Posted by: Jessie Kwak | September 15, 2009

Observations on Huancayo

We decided to stay another night here so that we could explore the city more fully. Huancayo is a modern city that is still very close to its Andean roots. In between the teens texting little old ladies in traditional dress truck along under loads that weigh as much as they do.

Huancayo’s commercial areas are compartmentalized—you’ll walk down a street of shoe stores, then turn a corner and be in the street of cell phone dealers. There’s a bank of payphones some fifteen deep just a block from our hotel, but you’re hard pressed to find a payphone in the rest of the city. A few days ago we came upon the Street of Music Shops, where six or eight nearly identical shops sold guitars, harps, and brass instruments.

Huancayo seems to be a very musical city. The claim is that the Montaro Valley has more fiestas than there are days in the year, and each day we’ve been here we’ve seen at least one band decked out in suits and ties. The groups always include a harp player, and how do you get such a huge instrument around? You set it on top of the taxi, then sit inside with your arm out the window holding it down, of course. Harps on top of taxis can be seen zipping through Huancayo’s streets at alarming speeds.

Yesterday we came upon the market district, where we saw more potatoes than I knew existed. I wish we were staying in a place with a kitchen; I’d love to take some home and try each and every one.

Huancayo market

Huancayo market

Restaurants in Huancayo have been difficult at best. Somehow we are never able to communicate exactly what we want, although in Lima it was no problem. If you ask about something on the menu, then the waiter assumes you want it and disappears without even asking what anyone else at the table might want. If you and someone else order the same dish, you’ll probably only get one to share, rather than each your own. Bottled beverages generally only come with one glass, even if you said you’ll be splitting it, and every restaurant seems to have their own secret code when it comes to asking for a bottle of water. We’ve yet to get it right.

We haven’t been to a single restaurant yet here that has gotten our order right. Maybe they’re not used to the way gringos order? Peruvians seem to already know what they want, whereas we need to decipher the menu. Maybe they can’t understand my Spanish? Who knows. By yesterday John, Rob and I had decided to just view ordering like a crap shoot. Shake it up and see what comes out.

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