Peru is the South American country I didn't really intend to visit – I just came here because the flight to Lima was the cheapest, and it didn't seem like a bad place. Only when I came here I remembered the two connections I had made with Peru over the years:
  • In high school, I led a 1-week project about the consequences of colonialism in Peru (yeah, I know, history nerd), writing and researching a lot about the Inka social system and the current social classes in Cusco
  • As part of my OU Religion course, I wrote a paper on the enculturalisation of Christianity in Cusqueña art (history geek, 8 years later, and proud of it!)
mysterious Inka... watering thingy.
That sounds like I should know Peru pretty well, but really, this was all I knew. Now it's my 4th week in this country (and last on the continent) and I have found out many other wondrous, amazing, surprising and sad things about Peru, and I'm loving the country more and more each day.

1. In Peru, Indians are not a minority

Landing in Lima, most people look fairly... Spanish. But as soon as you go to smaller towns and especially in the Andes, there's no denying: 50% of Peruvians today are still of pure Indian blood. I love the characteristic faces and the fact that against popular belief, not all people of indigenous blood throughout are either extinct or alcoholics on the verge of society. Some are just... people (although there is racism in Peru and you can also buy the ever-popular “whitening” cosmetics).

2. Peruvian food is amazing

my new favourite dish!

I was prepared to eat boring food and lots of meat during my 10 weeks in South America. I didn't know about Peruvian food, an amazing mixture of fresh local veggies, herbs and lots of lime juice that sometimes seems downright Thai! On top of that, the native vegetables here are more delicious than anywhere else in the world. I'll never look at tomatoes, potatoes, avocados and peppers the same way. Peru is probably also the only country in the world where a builder will have a hearty quinoa soup for lunch – awesome! Oh, and guinea pig is kind of delicious, too (I know you're all waiting for that post... I'm still waiting for the pictures).

3. Peru has a knack for China and Japan

The country has had a president of Japanese ancestry (erm, not that sucessful), and Japan is a major investor in the country. Some parts of Arequipa have been built with the help of Japanese investors and remind me a lot of certain suburbs of Osaka. Then, there are Chifas, Chinese-Peruvian restaurants of different levels of authenticity, everywhere – they're the most affordable and popular ethnic food in the country, even though sometimes, you'll get potatoes instead of tofu. Still, I like to have some familiar Asian stuff here.

4. Many people really still dress like 400 years ago!

I thought it was a tourist thing, but it's not. Not in the big cities, but in the smaller towns and especially in the Andes, mostly women still wear woven cloths, dresses and hairstyles that date back centuries. They use scarves to carry around their babies on their backs, as ponchos, as everything. I greatly approve of the multi-purpose and highly fashionable use of colourful scarves.

5. The Inkas were weird as fuck

I'm not sure if I should like the Inkas or not. I think their success wasn't that unique – it was a little like the Ottoman empire, but involved eating children. I didn't go to Macchu Picchu but visited other Inka sites, and to be honest, they were kind of boring. Sure, it's sturdy architecture, but also very plain. Like a good middle-class German corporation of the early 20th century, but with crazy stories of power lines. And they were quite late building these massive things, too – other cultures did things on a similar scale thousands of years before them, or in more adverse climate conditions (in the jungle or desert, not just in lush meadows in the mountains where you already have all that rock at your hands).

The Inkas were obsessed with the sun (people had that cult more than 4,000 years before the Inkas, in Egypt), with cats (again, Egypt) and making children super drunk, then buried them alive. I can understand liking the sun and wanting to kill children – but cats? And why not drink the alcohol yourself? As I said, not sure about these folks...
like the French - drugged wine makes posh ladies sleep well!

Tomorrow... 5 more things I never knew about Peru...!


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