Originally published 19th June 2008 on http://www.myspace.com/wivenhoefunnyfarm/blog

After some pleading and the closest I could get to puppy dog eyes for about half an hour to the somewhat aloof customer services woman at Lima airport, she reluctantly agreed to announce that she had a lost child over the tannoy. Immediately to my relief I was met by Eduardo, a jolly moustachioed taxi driver, holding a tiny placard with the name of my voluntary agency on and asking how I’d missed it. He launched us into the genuinely insane and extremely smoggy Lima traffic, where it’s every car for themself and a case of beep loudly and steer first – consult dental records later. We took the scenic route along the Pacific on a tortuously steep and twisty road, where Eduardo helpfully pointed out sites of recent road accidents. Eventually I was dropped off at the place I was staying at Miraflores, but being knacked meant my Spanish was even worse than usual, so my landlady for the next few days didn’t warm to me. She was a pretty posh Peruvian lady and the place was lovely – but I ended up getting on better with Wilma her lovely maid, who I watched the football and learnt some interesting colloquialisms with. I did brave the smog the next day to take a taxi to Lima town centre with my hostess’s son, a sports journalist, who was excited about the forthcoming 1-1 draw with dirty cheating Columbia. Despite a soupsong of culture shock I enjoyed mosying around and saw my first ever hummingbird in the Parque Muralles (a park with ancient walls – you’d think they’d build some new ones) – although when I learned the Spanish name for hummingbird and excitedly told my hostess when I returned, she was singularly unimpressed.

Lima's Parque Murales through the smog

I really started getting homesick when I woke up in the morning to find the bedroom door I’d shut at night wide open and some of my things moved around. Fortunately that day I got to meet my fellow volunteers at Miraflores tennis club and met the lovely Lima based co-ordinator who regailed us with stories of rabies and date rape (not at the same time – and she mainly aimed the date rape stories at the younger volunteers – pah!). We enjoyed a slap up Peruvian feast (Ceviche, steak (lomo) stir fry, about ten of the 3,000 plus types of potato that my taxi driver Eduardo was so rightfully proud of y muchos muchos mas, although not much was left after Adam the young Scottish bloke volunteering to work with special needs children in a different town and myself had had 3rd helpings to avoid shamefully wasting anything. I also had my first of many Pisco sours. If you’ve never had one – order one now – it’s a thing of beauty, and gets you trolleyed!

Weirdly after our project briefings, where I met Carole, an Aussie lady in her 60s who would be teaching with me, the female volunteers were then taken off and abandoned in one of Miraflores’s umpteen Inca markets, until we got marketed out and did a runner. Back at the not so happy hacienda, my hostess was having a boozey party and dragged me out to entertain her mates with my rubbish Spanish (actually they were really nice, just very very posh), until I fled to the kitchen to chat with my mate the maid. I’d even bought my hostess a card and some choccies to share with everyone – including Wilma – but it seems I got that wrong too – and mein hostess whisked off the chocs to her own private quarters.

With a sense of relief and the briefest of farewells the next day, I set forth for Cusco.