Shiny boots in Piura, Peru
Trip Start Jul 19, 2006
22Trip End Sep 19, 2006
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As it turned out, Cruz del Sur only had a bus leaving at 8pm that night for Lima, so we'd have to spend about 12 hours in Piura. It seemed like our best bet, so we bought the tickets and even splurged to get the first class seats with full reclining action.
We met a man at the station who was from the area and we asked him if there was anything interesting to do in Piura. He hesitated for a moment. "uhh...no." Great.
We spent the day wandering around the Plaza de Armas (every city in South America has a main plaza, called its Plaza de Armas) and hurriedly tying the loose strings that still connected us with the real world. We probably spent about 6 hours in one internet café.
One thing you'll notice in many plazas in South America is all the shoeshine boys. They're all over, and they come up to you and offer to shine your shoes, regardless of what you're wearing. Hiking boots? They'll shine them. Sandals? They'll find material to shine on them. Barefoot? Well they'll give you the shiniest toes in the plaza.
There are also many other people selling goods and services and we seem to have found a hierarchy in the whole mess. You start young with shoeshining if you're a boy. The girls try to sell you woven bracelets. Then, they move up to sunglasses. You sell knockoff shades probably into your early 20's. Then, as you advance in years, you get to the point of selling (illegally burned) DVD's. Of course the delicate balance of people selling you things you don't want gets much more complex as you start to throw in food and arts, but I won't go into all that now.
We met a young boy named David who wanted to shine our hiking boots. He ended up sitting on the ground in front of our bench for a while, long enough to be awkward. We ended up having a nice convesation with him. He looked very young to me, maybe 10 or so, but he was actually 14 years old. Also, he did in fact have a home somewhere...and about 8 siblings! He even went to school. The shoeshining gig was just what he did during their school breaks. He asked us if we were going to Lima. Yes, we were. He knew because everyone coming through Piura was on their way to Lima. He had been shining shoes for 5 years. Had he ever visited Lima? No. He had never left Piura in his life. He knew Lima was far away, though. He asked where we were from. "Los Estados Unidos." He asked if that was far away. "Si." In his eyes the world must be incredibly large and indeterminately small all at once. Lima is the same as Boston to him. Ten miles is as far as one hundred, or a thousand. The world is big. The world is tiny. It's time to go to Lima.
Bus from Guayaquil, Ecuador to Piura, Peru: 10 hours, $10.
One day of internet: About 3 soles/hour.