(Another Weekend Story)
Venders in Lima, and the informal economy in general, astound me. There are people selling anything you could imagine anywhere you could imagine it. Want a book to read while on the beach? Someone will be walking around selling it. On the beach. Maybe your pen broke while on the bus and you desperately need to write down the number of the chica sitting next to you? Well, it wouldn’t be strange for a pen vender to walk on your micro. My favorite are the ice cream venders (or ice cream ambulantes) – they are my new Starbucks. In DC, it felt strange if there wasn’t a Starbucks on every block. In Lima, there is an ice cream vender on every street. Thank God. Of course there are also the children selling candy and the women with babies begging… but that is an entirely different blog. (My GWU blog in fact.)
When we arrived at the Shakira concert (that is linked to my fave Shakira song. Con letras!) it was like an Atlanta Braves game times seventy. The venders were out in full force. While standing in line we were presented with beer, candy, ice cream, chaufa (fried rice) in huge pots rolled on carts, binoculars and Shakira themed everything. Venders had set up makeshift restaurants and it seemed like half of Lima was at the concert to either attend or sell. There were also women who, for 5 soles, would help you get ahead of the line. In the US this would be a VIP pass. In Peru, it is a women who simply guided you into line ahead of (now angry) people. Essentially, you were paying them for their chutzpah. (Until someone would complain to a cop and they would make you move.)
I bought some ice cream and carried my trash for half an hour looking for a trash can. Once I got to the gate the man told me I couldn’t bring it in. “It’s trash – where is the trash can?” He took it from my hand, made a point of looking around, and tossed it on the ground next to the sidewalk. Well then. No wonder Earth Hour didn’t go so well in Lima.
We passed through the gate and were each handed a few packages of pads. That’s right, feminine items. So the concert was mostly attended by women and their boyfriends but still – did they think that much estrogen might be an issue? The concert itself was amazing; Train and Ziggy Marley played and then Shakira came on and definitely lived up to her reputation. (Let that mean what it may.) It was a great show. We left a little early to beat the crowd and exited the stadium to be met with an absolute mob of venders, crowding the exit, along with riot police on foot and on horseback. It was a gauntlet, and I’ll admit that it was nerve-wracking to be the first to forge the path through the stands of meat and stacks of posters shoved into our faces. And really – riot police? Come on guys, we have our pads to keep all the woman-crazy at bay. As much as Shakira’s abs may dishearten us, someone somewhere is selling chocolate.
For 37 seconds now, I have been thinking over whether or not eating the un sol (around 30 US cents) chocolate ice cream every day is worth giving up ever having abs like Shakira. Tal vez, my friends, tal vez.