Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Family and History as an Inspiration

Flowers at the park
I am in Lima, Peru right now, visiting my family. Joe and I came here to be part of my nephew’s 3rd birthday celebration and to spend a week with family and friends.  Our time here has been wonderful so far and we expect the days to come to continue to bring lots of fun and joy. Of course, for me, traveling to Lima also meant a good chance to snap some great photos of the city, and capturing some of the beauty you find all around it.

It’s been hot since we got here. The sun is so strong in Lima. According to my siblings, the radiation levels in the city are some of the highest. Despite these warnings, I still managed to burn myself by walking around the city without sunscreen. I have heard several times that Peru is one of the countries that will be most impacted by climate change and, experiencing such a warm fall (over 30 degrees Centigrade at times!) makes me wonder if the changes are already starting to be felt.

The birthday boy!
I would be lying if I didn’t mention that my favorite photography day so far has been my nephew’s birthday party. My nephew, Nicolas, is half Italian-Peruvian and half Japanese-Peruvian. We learned that in Japanese culture, it is important to celebrate the third year of life, so my sister went ahead and planned a big, fun party. At this moment, Nicolas is very into cars, trucks and anything with wheels, so my sister threw him a Cars-themed party that included big decorations, a gigantic inflatable slide and bouncy area, a trampoline, lots of yummy food, and a children’s show that revolved around car-racing!

It was a big party and they probably won’t be throwing another big party like this for a great while. My sister told me they had to work hard to make this happen!

Nicolas and his presents!
Some may say that such a party is too much for kids and, if it weren’t my nephew’s party, I might agree. But, once you are in the party and you see all the kids having fun, and all the family and friends spending time with each other while the kids play, it really seems worth it. For those who are not familiar with birthday parties in Peru, or at least in Lima, grownups are usually invited to the party along with their kids. To Joe, who grew up in the US, this is totally different as grownups are usually not included in kids’ birthday parties. I personally like the whole family thing because it brings everyone together to celebrate.

My cousin's exhibit at MALI
Once the party was over, we went back to my sister’s house and unloaded several bags of presents onto the living room floor. In total, Nicolas ended up with 71 presents from his friends at school and his aunts and uncles! He was one excited kid. My sister is now in the process of sorting through the presents and seeing which ones he’ll get to open, which ones he’ll get to keep and which ones he’ll have to give away to kids who are less fortunate. As she pointed it out, a 3-year old doesn’t need to have SO many toys!

Yes, that day was by far my favorite one. Not only did I see Nicolas celebrate, but I also saw my nephew Adrian and met my niece Julieta.

But, not all photos that are taken with love make for good photos to sell or turn into cards. I mean, I would buy a million photos of my nephews and niece, but except for my siblings and my mom, I don’t think many other people would be interested in them!

Historic Center of Lima

My second favorite photo shoot happened on accident.  On Monday we jumped on a cab headed to Downtown Lima, to the Parque de la Exposicion, a park that includes several art museums, a small lake where you can rent rowboats, a public art exhibit, and many other attractions geared towards public enjoyment. We were going there to catch an art exhibit featuring one of my cousins, David Zink Yi ( David is an artist who currently lives in Berlin, Germany, but who is now spending some time in Lima with his family while his exhibition is taking place.

Colonial Balconies
Unfortunately, we forgot that on Mondays most museums are closed so, when we got there, the guard told us we had to come back some other day. We were then forced to change our plans. We decided to start walking towards the heart of the historic downtown, an area which includes the Palacio de Gobierno (Government Palace) and many other gorgeous historic colonial buildings and churches. The historic center of Lima was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.

We walked through the different plazas, and along the Jiron de la Union, a pedestrian street lined with colorful colonial buildings that have now become stores, tattoo parlors, and restaurants. On the Jiron it is common for people to offer you services for your trip or products such as maps or tours.

Balcony in the Municipality
After walking in the heat for a while, we reached the Plaza Mayor, the main plaza, which is surrounded by the Palacio de Gobierno, the Municipality and the Cathedral of Lima. The Plaza in itself is quite impressive but the buildings around it are even better! Lima is nearly 500 years old (founded in 1535 by Francisco Pizarro) and was the main post of the Spanish Crown during the era of the Conquistadores. The buildings show the importance of the city and speak of the historical events that took place inside them. I personally think it is quite amazing and puzzling that some people who come to Peru skip Lima altogether!

Jiron de la Union
We walked around the plaza and I snapped photos of the monuments and buildings. My main interest was photographing the historic balconies of the buildings surrounding the plaza.

Apparently, besides having been known as the City of the Kings, Lima also used to be known as the City of Balconies, with about 1,600 of them still around the historic center. The balconies are of Arab influence and were built in the late 17th and 18th centuries, most of them during Colonial times, and some during Republican times. These balconies are made of carved wood and are closed balconies.

I had a photographic feast with these beautiful balconies. As you can see in the photos, they are huge in size and the designs are very varied as well.

Plaza Mayor
When we were done, we headed out to meet family for lunch and then to hang out with my older nephew Adrian. The rest of our stay here has been like that, hanging out with family, taking it easy and enjoying the low-key lifestyle of the city. It is going to be hard to leave and go back to work and life, but maybe, at some point in the future, we’ll be living this slow-paced lifestyle everyday.

Downtown Lima

Lima´s coast

Sunset on the coast

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