Around Town in Huancayo

This post will be dedicated to trying to describe what it is like here in Huancayo. To paint a more accurate picture, I will start at the beginning…

Our house is in an adjacent town to Huancayo. The town sprawl really encompases our area too, but we are accross the river/creek, so we are considered to be in the town of Tambo. Around our neighborhood are dirt streets, filled with small piles of rocks. When I say ¨small¨ piles, I mean four foot tall piles of rock that have been scraped off the street and piled up as a means to block traffic, to allow for street renevation or sometimes, seemingly for fun.

There is not much rainfall as it is a semi-desert region high in the Andes (around the same altitude as Breckenridge, Colorado, but a little higher and a lot drier). As you walk down the street, it is common to cough because of the wind-blown dust, mixed with the fumes of burning trash. Yes, piles of burning trash on the side of the road, next to houses, or even in the middle of the street are not only common, but expected. However, the piles contain plastic and other random trash bits, so the fumes are noxious and nauseating.

We have a 1-2 minute walk to one of the main, paved, roads in town called ¨Real¨ (pronounced: RE-all). The road, along with most roads in town, are filled with taxis, combis, and collectivos. To explain; taxi´s are typical taxis and cost 3-5 soles in town (1 to 1.50 USD). Collectivos are taxis that run straight up and down the main road (only straight) and collect as many people as can fit for one sole (about 33 US cents). Combis are basically half-broken mini vans (and if you are lucky, a little larger) that run on set routes all over the city and collect literally as many people as can fit inside (standing, sitting, laying, or otherwise). The prices for combis range from 70 centimos to 1 sole 20 centimos (about 25 to 40 US cents). The combis have a driver (if you can call him that – it is more of a swerver) and a person who hangs out of the side door and shouts the route name or destinations. Small collisions are common and you will most certainly experience clipping another combi or taxi if you ride in them for any period of time. The term ¨close call¨ has no need to be in the vocabulary as it would be overused very quickly.

By taxi/combi we are about a 5-10 minute ride from Centro (Downtown Huancayo) or about a 45 minute walk. Almost all the stores have metal bars or metal garage doors on their front with either barbed wire or glass shards concreted to the top of the walls. Apart from this appearance of being outside of prison walls, Huancayo is quite safe and most people freely walk around at night – at least on the main roads and in centro.

Centro is defined by a large square area downtown, centrally located around a large cathedral. The square is surrounded by various shops, hostels, and restaurants – as well as lines of combis and taxis. The buildings here are nice enough, but are a little older looking with chipped paint, etc on most. To the northeast of centro is a place called ¨Plaza Vea¨. This is a mall, and is the equivalent to the first time a small town in the US gets a Wal-Mart Supercenter. Plaza Vea is quite modern and has a large grocery store, new cars, clothes, and restaurants. It even has a small train to run kids around the mall. The collision between traditional and modern is more than apparent as old Peruvian women, wearing traditional clothing stand at the bottom of escalaters giggling like school children because of the new thing they are about to try. Many people in the area have never seen an escalator or anything of the like before.

The central Andes region does not receive many inidividuals other than Peruvians. This means that our group of white, tall, non-Peruvians gets constant stares and cat calls. Often people will shout out the few English words they know, such as ¨Hello¨ or ¨I love you¨. Taking pictures is very popular for many outside of the centro area and often the children outside of the immediate town are not familiar with cameras.

The town itself is in a large valley, surrounded by foothills of the Andes, even though we are at 11,000 ft. The entire area, including surrounding towns, has maybe 100,000 people. The largest buildings in town are only a few stories and are usually hostels or hotels. Many houses are two stories, but not the kind of two-stories we are used to in the United States. The houses usually have only a few rooms and house somewhat large families.

The Peruvian people are very welcoming when you enter their house or when directly introduced to them. However, the culture and customs are very different than in the U.S. My experience has been that many Peruvians will cut right in front of you in line, will offer higher prices to you unless you immediately speak Spanish or make it apparent you know better, and will gladly run you over with their taxi or combi if you do not sprint accross the road. Staring is constant and expected for foreigners and trash is routinely thrown out of car windows. I say this to share differences in culture, not to insult Peruvians, as all the above apply equally to locals as well as foreigners. It is very much a different living experience.

Overall, I have enjoyed my experience here and it has been a real eye-opener. I have learned to appreciate what we have in the States much more.

– Jason

2 Responses to “Around Town in Huancayo”

  1. Yusuke Mizuno says:

    Once again: the politically correct term is NON-PERUVIAN! NONNN PERUVIANNNN!!! Yes. That is all I have to say about this post, because I agree with everything else. The place where you type your name/mail/website still uses white font, but I can now read what I am typing in the comment box!

  2. stubbemand says:

    I haven’t checked this for awhile. Glad you are over the stomach issues. Hopefully that won’t happen again. We survived church camp, it was a tough one w/ some real behavior issues. I actually had to talk to parents when they picked their kids up. NYC was so fun, not as clean as Chicago. J and I tried getting around by subway w/o your wise guidance. We took the wrong subway once and lost about an hr. but survived. Check out my facegbook to see pics.
    We miss you. Stay safe.
    Love, Deb

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