After months of excitement, weeks of preparation and hours on a plane, we are finally here in Lima, Peru. Other than Niagara Falls I had never been out of the United States until this moment. As we boarded the bus and began the drive to our hotel I began to take in the world bustling around me. We had been given several lectures and discussed the trip at length but nothing could have prepared me for this transition. As the group talked and laughed and pointed out the window I found myself silently staring, attempting to take in at least a small part of this place. Just like the cities I had grown up visiting, there was the usual sounds of honking and talking, buildings all tightly packed together with cars lining the streets. Yet there was something so different about this place.
The traffic was one of the first differences that struck me. Cars, trucks, taxis and motorcycles swerved dangerously in and out of lanes with inches to spare to avoid collisions. The fast paced movement seemed to void all driving laws yet unspoken rules seemed to minimize any contact between vehicles. While many cars were identical to the brands and models of those found in the United States, the driving was comparably terrifying and impressive.
The next stark difference I took in was the architecture of the buildings. While most U.S. cities are built tall and narrow, the nine million citizens of Lima sprawled the area with few buildings over a couple stories high. These shorter homes and stores all had flat roofs made possible by the lack of precipitation. Many of these roofs second as porches overlooking the street, home to furniture, pets and potted plants. The railings of these porches also shed light on the metal work consistent throughout the exterior of the house. Many window frames, door knobs and other emblems used artistic and geometrical designs out of iron to decorate the otherwise flat walls. These things aside, the starkest contrast was the vibrant colors of the buildings. While some were basic tan or brick, many stuck out with drastic orange, yellow, blue, green, red and pink walls. Very rarely have I seen a single house in these bright colors in the United States while their streets were lined like a rainbow of buildings.
As we drove further from the airport a fascinating landscape began to appear. We winded up a steep road and I suddenly realized how much the city was built into and on top of a steep cliff with only a small strip of beach before hitting the Pacific Ocean. The sounds, colors and abruptness were astounding. At this point it all began to sink in, the structures, natural and man made, and how they differed from anything I had ever experienced.
We arrived at the hotel and I again could take in the sights, sounds and smells of the country we would be spending the next two weeks in. The adventure has just begun.