The day in the life of an expat in Lima.

OK. Life of someone living overseas may seem glamourous if you just view tweets and selfies in front of cool monuments. Most of the time, living overseas is like watching paint dry in a different country. Maybe not the same shades you’d find at your local Sherwin-Williams, but close. Just in case you are curious what it’s like watching paint dry in Lima, Peru, here’s what I did today:

4 am

I got up. Why? My current apartment is on top of the largest gay bar in Miraflores, and 4 am is when it closes. Cabs are honking and drunks are out singing. Gooood morning!

Since I’m up, I’ll eat avocado toast for breakfast. You can get a lot of American cereals in this country, including Cap’n Crunch, but why rip up the roof of your mouth when you can have avocado toast?


Call my health insurance to inquire about a claim. The insurance agency is in America. The call center is in the Philippines. His notes are in Spanish. It’s regarding medical records being transferred from Bangkok, Thailand from when I lived in Kunming, China.

7:00 am

Finally off the phone.  Decide to walk to the Malecon. I treat myself to an overpriced coffee instead of an overpriced and slightly stale donut from Dunkin Donuts in Kennedy Park.

10:00 am

Go to church, which meets at a hotel. Services are in Spanish. While folks think I’m glancing at the bilingual bible on my Kindle, I’m secretly working on Wordle.

11:00 am

Walk home. See Olivia, her lipstick slightly more crooked than mine. She’s resting on the corner near the loud gay bar. The last time I saw Olivia was the morning of parent teacher conferences.  She looked pretty bad that day, her cheek was smashed on a sidewalk. I didn’t talk with her long as I didn’t think parents would understand that I was late because of a homeless woman. But today, I have time.

“You know, I pray for you,” I say, as I give her a ten-sol bill.  

Olivia pulls me in for a hug, her voice more rasp than words, her eyes blood shot and teary.

Guess I did listen to a bit of the sermon.

12:00 noon

Have tuna salad for lunch. While America has the cereal aisle and China has a soy sauce aisle, Lima has a great aisle of tuna. Sorry Charlie, you won’t find Starkist here. But you will find the South African lady wandering around the aisles. Who is the South African lady? She’s an older scam artist, usually adorn in a flowered dress, hunts for English speakers in large grocery stores, telling a story of how she and her husband were robbed on the way to the airport. I buy some tuna. I don’t buy her story.

1 pm

Hit the money exchange.  Even though I finally have an official bank account in Peru because I finally have my official Peruvian ID or Carné de Extranjería, I am still paid in USD. Go figure. The bank charges a conversion fee, which is more than the currency exchanges charge tourists. You can always find money exchangers on the street. They will give you get a better rate, but then you’re letting onlookers know that you’re carrying a lot of cash.

Back to my Carné de Extranjería. The picture is slightly worse than my driver’s license photo. Luckily, my thumbprint has aged well. Not only do you need a Carné to open a bank account, you need one to get a frequent shopper card at your favorite grocer. Now I can get the extra special price on tuna!

2 pm

Go to gather items for my big move this week to Barranco, the bohemian, arty-farty district of Lima. I won’t’ be living in the cool section, but directly over a bus depot, with views not popular on postcards.

3 pm

See a cool truck like my grandma had near the Surquillo Market. Brings back memories of helping her sell cherries at the South Bend Fruit Market and being forced to watch the Lawrence Welk show.


4 pm

Procrastinate instead of writing lesson plans. Check messages on my phone and find one from a former student from China, who goes by the pseudonym Taco Fritz. I know. Such a traditional Chinese name. Anyway, Taco wants me to review a speech as she’s running for class government. I read it, and tremble at her talent Let’s rename her Numero Uno Top Tostada. I want to tell her to quit high school and work for Saturday Night Live. But I don’t. I just tell her to work the crowd.

5 PM

Hungry. Want a potato. Yes, there’s a potato under there somewhere. It’s the Peruvian national dish, Papa a la Huancaina.  Eat cheese instead.

6:00 pm (Actually, 5:57)

Take in another sunset. Sunsets happen earlier here as April is autumn below the Equator.

6:30 pm

Write this blog.

5 thoughts on “Watching the Paint Dry

  1. What a day you had. Your mention of selling cherries brought back memories of us selling cherries at the farmers market

  2. I remember picking and selling the cherries for your grandpa in south bend. Jan and I rode in the back of the truck. We almost got in trouble for throwing cherries at cars that passed us

  3. Thanks for sharing a day in your life, Ginger. Avocado toast is a good way to start the day. Your grandma had a cool truck and your view of the sunset is beautiful! I’m sure your former student will appreciate your advice-you must be so proud of him/her.

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