Episode 1: Buenos Dias a Bananas and Biscuits
If I can only share with you one keepsake from my first week in Peru let it be this: The fruit here is incredible. White fruits, red fruits, solid fruits, gel fruits: it’s quite possible that in just 8 days I’ve eaten more fruit than in the whole year beforehand combined. Okay, now onto my first week.
My first day, Tuesday, began with some scrambled eggs, toast, and papaya juice. Papaya is the classic Peruvian breakfast food. I ate this breakfast in my new home in San Isidro (a district of Lima). The home belongs to Gaby and Elie my current parents, and close family friends that I know through my Peruvian neighbors in Boston. They have kindly opened up their beautiful home to me and I can’t thank them enough. In addition to the new breakfast fruit, I am also experiencing a new lifestyle- living with maids. Their names are Martina and Estela and they are also so welcoming.
A few hours after that first breakfast, Elie picked me up to go get a Peruvian SIM Card. Note though that if you ever are fortunate enough to travel to Perú everyone here uses Whatsapp for all communication. Next, we went to the office where both Elie and Gaby work. Elie works in high tech safety: door locks, hotel card locks, personal safes, and more. Gaby works in something very different- dog biscuits. She started Don Fermín, an all natural dog treat company named after her puppy three years ago. When I got to the office I got to work in the Kitchen (pictured above) carving the dough in circles, and bone shapes, cooking them, and finally weighing and boxing them up.
In the afternoon Elie walked me down to a nearby fruit vendor (pictured). Guys, I know I already mentioned fruit so I’ll only mention it like 5 more times tops I promise. THE FRUIT HERE IS SO GOOD!!! I proceeded to eat a tasty mini-banana and for dessert I ate an entire mango with just a spoon and a smile. The next day I got to join Gaby on her trip to a traditional Peruvian market (pictured) to pickup some fruits, vegetables, and home items. A little later on Wednesday I helped bake some cookies in the kitchen, and then helped Gaby translate part of her web page into English.
That night was Nov 30, a day which I learned marks the expulsion/departure of Arab Jews from Arab Countries. Therefore, I went to a local Jewish center where Elie’s father (an Egyptian Jew) spoke about his experience. By chance, I also got to meet Raphael Singer, the Israeli Ambassador to Peru (Pictured)!
Thursday was a long day of biscuits making followed by a challenging and for me enjoyable night of translating and brainstorming business statements with Gaby. I’ve realized that literally translating the words takes only minutes, but trying to impart the ideas and voice of the Spanish version is much harder. That night was my first experience of dinner on a Peruvian schedule- meaning it started at 930 pm.
Friday I left the biscuit-kitchen early to make, braid, and bake some challah with Estela (pictured). Peruvian Shabbos Dinner started, naturally, at 930pm. That night I got to catch up with the extraordinary and welcoming Betty and Oscar Zwiebach, re-meet Elie’s parents and get to know a younger family with a few kids close to my age. We served a homemade traditional Peruvian drink called Chicha Morada, which is a unique delicious drank made by simmering water with purple corn and pineapple for several hours. Dessert consisted of a wide variety of fruits (pictured), including Chirimoya (look it up, it tastes like cotton candy), figs, cactus, and mango- in other words heaven.
On Shabbat morning I went to a Sephardi shul with Elie, swam a little in the pool, and took a nap in the sun. That night, Elie and Gaby took me out on the town and showed me Barranco, another district in Lima that is home to serious night life, and art museums too.
SUNDAY WAS FUNDAY BECAUSE SUNDAY HAD ULTIMATE!!!!!!! I found an ultimate club comprised of 30% americans, 30% colombians, and 40% other (yes, there were Peruvians). That morning, I spent 3.5 hours playing which led to a few scars, some new friends, a nice sunburn, and a serious case of happiness. That afternoon, I attended the 60th Anniversary of Hebraica, a local JCC-equivalent. There I watched a lot of Israeli dancing from groups all over South America (Mexico, Argentina, Perú), and ordered sushi from a Japanese food truck. I also got to meet up with the ever brilliant Ruth Kristal. The night was topped off with a great visit and dinner with another set of family friends: Lucho, Flor, David and Eva (with a later sighting of Michael) at Café de Lima (pictured).
Monday was dedicated to brainstorming mission and vision statements in Spanish for Don Fermín then translating them into English. I truly do enjoy the challenge of it.
Tuesday I played with kids at a local children’s hospital as a volunteer (pictured). I was invited on the expedition by a friend of Gaby and I look forward to going back weekly over the next 2 months, and maybe even shadowing a doctor there.
A few things to note. It’s summer down here so the weather is a highly enjoyable 70 degrees fahrenheit. I’m speaking Spanish all the time and I have to say that immersion combined with a general lack of shame linguistically is the perfect way to get fluent fast (though I am not claiming fluency by any means yet). Waze, the app, declared Lima the worst capital city in South America to drive in, I haven’t been to any other capital but I can’t imagine worse. Oh, and the fruit here is amazing.
Tune in next time for an update on biscuits, bananas, business, frisBEE, and the rest of Ben’s Peruvian Promenade. ¡Chao!