No Longer Turistas

It’s weird to be home. I feel deeply guilty about throwing toilet paper into the toilets. But I love having a washing machine again.

Through no fault of our own, we made it home only a few hours late on Tuesday. Traveling with a three-month-old is really not such a big deal. He slept beautifully the entire flight on both planes.

The hard part was getting out of Lima. Dumb gringos that we are, we did not realize until about ten minutes before boarding that because our son was born in Peru, his US passport was not sufficient to take him out of the country. We needed his Peruvian passport to get him out of Peru, AND his US passport to get him into the states. Fortunately, there is a way to get a last-minute Peruvian passport. We followed the immigration lady’s instructions, jogged across the Lima airport and down a floor to the immigration office, and…  there was nobody there. We checked in with the police office next door, knocked on the desk, and after a few minutes a lady showed up. We explained our situation to the best of our ability, produced our passports, the baby’s RENIEC birth certificate and DNI, and had some back-and-forth with the lady, most of which we did not understand because she spoke so low. We think the low tone was related to the word “propina” (bribe) which came up a few times.  We claimed we didn’t understand, and then about four more people crowded into the office and the low tone disappeared. We were ushered into the office, the baby’s photo was taken, and we paid fifty soles for his passport, which fee may or may not have included a “propina”. We have no idea. But we did get a Peruvian passport for our son in very short order, jogged back across the airport, paid $14 for overstaying our visas, finally made it through the immigration checkpoint, and got back to the gate just as the plane was starting to board.

Thank God for the preferencia lines for people travelling with infants! And also for planes in Latin America always boarding late!

The plane was a bit late taking off, and we did not have a huge margin to change flights in Toronto, so we ended up missing our connection there and taking the next flight. Once we got back to Baltimore, we had no cell phone to contact family to pick us up, and we were three hours later than scheduled. We took one of our last remaining US dollars, traded it to a random military fellow for four quarters, and walked the entire length of the BWI international terminal looking for a working payphone. At the far end, we finally had some luck, got hold of my father-in-law, and secured a ride home.

The moral of this story is:

If you have a baby in Peru, get ALL possible documents before you leave. You need the RENIEC birth certificate to get the DNI. You need the DNI to get a Peruvian passport, and you need the Peruvian passport to take your kid out of Peru.

HOWEVER, if you don’t have the passport when it’s time to leave, you can still get one at the airport, BUT:

A) you may have to pay a bribe. If you have the time, it might help if you can arrange to be in the immigrations office when there are other people in line.

B) Give yourself a couple of hours leeway at the airport, to get the papers sorted out.

…And now, I wonder if I can track down all the ingredients to make anticuchos. I am craving them already.


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Home Sweet Home

Our time in Lima is rapidly melting away. It had to happen, eventually. The baby is old enough to travel, we’ve got all his documents together, his grandparents are dying to see him, and we want to have him baptized at our home church. And, well… it’s time to go home.

It’s bittersweet. This place has been home for almost a year now. I like our neighbors. I like smelling the bakery on the corner. I like the tienda across the street and the ready availability of fresh meat and vegetables within walking distance. I like the buses, and I like not having a car. I know every scrawl of wet-cement graffiti between our apartment and the Metro. Tiny and ramshackle as it is, I even like our apartment– especially the perpetually-blooming bougainvillea over the front gate.

Even though they know we are leaving soon, the building ladies rustled up an armchair and moved it into the lobby outside our door last week, so we could go sit with the baby out where there was a fresh breeze. A few days later they had procured him a little monkey-faced rattle to play with. Whenever we’re sitting out there with him, he becomes sort of a public property, with all the passing neighbors stopping to burble at him. Today, for the first time, I heard Wailing Abuela speak: she was headed out with Abuelo, and they stopped to coo at the baby, and she sort of half-smiled and muttered something that included the word “precioso”.

Our luggage is half-packed.  We’ve arranged for Sra. G to have the cuna when we leave– she has a new grandson. I’m excited to be going home, and sad to be leaving home. And now… we wait.

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Corner Store

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Scissors Grinder

I wish I could get a pic of this guy working. He trundles that grinding wheel around the neighborhood, blowing on that pink plastic whistle to drum up customers. He sharpens knives and scissors, and will also repair scissors if the hinge has gone wobbly.

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Somewhere on Avenida Brasil…

Apologies for the low photo quality– I was shooting from a moving bus. Yes, that is an 8-foot-high breast reminding you to get a mammogram.  Did I mention that public breastfeeding is a complete non-issue here?

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