Cuatro something in Peru
This is the reason you will never, ever hear me say anything about the Hispanic folk in America who can’t speak English: I know there are four something here in Peru that my cab driver really wanted to tell me about last night, but I’ll never know what those four somethings were.
I’d followed to the letter all the warnings and safety advice issued by both my government and the Peruvians. It’s some rough ground between the Jorge Chavez International Airport and the fashionable Miraflores district. Smash-and-grabs and carjackings are apparently not uncommon in the graffiti-strewn streets in the rough part of town. Step one was finding a reputable driver, which was pretty easy. For the tidy sum of $45 US dollars, I hired myself a man who reminded me a lot of Seinfeld’s “Poppy.” He drove a black Toyota Camry and was careful in the curves.
Everything I had with me was in two small bags in the trunk. On my person, and stuffed into my shoe, pockets, or crotch were my iPhone, some cash, credit cards, and a passport. It was after 1am and all I wanted to do was get to the curiously-named Thunderbird Principal Hotel. Poppy stopped, turned around in his seat, and said “Cuatro” something or other.
I was in the back and repeated what I thought he said. “Cuatro hoteles?” I told him about the Thunderbird, the Miraflores district, and then showed him the address. Poppy held up four fingers and counted in Spanish to four. I apologized and asked, “Cuatro dólares?” I thought maybe the $45 I’d paid didn’t include some tip, but that went against everything I heard about cab drivers in Peru not expecting gratuity.
This went on for some time, with me trying to find any word in Spanish or English that rhymed with hoteles, which I’m still convinced he was saying. Finally, in a fit of friendly frustration, Poppy got on his Nextel and called somebody, said something about “Mr. Brad,” and then started driving again. It didn’t seem like Poppy had received any reasonable answer, but he was driving anyway and barreling past little tiendas and bars like he didn’t feel like stopping at the lights any more than I did. Still a little concerned, I looked up and asked “Bueno?”
“Si, si,” he said with a smile. Whatever had been so cuatro important apparently had been resolved.
I am not a nervous traveler. For the longest time, I’ve thrown myself headlong into places and situations that probably should have gotten me killed, kidnapped, or at least very badly embarrassed. As my wife will attest, I worry about next to nothing. I am not afraid to fly. I’m entranced by different cultures. I really dig going to new countries. On this trip, however, I confessed to just a few people that I was a bit concerned. I was traveling alone, without any of my friends who speak fluent Spanish, and to a place I’d read could get a little rough. In fairness to the fair city of Lima, I’d worked it up a little much in my head. Nonetheless, I was rather convinced that, if we didn’t crash on landing, I was going to be the target of some terrorist sect’s kidnapping plot simply by the circumstances of my late night arrival.
Obviously, I’m fine.
I’m in a poofy bed on the 14th floor of the Thunderbird Hotel. Street noise from the Miraflores roads has been near-constant in the 12 hours since I’ve arrived. We’re coming up on winter here, but the city is wrapped in a humid and constant mid-60s temperature. This place is foggy this time of year. It’s so foggy, in fact, that the less fortunate people of Lima have actually created fog nets to try to capture clean drinking water. Again I find myself struck by the fact that I’m in an expensive hotel looking out over the foggy streets, and not too far from here there are people who have to capture their clean drinking water from the air. With nets.
And, so, I’m in Lima, Peru. I woke up a little more than 24 hours ago and ate oatmeal my wife made me in Greenville, SC. Now, I have to find food for myself in Peru.
I may order cuatro of whatever it is. You know, just to be safe.