As we landed in Lima at 10:15 pm, I looked out the window. The plane descended at a comfortable pace (no ear popping, thank you pilot) and we passed a wispy fog. A dark rippled water peppered with brightly lit boats peppered the coastline. It was obvious where the water ended and the land began, because of the densely lit ground.
Stepping out from the plane to the airport smelled a lot like India. It was a particular staleness that comes from poor ventilation, humidity, and large, perspiring crowds. I liked that smell, because it reminded me of India; it reminded me of that first step that reliably shocks the senses. In fact, it wasn't just the smell, but a lot of my first impressions of Peru reminded me of India, New Delhi especially. Maruti-like cars in their boxy glory paraded through the night-time streets. Huge billboards advertising everything from the mainstream to the mundane were visible from great distances. Grilled gates lined the sidewalks right next to the roads. These gates were the barriers between the homes behind them and the streets facing them - also reminiscent of Delhi housing. American fast food franchises greeted us in clumps; a KFC, Burger King, and McDonalds were packed into a tiny nook, while a Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts surprised us at another bend. Ugh to globalization.
Nikhil's friend Mayra and her sister Claudia picked us up from the airport and drove us to the market to buy some food for dinner. The market was located in Mira Flores, a posh neighborhood near the coast. It was less a bazaar and more of a Central Market, with impeccably labelled aisles and cashiers accepting American credit cards as well as dollars for payment. We spent our first night at Mayra's fiancee's duplex, a minimally decorated contemporary apartment with class. I had thought it was going to be chilly, but the weather was pleasantly cool. After surviving the unabating Texas heat, the light drizzle seemed like heavenly bliss.