Sunday, April 4, 2010

What We're Eating is now My Life In Peru

Ready to say 'Goodbye'Image by Klearchos Kapoutsis via Flickr

This is the last post to What We're Eating (and More)

It's been a good little blog, but I want more! So, I've moved it all over to

(drum roll please!!)

My Life in Peru

If you've been a regular reader here, you'll want to re-set your bookmarks and start heading over there now... go on now... Enjoy the pretty flowers I posted!!

And seriously, thanks to the people that have been coming here and reading what I write. It means a lot to me, and I look forward to seeing y'all over on the new site.

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Friday, April 2, 2010

Happy Good Friday

The father in law's house.Image by fnnkybutt via Flickr

I'm guessing a lot of you are out making the most of your long weekend. I know the streets here in Miraflores are all but empty of cars.

The lack of traffic (and work) has got us thinking it's a good day for us to get out too, so we're getting ready to take a trip up to Puente Piedra to visit my father in law - that's a picture of his house-in-progress from a few years ago.

My mom hasn't been up to the Cono Norte (Northern Cone) of Lima yet, so it will be an interesting trip for her, and a nice change of pace for all of us. We've been looking for an excuse to get out of the house, so this will be fun. And we'll take a bunch of pics to show the rest of y'all what it's like in that part of Lima.

Hint: Dry, dusty, and developing too quickly, yet not in the right ways.

Also - Big News! This is the last post on this blog. As of Monday, we'll be moving over to our new server AND web address - It's a bit of a work in progress right now, but I expect to have it up and running full force (minus a few kinks that may need to be worked out) by Monday. See you there!

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Garlic Quick and Simple - Ajo Molido

Garlic BulbsImage via Wikipedia

Back in the US, I used to buy that garlic in a jar. You know, it's already peeled, chopped and ready to use in cooking. It's almost as good as fresh garlic, and miles more convenient. Well, I've not seen it here in Lima, but it's easy enough to do yourself.

Start with 2 heads of garlic, peeled. (Not 2 cloves - 2 entire heads. Yes, I know that's going to be a lot of garlic peeling)

Drop them in the blender, and add a quarter cup of whatever vegetable oil you usually use for cooking. I like to use half soy/half olive.

Use the pulse on your blender to get it all chopped up real fine. You don't want to liquefy it... just get it blended.

When you're done, dump it into a glass jar. I save all my glass jars from everything I buy, and like to use the little jars from Kraft Mayo - I love that wide top.

Add enough oil to cover the top of the garlic. The oil will keep the air from spoiling the garlic. This will stay good in the refrigerator for about a week. One head of garlic will give you about 2 tablespoons of ajo molido.

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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Rock in Lima

Franz FerdinandFranz Ferdinand via

Over the last couple of years, Lima has started seeing a lot more concerts than it has in past years. It started with people like Roger Waters, the Cranberries... You know, people that are popular, but no 'A list' types of acts. But that's changed, especially recently.

My favorite band, Cafe Tacuba, has been here twice in the last year. Faith No More was here recently, as was Metallica. Depeche Mode played a great show, and Guns n Roses was here this past week, which of course stirred a controversy as the show started hours late. Aerosmith and Muse both have shows coming up.

Something that's got my attention lately is the group Franz Ferdinand. They're here in Lima now, and are playing a show tonight*. The reason it got my attention is because for two weeks or so, I've been seeing news item after news item about the band. Just little blurbs about how they love Peruvian music, or Peruvian food, or just in general about how they can't wait to sight-see while they're here. For some reason, I never thought about FF being a band that would be well known in Lima, so it's been a surprise to see how much press they've gotten. They went out sightseeing and shopping yesterday, and we got a daily update on their music buying while in Lima Cercado. As a fan of the band, it's been fun seeing how they're getting more press than a lot of the big, 'super bands' that have been here.

I'm excited to see what more is on the horizon for rock music in Lima, and look forward to hitting a few shows myself in the future.

*edited - oops! had the dates mixed up, the Franz Ferdinand show was last night. And apparently, it was great!

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Free Cook Books!

First Sun-Maid packaging to feature a likeness...Image via Wikipedia

I was surfing the web for recipes (because that's what I do) and came across this pretty cool page from Sun-Maid Raisins. They've been sharing recipes using raisins and other dried fruits for almost 100 years, and in celebration have posted this collection of cookbooks dating back to 1915. It's really interesting to read the recipes and cooking tips from back then, and see how much - and how little - has changed in cooking.

Check it out!

100 Years of Recipes

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Monday, March 29, 2010

Angel Hair in Garlic Butter

A garlic press, with pressed garlic.Image via Wikipedia

I'm a nut for garlic. I'll eat it in just about anything. For a long time, the only way I'd eat spaghetti was with butter and a bit of garlic salt sprinkled on top - it's still a favorite snack for me.

Well, I made a stir fry the other night, and cooked up too much pasta, so I'm going to use up the rest of the noodles today for my lunch. I've got spaghetti noodles, but angel hair is perfect for this recipe.

This makes 6-8 servings.

1 kg (2 lbs) angel hair pasta
4 tbsp butter
4 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 tbsp limon juice
2 tbsp chopped parsley
6 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
Salt to taste

1) In a large pot, boil three liters (3 quarts) of water, add the pasta, stir to separate and let cook for about 5 minutes.
2) Meanwhile, melt the butter in a frying pan on medium heat and add the garlic. Cook until golden, then add the lemon juice, stir, and set aside, off the heat.
3) When the pasta is ready, drain it in a colander, then add it to the frying pan with the parsley. Mix it all well, and serve topped with the Parmesan.

If you'd like something a little more, add sliced mushrooms with the garlic. Add a little olive oil to the butter for more flavor. Serve with Italian Sausage, or a Parmesan fish main course.

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Making Chicken Stock

The most amazing chicken stock batch yet!Image by Librarianguish via Flickr

I use chicken stock for a lot of things... well, not a lot of things, but a couple important things. Chicken soup and aji de gallina. In Peru, people seem to take their chicken soup very seriously, and if you want a good soup, you need to start with a good stock. This is how I do it.

Start with a pollo a la braza. If you're in the US, a rotisserie chicken from your grocery store will do.

Pick all the meat off - we usually eat the legs/thighs, then use the breast to make something else. Save all your bones!

Put the carcass minus the meat in a large stock pot. Add a whole onion, a carrot or two and a couple sticks of celery if you like that sort of stuff. (I do NOT like celery and never use it for anything.) Add a bay leaf and I like to add about 1/2 teaspoon of basil.

And a teaspoon of salt. I'd rather not add too much now, because I might use this for soup, and I might use it for aji de gallina, or ... who knows what else. I just want to have the salt content under control before I use it for something else.

Cover it with water, and bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer for a couple hours.

Let it cool, then strain it to get all bones, veggies etc out of it.

What you've got now is a couple liters of super tasty chicken stock.

Why is it stock, and not broth? Generally, stock is made from boiling the bones. Broth is made from boiling meat. Stock gets gelatin from the bones, so it's better for using in sauces and stuff, dontcha know. Broth tends to have a richer flavor, and tastes more like a finished product that stock.

Speaking of stock and gelatin - If you have the feet from your chicken, clean them well, cut off the toe tips, and throw them in with the carcass. They give the stock a really nice texture - and you can just strain them out later and toss them if the idea of chicken feet in your soup grosses you out. ;)
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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

TP or Not TP.... That is the Question

Toilet paperImage via Wikipedia

There are two things about toilet paper in Peru that you need to know. First of all, always - ALWAYS - carry some with you. Second, when in doubt, don't flush it.

Before I came to Peru, I had read something about carrying TP with you while you traveled. I assumed, in my naivety, that meant to places like Machu Picchu, or the jungle - you know, when you got away from 'civilization'. No. It means when you go to the grocery store, or McDonald's, or.. anywhere. You're never assured of having TP available. Of course, you're never assured of having anything remotely resembling a clean bathroom available either, but I digress. ;)

Now, things are better than they were 6 years ago - as the economy here has improved, I've noticed an increase in TP provisioning. One thing to watch out for is the 'master TP roll'. At many public restrooms, instead of having a roll in each stall there will be a large roll on the wall out by the sinks. You get the TP you need, and then take it in the stall with you. This is supposed to keep people from stealing, I think... but really it just encourages them to take much more than they need.

Another thing you'll see, especially in markets, is the pay-per-use TP. There will be a person sitting at a little booth out front of the bathrooms, and you'll pay 50 centimos for a small amount of TP to take in with you. If you need more, you have to pay twice.

Now. About disposing of this TP, assuming you've been able to find some. While things are improving in the newer areas of Lima, most plumbing in Peru is very old. Pipes are narrow. I've heard some old pipes are made of terra cotta, whose interior has gone rough and 'clingy' over time. The point is, paper doesn't like to pass. I've seen the horrors of narrow pipes here in my own home. So most Peruvians toss their used TP in little waste bins in the bathroom rather than flushing. I know, it seems unhygienic - but it's a 1000 times less icky than having toilets running over in your bathroom and unholy masses of filth being plucked from the pipes by the plumber.

So, if you plan on coming to Peru my advice to you is:
Always have a spare roll of TP in your purse or backpack.
Don't Flush!
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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

La Llorona and El Cuco

"You Can't Get Away Now, Llorona!"Image by garlandcannon via Flickr

It sounds like some crazy pair of South American bandits, but they're actually the main characters of two Peruvian folk tales.

For those not in the know, this week is World Folktales and Fables Week, so I thought I'd tell you about a few of the tales that I've heard since I've been here.

La Llorona
(lah yore-OWN-a)

There are tales of La Llorona (the crying lady) all through South America, and it's particularly popular in Mexico. Here in Peru, the story I was told goes like this: There was an indigenous woman who fell deeply in love with a Spanish nobleman, and he with her. Although his family forbid him to marry her, they maintained a relationship and even had children. Then, one day the nobleman's father announced that they had found the perfect Spanish lady for his son to marry. When she heard the news, his lover was so distraught that she took her children down to the Rio Rimac (some people say she took them to the beach) and drowned them. When she came to her senses and realized what she had done, she killed herself. Now, her ghost wanders the banks of the river, sobbing and crying out 'Donde estan mis hijos?' (where are my children?) It's said that if she finds children out alone after dark, she'll drag them into the river to join her and her family.

El Cuco
(el COO-coh)

El Cuco is one of my favorite Peruvian folktales. It's another story that's popular in much of S. America, and is also known in Spain and Portugal. El Cuco is very much like the boogeyman of North America, in that he's used to frighten disobedient children. His appearance has changed over the years and from place to place, but in Peru he's thought to be a large hairy beast with large teeth. What's really frightening about him though, isn't how he looks, but in what he does. He kidnaps children, takes them away and most likely eats them - but they're never seen again. It's a common thing to hear a parent say 'if you don't eat your dinner, the Cuco will take you away!' (No wonder children are terrified of the dark!) It's such a well known story that Lima's main newspaper used it as the theme for a television ad.

Comercial El Cuco - El Comercio
Cargado por morris_cristhian. - Descubre más videos creativos.

(Kid won't eat his liver, El Cuco comes to take him away, the kid argues that the food's really bad. El Cuco tries it out, and is so disgusted he takes mom instead - takes her to buy a series of recipes published by the newspaper!)

(peesh TAH koh)

The final tale in our gruesome threesome today is one that was actually in the news a bit lately. The Pishtaco is another type of boogeyman, this one from the Southern Andes, although it's known all over Peru. Generally reported as being a white skinned man, the Pishtaco likes to kidnap unsuspecting Indians and steal the fat from their bodies, and sometimes fry them up as chicharrones. Pishtaco comes from the Quechua word pishtay which means to behead. In the past, belief in the pishtacos has caused some problems for everyone from early Spanish missionaries to US aid programs; people thought it might be a plan just to fatten children up for later 'harvesting'. The belief in the pishtaco exists to this day, and recently made headlines when it was used as a cover-up for alleged extrajudicial police killings.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Free Pastry at Starbucks!

Hey, are you one of those folks that goes to Starbucks every morning? Then tomorrow's your lucky day - go here and print out a coupon for a free pastry. But remember - it's only good for tomorrow, before 10:30 am - the early bird gets the danish!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Aji Molido, or Pepper Sauce: The Spice of Peruvian Cooking

don CuchoImage by TravelingMan via Flickr

There's been so much going on around here lately that I've kinda been slacking on recipes and cooking stuff. Well, that just won't do for a blog that's s'poseta be about what we're eating! So let's see if we can't start making a little amends for that.

I read an article in the news today that said that a full 42% of tourists who come to Peru make their decision based at least in part on the food! That's right - people are coming here just because everything is SO delicious! And one of the things that makes it so delicious is the wonderful spices used in cooking. The most important of the spices are the different kinds of aji (ah-HEE), or peppers, used to give the food heat and flavor. No matter what food is served, there's always a little bowl, jar or bottle of liquified aji on the side. And today, I'm going to tell you how it's made. Yay!

It takes about 12 aji (amarillo, panca or mirasol) to make one cup of aji molido.
Take your aji, and devein/deseed them.
Put them in a pot, cover with water and bring it to a boil.
When they're soft (it doesn't take long) take them out of the water and peel them.
Liquify in the blender - you can add a little of the water you used to boil them in to get the consistency right. Some people like to add a little oil for consistency instead of water.

This will last in the refrigerator for about 3 days. If you want to make a lot in advance, you can put it in ice cube trays and freeze it in single servings like that.

Finally - a lot of times when I put recipes on here, I tell people to check at their local Latin market for ingredients. But what if you live in a place where there isn't a Latin market, or if you just aren't able to find the ingredients you want? is your FRIEND! Check out some of the stuff I've found there:

Pasta de Aji Amarillo/Hot Yellow Pepper Paste
Aji Amarillo, Destemmed - 1 Lb Bag / Box Each
Salsa de Aji Panca/Panca Pepper Sauce

....among others. So, if you've had trouble finding ingredients for cooking up delicious Peruvian recipes, check out

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Speaking of School and Combis...

My oldest son is now 13 years old, and this year has started in the 1st grade of secondary classes. It's the equivalent of 7th grade - middle school or junior high - in the US. The previous school the boys were enrolled in only included primary classes, so we had no choice but to look into new schools. These new school is located here in Miraflores, as I believe I mentioned before, and seems to be a really good school - lots of discipline and rule enforcement, which we have found lacking in the past.

However, it seems that in secondary school, the kids are a lot more independent. Which, don't get me wrong, is a very good thing. Except, they all take the bus to school and home. Alone. This is not something that makes me happy. And no, this isn't one of those situations where my kids is saying 'But Mooooooooom, all the other kids are riding the bus!'. No, this is a situation where my husband is telling me that we're making a sissy pariah out of our son by taking him to school and picking him up each day.

Well, the good news is that there's a combi that runs literally from our front door to the entrance of the school. In the evenings coming home, he'd have to walk down to the opposite corner to get the bus coming home, but still, it's right there within sight of the school entrance. And then get dropped off right in front of the house.

The bad news is that, of course, this isn't the ONLY bus that runs by that corner, and coming home he'll have to be extra careful that he gets on the right bus or he might end up in Chorrillos.

So, we made several trial runs, riding the bus with him, but letting him flag it down and make the decision. And then last night, he was on his own. I suppose I don't have to tell you, I was a nervous wreck. He should have been home by 630pm, and when he wasn't we called his cell phone - he was still by the road, waiting for the bus. He said the buses go by so fast, he was having trouble telling which one was the right one. By this time it was nearly dark - so we told him just to flag down every bus, and ask them if they go on our street. 20 minutes later, he was home!

This is such a huge step in the life of a parent - and of a child. On the one hand, it's great knowing that my kid is maturing, and growing and that we've taught him well enough that he can handle doing this on his own. On the other hand, as a former juvenile delinquent, my mind is full of visions of him catching the bus to the beach instead of school, or taking off to his friend's house without telling us. I guess it's just another one of those times when we've got to trust him to do the right thing... right?
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Thursday, March 18, 2010

I'm so Clumsy!

Our dear, sweet Chance (in the picture with my son, David) had this really bad habit of laying in front of the French doors leading out of my bedroom. It's bad, because we have privacy curtains on those doors, and you can't see him laying there as you start to pass through. Well, yesterday it happened - I was leaving the bedroom, and there was Chance. I tried to stop in my tracks so as not to step on him, and got my flipflop stuck on the tv cable that runs along the door ledge... pulled it up and lost my flipflop, and then slammed my big toe onto one of the carpet nails that had previously doing a great job of holding the cable down. The nail very kindly took a big chunk of toe from me. I shall very kindly not post a picture of how nasty it looks. But... ow! :(

In other news, the kitchen makeover is coming along swimmingly (as I limp around and write articles and blog posts, my mom is doing all the real work) and my husband Arturo is working on getting all the baseboards in the house painted a nice clean white again. This house is going to be gorgeous!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Kitchen Re-do!

When we moved into the house we now live in, one of the things we didn't like about it was the
color in the kitchen. First of all, most of the walls are white tile, up to about 5 feet high - super easy to keep clean, but kind of gives it a hospital/morgue feel - especially with the big stainless steel sink on one side and the big tile wall divider that splits the kitchen in half. The worst though, was the walls above the tile - they were painted this horrible, dingy burnt orange color. It was just wretched.

Well, as I've mentioned before, there was some construction being done in the lot next to us. And as repayment for the inconvenience (and damage) that they did to our house, they painted our kitchen. We chose a lovely bright color, called Ocean Sigh. Now, we're adding accent colors - and when I say 'we', I'm talking about my hard-working mom - and we chose this super cute green apple color (as you can see from the pictures!) that we got from Sodimac.

My mom has been hard at work - she painted and reupholstered the little stool in this picture, and is painting the kitchen shelves now, as you see above. My husband took apart the little cabinet in the picture and painted it. We'd like to put some new hinges on it to finish the look. My mom was lucky enough to find those cute placemats that you see under the toaster. We'll post some before and after pictures when the whole thing's done.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Buses and Micros and Combis - Oh My!

Colegialas y microsImage by pierre pouliquin via Flickr

I have a love/hate relationship with public transportation here in Lima. While I love the fact that's cheap, convenient and can get me pretty much anywhere I want to go, I hate how crowded and uncomfortable it is. And dirty. And cramped. And dangerous. But apart from that, I like taking the bus! :D

You can catch a bus or combi from just about any main street in Lima, and the cost to go from one end of the line to the other is rarely more than a sol - about 35 cents US (at the current exchange rate). If you're just going a few blocks, you can ride for a 'china' - that's the slang term for a Peruvian 50 centimos piece.

Despite great prices, the transportation here is really substandard for a city of this size. Buses and vans are poorly maintained, and often carry far too many passengers. In the race for paying customers, the drivers speed and weave through traffic, trying to get to the next 'paradero' (bus stop) before the other buses. While there are laws and regulations, it's too easy for drivers and company owners to get by on bribery. Too many people are killed and injured each year.

Fortunately, it seems the city is working on it, though - the new high speed bus line is supposed to be up and running soon, and progress has begun again on the electric train system that's been sitting unfinished since the 80's. It will be exciting to see it finished - and I look forward to riding in the new buses!
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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Back to School

Franco and his prizeImage by fnnkybutt via Flickr

School started up last week for my kids, and let me tell ya, we got off to a rough start. My oldest son is starting secondary school this year - that would be the equivalent of 7th grade in the US. It was really hard for him; he's had some tough times in school before, where he was victimized by some bullies when he was in first grade, and that combined with his innate shyness has made starting in a new school a real trial for him. Before, he was in school with his younger brother, but this year, Franco (the young one) has morning classes and David is on his own with the older kids in afternoon classes.

Without giving too much detail and embarrassing my poor baby if he ever reads this, the first day of school nearly gave him a nervous breakdown (me too!). Leaving him at that school, knowing how terrified he was, has to be one of the hardest things I've done as a parent. But sometimes you just have to do what you have to do - and in the end, it all worked out ok, and he's super happy at the school now.

So, if you're starting your kids in a Peruvian school, what can you expect? Well, our kids are in public school, which surprisingly enough doesn't make much difference in the amount of supplies we have to buy. We had to get each boy a notebook for each subject, the requisite pencils, colored pencils, erasers, pencil sharpeners and so on. Also, there were things like poster paper, large graph papers (called papelographo), markers and pens for the teachers, and even 10 rolls of toilet paper each. When we had them in private school, we had to buy floor wax, pine cleaner and other cleaning supplies for the school! I think a lot of people coming from the US public school system would be shocked at the amount of supplies we buy for our kids here.

If you're putting your kids in a private (called 'colegio particular) school, be prepared to pay - monthly tuition ranges from a low end of around $100 up to $1000 or so for the best International schools. Check the Expat website for a list of schools in Lima that are affiliated with the International Baccalaureate program - they also have some schools listed for other cities in Peru.
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Monday, March 8, 2010

Peru and the Oscars

Last night we were all very excited about the chance of seeing 'La Teta Asustada' win for Best Foreign Language film at the Oscars. Unfortunately, it didn't win, but as my husband said, 'At least the Oscar went to South America'. (I say 'Darn you, Argentina!)

But I absolutely love how events like this pull Peruvians together as a country. People who had never watched the Oscar ceremonies before - shoot, people who had never heard of the Academy Awards before - were all excited and star struck at the fact that another Peruvian had done good and put us in the limelight. Magali Solier, the star of 'La Teta Asustada' has been featured and interviewed on news programs all week, and her trip to Hollywood for the ceremony was chronicled for those of us at home. And such a trip it was. I couldn't help but fall just a little bit in love with her, this young woman from Ayacucho who grew up speaking Quechua during the difficult years when Sendero Luminoso was making life dangerous and difficult for people in Peru. The movie (called “The Milk of Sorrow” in English) explores abuses inflicted on Peruvian women during that time period.

Here in Lima, a giant screen was set up in the main square to show the Oscars live. Even though the movie didn't win, it was a great moment for Peru, and the movie itself gives hope that we are moving on from the tragedies in Peru's past.
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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I Have a Carnet Again, Pt. 3

So, when last we visited, I told you about all the paperwork we had and how we had turned it all in at the various windows. All the hard work was done, and basically it was just a matter of coming back to have a new (duplicate) carnet de extranjeria handed over to me. I was under the impression that I would not need to take a new picture, that they would just use the digital photo they had from before - that's what they did on my LAST duplicate carnet.

Although they had told us to come back Saturday for the tasa anual, and the next Wednesday for the duplicate carnet, we skipped Saturday and did it all Wednesday. No point in making more trips than we had to.

So, we show up Wednesday and went to the window 18 with our receipt. No. We had to go to window 6. So we go to window six, and had to give them some information - height, weight, hair and eye color stuff. Then we were told everything was ready, and to go have a seat by the little room where they take the pictures.

Wait... WHAT? I need a picture??? UGH. If I'd know, I would have, oh, I don't know, maybe washed my hair instead of just throwing it back in a ponytail.

But I digress. We went off and waited, and about 10 minutes later, they called my name. 'Yes, Senora, it seems we don't have a record of you paying the prorroga of residencia, please go to window 2, 3 or 4 and get that taken care of.'


Ok, we go to the window, and he tells me I owe for one year - S/.41.04, take this form (F-007, what a surprise ;)) and pay at the Banco de la Nacion, then come back here. We also needed: A copy of my passport, a copy of my carnet (we used the police report), a copy of my husband's DNI, a copy of the Acto de Matrimonio, and a letter from my husband (a carta de garantia) saying that he vouched for me morally and financially. We didn't have a new carta de garantia, and the really nice guy in Window 2 told us it wasn't a problem, just to write one out by hand while we were waiting in line for the bank. So that's what we did.

We took all that back to window 2, and were once again told to wait. A few minutes later, they called me for the picture. They took a set of digital fingerprints, and had me sign it, took the picture, then sent me out to wait again. About 10 minutes later, they called me and handed me my card.


Some things to take away - It didn't seem to matter that I was late paying the Prorroga, and because I'm a resident married to Peruvian, I didn't have to pay the fine for being late on the tasa anual. If you are NOT in one of the exonerated categories (MTP or religious), I would highly recommend that you pay the tasa on time to avoid paying the fine (up to $100 for the year, I believe).

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Monday, March 1, 2010

I Have a Carnet Again, Pt. 2

So, once I had that list of stuff I mentioned in the last post, we were ready to move.

I've found, if you aren't sure what you need to do in immigrations, the best thing to do is go to the information booth. It's the little glass walled booth immediately to the left of the door as you walk in. Tell them what your problem is, and they'll give you what form you need and tell you where to take it, and how much you need to pay at the bank. If you're Spanish isn't good, you might need them to repeat it a few times, and you might want to ask for more details if they aren't clear - they tend to be rushed and say things like 'Fill out this form and turn it in with your receipt from the bank'. So just ask them 'how much do i have to pay?' or, 'what window do I turn it into?' until you feel like you have enough info to move on.

In our case, we had to fill out 3 F-007's - 2 for two years of exoneration for the tasa anual, and 1 for the duplicate carnet. We paid the bank for all three of those, then brought the paperwork back to the Mesa de Partes - that's the people behind the windows on the first floor, to the right of the information booth as you're facing it. They gave us a ticket for the exonerations and told us to come back in 2 days. THIS is why many people feel it's better to just pay the tasa rather than do the exoneration. You can do the tasa in one day, where as paying the exoneration means you have to come back. But, since a) I was late and didn't want to pay a fine, and b) we were going to have to come back for the replacement carnet anyway, it was in our best interest to pay for the exoneration.

After that, we took the paperwork for the replacement carnet upstairs to Window 6. I might be mistaken, but I believe it usually goes to window 12, but it was so late in the day by this time, they were closing up. I guess I haven't mentioned yet - if you aren't there by 1pm, you're out of luck, because that's when they close the doors. So, we turned in our paperwork, and and were given another ticket and told to come back a few days later. No problem!

Tomorrow, I'll tell you what happened when we came back.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Hooray! I have a Carnet Again!

Getting my new carnet de extranjeria was as painful as I thought it would be, but now that it's all over, it really wasn't that bad. I think the worst part was standing in the bank line with Mr. AVANZA! AVANZA!

One thing I learned that I hadn't been aware of: The annual TASA is something that everyone has to pay, but those of us married to Peruvians can file for an exemption. Ok, I knew that part, except that I didn't realize the exemption was ONLY for certain classes of residents, namely religious workers and those married to Peruvians (MTP). That little fact turned out to be golden for me, since I never paid it last year. If I wasn't MTP, I would have had to pay a big juicy fine. But since I am MTP, I just had to pay for the exoneration for last year (and for this year, since it was due again). And then pay for my Prorroga, which for some reason only cost 41 soles. I thought I would need to pay 2 years worth, but hey, whatever.

Last week, we went to make the police report (denuncia policial) to report my carnet as lost. That involves going to the police station closest to your home and also paying S/.3.60 at Banco de la Nacion so that you can have a copy of the actual report. We paid at the bank first, then went to make the report and give them a copy of the payment receipt. We had to return the next day to pick up the print-out of the report.

Next, we made sure we had all of the following paperwork BEFORE we went to immigrations:
1) Several copies of the police report.
2) A new copy of our Acto de Matrimonio - you have to get a new one, to prove that you are still married (this is assuming you have a CE because you're MTP)
3) Several copies of the picture page of my passport.
4) Several copies of the front and back of my husbands DNI
5) a "Carta de Garantia" - this is a letter of guarantee, that states the Peruvian spouse will be responsible for you both morally and financially. (I told my husband he's a brave man, to guarantee my morality :D) I was surprised to find out that this could be a simple handwritten note, as long as it has all the necessary details on it.

This is turning into a long post, so I'll make a 'part 2' tomorrow.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Apple and Quinoa Drink

MANZANAImage by PONCE 2007 via Flickr

While in the US we tend to drink soft drinks like koolaid and sodas and ice tea during the warm months, in Peru it's much more common to drink 'aguitas' - drinks made from fruit juice, water and sugar. Lemonade is a common aguita, as is orange-ade. I use the juice of four oranges in a two liter pitcher, then add sugar to taste. I'm trying to wean my guys off of putting as much sugar in it; they like it the way 'abuela' makes it, which is almost syrupy sweet to me.

But one of our very favorites is aguita de manzana, made with apples. It's a delicious and refreshing drink when served cold. But it's made with cinnamon and cloves, which gives it a super homey and warming flavor when served warm in winter, too. I originally made it just with apples, but later found this recipe on the internet and had to try it. It's a wonderful breakfast drink, served hot or cold depending on the weather - gives kids lots of healthy stuff and energy to get through the morning at school.

Apple and Quinoa Drink

* 1 litro de agua. (1 liter of water)
* ½ taza de quinua. (1/2 cup quinua)
* 2 manzanas cortadas en cuartos. (2 apples, cut into quarters)
* 2 membrillos. (2 quince fruit)
* ¼ taza de kiwicha. (1/4 cup of kiwicha)
* 1 ramita de canela y 2 clavos de olor. (1 cinnamon stick and 2 cloves)

Boil everything together for 20 minutes.
Let it cool.
Liquify in the blender, strain and serve.

This is also a really good drink to serve to someone having stomach problems (diarrhea). Cinnamon has been shown to help reduce harmful bacteria in the stomach and intestines, and membrillo (quince) is also believed to help alleviate stomach problems. Of course, in Peru, if you're serving this for stomach problems, you should only serve it warm - never serve cold drinks to someone with a stomach ache!

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Friday, February 19, 2010

It's Always Something, Pt. 2

LITTLETON, CO - MAY 21:  Workers smooth out a ...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

So yesterday, I told you about the adventure at the immigrations office, but that was far from the end of our day!

After lunch, we went shopping at Plaza Vea, and while we were pulling into a parking spot, a woman across the aisle pulled out - - and hit us. And put a nice little ding in the back bumper. And then INSISTED that she didn't do it! The parking lot supervisor came over to mediate, and had her pull her car back towards ours.. and it was clear where her bumper exactly lined up with the ding on ours. Instead of saying 'oh gosh, you're right, I'm so sorry...' her response was 'well, I guess everyone is against me, and I don't have time to argue." So, she passed us 20 soles. :D At least we got something!


When we got home, we found out the construction site next door to our house was re-doing the sidewalk in front of their building - and in front of our house. That's great news, because they had really destroyed the sidewalks while pulling heavy machinery over. The bad news is they completely tore out the sidewalk in front of our driveway - so deep that we couldn't get the car in. I'm not going to go into the whole story, but suffice to say it ended with a scraped front bumper and me yelling unkind words at construction workers.

I feel like I got out enough aggression in that one day to last me the next few months. But hey, I still love Peru!
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Thursday, February 18, 2010

It's always Something!

waiting in line croppedImage by artfulblogger via Flickr

Yesterday was one of those days... you know, the kind where EVERYTHING is a hassle?

To begin with, we had to go to Immigration, to start dealing with the carnet de extranjeria problem mentioned in my last post. I expect any dealings in this building to be annoying and tedious, and generally it was. There wasn't much of an issue with my 'lateness', it's just a matter of paying fees and filling out paperwork, and getting things stamped, and taking it to this window, then returning to that window... etc. And we still have to go back! But, all that I'm used to, and it wasn't a big deal and was expected.

However - the other people there are a completely different matter. Pushing, crowding and complaining until this poor sociophobe can barely take it. It all came to a head during my THIRD wait in the line for the bank - a line that passes through a hot and sunny inner courtyard. From the very back of the line, the man behind me kept yelling 'Avanza! Avanza!' (move up!) every time the window came open. As if all the people waiting weren't just as eager to get through as he was. I asked him once to kind refrain from yelling so close to my ear, hoping he'd take a hint.

That didn't work. Peruvians seem to dislike direct confrontation, so instead my husband started a conversation with the next person in line, about how ridiculous it is to expect the people to move ahead faster, as the line can only advance as fast as the person at the window is working. Again, hint not taken.

Finally, I was at the front of the line. The window opens. I start moving forward. Halfway there, this man starts telling me 'Avanza! Avanza!' I stopped in my tracks, and turned around and let him have it. 'REALLY? Is it my turn already??? You don't say - I hadn't noticed!'

He tried to back pedal a bit, but I continued lighting into him, and by then the rest of the people in line were laughing at him.

Ahhhh... the sweet taste of ... well, getting it off my chest. :D

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Carnet de Extranjeria

Biometric United States passport issued in 2007Image via Wikipedia

The carnet de extranjeria is a identification card for foreigners here in Peru. It's pretty much the Peruvian equivalent of a US 'Green Card'. There are various ways of getting one, depending on what type of residency you have - married to a Peruvian, investor, retiree, etc. Most of them allow you to work legally in the country.

Every year, you have to go pay some taxes/fees and get a couple of stickers on it. Well, last year, I never did it. I haven't done it yet this year either. To top off the bad situation, I've lost my carnet - as well as my US Passport. So, I'm basically traveling around and living with no ID except for an expired Florida drivers license. Not a good place to be.

So, the point of this is to say - I'm going this week to (hopefully) get it all straightened out. Dealing with Peruvian bureaucracy is a pain in the tookus at the best of times. I don't have high hopes of this going smoothly. Fortunately, I DO have a photocopy of the ID page of my passport, so hopefully that will help with something. We've been searching, and can't find the folder where we had copies of everything else - my original carnet, the police report where we reported them lost etc.

I'll update as things go along, and let y'all know how it goes. I'm sure there are other people who have lost their ID, or been (considerably) late in paying the annual fees, so I hope my experience will be helpful to others!

UPDATE! - We (and by 'we', I mean my husband) found the folder with all the copies in it, so hopefully that'll make things a lot easier.
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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Ocopa a la Limena

OcopaImage by Yogma via Flickr

Back in November, I posted the recipe for one of my favorite 'entradas', papas a la huancaina. But there's another dish that I love, very similar, called ocopa. Now, I have discovered that there are different kinds of ocopa - ocopa, ocopa a la Arequipena (Arequipa style), and ocopa a la Limena (Lima style). The kind I've learned to love is the Lima style. It's delicious creamy and with a peanut flavor that's a real switch from the typical food here.

Now, to be honest, when I'm cooking at home I usually take the short cut and buy a pack of Provenzal Ocopa mix - quick, easy, just mix it with milk and oil and it's ready to go. But, if you do want to make it from scratch, it's not that much more difficult.

1 kilo (2 pounds) of papa amarilla, boiled and sliced into half inch rounds (Yukon Golds work great for this)
500 grams of onion, diced
100 grams vanilla cookies (vanilla wafers will work)
50 grams of queso fresco (ricotta, feta or farmer's cheese can substitute)
50 grams of peanut, chopped into very small pieces.
5 ají verde, de-seeded
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
evaporated milk

1) In a frying pan with a tbsp. of oil, saute the garlic, the onion and the aji until the onion is translucent and everything is soft.

2) Put the onion mixture in the blender or food processer, and blend together with the cookies, the cheese, and the peanuts. You don't want to over-blend, just until you have a creamy sauce that's slightly thick. If it's too thick, add evaporated milk until you get the right consistency.

3) Serve the potatoes on a bed of lettuce, and spoon the cream sauce on top. Decorate with black olive slices if you'd like.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Jorge Chavez International Airport

The Jorge Chavez International AirportImage via Wikipedia

I love Lima's airport. I barely remember anything about it the first time I came in 6 years ago. One thing I do remember is how the planes couldn't pull up to the terminal because of the construction going on, so we had to load onto shuttle buses to ride up to the terminal. Then go up a flight or two of stairs (it seemed like a million, with my heavy carry ons) to get to where they did Immigrations.

What a difference these days. Jorge Chavez is a lovely and organized airport - it was even selected the best airport in South America last year by Skytrax, an independent airline consulting company. Coming through immigrations and customs is generally easy and fast, and tends to be well organized - organization being something you don't often find in Peru!

If you're going to be flying into Lima from abroad anytime soon, visit my Travel in Peru page where you can find more info on getting through immigrations and customs at the airport.
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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Crime in the Streets

I've always been a staunch defender of Peru's reputation. People claim that Lima is a 'dangerous' place to live, that crime is rampant on its streets. However, in 6 years of living here, I've never had a problem.

For one thing, Lima has an enormous amount of poverty, and with poverty comes crime. Desperate, uneducated people do desperate, stupid things.

However, Lima also has a serious problem with jail overcrowding. Because of this, for most theft or robbery under a certain monetary value, the police do nothing. So the crime here tends to be very petty crime, snatch and grab type stuff, because the criminals know they can get away with it. Violent crime or use of a weapon means jail time.

For the average person - like me - this means you don't go to certain areas alone. You don't walk around with large amounts of cash or jewelry. You pay attention to your surroundings, you carry bags securely, you make sure the taxi is licensed before you get in it. My husband was mugged a few years back - he was walking through a bad area, known for small time gang stuff, talking on his cell phone with his backpack hanging over one shoulder. While I don't hold a victim responsible for the crime, I do think he could have avoided being the victim of this one.

However, one of my neighbors was assaulted last week, just a block from the house here. She was walking the 3 blocks from the bus stop - 11pm at night, alone, with a purse. It's made me nervous here in my neighborhood now. I used to walk the 3 blocks to the bank, get out money I needed and walk home. Now I'm worried about who may be watching me make a withdrawal then following me home. I live in a more upscale neighborhood, and people tend to think that means you've got more money, so it does make you more of a target.

So. I still feel that Lima isn't dangerous - however, danger is relative. I don't think you stand nearly the chance of being a victim of violent crime here that you would in many other places - including most cities in the US. However, the threat of petty crime is enough to make you change your way of doing every day actions, like going to the market or paying the bills. And of course, if you're a tourist, you must be on guard for your bags, camera and so on. But don't let fear ruin your trip - be on guard, but don't be afraid.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Summer Days

(Picture of a foggy day in Miraflores)

One of the things that I've always found funny about living in Lima is the way the people respond to the weather. For those that don't live here, you must understand that for a good 8 months of the year, the city is enveloped in a heavy, cool fog. While the temperatures don't get down too low (usually the low 60's), it stays that way, night and day. Cool and damp - moisture so thick in the air you can feel it in your face as you walk. Now, around mid-day, if the sun is feeling perky, we might get a little clearing of the fog. But typically, starting sometime around the middle of April up through the end of December it's cold, dark and dreary.

Like I said though the temperature never gets too awful cold - but the fact that it's so damp coupled with the lack of indoor heating means that the 60 degree chill seeps into you after a while, and I can tell you it starts feeling a whole lot colder. I spend days wearing layered sweat clothes and sweaters, with two pair of socks at night just to keep my feet warm in bed. And the Peruvians don't like the cold any more than this Floridian does - they walk around bundled up as if they're ready for an Arctic expedition - scarves, down jackets, thermal underclothes, and babies bundled so tight they're little faces are red and sweaty.

So - to bring it around to where we are, summer has finally, at long last and about a month overdue, arrived. After months of miserable, humid, moldy, cold weather, we've finally had sun! Beautiful, shiny, warm sun! And of course, the first thing I hear every where I go? 'Wow, it's hot today. I can't stand this heat! The sun is so hot!' I can't believe it!! It's gorgeous, barely 80 degrees, first real sun in months - and people are complaining about the heat!

After 6 years, I'm still waiting for the day when a Limeño looks at me and says "Lovely weather today, isn't it?"

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