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.
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!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.