T-3 to Peru

My plane leaves Monday evening. so this is the last weekend in Vancouver before the trip. Arrangements continue… Just this afternoon, for instance, one of the museums we’ll be visiting (the Museo Larco) wrote to tell me that their charges are going up, but that we can still visit for the old price that we were quoted when I asked for a guided tour a few weeks ago, so long as we now pay in advance.

But paying in advance is not simple. This goes also for hotels and everything else. Peruvian businesses much prefer to be paid via bank transfer, which is a long and laborious process to arrange via the university. So I try to pay by credit card (I now have a university credit card precisely for this purpose), but this has its own complications, sometimes at this end, sometimes at the other.

At times the issue is the Peruvian enthusiasm for bureaucracy. Perhaps as a legacy even of colonial administration, as elsewhere in Latin America businesses like things written down and sealed with some kind of identification: National Identification Card (or DNI) for citizens, passport number for foreigners. The lettered city lives on.

But at times the issue is the various ways in which Peruvians try to get around these same strictures of documentation… in ways that make my university’s financial administration’s metaphorical eyebrows raise a centimetre or two. The real city endures, even as the formalities of the paperwork are theoretically respected. “Obedezco pero no cumplo” (I obey but I do not comply), as the old phrase has it.

In my experience, however, everything has a way of working itself out. 

Meanwhile, I’ve been meeting up with the students on a fairly regular basis. Our final get-together is this afternoon. These have been optional exercises in getting to know each other, and there have been varying numbers each time, but I think they’ve been pleased to meet each other, and maybe relieved to discover they have some of the same interests and enthusiasms. To me, they seem like a very good group, and it’s also been good to have a better sense of them before we go.

In many ways they are typical of students I have in other Faculty of Arts classes. They have a variety of different experiences and perspectives. The majority, but not all, are Canadians (mostly but not entirely from British Columbia), and yet even among the Canadians many are first- or second-generation immigrants. A couple have some kind of Latin American heritage. There are (by quite a margin) more women than men. Some have officially graduated, others have still to declare a major. Of those who have, they are studying a variety of different subjects–Latin American Studies, but also Anthropology, English, Sociology, even the Sciences. They seem to be fairly well-travelled, but few have been to South America, and only one to Peru before. Some speak at least some Spanish, but most do not. They all seem almost as excited as I am.

I will be there a day or two in advance, and meeting most of them in at the airport in Lima early in the morning on Thursday. 

Then after settling in at the hotel, our first activity will be a tour of San Isidro, the neighbourhood where we are staying, including the Huaca Huallamarca, a (mostly) reconstructed Indigenous pyramid, and El Olivar, a park featuring olive trees that are descendants of saplings brought over from Spain in 1560.