Monthly Archives: December 2011

A Peruvian in Australia: Navidad!

Christmas in a foreign country. That could be the definition of nostalgia for some. I had a great time spending Christmas with Melissa and her family in Ballarat. In fact I found out it’s not so different from Christmas in Peru. We got together, cooked, ate lots of yummy food. I prepared a Peruvian dish and brought panetone, known as Italian Christmas cake, something we also have in Peru thanks to migrant Italians who are also abundant around Australia. We had it with hot chocolate and that to me is like a photograph of Christmas back home.


With the firecrackers and fireworks it is a little different because in Australia people actually respect the rules and rules are abundant here. I only saw one firework rocket sent from across the street. We were wondering if it was an ‘authorised’ launch or not since you need a permit from the local government to do so (You need a permit to build a tree house in your backyard here! but that’s another story…). This is ridiculous compared to all disasters that have happened in Peru because of the abuse of fireworks even though the government tries to control the powder flowing through the markets at Christmas-time. And then it looks great in the night sky but it’s also the wave of noise, the terrible powder smell and all the poor dogs that have to be sedated or that just go crazy behind the couch or below the bed. Somewhere in the middle perhaps? I’ll let you know what it´s like in New Zealand when I go there…

With Mel, I walked around the block to see the lights the other homes had set in their front yard. In past years, she told me, there would be buses with tourists coming to see the light display. This year the show was a bit more humble and except for the house that had a ‘snow machine’ (just foam really, but don’t tell the kids) the others were pretty standard lights and nothing Santa would have disapproved of.

Rudolph leading...

Speaking of Santa, he got me some Peruvian Pisco and running shoes (no relation there). I’m really happy with my gifts and have to admit I was a bit embarrassed not to have been able to buy any because money is still not running in as much as I’d like, though I have a little job that has been very helpful. But Melissa had a bright idea when one day she got home and said ‘We are gonna make our own cards!’ So we spent 2 whole afternoons making cards like little children in school, with the glue, the scissors, the shiny paper, the snowflake paper-cutter, the buttons, the bells, etc. That makes me feel a bit better, that I didn’t just write Merry Christmas on my ‘wall’ or send a forward (which is alright too and which I also did) but I actually made some cards with my hands!


With the holidays here it’s hard not to look back at 2011 and think of all that’s been accomplished, started, left undone or even thought of. If the holidays didn’t do that then it must have been that I went to the movies to watch Melancholia on the 21st of December. How’s that for coincidence, a movie about the end of the world exactly one year from what so many are sure will be the last day on Earth. This year has been an amazing year! Whether it’s the one before the last or not. Things have certainly accelerated and every year it’s clearer to me that wherever I aim I actually hit the spot.

This year I met Mel, I traveled so much, I returned to my studies, I started seriously writing this blog, made new friends and saw old friends, said goodbye to relatives and some said goodbye to me but we all know love is in between to keep us close. This year I started again, at 32, just when I was getting comfortable. That should prove if I am brave and clever enough or the opposite, but wherever the next Christmas (or the ‘end of the world’) finds me I’m sure I will be able to say I had not a boring moment and I learnt a lot. I may have left my home in Peru, but I have found one here with Mel and her family and I’ve also been reminded of my extended, larger home… this beautiful place called Earth.

This year I wanted to come to Australia and here I am finding my way around and writing my last blog of the 2011. I hope it finds you well and I hope you continue reading next year. I wish you all a very happy Christmas and an excellent 2012.

'til 2012...


Filed under Australia, Cultural Differences, Cultural Immersion, Immigration, Living Abroad, Peru, Travel, Travel Stories, Travel Writing

A Peruvian in Australia: other Peruvians…

One of my main concerns when going to Melbourne was how much I would miss Perú and how difficult would it be to find things from home there, not to mention other Peruvians. Beforehand I knew I had a cousin in Melbourne living with his Peruvian wife and their 2 children. That was a start. But us Peruvians are famous for, among other things, finding it difficult to adapt to other places abroad. Though once we do we adapt totally and we even change our accent and forget many traditions. I didn’t all that to happen to me. Twice.

I think one of the main things we miss from home if the food. Peruvian cuisine it not yet so renowned around the world and so it’s not easy to find our dishes abroad. I don’t know why being so vast (we have more than 400 national dishes!) it’s not yet widespread. I guess precisely because of what I meantioned earlier: we adapt to other cultures. I guess we also stop cooking our dishes.

I packed 3 different sauces in my handbag before flying out of Peru. They wouldn’t last forever but at least they would during the transition period. I also packed a bottle of our national liquor: Pisco. My mum promised to send me food recipes and I was a bit concerned about my cooking abilities. Having lived a traveling life eating out was the most common thing and when I was home my dear mother would pamper me every time not letting me cook a single meal. If anything I was the King of Pasta.

The 3 sauces did not only not last forever but were never opened indeed as they were confiscated at airport  security (you kidding right, a spicy sauce seen as a weapon is either too much paranoia or a good laugh. What’s wrong with the rules!!!). This meant the Pisco was drank at generous gulps between Mel and myself. I was left thinking I should’ve brought 2 bottles.  Anyhow, I did find more Pisco in the bottleshops around Melbourne, mostly Chilean Pisco (if you can call that Pisco) and some Peruvian. The problem was the price, while in Perú a bottle of that brand was 10 dollars here it was 65! And that’s just a decent brand, nothing like the one I brought. So now I rely on anyone coming from Peru to bring some of that devilish liquor to this far land.

As for food, there’s not much Peruvian offer except for Nobu Restaurant which offers Anticuchos (Beef heart skewers) and Tiradito (Peruvian-like sushi), the others are different types of food. Not to mention that the prices of restaurants are quite high, as most things in Melbourne are. Why is it that cities that have a ‘vibrant’ economy are expensive? Because of all this I am surprising myself by turning into a quite accomplished cook. Mel is my fan number one and we have already enjoyed Papas a la Huancaína (boiled potatoes in creamy chili sauce), Arroz Chaufa (Chinese-Peruvian Rice), Tallarines Verdes (Pasta in Peruvian Pesto sauce), Lomo Saltado (Peruvian Stir fry), Quinoa and other yummy things.

Rocotos rellenos

Papas a la Huancaína

I’ve been glad to find Quinoa, perhaps the healthiest cereal on Earth, in Australia. In fact it’s becoming quite trendy and well-known. The other day I found a Quinoa dish in a pub in Brunswick! Also Stevia is available. For those who don’t know Stevia is a South American plant that replaces sugar without the effects of sugar, being ideal for diabetics or people on a diet.  Both very healthy items. One unhealthy one that I miss a lot is Inca Kola, Peru’s most popular soda that (according to most people tastes like bubblegum) almost impossible to find here. But luckily there is Cream Soda, which looks different but tastes just the same!

Stevia sweetener at the market

As for other Peruvians I’m glad that I have found a few. At school I looked at the student list and found about 5. I made friends with 2 of them: Pedro and Johan. But most South American students from my school are Colombian or Brazilian. We get together every Thursday after class to drink beer and talk in Spanish about our impressions of Melbourne and to feel less lonely on this business of immigrating to other countries. Johan for example has a very similar situation to mine, living with his Australian Girlfriend and being from Cusco where he was a guide. In Pedro´s case it is his sister who is with an Australian and he came here to look for opportunities instead of the UK. I’ve met other Peruvians too at work, where my manager and her husband are from Lima. It’s very interesting to hear their own impressions and how they go through the ‘cultural shock’ that supposes to be here.

In general Perú is pretty popular in Melbourne. On the mX (a freely distributed magazine) I’ve read a couple articles on Machu Picchu and at travel agencies they usually offer talk on the Incan city that has become a major attraction here too. A few weeks ago on SBS channel there was a show with Bruce Parry visiting the Peruvian Amazon. And just the other day I went to St Andrews market, a hippy like market where everything organic and cool and environmentally responsible is welcome, and there was a kid playing charango (Andean guitar) and zampoña (Andean panflute) and asking for coins to go on a musical journey to South America.

After visiting the Immigration Museum I learnt that Peruvian migration has not been as big as others in South America (Chile, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil) to Australia. But I am glad that I can meet other  countryfellows here. I’m starting to think that us Peruvians are like the Irish of SA and you can find us anywhere.


Filed under Australia, Cultural Differences, Cultural Immersion, Immigration, Living Abroad, Peru, Travel, Travel Stories, Travel Writing

A Peruvian in Australia: Getting Around (part 1)

A few days ago a friend of Melissa was asking her where has she showed me around. We were impressed of how much we´ve seen in such a short period of time. First we visited Healesville and Marysville, two villages not far from Melbourne. The first maintains an animal Sanctuary focused on Australian wildlife. Here I saw my first live Kangaroos and Koalas. Also venomous snakes, many possums, Tasmanian devils, Dingos, Wallabies and some of the strangest animals I have ever seen. Even Platypuses, they are all here present, alive and seemingly happy.  We even had the chance to see a Wombat being cared for by a nurse who told us he was an orphan. For the birds they had large aviaries that represented their habitats. We had a chance to see Helmeted Honeyeaters, of which is said only 80 pairs remain in the wild, not far from the Sanctuary.

They also had a show where trainers ‘introduced’ parrots and prey birds to the audience while the birds performed their acrobatics barely above our heads. I didn’t know that Australia is considered the ‘country of parrots’ with 56 species present. We met a few Cockatoos that were trained to talk and were quite funny, and Parrots of gorgeous colours.  This was very unusual ‘cause in Peru green is the main colour of most of our parrots since 60% of my country is Amazonian evergreen rainforest that makes a lot of sense, but here there is gray, vibrant red, bright pink, creamy yellow. The reason is not the of the landscape but the lack of large mammal predators that threaten the parrots.

Barking Owl

Black-breasted Buzzard

The prey birds were incredible. An owl was sent by the trainer to catch his ‘prey’ among the sitting crowd. He proved his point. The Barking Owl made no noise and was so accurate when moving between our heads that it was both scary and impressive. A falcon showed us how he uses a rock to break the hard shelled eggs he likes to eat. The ‘wham’ that he produced every time he hit the egg was so loud it might as well had been thrown by an adult person. And he wouldn’t miss! On the third try the egg was broken and the falcon got his prize. But the most impressive was a massive Wedge-Tailed Eagle, the largest prey bird in this country.

We then went to Marysville following a beautiful winding road in the middle of a forest that had noticeably been damaged by a fire. Mel told me that Marysville had been practically wiped out of the map by a fire just recently. She wasn’t joking. The town, though peaceful and pretty, was in honest reconstruction and everywhere there were bulldozers and trucks and signs offering houses. She told me that some inhabitants didn’t want to leave their houses and they died in them. It was treated as a national tragedy by the media. I had heard about the fires in Australia but this was my first time looking at an area that had been badly hit by them. I was shocked.

Burned forest near Marysville

A bit further up on the road we stopped at a waterfall. Mel was so shocked to see that all the forest around the creek was just recovering yet it was far from the dense vegetation that once kept this place secret. But people were still visiting and if no more fires showed up maybe the forest will recover in just a few more years.

Great Ocean Road came after. Perhaps this is the most popular visit to do when in Melbourne. Most travel agencies will offer this tour that takes busloads of Asian visitors to see the 12 Apostles, a spectacular series of rock formations on the wild southern Australian shores. Eroded by rain and wind, the 12 Apostles are no longer 12 and someday will be none but meanwhile it’s quite a sight. Though a couple Brazilians at school told me later that any road in Brazil is like that and they were not impressed, and I found it similar to Paracas National Reserve in Peru, Great Ocean Road and the 12 Apostles are a beautiful scenary, specially under sunny weather, which we luckily had.

12 Apostles

12 Apostles

In truth 12 Apostles is the end of the road. On the way there the ‘road’ goes through gorgeous little town like Lorne and Apollo Bay where Melbournians come to spend the summer days. On the way, a famous surfing spot is Bell’s Beach, where the movie Break Point was shot. I am in fact tempted to go back there to camp and swim a little. But I must confess that I’m a bit concerned about my safety in the Australian waters since as soon as I got here I heard of 3 mortal shark attacks. People will say ‘keep between the flags’ but who´s telling the sharks that!?

We rented a lovely cabin at Apollo Bay and Lily had lots of room to go around and run free. Oh, I didn’t mention, on this trip we decided to bring Mel’s Golden Retriever Lily.  Should someone had told her that there were sharks in the water I don’t think she would have minded. What a big mess Lily did in the car: sand, water and golden hairs all over the place! But we were one happy family on the way back.

La playa with Lily


Filed under Alternative tourism, Australia, Birdwatching, Cultural Immersion, Immigration, Living Abroad, Travel, Travel Stories, Travel Writing