Chau, 2019

Dear 2019,

You really sucked. I mean really sucked. The only good thing to come out of you was the birth of my little Araya girl. Yes, I learned a lot and appreciated a lot of people. So many relationships changed, mostly for the better. So, I wouldn’t change you, 2019, but I sure would not do you over again. Thus, it was only fitting that the screaming ill-behaved toddler from Santiago to Lima happened in you.

Pero, bueno. I made it to Lima at 5:09 on the 31st of December. The Lima airport is not the worst I have been in, but not my favorite. Considering screaming child stayed in my vicinity all the way through customs, I was ready to get the heck out of there. That child reached decibels that could have broken glass.

A little switch to Lima experiences:

Lima airport is overwhelming if you don’t have a plan. I have noticed that Peruvians can be very insistent. (Hence screaming child who did not want to be buckled into his seat) Everyone wants you to take their services and will get right into your space. I read that taxis can be a bit sketchy, so I opted for the direct bus.

The best and cheapest when heading to Mariflores is Airport Express Lima. It may not be the fastest, but it is well worth the 8usd. The bus has wifi and air conditioning. The seats are super comfortable. It dropped me off a few blocks from my hostel, Prime Spot Backpackers. It was a great experience all around, and had I not had to leave for the airport at three in the morning, I would have taken it again.

As for the hostel, if you are staying in Lima for an extended period of time, I wouldn’t recommend this place. It was fine for a night. The beds were super comfy, but it just didn’t have all of the things I look for in an extended stay hostel -ample plugs, good social areas, clean showers- and the location was just ok. It was about a 10 minute walk from everything. But for 9usd, it was worth the comfy bed for a few hours of sleep.

I took my much needed nap and headed to Parque Kennedy. This is where the front desk person said to go for the party. And I am not going to lie, I was a bit disappointed. There were not many people and the park, while pretty, has a strangeness to it. First, there are stray cats everywhere, and as my mother says, there is nothing worse than the smell of cat piss. Every flower bed smelled horrible. Cats were eating out of the trash, screwing on the sidewalks, rubbing up against people, and hissing from trees. 🤢. Second, I was shocked by the area itself. The internet says Mariflores is THE place to go for travelers. And maybe I just saw a small part of it, but I was very disappointed. There were chain restaurants from the US everywhere – Chilis, TGI Friday’s, Starbucks, even freaking Pinkberry. And the places that looked like they could be fun had no one in them. I was not about to be the crazy girl dancing in the middle of an empty dance floor on New Year’s Eve. So, there I was roaming around and around the park trying to decide if I was too tired to eat anything. (I was). Trying to convince myself that if I left and went to bed before midnight I would regret it. (I would have).

Because, around 11:15, just as I was about to give in and start to walk back, I came upon a circle of people. They were all singing along to a song that was clearly an anthem to Peru. Then they switched gears and stared to salsa dance. Thick, thin, old, young, black, white, tall, short – it did not matter one bit. Everyone was out dancing, even the awkward Canadian men who just couldn’t help their profoundly white rhythm and yet were grabbing everyone they could to awkward dad dance.

As the clock inched closer to midnight, the rituals started to occur. Grapes were passed around. You see, one must eat six red and six green grapes at midnight as fast as possible while saying the names of the months. Any month that is mumbled will have bad luck. Needless to say, I enunciated like a theatre actor. I was not taking any chances. There were also people who were writing things on paper and dipping them into the champagne. Most people were dressed in yellow, which I later learned was a sign of happiness for the new year. I was wearing red and blue, which apparently means I was looking for love and fertility 😳. Wine was being passed around, and for the second year in a row I didn’t drink. I was too frightened about facing the altitude the following day. See, mom! I can refrain. Complete strangers were sharing food and cups, passing styrofoam plates around. This amazing woman in a ball gown, who had been dancing her ass off all night alone in the middle of the circle of people pulled out a full bottle of champagne and two flutes from her purse. She was my second spirit animal I had found that day. (The first being an old man in the Carrasco airport.) Children and asians were lighting sparklers. I have no idea why, but those asians were getting down with the sparklers and poppers. They were worse than the kids waving the, around and giggling.

There was no countdown. There was no build up. The clocks hit midnight and the Peruvians just knew. Champagne was sprayed everywhere. Firecrackers were being lit in the square. People were hugging and kissing all around. And just as I was feeling a little forlorn about the fact that I was not going to get a New Years kiss this year, the sweet lady next to me who had been answering all of the questions about the traditions of Lima at New Years wrapped me in a sweet hug and kissed my cheek. It was kind of a perfect way to bring in 2020. If my year is filled with spontaneous and inclusive dance circles, silly traditions, kisses from strangers, and a little restraint from alcohol (you are welcome liver), it may end up being a pretty good year.

So, is Lima my favorite place for New Years, no. But I have been slightly pessimistic and overly annoyed by things lately. That screaming kid on the plane? I didn’t even try to help. I just rolled my eyes and cursed a lot under my breath. I’m a teacher! I know how to entertain. Instead I judged the shit out of the passive mother and put in head phones. And I was actually going to walk back to the hostel, tail between my legs because Kennedy park had not been the party I was imagining. But that was 2019 Kim. So, as a first spot to self-discovery, I needed this experience in Lima to just open my mind a little and enjoy what was in front of me. Hidden among the cat piss and commercialism was a pretty great experience that made me feel very included despite my own self doubts. They do say hindsight is 2020.

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