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Desert & Ocean = Huanchaco

How we settled down in Huanchaco on Peruvian coast of the Pacific. Surfing and doing nothing - my favorite activities

And so our life in Huanchaco, Peru began.

We live in almost-California-style villa of Dave, the US owner of a kindergarten where Irene works. The kindergarten is located at the ground level, we live upstairs and Dave lives upstairs from us. Dave moved here to Peru 6 years ago and started the kindergarten 4 years ago. The house is grand and spacy but the Peruvian reality kicks in and itís left in a stage of being 3/4 finished. I will not go into details, but some luxuries of the West had to be left behind, which is luckily nothing new for me. The house is huge, it is few meters from the ocean and has a great ocean overlooking balcony that is pure joy to watch the waves from. Itís comfortable life here, except the bed, as the mattress that we bought is made of hay and after 2 nights became harder than a rock :-) In any case donít imagine me in any rotten Peruvian adobe den. We live in a house that is probably bigger than any house we will ever live in. And displays more concrete we ever wished for :-)

Irene works. The kindergarten is cool. I have never seen a kindergarten ever since I had ďgraduatedĒ from mine :-) Itís impossible to describe the cuteness of this kindergarten and the kids. Itís a beautiful job she has. Beautiful! Iím envious about her job, even though it is pretty tough to keep 26 naughty kids in order and manage to teach them something. And this is not just a normal kindergarten. It is based on Montessori methodology, which is one of rivaling alternative teaching methods, which is aimed at stimulation of kidsí curiosity, skills and self-reliance. So no beating of kids is allowed here :-) which makes even more difficult to keep 26 tiny Peruvians in order.

I, as opposed to Irene, do nothing. More precisely I surf, I started programming my Earth-simulation again and I do housewife chores. Dishwashing never stops :-) But otherwise I am a lazy bastard.

What to say about Huanchaco? Itís not exactly pretty. Itís way too short of a tropical paradise. The water is cold, murky and rough for swimming. The beach, although sandy, is brownish-greyish and lined by a road. There is no vegetation except few palm trees around a pier area. Our house is penultimate house of the village. Behind us lies the never-ending coastal desert. Most of the houses in Huanchaco have unpainted side walls, which leaves you staring at ugly, unfinished-looking-like brick walls, and overall looks of the village are not amazing. But itís not ugly either. It has California-style pier (everything seems to be bit California-style in Peru) and the area around it has its atmosphere. Honestly, itís not bad this Huanchaco. To me it looks like California meets Romania and while it just cannot be compared to beauty of other places I had visited, I kind of like this Californian Romania. Itís quiet. One could say there is nothing to do and thatís right, there IS nothing to do (except surfing). There are 2 bars and they suck. There is live music in one hostel every Thursday, but every Thursday itís the same band, playing the same songs and in the same order. I was shocked when I first time heard them playing Hendrix and The Doors and Led Zeppelin and they do play great, but it gets pretty boring to listen to the same songs after 3 evenings. There is none of Byron Bayís cool-hippie atmosphere in Huanchaco. While Huanchaco probably IS Byron Bay of Peru, with waves and backpackers, it is geographical and cultural desert. There are gringos around, but otherwise itís mostly pure Peruvian place. Which wouldnít be bad at all, if only Peruvians were bit more open and inclusive. But to me Peruvians seem to be quite closed people. At least to the strangers. Or at least so it seems to me. But it is a well known fact that I am an anti-social person, so I guess itís all my fault. There is 100 or more restaurants in Huanchaco and they all serve exactly the same Peruvian menu. 100 Peruvian restaurants and not a single Mexican, or Asian or anything else. One solitary vegetarian restaurant run by a Dutch man and thatís it. And one that pretends to be Chinese but itís 100% Peruvian, without any real Chinese meal on menu.
But you know what? I LOVE this quietness, this nothing-to-do-ness. Iím having the best vacation of my life here in Huanchaco. There is no inner pressure or social pressure to DO something. No need to get drunk on Fridays and waste the Saturdays with hangovers. No need to catch up with the latest cool stuff going on in your city. Itís just you and your life here. I love it. So relaxing! I am truly free here in Huanchaco. Iím even free from myself. Free. And that counts for me.

I like the sleepy streets. I go to the market and I love buying stuff there, like in the old days, the days I wasnít born into. No supermarkets and fancy shops. Just the market and mini-stores. Avocados, passion fruits and other exotic fruit I had never heard of before - all of that is sold here for ridiculous price. Iím in avocado paradise. Hereby, I declare avocado the best fruit in the whole wide world! You can eat it as it is, you can spread it on bread, put it into salads, make guacamole from it and turn it into perfect milkshake. Too bad that exotic fruit is the only thing cheap here. Otherwise Peru is NOT cheap. At least not as cheap as we thought. Restaurants (those Peruvian family restaurants serving the same menu) are really cheap, but buying your own food is not. Itís pretty much on par with Slovakia. And some items are simply ridiculously expensive and low quality. We talk about milk, yogurts and cheese, wine and alcohol as such, and ham and salami and all other meat products. Milk and everything made from it is shockingly expensive and ham and other meaty stuff is of such a low quality that in Slovakia I wouldnít feed even a dog with it.
By the way, talking about the dogs, Peru is the only place which Iíve seen where dogs live on roofs :-) On those unfinished flat roofs of half of the houses.

And the waves? The waves are world-class. If Huanchaco would be in California, it would be new Santa Cruz or Huntington beach. As it is, it is a sleepy hole, where Iím surfing almost alone or with just few fellow surfers. I surf practically every day.

I became friends with a local daddy of surfing Chicho, who now runs a rental shop and gives surfing lessons and makes boards and Iím getting my own, custom made surf from him. That good fellow even saved me by ďmicrosurgeryĒ of my foot after I stepped on an urchin while surfing. He is my Huanchaco connection, my 1-man-band. He and his family also run a Sunday school for kids from a poor neighborhood and me and Irene started volunteering there on Sundays. We play with the kids and teach them some English. We tactfully skip the Bible-reading sessions and just focus on our group of kids which are simply great: welcoming, appreciative, smart and warm.
Our only other friends so far are Dave and Holly. Holly is Ireneís colleague, the leading teacher of the kindergarten. Born in Boston, now she lives (I mean before she moved to Huanchaco, as us) in San Francisco, and this combination of USís most liberal cities says it all. She is a very professional Montessori teacher, but if she would put flowers in her hair she might fit right in Woodstock :-)

And so our life goes slowly on here. Kindergarten, market, surfing, very occasional beer, ďHuanchaco ReggaeĒ played by that only live music band, programming and sweet nothing. Thatís our life here in Peru.

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     MARCEL STRBAK | www.strbak.com | www.facebook.com/marcel.strbak