100 days in Peru

Sitting on the rocky beaches of Lima, the waves push the sound of cars away from earshot. For a moment, I forget I share the city with 10 million others. There were obvious reasons to move to Lima: ceviche, varieties of corn and potato, fruits from the jungle, proximity to Cusco, more temperate climate, learning Spanish, baking in a bakery setting again.

The question “How are you?” offers a moment of self-evaluation. I attempt to respond in an unmeasurable length that is similar to how I should practice drinking tea,

“slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

or how I should eat toast: mindfully.

Breath became an internal reset, a cleansing ritual that the intelligent body gifts, a regalo to be received.

2018 taught me what I needed to call home. I changed directions and moved more times than some do in a lifetime. Things I’ve collected would occupy 100 square feet until I needed them again. The physical self felt unsettled as defined by others before me, but I wasn’t as ungrounded as I thought. As a wood Ox, I find comfort in La Tierra. I needed to learn about and take care of the soil I wanted to grow in.**

Living with my things stored away cleared my head. It was a vacation from my stuff, a constant reminder of the past, memories that reinforced who I believed I am. I would pack my non-fluffy pillows. The rhythm of Lima would require a familiar place to lay my head every night. It would be my pensieve, abstracting into dreams when I was ready for them.

If I had known how difficult adjusting to life in Lima would be, I might have preferred to remain in a known cycle of comfort just a while longer. The home cooked meals with friends, paychecks from the same zip code, the yoga classes, the celebrations, the full moon rituals—this blend of my world fed me and exhausted me at the same time. Familiarity would be an escape. Lima would be like a silent retreat except that I couldn’t communicate verbally with the sounds around me. I would feel trapped and free at the same time.

Freedom from my stuff wasn’t enough. I needed a vacation from the past that I thought would define my future. As a baker and owner of a restaurant and bar, others extrapolated that the next root in my homecity would be to open a bakery/cafe. My gut would tell me that the only patterns in my life would be the ones I wore. In the years past, I jotted down what a menu of baked goods resembling me then would be. The now 4.0 drafts will prove to be useless and resemble more a diary I intend to lose the lock to. I hadn’t learned how to breath and lived for the breaths of the year after next.

Like an Etch-a-Sketch, Lima has shaken and erased Me. My life as a blue monkey would be free from the iron gym of concrete cities.

The 5-12 week mark challenged me real good. I feel like I belonged nowhere. I’ve lived away from the States multiple times before, but nothing had prepared me for the emotion of emptiness. The Peruvian diet of cheese, corn, and potatoes would not sit well in my digestive system. (In Denmark, the traditional foods also gave me digestive issues.) Stop signs: merely suggestions for drivers. No matter how much I slept, my body never felt refreshed in the morning. Inertia could no longer battle its way out of physical exhaustion. My wrist started to hurt: increased use of my hands and wrist triggered past carpal tunnel symptoms. I hadn’t come to live in gratitude of the cold showers, the traffic in Lima, the three day water purification process, the sound of being profiled by taxis unaware of the woman walking in confidence to the place that awaits her, the Monopoly game of bank visits necessary to pay monthly living expenses, or the array of flying insects that established forts in separate corners of the apartment. Feelings of defeat would test my resilience and I wondered how or if I would break its cycle.

I had to learn how to tune out my mind when it wasn’t in harmony with the natural self.

From the hardest weeks of adjustment, I could either return to a place I couldn’t call home anymore or decide to make the place I lived in home. I started listening to the internal sounds that too had no way to verbally express themselves to me. I cook most of my meals: rice with veggies and avocado. I drink an infusion of herbs to tonify my digestive system. I navigate a roundabout with 10 potential crossings and no crosswalks. I give myself permission to sleep early or sleep in. I have become more diligent in my yoga practices to eliminate sensations in my body I no longer wanted to bother me. I envision the cold showers as me being outside under a mountainous waterfall. These showers don’t actually have to be cold (as I finally figured out how to turn on the hot water boiler), but are actually necessary to cool my body down and to keep my house from heating up or adding more humidity to the apartment during the summer months. I visit mostly places I can walk to and use Uber for treat-yo-self moments. I place boiled-after-sitting-out-for-24-hours water in the sun so it also gets solarized as it’s being additionally purified with charcoal. Since phone use in banks is prohibited, I’ve gotten really good at calling to stillness to help me wait in line. I’ve considered collecting all the shedded wings to remind me of this moment when it becomes a distant past.

As I journey in collecting, unlearning, softening, abolishing, and concluding, only mySelf can measure and define output per input. I cannot look to others to tell me how to best spend my resources. I was drawn to baking and cooking because I could define the quality of time: parts of the process can’t be rushed without loss of nourishment. I’ve been adviced not to waste my time here, but I shouldn’t rush it either.

Small rituals would shape the days. They would remind me that I get to do this. I sharpen my knife so that cutting vegetables would be more enjoyable. I stopped looking at sharpening my knife as a chore to be put off. Lima will teach me to extend this lesson to more aspects of my life. I wake up earlier than I need to leave the house so I can warm up without rushing and to have rituals that set the tone of not rushing.

The ocean view sunset and the Andes shelter this concrete jungle. Here I could escape the thoughts in my mind.

 

Because I will be asked where to eat in Lima, when I’m not eating pan y palta from El Pan de la Chola, here are my list of favorite places for physical nourishment: Al Toke Pez, Amaz, El Mercado de Rafael Osterling, La Picantería, Mo Bistro, Siete.

** With each move, I learned what I needed in a space. The Lima home would draw from the 4 other addresses of 2018. My daily movements would revolve around: a stack of books next to the bed, a carafe of water with charcoal, something fermenting on the kitchen counter, a morning tea set-up, a spot to move my body in the morning, house-plants.

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