When we first began planning our trip in Fairbanks last winter, we thought about spending a month or three weeks in La Paz. Instead, we spent considerable time in Puno and we have all very much enjoyed living here.
Mark, Sylvie, Annie, Max & I went to Del Buho for pizza and Jen, Jack & Ryan went to a coffee bar and hung out. We took separate combis into town as we all do not fit in one combi usually. (If I had grown up here, I would totally be the woman who hangs out the combi window calling out the destination and collecting the fares. Probably Mark would be a combi driver and we would occaisionally employ Max as the window caller, since all combi window callers are women or 11 year old boys.)
We arrived into Centro for our first Latin American blackout! No lights. All this time, I carried a small LED flashlight for the legendary blackouts but I had given it to Max the night before to look for something in the camper. It was completely dark but all the restaurants and stores were open, just using candles. The pizza places had the wood fired ovens so that also helped provide light. It was actually lovely and places stayed busy and open. The blackout lasted less than hour and all the lights came back on. We all met up at the square at 9:30 and walked to the mercado to buy coffee for the morning and bottled water. Ryan found some coffee in plastic bags in one shop and we bought it hoping it didn’t taste too bad. But it did.
The next morning, we had an email message from the DIRECCION GENERAL DE CONCESIONES EN COMUNICACIONES INTERNAMIENTO DE EQUIPOS (always in red capital letters in Castellar font) asking us to call. Not email. Which is hard when they have YOUR PHONE. Mark, Ryan & Jack left to call and run a few errands (we are unlocking the Moroccan cell phone, we needed to buy a new paquette for internet and we needed bread, which we buy by the kilo in little bun shapes). This was a turning point in the saga of the cell phone as it appeared all the forms were complete and had been delivered and confirmed by all involved. The phone should be here tomorrow.
Tonight is date night, more woodfired pizza, sangria and garlic bread. Can’t beat that!
SEVEN DAYS LATER
We are still in lovely Puno. And its date night again! We have now eaten at our favorite vegetarian restaurant 3 times (https://www.facebook.com/lovinghutperu?fref=ts), tried a few different woodfired pizza restaurants and found a favorite bar, 12 stories above the city with a great view of Lake Titicaca and where there is no bartender so we have to make our own drinks. Never seen anyone else there, either. Its like our own private bar, a well stocked bar too. You can see Ryan’s photos of it on Facebook – I will try to get him to post some here, too.
The phone is not here yet – it is supposed to be here tomorrow.
The Moroccan cell phone was left at a phone unlocking place and they flashed it but could not unlock it so they gave us a white phone. It is not in Arabic – but it does have the previous owners texts, alarms, music and such on it, we were awakened at 5am by salsa music.
Another Saturday market, Sylvie left her bolsita (teeny bag) on the combi and then dropped her wallet and insisted she had been pickpocketed. She keeps a sol in her pocket incase she has to travel by combi back home. We have bought ALL the hats. Puno is a smallish city and I think we have become rather well-known here. There are other non-Peruvian people here, we sometimes see tourists but none have children and most just pass through (must have Frommer’s). We however, live at the Grifo Salsedo by the sheep and have 6 white children, three of which are blonde-ish and the girls get their hair touched all the time. And we buy all the hats, the white family with all the kids that lives near the sheep by the gas station who buys all the hats. Also tourists do not take combis, only taxis. Combi travel is the preferred way to go – fast, cheap and unpredictable. So much of Peru we used to find so interesting (llama fetuses, drums of sodium cyanide used as seats, the many layers of cholita clothes, Chifa, warm soda) has become so everyday that we don’t even notice.
We took the little kids to Snoopy’s where the restaurant is painted lime green and there is a trampoline and a loud TV featuring Peruvian variety shows with women in bikinis, a lot of hot dancing and a dwarf. We ordered salchipapas, a tradtional South American delicacy we have sampled in every country however this time, it was exceptional. Just look at that presentation! Artful, appetizing and less than $2.
There is not much to do anymore so we have settled into a regular routine of school, work and daily market trips. We are bringing home very unique potatoes to plant and seeds for strange heirloom plants that seem like they would grow well in Alaska as they grow here in the Andes at 12,000+ feet.
DHL has opened a case and dedicated a Research Team to our cell phone. It appears that there may be (surprise!) corruption at the DHL office. DHL doesn’t like that. We had assistance in the process by the Peruvian government so it was all clearly DHL’s issues. The DHL woman who was assigned to our phone spammed us, Peruvian Customs and the Ministry of Communications. We were required to pay $31USD for no apparent reason to DHL. That was Thursday. They gave us 9 minutes to get to the bank and deposit the $31 in DHL’s bank account before the code they gave us expired. The code expired because 9 minutes is not enough time, plus they gave it to us an hour after it had expired. We called back, got another code, tried again but it took 11 minutes. Tried again. We were inline at the bank, things are just slow in Peru, took more than nine minutes to type in all the numbers. We tried 5 times and then DHL gave us a code and did not authorize it so we had to come back the next morning at 8am – then it worked. DHL asked us to scan and fax and email the receipt to them, which we did right away. The phone should have been here that afternoon (Thursday) but instead it now will take 5 days to travel to Puno, a one hour plane ride away. The funny thing is that the Peruvian government was helping us and they reported DHL. We could not figure out the DHL woman’s emails, we thought our Spanish translation was off but it turns out that the DHL woman made no sense at all to fluent Spanish speakers as well and that irritated the Peruvian government folks.
Hopefully the phone will be here tomorrow and we will depart Puno. The question now is Bolivia or no Bolivia? Bolivia is expensive to get into ($1200 in visa fees) and they have water restrictions and (the worst part) we have to beg for gas. A lot of gas. The decision is Ryan’s to make and he needs to make it by Tuesday morning. The phone will require a day of work to unlock it and such so Tuesday morning is the tentative departure date. We will all miss Puno.