15 December 2010

Pereira 3

I didn’t like Pereira much, but it was good to stay at the hostel another day. A Danish guy named Thomas showed up in the afternoon. He was well traveled on the continent and had lived 7 years in Lima, Peru and knew Pereira well and we walked around the city and had a beer together.

Thomas recounted for me incredible tales of the duplicity and treachery of the Peruvian people. He absolutely convinced me that Peru is a fine place to go if you wish to have everything you own stolen, including your pants. The men of Peru will cheat you, the women will drug you and steal from you, and the Peruvian police will be entirely unhelpful when you come to them and may pin drugs on you and arrest you.

Along with what I had learned on my own, I had picked up a few things from the people I had spoken with at the hostel:

1. Be careful where you spend any bill of currency larger than 20,000 pesos (approx. $11). Colombia is the counterfeiting capital of the world and being a foreigner may be an opportunity for people selling things on the street or small shops to pass off counterfeit bills when making change for larger bills. It’s best to break up larger bills at reputable places such as major supermarkets or bus stations.

2. A 20,000 bill is a huge bill for most people. They assume you are rich to carry something that large. Most people pay with coins for things and I have rarely seen bills larger than 2000 exchanged in the countryside. A few times at restaurants the server has had to take a larger bill of mine across the street to another shop looking for change. I keep bills of this size in a separate pocket and only small bills in wad I bring out to pay for things. I don’t want people knowing I possess large bills.

2. Lunch is the best meal of the day. For between 3,000 and 8,000 pesos (approx. $1.75-$5) you can order the lunch special at a restaurant. It usually consists of a soup, salad, rice, beans, and some meat. A freshly pressed fruit drink or coffee is often included.

3. Cities and towns close up early and the streets can be dangerous on any night other than Friday and Saturday. After dinner and the restaurants have shuttered the streets of most places are empty. There is no reason to be outside and you can get into trouble.

4. In areas of a city where things are being sold on the street do not stop or all the sellers will crowd you trying to sell you things. Be very firm with anyone approaching you. It can easily get out of control otherwise.

5. Carry a little change in your pocket for aggressive panhandlers. Better to toss a coin at them or on the street than get into an altercation.

6. Shop at roadside stands or eat at restaurants or stay at hotels with young girls at the desk, the prettier the better. My thinking is a girl is thinking foreigner and boyfriend or husband first, and cheating me out of money second. There have been men I have dealt with at roadside shops or shops in small towns were it was clear they were after my money and I was sure I was given a higher price for things. Even the old ladies are to watch out for, because if they have no daughter they are looking to marry off they are out for money alone.

7. Don’t buy drugs: as a gringo you’ll be sold poor quality marijuana or cocaine at inflated prices. In addition to getting mixed up with some bad people you will expose yourself to a scam the dealers run with the police whereby the drugs are sold to you and almost immediately you are arrested for those same drugs and forced to bribe your way out of jail time.


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