Sex, Drugs, and Public Health

February 22, 2014

LEAVING LIMA

Filed under: Uncategorized — cbmosher @ 1:05 pm

Pretty much what’s happening from the moment we touch down.

Miraflores is nice: clean, good restaurants, safe to walk at nite, the ocean nearby. But you have to run a gauntlet to get there.

”I don’t like air conditioning,”the driver announces. “That’s just the fan – ” he points at the brutalized dashboard which is responsible for bringing in the hot, humid air. “I used it once – cold in car; hot when you get out; cold when you get back in – – – I got a horrible pharyngitis.”

So we roll down the windows to get a breeze from the movement of Lima’s February sweat as we pass broken-down vehicles clogging lanes, street vendors weaving among the cars, and street after street of decaying buildings.

The chofer leans back toward the door where Sarah sits. He pushes down the lock.

Bueno,” he declares. “Mejor.”

Then he spots her backpack on the seat beside her.

“Put that on the floor,” he animates urgently with his hand. “It’s not a good neighborhood.”

Forty-five minutes later, we’re in Miraflores.

Reversing the process to return to the airport, we lock doors, stash our backpacks, but keep the windows open so we can breathe.

Finally: “Aereopuerto 1 Km,” reads a sign, its lettering undulating slowly in the heat.

Then my nose has a flashback: penguins. Penguin poop, specifically.

Must be an olfactory hallucination. I decide to ignore it. But it’s there with the next breath. And the next. I turn around to Sarah.

“Penguins?” I test her. The heat in this place tells me my nose is geographically confused.

Sarah, however, says “yep.”

Hay un olor de pescado?” I check in with the chofer.

Si,” he affirms. “A factory of fish meal. Next to the airport.”

Indeed. The entire international airport is engulfed in a hot, viscous   cloud of regurgitated fish. Like some mother penguin feeding her little Happy Feet.

They assign gate 16. We go there and find they have closed doors to gates beyond 15 and posted ominously officious written warning against opening them. Finally, ten minutes before boarding time, someone opens the doors and the Machu Picchu hoard pours in.

Then they call Sarah’s name to come to the desk. Is she willing to change seats? For the convenience of someone?

We board. There’s a recorded announcement (they obviously use it a lot). It’s the only airplane announcement about seat belts I’ve ever heard where they direct you to NOT buckle your seat belt:

“We are re-fueling the plane. Please to not smoke or using electronic devises. Be seated, but do not buckle your seat belt. Thank you.”

Leaving Lima.

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