Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bits and pieces

When I’m asked what tangible things I miss from the States, my immediate response is always English language books. We’re very active during the day and many evenings, but there are those nights when I’d like to curl up on the sofa with a bowl of popcorn and a good book. The problem is English language books are hard to come by in rural Peru. I’m told even in Lima there isn’t a great selection. There are book stores in Chiclayo, but they’re the small mom and pop shops dealing mostly in used books. When I can find them they are usually of three types – the standard spy novels, religious themes, and conspiracy theory. There are lots of missionaries in Peru so I understand the availability of used religious books but don’t understand the conspiracy books. Anyway, at the moment I am reduced to reading “The True Story of the Bilderberg Group”, to be followed by “The Secret Founding of America”, unless something else shows up. The good part is that I can buy six to eight used books for less than five dollars. In one of those shops I recently found the novel “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen in mint condition hardcover; an excellent read that I paid two dollars for.

One of the other tangibles I miss is Wisconsin cheese. There is plenty of Peruvian cheese available all over the country. The city of Cajamarca located high in the Andes produces many good cheeses which are widely distributed but they are not what I am accustomed to. For example, the Swiss and mozzarella does not even remotely resemble their counterparts in Wisconsin in appearance, taste or texture. Cheddar is only just recently available as an import from New Zealand, but it is not the equal of Wisconsin cheddar.

Wine is another pleasure I miss. There are many wines in Peru from local and other South American countries but none of them exactly suit my taste. Peruvians like sweet or semi-sweet reds….I don’t. The Kendall-Jackson brand is one of my favorites in the States and is sold here but at twice the cost in the US. Now, the cost of living in Chiclayo is dramatically lower than in the States so it isn’t that I can’t afford to buy Kendall-Jackson, it’s just that I can’t make myself pay twice what it costs in the States. This is probably some of my dear penny-pinching wife’s influence.

I said the cost of living in Chiclayo is less. Here are some of the reasons why. I don’t need a car so I have none of the car related expenses – insurance, license and registration fees, gasoline and parking fees. Food is at least half the cost in the States, and locally grown food such as rice, sugar, most vegetables and fruits and some meats are incredibly cheap. Clothing including shoes cost much less, though the quality may not be as good. I have no heating or air conditioning costs. Medical and dental care in my experience is 1/5 what I would have paid in the States, and I have no complaints about the quality of care I’ve received. A good meal at a fine restaurant will average about ten dollars complete. Several nights ago we took some of Maribel’s family out for dinner at one of the better restaurants. There were twelve of us and no one was bashful about what they ordered. The total tab was $104; less than $9 average. Try that in the States! On the other side of the coin, pharmaceuticals and electronics are generally more expensive, but these are not everyday purchases. For someone looking to retire on a limited budget, you could do a lot worse than northern Peru.



  1. Tom,

    Try Chilean wines, they are good value here. For example, Casillero del Diablo Shiraz is a big powerful red (Australian style) and is under 30 soles in Vea. Similar quality wines from different region can be more than S/.80, as they are regarded more 'prestigious'.

    Hope to see you around Piedra Blanca soon;-)


  2. Hi Anton,

    Thanks for the advice. Let's pop a cork on top one of these mountains soon.


  3. I've listened that at Real Plaza mall there are a new ibrary, "Z" or "Zeta" is the name. I never listened about the Kendall-Jackson wine. If it is a dry tinto (red), there are some good Peruvian brands around ten dollars a bottle; however, try Chilean wines is not a bad idea either. And about books, the local library must be poor, but at the local American-Peruvian institute you can find something better, they have a library for members with magazines. How long are you living there?