Living in Lima

Lima Peru skyline from rooftop apartment

Well, now that I have paid rent three times in Lima I guess it is finally time to accept the move and share a little bit about my new life with all of ya’ll. In August I packed my bags, three suitcases, two giant market bags, a bench and a shelf to be exact, and left a piece of my heart in the beautiful Northern Andes of Peru. I traded small town Contumaza, Cajamarca for the capital city of Lima.

Lima Peru skyline from rooftop apartment
View from my rooftop

Lima is home to a third of the Peruvian population, almost 10 million people to be exact. It is the second largest city in the Americas, behind São Paulo and before Mexico City, and it is everything you would expect of a big city. There are very distinct neighborhoods in Lima ranging from wealthy and westernized to tin shacks and cardboard structures. It is loud, busy, unorganized, and everything is covered in a thin layer of dust from all the pollution.

Rimac Lima Peru combi public transportation Peace Corps volunteer

It is also a city full of social events, Latin culture and hardworking people. When a Peru soccer game is on the entire city errupts with cheers and boos, Tuesday night is salsa, and Thursday-Saturday the discos are full with Cumbia and Reggaton blasting through the streets. There are travelers and restaurants from just about every country you could imagine, and cultural centers that have film festivals, theater, and classical music shows.

Instead of a three block commute past the cows and donkeys, I run to catch the crowded combi and sit (or stand) for an hour as people rapidly pass by trying to get to work. Instead of long lunches and afternoon naps I work from 9am-6pm sitting behind a computer at a desk. I have co-workers and to-do lists! I love the work, my do-it-all self feels fullfilled at the end of each day because I have something tangible to show for the time spent. It is an adjustment and there are pros and cons.

Sinfonia por el Peru Office of Marketing and Public Relations Lima Peru

I miss my women’s group full of the smiling sun kissed faces of campo women who walked hours to participate. I miss the smell of musty campo clothes that never truly get clean because of the hand washing and rainy season humidity. I miss hearing “Ms. Brooklynn” as I walk the streets. But I love the social life, I love the work, and the hustle of a big city… yes I am obviously still all over the place emotionally.

Home is now a fabulous apartment with three great roommates. Thanks to a former volutneer I found a great deal on a room a few blocks from one of my jobs and a few blocks from the bus stop to get to my other job. I live with a Peruvian and two Spainards and have a kitchen with an actual sink, hot water, an amazing rooftop city view… and wait for it… a washer and dryer!!

My roommates have become like family and after my signature decorating it feels like home.

Peace Corps Peru Volunteer Room DIY Decor CribsPeace Corps Peru Volunteer Room DIY Decor Cribs 1Peace Corps Peru Volunteer Room DIY Decor Cribs 2Peace Corps Peru Volunteer Room DIY Decor Cribs 3

As a third year Peace Corps Volunteer Leader I spend 50% of my time working with Peace Corps and 50% of my time working with a Peruvian non-profit. On a normal week this means Mondays and Thursdays in the Peace Corps office and then the rest of the week with the non-profit Sinfonía por el Perú. The work is hands down my favorite part of the move! In the Peace Corps office I am working to improve volunteer support and starting social media sites for Peace Corps Peru. The social media thing is turning out to be way more paperwork than I expected, so to be determined on how that all turns out.

My non-profit counterpart is literally my dream job (well if I were getting paid) and I love every single moment I spend there. I will dedicate an entire blog post to the work I have done there the past three months later, but basically it is a non-profit founded by the world renowned tenor Juan Diego Flórez! He is Peruvian who now lives in Spain and performs all over the world. Five years ago he started Sinfonía por el Perú using the El Sistema methodology from Venezuela.

Sinfonia por el Peru youth symphony concert Peace CorpsSinfonia por el Peru youth symphony concert Peace Corps 1

The idea is that in various neighborhoods of Lima, and now in other parts of a Perú, a nucleus is opened up to all kids ages 5-15 to participate in choirs and orchestras for free. All of the kids start in choir and after six months they are tested for instrument placement and given an instrument and top quality instruction. They commit to rehearsing everyday and put on several concerts a year. The results are increible because everything from gang violence to domestic violences begins to decrease in the communities, and the kids start doing better in school and showing improvements in creativity. As you can tell it is something I am very passionate about! I still remember sitting in my high school band class and saying one day I want to start a youth symphony program using the El Sistema methodology. More on all of this at a later date… back to Living in Lima.

Working more than 50 hours a week leaves very little time for anything else, but I have managed to take advantage of some of the free events around town. I went to an Argentinina tango concert one night, a baroque quintet concert one night, and a live rock show another.

Weekends are for sleeping in and going to the market! After living in disbelief at the prices people pay for things here I finally found a market in one of the traditional parts of town with reasonable prices. I take a 20 minute bus ride to the part of town called Magdalena and load up my backpack and market bag with kilos of onions, tomatoes, quinoa, brocoli, garbanzos, black beans, fresh mangos, strawberries and mandarins. I save at least $50 a month by shopping there, and when that’s 1/8 of your monthly salary it is worth it! The problem is my room is located in Miraflores which is one of the wealthier parts of Lima so everything is literally double the price.

Shopping in the Market Magdalena Lima Peru Peace CorpsFresh Peruvian aji in Market Magdalena Lima Peru

To escape the noise and city chaos I put on my tennis shoes and take a 7 block walk or run to the nearby boardwalk, known as the Costa Verde. On a sunny day there are yoga classes, dogs on skateboards, paragliding, and tons of runners. It is beautiful. When I am feeling lazy I hang up my new hammock, thanks Dan, and read a book or pull out my yoga mat and do one the 30 days of Yoga with Adrienne videos, thanks Caron!

Peace Corps Peru rooftop hammock relaxLima Peru costa verde parque de amor sunny day Peace Corps

That is basically my new life in a nutshell. Although I miss my slice of mountain heaven, I am so grateful that my time in Peru continues and that I am able to achieve my dreams and be a part of this beautiful culture. Everything seems to be falling into place here and I can’t wait to see what life has in store for me over the next 10 months!