Sunshine, friends and the food that brings us together

Hello, friends near and far! I just found this draft, which I began on Monday May 6, 2019, from Chiclayo, Peru. There is nothing like the nostalgia that comes with January in the northern hemisphere…

Here are my words from that draft:
“Sunday was wonderfully relaxing. I spent the day wandering with two fellow violinists:
one who I’ve known for years and played with multiple times and another who I only met
that day. We met in the bustling plaza in the city centre and then meandered with no care as to the hour,
looking for a good local place to eat humitas for breakfast (after our favourite spot was closed).

This one here was from my second evening here, enjoyed in the company of my dear friend Celeste,
a former colleague from Centro Esperanza, and forever artist and friend. ❤
A humita is an ancient food much like a tamale, prepared with ground corn and fat (usually an olive inside), steamed inside a corn husk bundle, and enjoyed with crunchy, marinated shallots.
I enjoyed this one with delicious locally grown coffee (from the nearby mountains)
and cane sugar (from the fields just outside the city).

* * *
We never found humitas [they are popular and often sell out once the daily supply of fresh ones is exhausted], so we headed to a classic hang out spot that we used to frequent after ensemble
rehearsals. We shared juice made with fresh tropical fruit from la selva (the jungle),
empanadas (Latin American pasties, but more delicious) and pastel de espinaca (spinach pie).
Then we played violin in El Parque de Las Musas, a beautiful park that doesn’t quite fit in
with the rest of the city, with white statues and brightly coloured flowers and neat grass.
We squinted under the bright sun as we shared one instrument. The friend of many years and I chatted and reminisced about concerts and gigs and volunteer gig violin lessons that we gave together from 2013 to 2015. We all listened intently as each took turns playing a song in between chatting.

Then we headed to Pimentel…
where we wandered the beach and boardwalk and took silly photos and admired the surfers and pelicans and fisher peoples in their ancient technology boats. Then we wandered to find a good spot to share a platter of fresh ceviche between the three of us. We were the only ones in an empty restaurant at 3pm. We downed two pitchers of chicha morada, an ancient Peruvian drink made with boiled purple corn, cloves, pineapple, cinnamon, lemon and sugar.
Food in Peru is incredible because locals produce so much of the
diverse ingredients they cook with. There is local, regional pride and heritage in
mestizo traditions and in trusted nutrition practices grounded in ancient knowledge.
With ‘development’ and ‘modernization’ these traditions are being challenged enormously,
but I am heartened by how many prevail and remain largely untouched by globalization
as Peruvians recognize more and more the value in their ancient ways.

Perhaps I take this region for granted, as I am simply so familiar with it. I know many streets and markets and most of the local slang. Where the reasonably priced art stores are. Where carpenters will sell me scraps of wood for art projects. Where the best vegetarian restaurant is, and the hidden location of the best downtown lunch ‘menú‘, prepared by experienced female cooks who smile and greet you as you near the end of the long yellow and green tile-covered hallway. I know where to find the evening and late-night street vendors who prepare fresh mouth-watering concoctions, and, in fall and winter,
the living rooms converted into restaurants with the best chicken soups fathomable.
. I can give directions, have done so already. I still remember about the buses and minivans of the complex, somewhat informal, transit system and what the fares should be. It is amazing to feel so at ease here after four long years. Coming here meant returning ‘home’.

People in the streets and crowded convis have mostly been assuming I am Peruvian
(one thought I was limeña, from Lima). Twice so far, people asked me if I am Venezuelan;
given the huge influx of political and environmental refugees, that’s a logical guess.

The other day I had to give a new [Venezuelan] taxi driver instructions to drop me at the path
to La Ladrillera village, along a major road. He didn’t know where it was; hadn’t heard of it.
Three days later, a mototaxi driver was mumbling under his breath that I must be lost. He was unconvinced that the left turn I asked him to make was going to get me where I said I was trying to go.
But it did, and he apologized when I said that we had arrived just fine and handed him some coins and thanked him for following my directions. He questioned me to make sure that I knew where I was going. I can only assume what he was wondering; but it was likely the same as what people were puzzled about years ago: why anyone would ask to be left next to a big (smelly) drainage pipe bordering rice fields, under major powerlines, next to a bumpy dirt path with no sign signaling a place name.
But that path leads to friends and families that I have known since 2013.
And they were waiting for a drawing workshop that morning“.

* * *
I didn’t post this in 2019 as the internet kept cutting out that day in May.
I hope your 2021 [in the Gregorian calendar]
is off to a joyful start and that you and your loved ones are well.
Stay safe and happy dreaming and acting to make our shared world
better today, tomorrow, and whenever COVID-19 settles.
Gracias, thank you for reading 🙂

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