Of Ceviche and Sunsets
How I Came to Call Lima 'Home' even though I don't live here
On January 2nd of last year, I finally made the leap and left the Bay Area1. Give me two or three glasses of wine (or Pisco) and you can hear my rant about San Francisco vs Peru's food cultures, but this post is about 2021 and 2022 and not 2020.
In the spirit of 2022 just beginning, here are two much-abbreviated stories about new beginnings:
A Flight and a Lunch Can Change Everything for the Better
I finally managed to condense an apartment full of stuff to three suitcases that were exactly at the weight limit minus two cookbooks which I had to carry with me through security. I arrived at Lima at 5 am and checked into what would turn out to be the first of more than a dozen Airbnbs in Lima.
Then, I had a lunch that would change my life.
In the middle of my hectic arrival day where I realized that I had taken the wrong suitcase from the airport, I had a lunch that would change my life. I had been talking to Mariela via Whatsapp for months in what started out as language practice. We made plans to finally met in person the day I arrived in Lima at El Mercado, my favorite restaurant in Lima/Peru/the world, and what is now one of our favorite restaurants in Lima.
A ceviche lunch became a walk through the neighborhood and then hanging out at the beach and then living together through two different shutdowns.
Scenes from our first weekend together which has so many little memories that I will remember forever:
Keys to the condos
The thought of having a place in Lima first cross my mind as a result of meeting new friends while waiting in line for Ceviche.
This January, I finally received the keys for a place to call my own in Lima. Like most of my projects outside of work, this condo was a long time coming and delayed several times.
The thought of even having a place in Lima first crossed my mind as a result of meeting new friends while waiting in line for Ceviche. In 2016, I went to Mistura, the food festival that brought together cooks from all over Peru to celebrate Peruvian cuisine. I went three days in row. It wasn’t that big and the prices were pretty expensive so I spend a lot of my my time just meeting and talking to people about Peruvian food. I was waiting in line for ceviche when I started chatting with Roger and Jorge. We kept in touch, and I eventually stayed at their Airbnb in Lince a couple of years later.
Their place was high-tech2 and had fast internet but yet only a short walk to many traditional eateries and traditional markets where you can find fresh meat, fish, and produce, markets where they don't need to specify that something is organic.
At the end of their trip, I learned that another tower was being built across the street. That's when I decided that it would be a great place to live.
On one of the our first handful of dates, Mariela helped me check out the places. I always like to cast a wide net and explore and (over-)analyze options, but in the end, I decided to go with the condo that I had imagined three years ago.
Due to COVID and construction delays, I received the keys just weeks before we fly to Mexico. So, we’ll have to put off settling in for another few months. The rules keep on changing, but the plan is to spend a few months a year in Peru.
I wouldn't say that I now "live in Lima”, but I've certainly spent more time here. This year, I've spent way more time than I’d ever expect in Miraflores, the neighborhood that most first-time visitors end up in. It's a beautiful area and has many great cevicherías, but there's something about Lince, my new neighborhood, that drew me in. It's an area where you don't see many tourists and feels like less of a bubble. We'll certainly miss being so close to the Malecón, the pedestrian thoroughfare that runs along the coast, but it’ll just a short taxi ride away.
I've really enjoyed walking and eating my way through the different neighborhoods of Lima. Because I need good internet for work, weekdays have been centered around Miraflores and Barranco, but we've been able to explore Surquillo, San Borja, Callao, Chorrillos, and downtown along with a bit of Surco, La Victoria, and Pueblo Libre. And of course, Lince.
They weren't kidding about being able to try ceviche at a new place every day in Lima and never running out of places. We probably had ceviche 120 times last year, and I think we only had bad ceviche two times, one at an upscale restaurant and the other at a hole-in-the wall.
It's great to have the option to shop at traditional markets while also being able to order groceries online. We love buying produce, meat, and fish at Surquillo and Chorrillos on weekends, but it definitely can take a lot of energy. I was surprised to find that grocery delivery via an app works much better here. The shoppers here actually know their fruit and veggies3!
Not having to commute certainly enhances my fondness for Lima. Traffic is one of the biggest complaints about living here.
A year split between different places can be tiring. For example, the few hour gap between the typical Airbnb checkout and the check-in to the next place can really add up. However, it certainly beats being stuck somewhere you don’t enjoy.
I can certainly get used to summer in December. I previously was neither a pool nor a beach person, but I've turned to water as a way to exercise while traveling and also a way to relax and enjoy the view.
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I didn't even realize it had been nine years until I looked over my lease during the final walkthrough. It felt even longer after spending the first wave quarantined in my rent-controlled apartment that felt like an escape room where I was constantly trying to figure out how to sell or donate the furniture and the general cruft that had accumulated from the many dinner parties and roommates I had while living there.
They had automated lights and a smart lock, years before I saw a similar set up anywhere else.
I once ordered peaches on Instacart for a peach cobbler and got a small watermelon instead.