I quickly realized that I hadn't missed this city - gray, bleak, sunless Lima. A place that could be any metropolitan city in the world. It's expensive, it's weatherless, and it doesn't have chocolate tres leches cake. Yes, I had not missed Lima.
We stayed at Hostal Espana again. Not wanting half my face to swell up like the last time I was here, I took the bed in the middle of the room, leaving the ones by the wall for the guys. Our lunch was at the restaurant where we began our culinary journey six weeks ago - Villa Natura. I tried to order what Nikhil got last time. I ended up with a completely different dish, which was still quite good. It was Lomo Saltado, a vegetable stir fry with nutri nuggets.
The evening went by quickly, with more ice cream and strolling down the streets of central Lima. We walked through a road lined with costly stores, many of which advertised their goods through life size cartoons. A felt chicken danced at the entrance of his/her restaurant. Minnie Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, even Dora the Explorer handed out fliers for cell phones, shoes, and liquidation sales. I felt as if I was in Disneyland, except the entertainment consisted of the costumed people rather than rides.
We stumbled upon a store dedicated to goods from India. Sure enough, Billu Barber songs played on the screen. Everything from bindis to jhumkas to saris adorned the Peruvian mannequins. There were also generic sweatersr that could have been from anywhere. The tags read "made in India". I amused myself at the movie display, joining the crowd already watching Madhuri and Shah Rukh frolic in the rain. The boys spoke to the owner of the joint, an Indian man by the name of Jitender Kumar. He explained how when Om Shanti Om came out, he sold 1800 DVDs in three weeks. It's yet another affirmation of how big Bollywood is in Peru.
We ended our day at a carnival in Exposition Park. The large tent held food stalls, booths selling clothing and jewelry, and ad group of teenage boys performing Peruvian music. I watched the flautist. He was the most dynamic of the bunch, constantly moving and interacting with the audience. A female friend of theirs walked around collecting tips, selling a suspicious-looking wafer bar for one sol. We bought two in order to support the rising young talent.
It feels strange to say I'm twenty-five now. I was twenty-four yesterday, and now my age has another number. Every year on August 15, I ask myself - what have I accomplished? Usually, the answer is "nothing, really". But this year, I am changing the question to "How have I lived?" Spending six weeks in South America was a decision I'll always be grateful I took. How have I lived? I've made decisions that I won't know the outcomes of until much later. I've changed the course of my life to pursue a profession I know nothing about. I am unsure of what the future holds for me, and yet I couldn't be more ready to embrace the new life I am building for myself. I've pushed myself to be part of unforgettable experiences. I've lived my happiest and saddest moments in this past year. Year 24 was a year of decisions. Year 25 will be a year of change. And it's just going to keep getting better. I know it.