“Am I really going to fight a dude in a Subway restaurant in Lima, Peru at 11:30pm on a Wednesday night? How did I get here?” In this episode, we spend 10 days in Lima waiting for our Brazilian visa. Still, we sneak in a few adventures. 🙂
Wednesday, May 2nd
I met some nice people on my flight back to Lima, Alberto and Ada.
By the time we landed, Ada had much of my wedding to her grand daughter planned. 🙂
I landed in Lima around 9pm, feeling pretty drowsy. I’d caught about an hour of sleep on one of the flights, but that had been all in the past 37 hours or so. I had thought that I might just sleep in the Lima airport to save on some costs, but decided I should take an Uber into town instead.
I tried first at my previous hostel, Lucky Lodge, but they were full up. I walked around to a few others in the Miraflores area before finding a bed at the Flying Dog Hostel. As tired as I was, I was equally as hungry (do you know how expensive airport food is?). I decided to find some food before turning in for the night.
Almost every place was closed, but a green/yellow beacon attracted me: Subway. This would be my first time in all of Latin America that I would eat at an American restaurant. It seemed like a good choice, but it ended up being quite an ordeal….
As I peacefully ate my sandwich, a guy approached me from behind. What he said didn’t surprise me, but how he said it did. He asked if I could give him some money, but he asked it in North American English. I had change in my pocket, but I told him ‘no’ in the most polite way possible. (If I were to say ‘yes’ to every panhandler, my budget would probably have been exhausted by Guatemala.)
Apparently, I was not polite enough.
He began a toxic tirade directed towards me, seething through nearly clenched teeth. He spoke low enough so that none of the staff or others would here what he was saying. He expressed a deep, ingrained hatred for white people.
Those of you who know my work history, know that I spent seven years working in homeless ministry. During these years, verbal abuse and threats were just a part of the job. I can absorb hours of derision with very little affect to me. Accordingly, I turned back to my sandwich and waited for him to lose interest.
I gotta give it to him though, he had some persistence. He continued in his same line of assault for another minute or so. He didn’t know where I was from, so he made sure to attack North Americans, Europeans, even denigrating Australia in case I happened to be from there. Eventually he seemed to run out of words and was silent for a few moments, then continued with, “So, are you going to help me or what?”
The audacity irked me a bit, but I was still polite. I merely advised him that if he was truly desperate for money, his time would be better spent asking someone else rather than abusing a stranger. I turned to my sandwich again (it was really good by the way) and he returned to his tirade. As he did, he came up closer behind me.
At that point, I’d had enough. I did not want to get suckerpunched (or sucker-stabbed for that matter). I stood, squared up to him and basically told him that he could take a swing at me or that he could leave. At that point, I was honestly fine with either outcome. I just wanted to finish my sandwich.
As I tried to read his expression a wave of clarity came over me. I asked myself, “Are you really going to fight a dude in a Subway restaurant in Lima, Peru at 11:30pm on a Wednesday night? How did you get here?” It probably would have been a good tussle, as he was younger than me, just as tall and quite a bit heavier. Alas, we’ll never know who would have won. He backed down, telling me, “I’ll be waiting for you outside!” (Yes! I get to finish my sandwich!)
On the way out, he solicited a young white guy who had to have been in earshot of our exchange. He quickly dug in his pocket and gave the guy some change. Maybe he was intimidated, maybe he was impressed with they guy’s business acumen. I just shook my head and went back to my sandwich.
I exited a few minutes later, but my new friend did not make the appointment. Shame. 🙂
Hmmm… I maybe shouldn’t have allocated so many words to that story. It’s not that good. Still, I felt that it was important to document the closest that I’ve come to a physical altercation on this trip. I still wonder what that guy’s story was. Was he from the US originally? I guess I’ll never know. I hope I handled myself decently. My judgement was fairly clouded from lack of sleep. I’m still not sure whether I was the hero or villain in this story.
I had a restful night back at the hostel, dreaming of meeting Annie the next day.
Thursday, May 3rd
I had a liesurely morning at the hostel. The guys there said they could accommodate a motorcycle, but the hostel was a bit expensive ($13) and was right in the middle of the action. I knew I would be waiting at least a week for my Brazilian visa, so I looked into some other options as well. Flying Dog has one of the best views of all the hostels on my trip though.
I had message my contact at the dealership where Annie was kept, letting him know I was coming. I walked over and found her waiting on the first floor for me. It was great to be reunited.
The process of repacking all my things is quite lengthy, allowing me to have some good chats with other customers. Hoping that I still remembered how to ride a motorcycle, I merged into the hectic Lima traffic and headed for the Brazilian embassy.
I should maybe reiterate why I was going there: Brazil is the only country on my journey for which I need to apply for a visa ahead of time. All others are given at the border. Brazil imposes a fee of $160 for US citizens and requires a plethora of documents. Applying for the visa requires the applicant to surrender their passport for 3-5 business days. Because of this, I was unable to begin the process before flying home.
I made it to the embassy at about 12:15. They were closed for applications for the day. (I don’t know what I was expecting.) As I tried to figure out my next move, a noticed a guy checking out Annie’s sign. I walked over and met my new friend, Omar, who is actually from Venezuela. We chatted briefly and exchanged information.
For lodging, I settled on an AirBnB about 30 minutes south of the city center. My host, Enrique, was great as was the rest of his family. I especially got to know his Dad, Mario, pretty well.
It was just $11/night, had great wifi and secure parking. Even though I wasn’t happy about being delayed in Lima, I couldn’t have asked for a nicer place.
Friday, May 4th
I got to the Embassy shortly after it opened and got to work checking off all of the requisite items. It almost felt like being at a Central American border: Go get a copy of this, go to the bank across the street to pay, go to the little shop for a passport photo, print out three months of bank statements, write out your full itinerary.
After about four hours of running around, I had the last piece completed. Unfortunately it was just after noon. The guy at the door wouldn’t even let me in to drop off my application. I would have to come back on Monday. Ughh…
It should be noted that I had already spent hours beforehand completing the online portion of the application. Maybe they don’t really want me. 😦
Saturday, May 5th
I had a dinner engagement! Omar, the Venezuelan whom I had met in the Embassy parking lot, wanted to have me over so that I could try Venezuelan food on my journey. I jumped at the chance.
I should maybe explain just how rare it is to go from meeting someone in the street to entering their home. This would be the first time it had happened in Latin America. In fact, I think the last instance might have been when I stayed with my wonderful hosts, Jim and Susan, in Georgia.
Omar and I were joined by his girlfriend Evelin (not 100% sure on the name, she was Venezuelan also) and their friend, Pilar, from Cusco, Peru.
I’ve written some about the situation in Venezuela here, so I was eager to get their perspective on the situation. Honestly, they were pretty matter of fact about the whole thing. They don’t think anything will change until there is some sort of foreign intervention to depose the current government.
Omar has a motorcycle, a KLR650, which is pretty much stranded in the country. If he sells it there, he will get almost nothing for it. The process for him to take it out of Venezuela seems nearly impossible.
They cooked some burgers first, then it was time for the main event: Venezuelan arepas.
Respect the corn flour:
We chatted until it was pretty late about every topic imaginable. Pilar spoke really good English and helped me out of a few vocabulary jams. Signing time!
I can’t imagine a better way to get my mind off of the visa situation. 🙂
Sunday, May 6th
Nothing much. The supermarket only sold eggs in packets of 30. I was able to get through them all by the time I left.
Monday, May 7th
I was beginning to loathe what seemed like my daily commute into Lima. The traffic really is oppressive. Still, it’s important to always be wary of ones surroundings, even in a traffic jam. You never know what you may find lying in the road.
I successfully got my application dropped off in the morning. They told me it would be 3-5 days of waiting. I thought I would need a miracle to have it by the fifth day, seeing how things normally work down here.
Nothing left to do but wait and eat a fish head.
Tuesday, May 8th
Mechanical work day. Changing the air filter in the NC700X is a bit of a process. The frunk is such a wonderful storage spot, but it means that lots of items have to be squeezed into a small space. Further compounding the complexity, is that I have used up some of the interior “negative space” to cram in my full compliment of electrical accessories.
I’ve done it enough times now, though, that the process goes fairly smooth.
It still looks a lot better than my last change in Brooklyn:
I also replaced my voltage monitor, but couldn’t get it fully functional. I’ll fix it later.
Wednesday, May 9th
Since it was day 3 of my 3-5 day wait, I decided to call the embassy. With my limited Spanish, phone conversations are very difficult. I understood that they did not give the information over the phone and that I would need to go on the website to check it.
Realtime update: The website still does not say it is ready, even though I got it three days ago…
My host, Mario, taught me an idiom in Spanish: “El ojo del amo engorda al caballo.” This literally translates as, “The eye of the owner fattens the horse.” It means that it is usually better to go see things in person. I decided that I would go in on Friday, regardless of what the website said.
Thursday, May 10th
I didn’t get invited to the moto-taxi convention across the street. 😦
As much as I didn’t like waiting, I loved where I was. The neighborhood was nice and calm. I almost felt like a local by this point.
Friday, May 11th
I rode to the embassy again. Honestly, I had very little hope that the visa would be ready.
Miraculously, I signed a few forms and got my passport back. Hello, beautiful!
I thought that it was interesting that my nationality is listed as “North American.”
Back at my home, Mario had a surprise for me. I’d told him that I just had five days left on my motorcycle insurance, but wanted to see some things on my way to Chile. He told me he would make me a map, but I thought I misunderstood him. Turns out, I understood just fine.
He’d taken care of my itinerary for the next five days. I thought this was so sweet.
I did some final planning and prepared to hit the road early.
Saturday, May 12th
Mario was pretty adamant that I should be on the road by 5 or 5:30 at the latest, though I had explained my aversion to riding in darkness. At 5:40 he came in to my room as I was eating breakfast. He didn’t say anything, just looked at his watch. I told him that I thought I had enough time. He gave me the look that a parent gives to a child when they are 99% sure that they are right, but are still resigned to letting the child make their own decisions. I know that look well. 🙂
He made me a fruit smoothie..
…and I was on the road at 6:30
Thanks Mario and Enrique!
With some better forethought, I maybe could have avoided this 10 day delay all together. I think this will mark the end of “The Great Delay” portion of this trip. Since arriving in Panama City on February 19th, I covered just 3,061 miles over the next 81 days. To put that into perspective, I covered more miles than that during the first 12 days of my trip. (Oh to be young again.) Some of the delays were good, some were bad, but I hope that this slow chapter has now concluded. Let’s roll!
Realtime update: ….and just like that, we’re pretty much caught up! Feels good! This account should become more adventurous and interesting in the coming weeks and months. Additionally, I’ve noticed that my writing is much better when I’m on the road. That “think time” is really important.
I’m currently in Arequipa, Peru. I’ll be here a couple nights then head for Chile before my insurance expires. Thanks for coming along!