Peru – Day 22

How does it feel sinking to the bottom and staying there, with no desire to get out?

In the past two days I did just that. I had given up and stopped calling for the update on the visa. There was a huge fire of anger inside me. However, since the anger could not be targeted at one person or one thing, the fire was consumed by the equal amount of frustration. This internal combustion left me numb.

Knowing that I might be stuck for longer, I decided to pick up the new ATM card from the bank. With my previous experience of dealing with banks here, I called the US bank first and obtained the exact delivery address. When I got there, I was told by a very nice lady that the true delivery location was 3km away. She shook her head and said, “We really don’t know why US always gave the wrong address.” “Hell,” I thought to myself, “Has anyone told US that they’ve got it wrong all this time?!” I then spent 15 minutes to show her how to print out a Google map.

With the printout in my hand, I set out on foot to the other location. My confidence of maneuvering the city had been steadily growing ever since the first successful trip to Miraflores using the public transportation.

Unfortunately the heavy pollution from the cars, especially the old cars, discounted the excitement of exploration. One can easily tell these cars already lived their lives in other countries. Some of them still have Chinese logo printed on the bodies.

Forty minutes later, after passing some rich looking neighborhoods, I arrived at the bank location on the sixth floor of a shopping mall. An office lady came out, took my passport, emerged a minute later and said, “No, your card is not here.”

“UPS record showed it was delivered on July 5, two days ago.”

“No, we don´t have it. It is not here.”

“I can show you the UPS record.”

“No, we don´t have it. Maybe it was delivered to another branch.”

“Which branch? I came from the Principle branch and they told me all deliveries from US came here.”

“No, we don´t have it.”

“Can you call the other branch to find out whether they have it?”

I was not ready to let the issue go. If I learnt anything from getting through various systems in Lima – one got to drill until they gave you a real answer.

Just when she was about to repeat herself one more time, somebody called her from the back office. She went in. Half a minute later she came out with a UPS envelop.

“Sorry. It’s here. Your name is different.” She looked more annoyed than apologetic. (Totally reminded me of the TACA counter person who pulled me off the plane.)

“Thank you.” I took the envelop and thought to myself, “How many ATM replacement cards you got from US for clients with distinct Chinese names?!”

Did I say bureaucracy was huge here? It was also everywhere. When every single person failed to do their job well enough, deficiency built up in the whole system.

With the new card safely in my bag, I took a bus with “generally right direction” and walked from the stop to the market. I sat down at a food stand with items I had not seen elsewhere. It took a long time to order. Customers and passengers all contributed a little English to getting an order for me. Cured meat and sausage, deep fried, with deep fried plantains, roughly smashed and pressed into a cone. Tasty, but heavy like hell. I knew nothing about this kind of food until a lady sat down next to me and ordered the same thing. In broken English, she told me that she had been living in SF for two years and she was in Lima on vocation. “Do you like jungle food?” she asked. “Jungle food? Oh, this is jungle food! Do you like it?” “Yes, I was born in the jungle area.” “Good!” I was getting one step closer to sampling all types of Peruvian cuisine.

I got back to the hostel half past two. The minor success of the morning encouraged me to make another round of calls to the Embassy. The soft-spoken Agent 15 was understanding as always, but had no information. While I was on the phone, a call came in through the hotel line.

“Hi, this is US Embassy. Your visa is ready. You can come to pick it up.”

I could not believe this was real, and insisted on hearing the confirmation one more time from a person who can converse better in English. Then, dropped everything and rushed out.

It might not make sense to take a bus to the Embassy considering the extra time it would take. But I did it anyway. Felt almost like a reverence, to some extent, with no clear explanation…

In all buses and minibuses here in Lima, there was one person traveling with the driver. His or her job was to stick their heads out of window, wave the cardboard with hand-written destinations, jump on and off to catch the attention of the waiting crowd, open the door, help people getting on and off, and sell the tickets. They also did a good job of “guessing” where I was going, without speaking any English themselves. In today’s case, the guy passed me onto another bus, which dropped me off right in front of the consulate. The whole trip, although doubled the time of what would take a taxi, was 1/10 of the cost.

On the way back, the “bus shouter” (as I would call them ;-)) was kindly enough to negotiate the route for me with the driver. Right before I got off, he gave me a ticket, written on it were a phone number and the name “Alex”. For a second I was confused, then I chuckled, and laughed all the way back to the hotel. After two weeks´ living in Peru, well camouflaged in dusty hiking outfit, I now looked local enough for a bus guy  to give me his number :-).

Money cannot buy memories, but money can help to pay for it.

The flight back was booked for Friday.

I still have one more day and one more thing to try – Ceviche.

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