New Year’s Eve is when you get together with friends. We had a big family lunch with our neighbors the Byrne’s, mostly to celebrate Gaim’s release from the hospital and four day vacation at home. After almost a year in Lima receiving treatment for leukemia, Gaim and his mother Dona Teresa, were both happy to breathe the sea air and enjoy the bustle.
Gaim and I seem to have been discussing something very important.
We had delicious causa, an appetizer made with potatos, a filling–in this case vegetables in mayonnaise, and garnished with egg, red pepper, raw onion and parsley.
It was followed by seco de res, a stewed beef seasoned with coriander, ginger, orange chili peppers (aji amarillo), and other things. It was delicious. The meal concluded with caramel and coconut filled chocotejas made by Gaim’s sister Fiorella, an excellent cook. Chocotejas originated in the city of Ica on the south coast of Peru, but are known everywhere.
Lunch was the quiet portion of the day–we were so full afterward that we all read books or napped for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening. After guacamole for dinner, around 8:30 pm we went out to walk along the beachfront. A surprising number of people had put up tents on the beach. We stopped not far down the street to visit with our neighbors the Tello family. They don’t spend a lot of time in Barranca any more, so it was enjoyable to catch up a bit. I was impressed with everyone’s tales of their travels. One sister had spent four months in Indonesia with her son’s family–he has a business there. Another had been to Florida and others to the US, Spain, and other destinations. We seemed to be among Peru’s one-percenters. The matriarch of the group is Dona Elvira, mother of six (I think), and at 93, she often dominates the conversation, swirling the ice cubes in her cocktail, and nipping out on the porch for a smoke. The next day, we ran into each other on the beach where she was going in for a dip. I was impressed.
On New Year’s Eve, dinner was just going to be served at 10 pm when we begged off and went home. There are lots of traditions to observe on New Year’s Eve in Peru. You can take a suitcase and parade around the perimeter of your property, to make sure that you will travel during the coming year. Wear yellow underwear to ensure good luck, while you eat a dozen grapes. The grape seller was doing a good business that day.
At midnight, sprinkle everyone with lentils to ensure a year of plenty. One year we also sat under the dining room table for a while, though I don’t recall what wonderful benefit we were going to receive.
Despite thinking we’d go to bed, we whiled away the time until midnight, when the house suddenly was being bombarded with rockets. Out in the street, you could see that fireworks–big, soaring, sparkle-shooting fireworks–were being set off in about eight places along the beach and on the escarpment above. It was very pretty, if very loud and probably very unsafe. Large fireworks are illegal but manage to be widely distributed. After about a half hour the fireworks subsided and we returned home to sleep. There was an undercurrent of music, as the clubs on the beach open at midnight on New Year’s, not before midnight, and rock on until morning and in fact all weekend. The music didn’t keep me awake and I slept peacefully until another big salvo of fireworks went off around 2:30 am. By morning, there were a lot more tents on the beach.
We went for a stroll at about 10 am and then retreated as the sidewalks filled with people, cars filled both sides of the street, and the undercurrent of music (boom!-da-bum-bum, boom!-da-bum-bum) continued. It makes me laugh just a little because the dominant rhythm is identical to the music used in every zumba class in the world. I always thought of zumba as music for a room full of ladies like me watching their feet, not cutting edge nightclub sound.
Because New Year’s Day is a holiday and fell on a Friday, the partying continued all weekend. At lunch time, we’d put the table and a few extra chairs on the porch and see who dropped by to chat.
I went out to swim a couple of times, but even under an umbrella I can’t take the heat all afternoon as many people do. We put the chairs out to watch the sunset, though one night we had to position them carefully to get a view of the horizon through the parked cars.
On Sunday morning while the music was still thumping, Lillian and Neil set out on their journey to Lima-Cusco-Ollantaytamob-Machu Picchu
Followed by Ollantaytambo-Pisac-Cusco
and then Cusco-Lima-Miami-Chicago. I won’t see them again for a while.
The tide of people turned on Sunday afternoon about 5 pm and streams of families headed for home. By Sunday night at 10 pm, the tents were struck, the last disco had quieted, the last fireworks were set off and the sound of the ocean had retaken its regular role as the loudest sound on the beach. It may already be January 4, but I can assure you the New Year has just arrived on the beach.