Saturday, 6 November 2010

LA to Lima

I drive myself to the airport and drop off the hire car -- wheels are a must in LALA. All goes smoothly, including going through the uber-serious security checks at LAX. The 8-hour flight to Lima ~ just a hop and a skip in comparison to the 24 hours I've spent getting to LA ~  is pretty cool. I've been assigned what is referred to as a 'pod', walled in on two sides with a bed that goes entirely flat and provides real privacy. The flat screen is a respectable size and I kill time watching movies, even though I find sitting up in the pod a tad claustro ~ good thing I'm not six foot and 200 pounds. Pity this is a day flight ~ I am not tired ~ but simply have to try all possible pod possies, so I have a nap, if nothing else to curl up with the soft white doona and pillow. Am not likely to see such luxury again for some time to come.


We land on time and the Peruvian authorities are surprisingly kind. Barely any questions asked, I get stamped to stay in the country for up to 183 days, the maximum without a visa, more than double the time I intend to be here. Despite the late hour ~it is well after midnight ~ the arrival hall has layers and layers of people thronging behind barricades, many holding up signs and I am pleased to discover my name on one. My host from the Ministry of Women ~ where I will be based for the next 2.5 months ~ is here, accompanied by a driver to get me to the B&B she has selected for me. We've been corresponding about my accommodation and I've tried to convey what I am after.

The entrance is sweet and, as it turns out, the best part. My room is on the ground floor  ~ a single as it is not customary for a woman alone to get a room with a 'matrimony' bed . It has two horribly soft single beds and I find myself shuffling mattresses at 2:00 AM to figure out which one will do the least damage ~ already missing the pod and (almost fondly) thinking of the     parkbench-like mattress in Bangladesh.  In the sliver that is the bathroom I can barely squeeze past the sink to the toilet and shower, which is a mere drip ~ my introduction to Peru!  

Wednesday, 3 November 2010


Talk about culture shock. After Bangladesh Los Angeles seems particularly over the top. I arrive at LA airport in the late morning. The immigration system is down, so the cue is even longer than normal. Makes you wonder what draws so many people here?  It takes 1.5 hours of shuffling down the cue with a man continually shouting that we need to inch closer to the next person as the cue is now so long it is outside the ropes. Now there's a job ..

I don't feel too jetlagged and as I am in Santa Monica we go out for a long walk to the promenade (think consumerism) and the ocean (think green and views).
As I am still upright in the evening we go out for a bite to eat ~ I'd forgotten the ridiculously large portions that are served in America, enough to feed an entire household and people are perpetually carrying home so-called 'doggy bags'. But looking at the average sized human here, it doesn't look like the dog gets much if any of the leftovers. 
ocean walk

After being in Bangladesh where I barely saw alcohol, it strikes me how many drinks and other inebrients are  being stowed away by everyone around me. What strikes me as well is the amount of people who are having conversations on their mobile (oops, cell) phones with the speaker on loud ~ this, I am told, is de rigueur in carrying on one's communications in LALA.

The jetlag hits the next day and I can barely keep my eyes open. My friends are off to a Halloween party ~ another American phenomenon that escapes me ~ in San Diego. I beg off, although I could easily assemble a burqa to double as a costume. Twenty four hours of travel barely behind me, I'm not keen to sit in traffic on the freeway and I want to catch up with some old mates. Turns out it is a wise decision as the party lasts two  days ~ half my time in LA. 

I enjoy some quality time with my friends and also take myself to a local cinema to see 'Social Network', the story of Facebook, which is all about stealing ideas and greed. Interesting story, but that's just it ~  with 500+ million Facebook users and growing, it wouldn't much matter if every movie-goer were incited to boycott the pervasive site because of its assorted past.
I leave LA thinking there is something terribly wrong with a culture that is inebriated with noise, greed and apathy.  Am off to Peru for the second half of my field work.