Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Cucina Gianmarco - "Buon Natale!"

Vitello Tonnato

Rigatoni Funghi

Cece e Spinaci

Brasato di Manzo con Polenta alla Tartufi Bianchi

All I Want for Christmas is You(r money)!

When you live in DC long enough, you can sniff out the crackheads. My friend Phil and I counted about eight one day in our encounters. I was up quite early this morning to get a start on my Christmas day. Last night was great; mass at Saint Patrick's, dinner at the Blueduck Tavern, then joined some old friends for a pretty early night. As I walked out to the Metro this morning in Northwest DC, all was quiet. Then a seemingly distraught woman waddled up to me, just her keys and work badge in hand. Now if a person looks legit, I'll hear them out. She claimed she just had a fight with her boyfriend and needed cab fare to her mother's house. Cab fare?! And I'm walking to the train to go to Virginia... A few questions were in order, because usually you can get a crackhead to crumble. Anyway, she refused my good-natured Christmas offer for a paid trip on the Metro because she had an injured leg and supposedly couldn't walk two blocks to the station. Crackhead confirmed... gotta go. Plus why would she think that because she was "a DC city employee" that I wouldn't think she was a bum? She probably voted for Marion Barry.

I'm going to make some coffee, open some presents, and we'll see if we can put a little "Christ" back in X-mas. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Baltimore - Cooking with KP

Baltimore can be a cool town. I guess, technically, it is a city. But for me, it is a small place not far and not expensive. I can get in and out without too much planning... or a car. And I really only go to see friends in the neighborhood of Federal Hill. Anything north of the Inner Harbor, I stay away from if I am not in need of Penn Station. There are great restaurants in Baltimore, not too big or too chainy. They even have a Little Italy. The Inner Harbor is great for strolling, but usually when I go visit Kevin and Diane, we like to cook!

This last trip, my secret ingredient was fish. Here's how it went:

Hummus with bread

Seared Ahi Poke

Apple, Stilton, and Fried Pancetta Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette and Herbs de Provence

Roasted Black Bass with garlic, potatoes, stewed tomatoes, olives, and capers

Peruvian Lucuma Cannoli with Chocolate



Verdejo "Naiades" (great with the bass!)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pisco Puro - After the Earthquake

I cannot say with any real experience what an actual war zone looks like. I cannot know the devastation involved with losing a home in mere minutes. I will never completely know how the lives of the people of Pisco, Peru were forever changed by an earthquake that struck three months ago. Many people are awestruck with events from the news, and it is in our human nature to feel empathy. As time passes, new events take place, and the old events are soon forgotten. We like to think that people eventually do get their lives back, and surely happy endings follow even in our minds' absence. Perhaps that is a forced illusion. There are however certain observations I can make from my visit to Pisco with certainty.
Pisco, today, looks like a scene from a war movie. Homes of brick and mud have been bombarded by mother nature; rubble is everywhere - streets through entire blocks are unsuitable for travel. Dust of what used to be still fills the air and unstable structures are all around. A significant part of this town has been destroyed... and remains that way today.

We worked with a man, roughly eighty years old. Usually, we do not discover the names of the people for whom we labor. We come, we move rocks and bricks, we take down broken walls, and we move on to the next job. This man was Juan Mayori. He had been living in his home for thirty years, and in three minutes it was gone. Yet he put on a smile - and his gloves and hat - and helped us labor away. He seemed to have a jovial attitude and was happy to have us there, but afterwards a photo reveals the suffering he endures for a life forever changed. He, like thousands of others, will sleep in a tent tonight provided by the UN on the plot of land he used to know as home.
I got the feeling from walking the town one day, taking a visual survey to attempt a grasp of the situation in Pisco, that although my time there (and that of my team) was temporary, this situation of loss, uncertainty, and poverty would persist long into the future. Huge piles of bricks and debris lined the streets. Structures were uninhabitable and, in some cases, waiting to fall. Children were urinating in the streets in plain sight, because they had nowhere else to go. A beach side plaza, I imagined once a tourist draw and picturesque place for a stroll or to steal a kiss, was decimated and reduced to an eyesore of broken stone. Filthy unkept dogs roamed the streets as if they were taking over, and there was nothing the humans could do about it. A fantastic beach of silver sand, warm sun, and a cool breeze was eerily empty. Military men and women patrolled the streets in camouflaged fatigues with machine guns to enforce some sort of tranquil order. Remnants of books, toys, and undergarments were strewn about the rocks and dirt that used to shelter them.

One positive thing I did observe in this huge mess was hope. The people of Pisco, though weathered, had not lost their smiles. Many not only posed for photos, but asked for their photos to be taken. Where once stood a large church at the Plaza de Armas was a large tent set up for Sunday service; and Sunday there was standing room only for a homily about faith and hope in the face of such destruction. The central marketplace was fully functioning and buzzing with a bounty of fresh produce as well as imported goods to be sold. The poorer parts of town had set up 'ollas comunales', or community pots, so they could pool their resources and feed each other. Children were back in school, many with new donated backpacks and clean uniforms. Shops were open for business, even if only little temporary light wooden shacks. The government provided large trucks to go through town to fill barrels and buckets with fresh water. Locals, in thanks, brought my fellow volunteers and me Coca Cola and crackers with jam in the middle of our arduous workday. Most heartening though, were the smiles and hellos and horns honking at us as we wearily strolled back to base through the streets after a hard day's labor. I dared think they were impressed that strangers from several continents cared to come to their small part of the world to give them a chance at a new life.

Pisco is down, but not out. They seem to derive strength, peace, and happiness from each other, from hope, from faith, and from young white people in gray t-shirts pushing wheel barrels through the streets speaking in the language of the movies. They survive. It will be a long time before this city is rebuilt, but I have seen on the faces of many that, although bricks may have shaken and crumbled, there is a much greater foundation than the forced illusion of a happy ending. I hope their smiles outlast our empathy, and their faith shows them the way to a reconstructed future stronger than any earthquake. These people of Pisco do face a battle, though not of bullets, bombs, or ideologies. In any battle there is the essential struggle not only to survive, but to overcome. Fortunately, as I learned at a free concert in the plaza one night, even the youngest among the citzens of this place know the words, "si, se puede!" Yes, it can be done.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Always be Early to a Peruvian Soccer Maatch

Just keep selling ticket until you run out of paper.

I had to look up the word "refund" in my English-Spanish dictionary this morning, but I´m not optimistic. "Hi, we´re here for the soccer game." "Stadium is sold out" "No, I don´t think you understand. We have tickets already." "Stadium full" "No, really, we have SEATS - GOOD SEATS" "Stadium is full. No more enter" That´s all I feel like writing right now.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Dia de Gracias

If I am reading my ticket correctly, I am in the seventh row for the Peru-Brazil game today in Lima. What a great way to end my trip! "Peligroso" seems to be the operative word here in Lima; everything is "peligroso" (dangerous) from the cabs, to going anywhere by myself, to a World Cup Qualifying match... I take plenty of precautions, but you´d be crazy to think I´d miss this event. I have my Peru jersey, a full stomach of Thanksgiving leftovers, and I´m ready for some futbol. I hear all the best Brazilian players will be in action, so it is cool that I will be able to see some of the best players in the world, but... um, not so good for Peru.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, my newly created Peruvian holiday was a success. Here was the menu:

Roast Turkey with chorizo, fig, and pecan stuffing
Sauteed Zucchini
Baked Creamed Sweet Potatoes with saffron butter and sage
Rosemary Mashed Potatoes with roasted garlic
Turkey Gravy
(I totally forgot the) Organic Cranberry Sauce (that I brought all the way from Alexandria, but used this morning with my leftovers)
Pumpkin Pie with fresh whipped cream

I paired two great wines with the meal:
Navarro Correas Seleccion Privada Sauvignon Blanc (2006 Mendoza, Arg.)
Montes Alpha Chardonnay (2005 Casablanca, Chile) ****

My Peruvian Tio decided it was an occasion for Pisco Sours as welcome drinks. That was great; it gave me more time to finish getting the food on the table by 9:00 (I know, I know). We had a ceviche outing in the middle of my cooking day, what´s a guy to do?

Friday, November 16, 2007


I mentioned earlier about working with an interesting group of volunteers. I would have liked to have more time to get to know some of them, but here are some highlights:

Lucas - He was the guy I always wanted to work with. He greeted every grueling job with a "yeaaaahhh!" as he pushed the wheel barrel out to the street at 8 AM. Lucas is Australian and doesn't wear shoes; rocks, broken glass, chaotic demolition situations don´t bother him... only bird droppings scared his weathered feet into captivity. What a fun guy to be around.

Neesh - The first person I met. Neesh is Canadian. He heard about the earthquake, and he bought his ticket to Peru. Neesh basically just showed up and looked for something to do to help. It turns out the UN was there with tents for the newly homeless residents. He started putting up tents.

Julia - I met Julia on my first day on the job walking out to the site. It turns out she is from Virginia too. One night at the fire, she got out her guitar and shared her songs with us. She is a wonderful folk songwriter, and her music gave us some much needed entertainment in an otherwise uninspiring evening. Julia is great with kids, and I was amazed how she connected with them so well, when I just resulted to throwing them around and hoped they wouldn't break.

Elaine - I almost hate to mention that Elaine has only one leg, but I think it adds so much to how impressed I am with her. Absent that fact, she is intelligent, friendly, and hard-working. I believe she was doing work at the hospital, but she joined us with the rubble crew one day. Ordinarily, I´d think it extremely difficult to be effective on only one leg. I found it difficult enough on two. She helped interpret and dig a trench. Good woman.

Dee - Dee and I got along right away. It always helps me to have an outgoing friend. It turns out we are both in the restaurant business. We were fast friends, but what struck me was her big heart. She was even able to make friends with, and get invited to dinner with, some of the locals. The people of Pisco are lucky to have her.

[hrr-hrrrm] - I´m such a loser with names, but I think his is Carlos? There was a young gentleman, local Peruvian, I believe, who came to help. There were not many Peruvians on our crew. This guy spoke no English. He got cut up badly one day by an ugly piece of metal and kept working. He would even keep digging during our breaks sometimes. His countrymen are lucky to have him.

Marie - I mentioned earlier that I got stuck on cement-mixing duty one day. That afternoon really sucked until reinforcements arrived. Marie was one of them. She is such a fun person, the day got much better for me. First she insists on working in the cement with no shoes, then she gives herself a facial. It helps to have someone around to brighten your day. I´m sure the locals agree.

Diego - This guy is cool. He is from Argentina, had been living in New York working in the financial market, quit and decided to DRIVE back home. He has been on the road for a year and a half, heard about us, and joined us helping the people of Peru for a while. He probably has another six months left on his trip, but he has no schedule.

Leah - I really did not get to know her, nor did I work with her, except when she, Neesh, and I went to Paracas. She is from North Carolina and is one of the leaders in Pisco. She is obviously dedicated, not only to this project, but to helping others in general. She is fluent in Spanish, perhaps introspective unlike others I have mentioned, but nevertheless a great asset to those around her.

There are others, and there will be more. So many people signed up to do a lot of hard work with no expectation of gratuity. Like I told them the other night, I am very impressed.

No Reservations

What luck! I made it back to Lima yesterday, picked up some photos, dropped off three more rolls, and this morning... upon what do my eyes gaze? The photo shop - CLOSED - shut down for some sort of infraction! This does not sit well with me. Luckily, and I say "luckily" with my fingers crossed, the sign reads that it will be closed only through Sunday. Yeah, yeah, I know; digital, right? Even the little kids in Pisco looked at me strangely because when I took their picture and they ran up to me, there was no instant image displayed on the back of my camera... "¡Profe, que pasa?" Don´t want to hear it. Well, finally my hands have healed from "el fuego rocoto." Popular opinion had it that lime juice and sugar are the only remedy for my ill. The pharmacist sold me some aloe that didn't work. My brilliant mom, however, had previously sent me an email on the many benefits of bananas, so I rubbed the inside of a banana peel on my hands; that provided some relief. Tonight I have begun preparations for Lima Thanksgiving Numero Dos. And, yes, we do have pumpkin. Earlier today, I sought out a cebicheria successfully. I had a ceviche with black conch and white fish... not bad. Well, toward the end of my meal, three local girls came in and sat two tables away. They ordered a tall cerveza to share, then began giggling and flirting. One made the old "salud!" (toast) gesture, so I reciprocated with my nearly empty glass of pisco sour. Now I realize that an international man of mystery like myself is quite interesting to the average Peruana, but they kept gesturing for me to join them. Luckily, I looked up in my international guide to etiquette what is appropriate in such a situation, and I concluded that it is normally polite for the person doing the urging to come up to the urgee to ask if the latter would care to join the former. After a bit of cross-referencing, I concluded that it would be rude of me to resist such obvious displays of comehitherness so as to help the urgers to save face. Well they were drunk. One way to discern this is the non-stop toasting and clinking of the glasses. There are other ways to tell, but this was enough evidence. You know, it´s difficult enough for me to understand sober people speaking Spanish to me... Anyways, I almost finished what was left of my pisco sour after about the sixteenth "salud!" when the most forward of the three offered to pour me a glass of beer. I politely refused, due to my obligation to prepare said Thanksgiving meal extravaganza and, oh yeah, it was only three o´clock and these girls were trashed. I indicated that I still had a sip left of my tasty beverage. I didn't consult the manual, but I do believe I was justified in politely walking away when the girl poured my drink on the table so she could fill it with beer. I've seen this situation before in my travels; it´s called "Let´s get the rich American to buy us lots of drinks," and I wasn't playing. Kind of like going back to the reservation, I´m told. Next thing you know you are stranded outside of a club with no money, no map, and no way home in the rain sleeping sitting up at a gas station until the first bus at 6 AM. (Sorry, Spain flashback.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Mangiamo Gringos!

* Note to self - When cooking rocoto peppers in Peru and de-seeding them yourself, wear gloves, do not touch your face, and do not let the juice squirt in your eye when slicing.

Yes, I have been cooking again. No, I do not have full use of my hands, due to the extra-extra-extra-hot little black seeds inside. It feels about on par with the pain I felt when Tom gave me niacin pills that make you feel like your whole body is on fire... or when I was injected with poison by that sea urchin in Maui. I remember the remedy for that, but even though I have been working with these people in Pisco for several days, I am still a little bashful about asking anyone to pee on my hands. (There was no cure for the niacin thing except time.) Rocoto peppers look similar to red bell peppers, only spicier, and their seeds are little black balls of fire often used in ceviche, but sparingly. So what was I doing, you ask. Well, today was my last day on the job in Pisco, so of course I took the afternoon off of rubble duty to cook an Italian feast for my coworkers. (I know, there are no rocotos in Italy, but give me a break.) I have cooked family meal before at Buca di Beppo, but that was easy. Today, it was dinner for 60-70 tired workers from more than 10 different countries with big appetites. I had three big pots, no oven, and two dull chef knives. Here was our menu:

Bruschetta with tomatoes, basil, and garlic
Fagiolini Limone (green beans with fresh lime juice)
Penne Marinara
Penne with butter and fresh cheese
Chorizo with rocoto, onions, and garlic

This was my first time cooking with two French sous chefs! Actually, they do not cook, but were happy to cut my tomatoes for me. It was a nice dinner, AND, AND... READY BY 6:30! If I have ever cooked for you, you realize what a feat that is.

Stay tuned for my Pisco wrap-up when I get my photos back. I really have only touched the surface of this situation, but I wanted my visual aids to assist. Now off to find some sort of ointment... tsssssssssssssssssss!

Monday, November 12, 2007


Today, after demolishing a huge wall (luckily, poorly constructed), two of us went to a daycare center to help out. "This should be good; I like kids." A boy insisted on playing chess, which I have no idea how to play, and I have no idea what he is trying to tell me, but I don´t think your first move can be some hopscotch eight places to capture my queen and some horse character. Eventually, I decided to move my smallest piece twelve spots, slaloming (?) to capture his horse, his king, and five other pieces. "¡Yo gano!" ("I win!") Ha, ha. Later, we played with the Jenga game, where I constructed a rather large cathedral. The boys were rather rambunctious and had insisted on ruining all of my creations. I had an uncomfortable moment when upon the destruction of said cathedral, I exclaimed "¡terremoto!" (earthquake!) [record halt - "eerruh..."] Made me feel a bit like the time when I was younger and at the dinner table with family and new Japanese exchange student, I commented on her being from Hiroshima with my best atomic bomb impression. Yeah... well, you know.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Salam... er... Jose can you see?

Unfortunately, my three rolls of photos were locked in a Kodak store in Lima. Evidently, some people do not work on Sundays, and I had to return to Pisco. To be honest, I considered not returning, you know heading out into some undiscovered territory, but I did not want my colleagues to think Americans were soft... plus somebody said something about having a wine club on Sunday. Anyway, I am here in Pisco, 2005 Malbec in hand, back to see what I can do. I got back around dinner time, and everyone was heading out, so I am here on the computer... big lunch of tacu tacu. What is tacu tacu you ask? Well, it is a very popular dish in Lima made with fried rice and beans all kind of tossed together, served a few ways, but I like it with seafood. Then it is finished with some sort of gravy. Mmm! My beverage pair was chicha morada, a purple non-alcoholic beverage made from Peruvian purple corn. Very refreshing.

Yesterday was a great day. I was able to wash my laundry for the first time. The weather was sunny and perfect. I spent the afternoon in Miraflores walking along the cliff overlooking the ocean and taking photos. "Miraflores" is the perfect name for this district of Lima, because this walk along the cliff has a long garden of "flores" (flowers) which makes for a perfect stroll and some great photo ops if you, say, are into nature photography... or I guess if you have a date, but I think you all know better. Hey, so anyway, I think I got some great shots... but alas, they are in Lima (4 hours away). Later, I got really hungry, so I made my way down to sea level by taxi and found Restaurante Costa Verde. I will have to consult with my Top Twelve Favorite Restaurants in the World list, but this one is definitely knocking at the door: right on the ocean, nearly all white interior with windows all around, attentive professional service, a great view of paragliders overhead, the best Pisco Sour I have had... very nice. Ceviche was good, but I have had better. Anyway I enjoyed myself thoroughly (Sorry, Brian if this is ruining your affection for the chow hall). Ooh, they even have little flags in the foyer for you to bring to your table to represent you country, and they have servers available to speak five different languages. I picked the flag for Ethiopia just for fun, but nobody came to help me despite my pleas in Amharic for "service!", so I grabbed the red white and blue.

OK, here is my list so far...

1. Il Latini (Firenze, Italia) - no menus, plenty of wine, dine with total strangers, the best total experience.
2. La Cantinetta (Barolo, Italia) - out of this world, but simple, Piemontese cuisine. Owner Maurelio treated me like a member of the family.
3. Lucy's (San Bernardino, CA) - my start in restaurants. Good Mexican food. Friendly service.
4. Antica Bottega del Vino (Verona, Italia and NYC) - 80 wines by the glass listed on a chalkboard in the bar. Amazing selection... food was good too.
5. Harry's Bar (Venezia, Italia) - Have a REAL Bellini cocktail where it was created... oh, yeah, you're on the Grand Canal... in Venice!
6. Pasta Mia (Washington, D.C) - Chef/Owner does all the cooking. Fresh pasta. Affordable, respectable wine list. Cozy and fun.
7. Public (NoLIta, NYC) - a culinary treasure and adventure in fusion that pulls flavors from Italy, Spain, Australia, Ecuador, Asia... consistantly delicious!
8. Zaytinya (Washington, D.C.) - Greek/Lebanese/Turkish small plates, hip bar, and fascinating wines you've never had before
9. Jaleo (Washington, D.C.) - Spanish tapas and more Spanish wines than you ever knew existed. Iron Chef winner Jose Andres. Me.
10. Grimaldi's Pizzeria (Brooklyn, NYC) - No delivery, no credit cards, no slices... great pizza.
11. Jose Antonio (Lima, Peru) - Upscale traditional Peruvian cuisine that's cozy instead of pretentious. Wonderful ambiance and professional service to show you the best of Peru.
12. Lupa Osteria Romana (NYC) - Molto Mario's restaurant for the rest of us has fresh homemade delicious pastas, a lively atmosphere, and, in my experience, a much better value than Babbo.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


There´s nothing like traveling in a big bus of strangers watching a hijacking movie. I guess it´s different than it would be on a plane. But the Peruvians did seem to get a kick out of Wesley Snipes in the subtitled Passenger 57 yesterday. I´m thinking of bringing Speed for the next trip.

Yesterday, I thought of a brilliant idea: make my own special project as photojournalist for the day and finish early since I wanted to make it to Lima before dark. I am glad I got this opportunity to get a break doing what I really like to do. Unfortunately (for them), I was still signed up with my crew for a demolition job, so they were a man short. Later I stopped by to take their pictures, and there was a bit of awkwardness. I don´t feel so bad though, since the day before they sent me on concrete duty (no mixer, just me) with the barefooted bricklaying Aussies. Mixing concrete with a shovel and six wheel-barrels of sand is not fun. My photos are going to be ready later today, so I will save the findings of that endeavor for the next post.

I think it´s time for ceviche. Stay tuned...

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Hey Juan, can we borrow your gringos?

OK, I am sore now.

Evidently, Señor Ay ay ay decided that as long as he had us, he would keep thinking of things for us to do. I did not see him today, but I suspect he was across the street with his neighbors drinking beers and doing the play-by-play of all the whiteys sweating in the sun turning two mounds of rubble into a front yard full of rubble. So I hurled a brick, overshooting the Big Rock Pile (oops), into the street and busted up their latrine. The little girl in the front yard cried and cried, and I then had the fortitude to press on for six more hours. We received word that the next door neighbor liked our two ditches we spent a day and a half digging so much that he wanted one for himself just like them. Well, back of the line señor, there is no passing around gringos here.

It was hotter today than it has been, so I thought it the perfect opportunity to take my lunch break in the ocean. All was right with the world.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Keep your comments to yourself

Well, I think every part of my body is sore. You get all sorts of bitter thoughts in this kind of environment, almost as bitter as having a section full of Spaniards at Jaleo. But, what really gets me peeved is while you are digging a 30 yard trench for Señor ¨Ay, ay, ay!¨ his neighbors across the street are hangin´out with nothing else to do but to yell out at us ¨mas rapido!¨ (¨faster¨) and laugh. I already work with three lazy Peruvians in DC; I really don´t need your jive talk here! I should say that the gentleman for whom we were working today was in his seventies and helped us every step of the way. So I included him in our late-afternoon Coca Cola toast, which gave us the bump we needed to finish the project. (We tossed our rubbish on the spirited neighbors´ lawns on our way out... no not really.)

I am part of a very interesting, eclectic, and amazing group of volunteers here in Pisco. Most are travelers out and about in South America for a few months, and some have come with this as their purpose. We all work from 8 to 5 every day, except Sundays, for no pay. We do get a free hostel-style place to stay and meals cooked for us. I am proud to say there are a great deal of Americans in the crew, but there are plenty of travelers from Australia, Canada, the UK, and elsewhere. So everyone speaks English, except for a few Peruvians who have joined as well. I´ll leave you with something fun I learned yesterday. Evidently the Aussies and Canadians have a wonderful term of endearment for the Brits: ¨POMs¨ (Prisoners Of her Majesty)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Pisco, not too sour

This is what I´ve been talking about. There are many types of ceviche. I think this had a mix of octopus, squid, fish, and a few other creatures. Mmmm.

Well, I am now at my featured destination - Pisco, Peru. We (it´s not uncommon for me to use ¨we¨when referring only to myself, but actually I´m with a lot of people) are south of Lima, by about four hours by bus, so basically you could ride your bike there in about an hour and a half. I thought the ride would be boring, but we got to watch (insert deep latino movie guy voice here) ¨Los Cuatro Fantastico!¨ and I lost all interest in looking out at the barren desert. The bus was large and quite modern, but I think built for little Peruvian people, so it was fairly cramped. It´s a good thing my airplane companions were not along for this ride. Oh yeah, they drop you off on the highway in Pisco, and you have to find a taxi or someone who claims to be a taxi to take you into town from there... lots of fun.

I have joined up with an organization called ¨Hands On Disaster Response¨ who has been in town since shortly after the earthquake last August. We have bunked up in what used to be a restaurant, now headquarters (damn Americans taking over everything), so of course I feel right at home since I live every other day of my life in a restaurant. However, whenever I sleep in one it is much less crowded and more food at my disposal. (Buca was great for that.) Anyway, they are involved with many different activities in Pisco and in neighboring Paracas and Ica. Today I shoveled rubble - lots and lots of large rocks, bricks, and dirt that had consumed this woman´s home. Luckily, we are about 300 yards from the ocean, so I would look out at the pier, feel the breeze, and pretend I was in Huntington Beach and not working and sweating for free. I was very bitter for the first several hours, thinking I could be in Italy right now... but no-o-o-o-o! And then I thought, ¨how strange, in the bottom half of the world the white English speaking people do all the manual labor for no disposable income while the brown people hang out all day.¨ Don´t be upset at ¨brown,¨you didn´t get upset over ¨white.¨ I will reiterate my feeling from last year´s trip that I still find it strange that on the southern part of the globe, I still haven´t fallen off yet. Anyway, my bitterness abated while walking back to base through town, and nearly every local smiled and thanked us.

In case you are keeping score, my group today consisted of 2 Brits, 2 Aussies, and 3 Americans, thank you very much.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Cabbies Just Wanna Have Fu-uhn

Outside of Washington, DC, cabbies can be a lot of fun. The guy today had a partial cage around him... hmm. If they are not playing musica latina, it´s probably from the 80s. Last night on the way to the disco, we listened to "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun."
"Yo amo Cindy Lauper!" says the jovial fellow.
"Por que no?" I replied. I mean who doesn´t, really. Perhaps its just so refreshing to have a break from the lovely local DC Arabic radio station´s Koran readings coupled with the edge of your seat excitement of a NYC cab ride.

If we could rewind about 48 hours, I´d like to begin on my new political issue up for debate, since the restaurant smoking ban idea took off so well (California - 1993). They weigh your baggage at the airport, right? And if it´s overweight, they charge you extra. They measure you at Disneyland for height requirements. There is a posted weight limit in all American elevators. WHY DO I HAVE TO SUFFER A 6 HOUR FLIGHT PRESSED AGAINST MY WINDOW BY [XXL] PEOPLE!?! OK, don´t get me wrong; I make my living serving food to these types. Do you know how many tapas I can sell to some 300 pound tourist? However they do always keep me running for - of all things - Diet Coke refills. Where was I going with this? Oh yeah... 26 inches; if your body width exceeds the alloted 26 inches of space designated for your personal space in an economy-class airplane seat, you need to A) buy an extra seat, B) fly business class or first class, or C) make alternate travel plans. I´ll see if my brother can take that to the Hill when I get back. For now, I´ll just write to Hillary to see if socialized travel is on the platform; then at least, I can save the money for a massage.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Rediscovering Peru

Today is a near-perfect day in Lima, Peru. I arrived late last night with an immediate shock to my confidence in that Pablo was nowhere to be found at the arrival gate at the airport. If you are not familiar with my travel habits, I tend to leave certain things to chance while preparing immensely for other situations. For instance, I have my own canned pumpkin and cranberries for my Lima Thanksgiving I plan to cook, two cell phones, and of course my waiter´s corkscrew (I won´t expose any other details, because, well that would be stupid). On the other hand, Pablo (my driver prone to 80s and 90s rock) was an integral piece off the puzzle in that I had no contact information for my gracious host family (other than him) and potentially no ride from this airport where swarms of people congregate - even at close to midnight - to offer me a ride (some legitimately, some otherwise). But, really, what is travel if not a tightrope walk? Luckily, I had stored his cell number, and we were listening to Aerosmith in no time.

The Salazars were up to greet me, and I informed them that my first full meal should include ceviche... and it certainly did. This afternoon, we went to El Villano. Driving in Lima is always an adventure - little overcrowded buses called combis whiz by looking like passengers are going to fly out at any time, the underabundance of traffic lights and signs, and today in a small street close to the restaurant, we drove by kids performing a public stoning. The victim seemed to be getting away on foot, but what upset me even more was the one boy with the machete. Luckily they had no problem with us driving through their makeshift public execution site. Ceviche sure was good!