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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