Looking back and looking forward!


Good morning Folks

I trust this finds you enjoying 2016 & that you had a brilliant festive season.
Two blogs in 3 days! I have been doing some serious procrastination.
Monday morning normally sees a round-up of the week’s happenings in Lima, but this Monday it is a condensed version of the last year, & what a year it was! The big move to the land of Paddington Bear & Guinea Pigs. It was ambitious & it was hard graft at times, but on the whole it’s been a memorable, (if at times a little bonkers) year!
Here were some of the highlights…

The hunt for a Clunk!

Now, when I came out here I didn’t really think I would be getting a bike. My little Honda C90 was put into hibernation on New Year’s Day, after being drowned in ACF-50 (Corrosion preventative spray for helicopters, it stinks but does a grand job) & I thought that would be it until I returned to Blighty. (If I had known I’d end up buying a bike, I would have brought my boots out here! Nothing above a size 44, so I am stuffed with my clown feet!)
valen137Size 14 walking boots, a bit too clunky for the Clunk!

The traffic here has to be experienced to be believed, it is something else. Rome, Paris, New York & London all have heavy traffic, but it generally flows. Here it limps, or lurches, like an unpredictable drunkard. It’s a war, it really is. Nobody looks, ever & the words “Give Way” have been removed from all dictionaries. In a nutshell it is made of 3 crazy ingredients;
1- Really badly designed roads & a confusion as to whether to follow the lights, or the 3 traffic cops, who are working out of sync with the lights.
2- Too many cars, too many taxis & too many buses.
3- A general “Me-first-&-you, I-don’t-give-a-monkeys-about-you” attitude.
So, as a result it takes forever to go even short distances. As my first job was in the 4 corners of Lima, I thought a Clunk might solve all my problems! Whizzing between the stationary traffic, saving a fortune on bus fares & maybe some scope for adventure on a weekend :-)
However, it wasn’t that straightforward. The second-hand market is a bit different to Blighty & buying/selling a bike takes longer & involves heaps & heaps of red tape.
(No little tear-off slip on a V5 logbook here sadly).

Here is a selection of the beasts I looked at.

Honda C50 Clunk: In great nick, ran like a bag of spanners, no paperwork, non-starter (literally).

XR125 (I): A young lad (who called me “Tio”) selling it on the far side of town. Cheap, but too many things wrong with it. Non starter.

XR125 (II): A really surly seller, who had split up with his missus (& she needed to be there at the Notaria to sign it over & she refused). He got a bit funny, I said adios mate!

XR125 (III): In a bit of a ropey part of town. A bit of a wideboy, no paperwork, he bought me an ice cream on the test drive, cheap, but a non-starter.

Homemade Honda: I loved this bike. It sounded ace & ran well. No paperwork & too many complications with it having been modified. Sadly had to say no :-(

Honda XL200 (?): This sounded mint (a through pipe, I’d be deaf in a week), but it poured out oil & wouldn’t start. An old lad insisted on a high speed test drive. Neither of us with helmets. A non starter (completely).

Ronco Demolition/Destroyer/Destructor: New Chinese copies of Chinese copies. See a lot around, which look knackered after a year. Cheaper than a 2nd hand Honda & would have solved a lot of red tape issues, but something didn’t seem right. Not allowed a test drive. Said no!

Chinese copy of a Honley Explorer (which is a Chinese copy of a GS-ish): A bit steep at s/12000 (£2500). Too heavy. Completely out of my budget.

Suzuki DRZ350 ($14000) & a Husky (too scared to ask price): Dream material, not in a month of domingos!

XR125 (IV) The Clunk with no name…

The stamp in my passport which enabled me to sign documents was running out, as was my patience/resolve. A pig-in-a-poke/dog/onion/lemon? Basically yes!
I should have waited. Needed a top-end engine rebuild after 5mths, but that’s another story. A lot of fun & I have learned a lot on it, (which I will have to unlearn when I return to Blighty!)

Clunk trips…

For a while, very early on a Sunday morning, I used to escape Lima. Over the hills & far away. Dirt tracks, dusty trails & mountain paths. All within a few hours of the mad city.
This really saved my sanity, until the ailing Honda started coughing…


With a big THANK YOU to my mate James, I had an interview lined up 2 days after arriving here & landed a job immediately with a great company called Business Links. Teaching Business English in a variety of industries (construction, tobacco, internet providers, gas exploration…)
It involved a LOT of travelling (before I bought the Clunk). Up to 8hrs on the buses with only 4 or 5 hours teaching. The problem was the cancellations, as that meant no money!
It was easy work, but the commuting killed me. So, when I was invited for an interview at Britanico I jumped at the chance. A reputable company who really look after their staff.
Awesome colleagues, keen students & 15mins walk from my house.
On top of this, they throw a good old party & go out for some tucker at the end of every (4wk) cycle. It’s a dream job & the best thing about living here for me (personally).
We all work hard & if you have a job you love (or even just enjoy), with good people, it makes life so much better :-)

The Nipper!

The wee one. Possibly the reason we are here. Due to her age, we can (still) move around a bit. Nippers adapt & adjust quickly to their surroundings & as she is not yet 2 years old, we still have a bit of time before we have to make decisions about schools & the like.
She settled here quickest of all of us, (including a dream flight on which she slept/played most of the way).
When she is happy she shouts, waves & blows kisses at everyone; neighbours, the Huachimen (security), all the girls at the supermarket & also the local dogs & pigeons.
When she is not happy, she just scowls at everybody, (she is so like her mother!)

Her pram has done more miles than most cars I have owned & is still going strong.
The only problem we have (& we are entirely to blame) is her routine. She goes to bed wayyy too late. Midnight onwards, which means that we (Lina & I) are constantly knackered & we bicker a lot as a result. It’s not been easy. Having bairns isn’t easy, but it is AWESOME!
It is extremely rewarding & the wee one is a happy little monkey. She speaks a bit of Spanish, a little bit of English & is completely fluent in a language that sounds like Chinese, Japanese & Mongolian.
The future will be decided by her (& she generally rules the household anyway!)

Health, fitness & recreation.

Most of my life I have been into sports, mainly running due to my complete lack of coordination. When the bairn came along, fitness took a back seat & blaming it on shifts at work, I was generally a bit of a lazy layabout. In March (2015) I saw a poster for the Lima Marathon.
May 17th, it was 6 weeks away. So I entered on the spot & ran every day. Road marathons are normally something I’d avoid like the plague, but there is not a lot else here. Cranking it up to a knee-popping 80 miles a week. It was actually quicker to run home from work, than taking the bus (& I’m no Usain Bolt, I’m not even Eddie the Eagle!)
valen101(Coordination/staying on my feet has never been one of my strengths!)

The night before the race the bairn refused to sleep, so on the back of 4hrs kip I dragged myself round the (traffic-free) streets of Lima.

It was a hot & sweaty day, I got caught up in the log jam at the start, so had a bit left in the tank for the second half, until the wheels fell off at around 23 miles (what did I expect off the back of 6 weeks training, with no rest days!)

I gurned my way round in 3hrs 5mins. My 2nd (& slowest) road marathon, but to be honest I was glad to get round :-)
The Nipper’s sleeping antics got worse & worse, so post marathon I ran for a while, but going out for a run at 1am every night started to take its toll. Less traffic & cool weather, but it just wasn’t working so it ground to a halt. I will return…
Incidentally, when I first came here running was not a common pursuit. People stared at me. This lanky, hairy uncoordinated bloke jogging down the street. Nowadays it is very, very popular. There are even running/walking/cycling lanes in some of the more well-to-do districts, (but not where I live!)


Things I really miss…

My family, my mates, a decent pint of bitter/stout, a good pie, riding my Clunk without fearing for my life, clean air, ready meals (I’d give my right arm to fill the freezer with frozen lasagne), The Lakes, The Scottish Highlands, banter, (English) humour, Rugby League & being able to buy shoes that fit me, a postal system that works & pies (I really miss pies!)
Also the fear of running out of tea..

Things I wish I could change…

Nowhere is Paradise! Lima is different. It’s a big, bad & busy city, which does occasionally show a flash of beauty, but they are mean streets.
Peru is more than Lima. It has everything; huge mountains, some of the very best surfing in the World, the Amazon Jungle & a potential new leader in World Cuisine. The people are very, very proud of (& obsessed with) their food.
valen130An attempt to go veggie was a bit thwarted when the meal arrived!

Cooking from scratch has been a steep learning curve for me. Apart from a very brief interest in cooking many, many year ago, I could generally live on crappy processed food. Supernoodles, tinned hotdogs & ready meals. All the things that are always on offer at Asda, which are really, really not good for you. Food is a fuel for me & if I could pop a pill (or an everlasting gobstopper) to substitute meals, I’d do it.
However, it’s not possible here & food cooked from scratch is generally much better for you. It just takes a l-o-n-g time to cook & time is of the essence here, especially on a morning when I’m looking after the bairn & trying to invent a new meal.
We don’t eat Ceviche at the beach every day!

If I had a magic wand, I’d use 95% of its magic power to solve the traffic (& it would take a magic wand to cure it, nothing less).
Then I would ship off my neighbours (& their incessantly barking dog, squawking parrot, screeching mother & screaming bairns, plus their tool of choice; a drill, which is used all day, every day) at the back & the neighbours at the front (who have a garageful of howling wolves) somewhere far, far away.
NOISE is something that I find hard to get used to. Especially when sleep is such a rare & precious commodity. People shout & slam doors at all hours, without a single thought for others. It’s just a different culture & it used to infuriate me, but if you let things like that get to you, you’re beaten, as you will never win!
Manners are different here too. I think that at times Brits are overpolite. Think about when somebody stands on your toe. What do you do? You generally apologise (even though it’s not your fault!) My patience was ground down a lot when I worked at Ladbrokes (Bookies) back in the day & the stub (of tolerance) that remained was sheared off here within a month. For a long time last year I was a very angry young man. Everything irritated me & I moaned about everything. I clashed with some people very close to me & I really, really hated it here.
I would have swum back through treacle to get back to Blighty.
In 2006 Lina & I moved from Lima to Leeds. We started from scratch. We lived in a caravan for a year, but we got there in the end.
We started from scratch again here last year & we’ve got our little flat. To give it all up to go back (& start again) would push the limits of patience of my ever patient wife. Thinking rationally, we have to give it a bit more time here. It’s a process of adjustment & adaption.
Although Lima is a non-stop noisy, dusty, dirty, overpolluted madhouse, it does have a LOT of opportunities.
There are other little things that infuriate me & things that you can’t get here & things that are superexpensive in comparison to UK prices, but that is what you get when you live in a different country. I don’t sit at home crying because I can’t buy HP sauce, you just get by with the things you have (& don’t dwell on what you don’t have).
“That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” as they say…


So, a new year “Año Nuevo” (& the “ñ” is crucial here, as the same word with “n” has a very different meaning!)
No plan is a good plan in Latin America as things change very quickly here. However, I will try to:
- Do more as a family
– Start running again.
– Pass my bike test (my UK license ran out here on Saturday).
– Improve my Spanish (which should be a lot better than it is, I’m slacking!)
– Be more positive.

Time will tell!

I hope that 2016 is an absolutely AWESOME year for you & yours.
Monday morning Mongoliando.com blog will be here every Monday morning for your Monday morning procrastinational purposes.
Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it :-)

Johnny, Lina & the Nipper x





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