while in a foreign land? Does drinking black tea with milk at any time of the day count as something predominantly Kazakh? If yes, here it is, my Kazakh tradition.
What do I miss most? In fact, I’ve lived abroad for long enough to forget how to miss anything whatsoever. In the beginning, I remember, I missed my mother’s homemade food so hard I had hungry tears. Is it okay to miss you homeland only gastronomically?
But on a more serious matter…
Be prepared for loneliness. Every time planning my next move (in my case, I change the location every three years), I imagine myself surrounded by interesting people day and night, lots of meetings and intimate conversations with strangers until the morning, when we become inseparable friends, and all this, of course, happening straightway upon my arrival.
In fact, after moving and unpacking the suitcases, you are all alone and silent for weeks, because there is simply no one to talk. Believe me, I know what I’m saying.
But don’t sit around and take the initiative. Find yourself some entertainment, hobbies, spiritual and not so companions.
Stay humble though and don’t teach others how to live 😉
So, can you contact me should you be in Peru or elsewhere? Yes, of course. Just do not forget about the difference in time zones.