From The Sacred Valley to the Big City

September 5th, 2011

By Maureen Santucci

Well into my third week of visiting Lima after spending two years in the relative isolation of Cusco, and one year living in Urubamba in the Sacred Valley, I am still getting to grips with being back in the big city. Although things couldn’t be more different, I still find myself enjoying the change and feeling oddly drawn to Lima – and trying to figure out what the city was all about.

Fortunately for me, I seem to adapt very easily. I can enjoy myself no matter where I am, and having lived in Boston, Manhattan and LA, big cities are not a new thing for me. In fact, perhaps it is the city energy that I have found myself enjoying. Things are happening here, people are busy, they have things to do and places to be.

Most of all though, what I enjoy most about Lima is the people. Having spent plenty of time in Peru, I’ve developed a reasonable understanding of what makes people tick and how that is affected by the big cultural differences that exist across the country.

For me, Limeños seem more cosmopolitan. Yes, there are still differences in culture. But those differences are nowhere near as vast as you find with people from the countryside, especially the mountains, where outlooks are much more conservative and traditional, and can sometimes make it hard for a female Westerner to fit in.

One of the biggest issues I find as a woman here is that men from other areas of Peru have a difficult time accepting a platonic female friend. Time and again, I’ve been optimistic about having regular friendships with men here only to find it impossible. Thankfully, this doesn’t seem to be the case in Lima.

I guess I didn’t really realize how much adapting I’d been doing while living in the Cusco region. Not until I went out for lunch in Lima with a friend and a bunch of his (all male) friends, and realized ‘wow, I’m just being myself!’ I could have been out to lunch with any group of friends in L.A. There were no differences to notice.

Although the social observations are things I notice the most, that’s not to say I don’t appreciate the enormity of everything else that is different in Lima to my little town in the mountains – not to mention being just a bit overwhelmed by it all!

Walking into a supermarket in Lima after living so long in Urubamba is a disorientating experience. Really, I didn’t know whether to start stuffing the cart, or run for the hills. It was strange when you consider the ridiculous amount of choice we have in the States, yet here the mere presence of Swiss cheese was enough to make me want to kneel down and give thanks.

All-in-all it has been a pleasant, if eye opening experience, and one that I look forward to repeating. Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages to living anywhere. But for now I think I’ll stop over thinking everything and get back to enjoying this delicious ceviche…

Tours of the Sacred Valley are a standard part of most Machu Picchu packages. If you want to spend more time exploring the popular towns of Pisac, Ollantaytambo and Urubamba, consult your Machu Picchu tour package provider for more details.