The stray cats of Miraflores.

I am heartbroken. I had just written this post about the stray cats of Miraflores today when I received an email from my good friend who has been taking care of my cats Queba & Lestat. He wrote that Queba, my 14-year-old persian past away in his sleep last night 😦

So I’d like to dedicate this next post about the happy cats of Miraflores to my beautiful Queba.

The stray cats of Miraflores.
I stood in Parque Kennedy and was delightfully amazed at the scene before me – healthy un-manged happy cats everywhere, in the park flower beds, up the trees, rubbing their noses and heads on their friendly human neighbours, on sidewalks, in the alley ways, lazing around on the grass where less than half a metre away a flock of birds were grazing – it was spectacular! After having come from India where I saw a lot of animal neglect and heartbreak, this was an extreme breath of welcomed fresh air.

Roy – ‘Its amazing, the council look after the stray cats around here (even medical issues?) oh yes, you see they’re all very healthy looking and very friendly, they don’t cause any problems with the birds because they’re being fed you see, and the people leave them alone, in fact, they enjoy having them around.’

It was true, everywhere you looked there were stray, unstray looking, collarless cats. And they did look healthy, some a little too healthy if you know what I mean (heavy). These kitty cats were very friendly to each other, to the people, and to the native wildlife. . . it was pussy nirvana!

A different point of view – Life in Lima

While sitting at Mangoes enjoying a beer on a beautiful day in Lima, I met an interesting man named Jellin (pronounced Yellin). Originally from Holland, he had been selling mining equipment to the Peruvian goldmines in the late 90’s, married a Peruvian lady of the European class and settled down in Lima to start a family.

Today at 44, Jellin has a 6-year-old son, is getting divorced and can’t wait to exit Lima, which he will do in February to go to Spain.

Jellin, blonde haired, blue-eyed and able to speak Latin American Spanish fluently – ‘I hate Lima. The rest of Peru is beautiful but Lima is only a stop-over. Everyday I’m picking garbage off my driveway. If you cross the road at the pedestrian crossing, they will speed up to try to hit you. It happens here all the time.’

The Europeans are moving out of the affluent areas (like Miraflores) because they don’t want to mix with the new middle class that has started to form from the locals that are getting educated and working, earning some money and can now afford to live in the better areas. Its wrong.

The other day I was driving through a toll highway, in my white jeep – It’s the biggest and whitest jeep you can get – when the police stopped me. Now I knew I had done nothing wrong and have all of my paper work in order, and he stood there looking through my papers trying to find SOMETHING because they want to get anything out of you, 5 soles, 10 soles even, and you know what he said? ” your car is meant to be white”, it was ridiculous, but I joked with him and said “You know what the weathers like in Lima, you have to wash your car every second day, if you like I’ll wash it for you now”. He then asked me to get out of the car, and you know what he found? He pointed to the thin door outline which is grey and said ” you call that white?”. Now I got angry, and started asking for his rank and who his superior was. I said “I want you to write down in your book in front of me that you think my car is not white!’

Jellin, paused and smiled – ‘ Now, anywhere else in the world the police would either get heavy-handed or start writing lies and can really get you in trouble. But not in Lima, you go offensive and they will back down.’ Then adds ‘and if he doesn’t, you look away, reach into your wallet for 10 soles, and when he takes it out of your hand, you can look up, and hopefully he’s gone.’

Discovering ceviche – I’ve died and gone to Mangoes!

About a 15 minute stroll from Roy and Sue’s apartment is Larcomar, a still in developement coastal area that the Lima council has put a lot of effort transitioning into a picturesque touristy hub. Though incomplete, you can see where its going – long stretches of beautiful beach lined by low cliffs covered in luscious green grass with parks, scenic points, and recreational areas for the kids.

In the shopping and eating arena, Roy and Sue introduce me to Mangoes for lunch.

Sue, excitedly, – ‘We take everyone to Mangoes, it’s the only time we go’

Mangoes is a beachside restaurant with an outside deck that overlooks the ocean. Aesthetically pleasing to put you into a relaxed holiday mood, it was very pretty… But what was even more beautiful was the buffet.

With 8 different varieties of sensationally marinated white fish, raw or lightly cooked in all sorts of Peruvian, if not slightly fused styles. Side dishes of sauces, salads, different types of corns, many species of potato, also including hot and cold scrumptious ‘pollo’ (chicken) and beef options – It was like a dream come true! *DROOL*.

To start with, ceviche – I love quality raw fish, I love lime, I love salad, and I absolutely love how the chef would create this delightful ‘ceviche’ (all ingredients mixed with additional seasoning) as you stand their watching and waiting with the predatory eyes of a hungry hovering vulture.

But it was not all about the ceviche – Rows of full green avocado with prawns topped with a seafood sauce, herbed blue cheese wrapped in chicken fillet, rare roast beef gently folded around a crispy asparagus, stuffed cheese tomato things, layered corn and vegie things, baked banana in a savory gravy, grilled fish in soy and butter! *GASPS*

By the time I shamelessly ate my way through 3 hours and four plates, I had embraced the blissful pace of a hippo in water and ‘floated’ back to our table with my final plate of assorted deserts.

Roy, considering the sheer quantity in disbelief, simply said – ‘ That’s disgusting!’ laughing.

I too found this hilarious – I thought I had been eating politely.

Arriving in Lima – Roy & Sue, a love story.

After what seemed like days of flying and zero sleep, I arrived in lima at 11pm at night ready for death.

Luckily, I was rescued by one of my favourite couples in the world, Roy & Sue.

Roy and Sue are the parents of my 2 very close girlfriends and, before I even understood their love story, I already knew that in life this was the kind of role model partnership that I wanted for myself.

I remember one of the first times I stayed over at my girlfriends house (over 12 years ago now – yikes!)

T, hearing laughter and giggling coming from the bathroom – ‘What’s that?’

Jules, sheepishly – ‘That’s my mum and dad having a shower … they’re like this all the time.’

A brief history of the love affair.
– In the very early 70’s, Sue a young 22 year-old single Latin American lady migrates to Australia, courageously taking this journey from Lima to Sydney with only $2000 in her pocket, no family support, and speaking very little english. Within 15 days of this amazing adventure, and amidst the culture shock, Sue meets Roy.

– Roy, after a stint in the british army, at 24 migrates to Australia and is working as an electrician, when one day in his early 30’s an Argentinean co-worker asks if he would like to follow him to a salsa club. In this salsa club, at 32 and not looking for marriage, Roy sees a 22 year-old beautiful Sue and everything changes.

Roy in a British accent – ‘I looked at her and said to my mate “that’s the girl I’m going to marry”… The feeling was uncanny.’

Love story or not, they’ll be the first to tell you that marriage is not easy – you both have to work at it equally, with the most important ingredient being communication and to have common interest to avoid growing apart, as they have seen many couples do.

With 38 years of marriage under their belt (and counting!), their lives are richer than most, and as cheesy as it sounds, it’s because they have each other – everything else was a bonus built on that foundation.

Roy, 71 – ‘ The best thing I ever did was marry Sue.’

And for Sue (61), the best decision she ever made was to migrate to Australia which in turn lead her to Roy. I can only hope, and pray to all the gods and aliens, that one day someone could give me even half of this compliment.

Now in November 2010, hundreds of miles away from home in Lima, this amazing couple greets me warmly, looking fit and fabulous in their retirement, and most importantly, very very happy.

Making friends on flights – Goodbye Asia, hello South America!

After a teary goodbye to my family in Malaysia (special shout out to my cousin Sheba for looking after me so well!) I jumped on a plane to Sydney for a couple of days, just long enough to make sure my animals were ok, repack, and for Mr fabulous to accidentally drop a 6 seater heavy wooden bench on my right foot, fracturing it – On the plus side, a bench falling on my foot in public did earn me many glasses of wine, which helped numb the pain – I enter my Aerolineas flight from Sydney to Lima and lay exhausted in my aisle seat, shut my eyes and tried to get some sleep.

2 guys sit down next to me at different times and start talking to each other about football.

5 minutes into their conversation, Brazilian voice – ‘So, is she your wife?’ referring to me

Australian accented voice – ‘No’, quietly adds ‘but I am sleeping with her.’

Surprised, I open my eyes an turn to see whom it was I’m supposedly being intimate with.

Introducing Kush, a large dark indian man in his 30’s, who Is a tough looking Flight Centre travel agent, but a real softy deep down – You know, the kind of softy that would be a complete gentleman to your face but sleaze behind your back?

Kush, embarrassed – ‘I’m not really sleeping with you. I don’t know why I said that!’

T – ‘ Because you’re a boy’ smiling, then turning attention to the young Brazilian sitting beside her ‘ You’re from Brazil? I’ll be there in March for Carnival, is it as crazy and dangerous as people keep telling me?’

Igor is a 24 year-old Rio born and bred, Macquarie Uni (based in Sydney) business student, who was about to spend 3 months back home in Rio with his family after not having seen them for 3 years since coming to Australia.

Igor – ‘There use to be little riots, where 50 men would run at you and just grab whatever they could.’

T – ‘That`s hilarious! 50 men, 1 backpack?’ imagining the comedy of splitting the goods of 1 backpack between so many.

Igor, seriously – ‘It would be you and anyone around you, always targeting more than a couple of tourist on the beach and grabbing camera’s and bags. But don’t worry, it doesn’t happen anymore, now the police protect the tourist, it’s bad for business if the tourist are scared.’

We chatted through the whole 16 hour flight and had swapped facebook details by the time we hit Buenos Aries in Argentina.

Igor – ‘Let me know if you come to Brazil any earlier than March, I’ll show you around. And it will be handy for you to know someone in Rio.

T – ‘Definitely! And you let me know if you decide to stay in Rio for Carnival!.’

We parted ways with the promise to keep in touch, and after having made my first South American friend within 5 minutes of my flight out of Sydney, I knew instinctively that I was going to love this continent.

Igor was right – it would be extremely handy to know a local especially during crazy carnival time.

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