Amy and I spent an amazing month working, relaxing and exploring Lima, Peru. We took our time to enjoy the best parts of Lima while learning Spanish. The month abroad was my exploration of a new way to work and live in a furnished apartment in a foreign place. We were able to work, relax, write, exercise, learn and have fun in our temporary home in a great city.
Highlights of the month:
- Soaring over the cliffs and hihg-rise of Lima in a parasail
- Learning Spanish from a professional for $10/hour/person
- Great meals in the culinary capital of the Americas for a third to half the price of meals in the US
- Great furnished apartment for $1,200/month
- Time to read and relax
- Great workouts hiking up and down the cliffs of Lima
Lima has about ten million people and a rich history dating back to 1535 when the Spanish Conquistador Pizarro claimed it. Lima was the viceroyalty or capital of the Spanish territories in South America and has excellent museums. Lima is set on a plane that ends abruptly in 300’ cliffs that fall to the ocean. High rise apartments tower above the cliffs and a long park or esplanade is a great place to walk and watch Limons walk their dogs and exercise. We rented an Airbnb apartment that was one block away from these cliffs. While we didn’t have ocean views, we had comfortable home with a doorman for about a third of the price that I’d pay in Santa Barbara.
The apartment was in the Miraflores district which is considered the nicest part of the city and where most of the tourists go and foreigners live. We were within walking distance of many superb restaurants and interesting places like the Choco Museum where we took a cooking class or John F. Kennedy Parque. We could easily get a taxi for under $5 to nearby neighborhoods like Barranco or downtown. We also took some crowded buses to downtown Miraflores for $0.30, but we got tired of the crowded buses that got stuck in traffic when we could spend $3 on a taxi and miss the hassles. Our Spanish teacher told us that taxi drivers might rob us, so we ended up taking Uber which was even cheaper. The only downside of Uber was that we often had to wait up to 10 minutes to get a ride. We could take longer, express buses downtown, but ended up taking taxis.
Our Spanish teacher Julio came to our apartment and taught us in 2-hour stretches for $40. That breaks down to $10/hour for the both of us. Julio was a nice, middle-aged man who had acted and done voice-overs for much of his career. He had lived in Pueblo, Colorado for 8-years and was helpful to get our survival Spanish flowing. We’ve been using Duolingo on our phones to learn Spanish, but Amy and I both tend to freeze when we want to speak to a live Peruvian. While we were pretty good at speaking to the phone, Julio helped us speak to actual people. We still have a long way to go on our Spanish, but I have used Duolingo for 28-days straight now.
I am pretty pleased with how easy it was to get around in our broken Spanish. Spanish is pretty easy to read – especially when we have Google and Google translate when we’re ordering food. I learned to negotiate with taxi drivers before I started using Uber. Conversations were rather limited and most Peruvians spoke English about as good as most people in Taiwan – my reference country. So there was a significant language barrier, but I could read plaques of signs much better than I can Chinese.
Speaking of reading, I started doing that again while I was in Lima. I usually don’t make the time to do such casual things as read, but I found the time in Lima. I enjoyed reading Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire and lots of online content. We had excellent WiFi in the apartment and could stream movies on Netflix or Amazon with Amy’s Chromecast or the built in TV apps. We also had good cellphone service via a local carrier for about $25 for the month.
In addition to reading, I also did quite a bit of work in Lima. I finished editing the third and fourth editions of my new novel Beyond the Cliffs of Death. I’ve printed a few copies and I’m sending it out for review. Other work related things I had to do was coordinate repairing my flooded basement in Santa Barbara. While Lima never gets rain – only drizzle, Santa Barbara has had 13 rainstorms since September 1st and has received their average rainfall for the year with a couple months to go in the rainy season. My basement flooded in the worst storm and several inches of water got into the basement apartment. I had to replace the lower 8” of drywall and put in new baseboards. My property managers handled most of it fir me, but I was able to communicate with them easily with Skype.
Besides being wetter, winter in Santa Barbara is also colder than Lima. Every day in Lima had the highs in the upper 70s to mid 80s and lows in the upper 60s to low 70s. Lima is close to the equator and tropical but considered a desert even though it was fairly humid. Santa Barbara has mainly had highs in the 50s and 60s while lows have dropped into the 30s. I won’t even discuss the harsh winter that my family in KC has been going through.
The weather is so moderate in Lima, that the apartment doesn’t have heating or AC. We just opened the window and got mild breezes to blow through. The temperature was fine for the first three weeks, but it got hot enough in the last week that had to sleep in the raw with a fan blowing over us to keep it cool enough to sleep.
The hottest we got was when we would exercise going up and down the cliffs to the ocean. A nice set of 337 steps, or about 250 vertical feet, went down to the beach below our apartment. These steps were similar to the steps of Santa Monica where we used to work out a lot. To get in shape for climbing Machu Picchu in May, I set a goal of climbing the cliffs 50 times. It seemed pretty doable and I initially climbed the stairs two or three times for my workout at the start of the stay. I accumulated about twenty hikes up the cliffs after two weeks when I was hit by traveler’s diarrhea (TD). Most travelers to the developing world get afflicted by this scourge and we were prepared. Amy and I brought a dose of Azithromycin and I decided to use mine after I’d lost about ten pounds and a week. I’d take it earlier next time.
Anyway, the TD set my schedule back and I wasn’t sure if I could make my goal of fifty sets. After I recovered, I had only done twenty sets and had six days to do thirty sets! I was only doing four sets before I got sick, so I had to step up and get it done.
Amy likes doing the steps in the morning while I prefer to work out at sunset when the breezes pick up. I decided to join her one morning and regretted it. The winds weren’t blowing and I started sweating like a dog and overheating in the calm air after only two sets. When the air is still, the humidity really got to me. I had to quit after two sets and I felt like I was hungover while I wasn’t.
I tried again about 6:00pm and knew the sun would set at 6:40. Each set took about nine minutes, so I figured I’d go until sunset. There was a nice breeze off the ocean and it kept me cool while I watched the sun set over the Pacific. I felt great and did six sets without much difficulty as the lights turned on. In the end, I did eight sets that day or about 2,000 vertical feet up and down. Over the next few days, I reached my goal of 50, met some locals on the steps and got in shape. I feel in much better shape after and know I wouldn’t have hiked that much if I hadn’t set a goal.
To summarize my month abroad, I got to spend some lovely time with Amy in a fairly exotic and lovely city. This was my first visit to South America and we loved it. We did leave Lima for a weekend getaway, but we could have stayed even longer in Lima.
Our next extended stay is 44 days in Cusco!
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