Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Trivial Peru-suit

Some odds and ends about life in Lima, Peru:

  • Household power is 220 volts (i.e. twice that of the U.S.) and the local plugs are round pegs. However most of the receptacles are cleverly designed to allow U.S. style plugs to be used as well. The few electronics we brought with us (laptops, camera charger, my razor, etc.) all work on 220 volts with no adapters required.
  • Almost all construction is done with concrete and bricks. The main building structure is concrete with rebar and bricks are used for the walls, floors, and ceilings. A plaster-like mortar is then used to finish coat everything. Details like crown molding and trim are done with this mortar. Wood is pretty much only used for door frames and the occasional rooftop structure in the more affluent homes.
  • Wrought iron is everywhere - gates, fences, windows, and security doors. The quality of it is not to the standard of the historic stuff we have in front of our home in New Orleans, but it lasts well in this incredibly dry climate.
  • In the middle to upper-class homes and apartments we've been in, flooring materials are almost always tile or wood (parquet). We've seen ads for places for rent that have carpeting but I can't imagine keeping it clean in this dusty environment. Carpeting is probably almost only in the most upscale places that feature air conditioning.
  • Trash service in our neighborhood is every day of the week except Sunday. You put your trash out on the curb after 8:30 PM and a truck usually comes by no later than 11:00 PM. Supposedly you can get fined for putting out your trash earlier but I routinely see bags out after 6:00 PM.
  • People sweep our street every two or three days. Our neighborhood is swarming with street sweepers in orange safety vests and dust masks. They do an excellent job of keeping things generally clean (much more so than in New Orleans, even pre-Katrina). Again, we're in a really nice neighborhood so I'm sure it gets more attention than many of the others.
  • We have a gas stove that is fueled via a propane tank, not unlike a grill. In an earthquake prone area, this makes a lot of sense particularly since there is no need for gas heating like there is in the U.S. Our house has electric space heaters in every room for the cool winter days. You can get propane tanks delivered just by calling a company - we haven't had to call yet so I don't know the price.
  • Our water heater is electric and very small (about half the size of a U.S. water heater). From what I can tell, it may be an instant heat one where it just heats up the water as it comes through (rather than maintaining a bunch of water at a hot temperature like the water heaters we use). To augment the water heaters, most places have huge black tanks on their roofs that take advantage of solar heating to preheat the water.
  • We have yet to see a dishwasher here - even in the few upscale places we've seen in person and online. I don't know if its because of their excessive water usage or energy requirements. Most clothes washers I've seen are front loaders which are much more efficient in terms of water usage. We also have a dryer but many people in our neighborhood just rely on clotheslines.
  • I have a theory that you can tell the age of a house/apartment by the type of conspicuous security measures it has. The really old places do not have much more than iron bars on the first floor windows and doors (and sometimes on the uppers floors too). Places from the years of a lot of violence will have fences with sharp stakes and/or electricified fences). Modern construction tends to just have tall fences without the threatening embellishments. I have done any research to confirm this theory - its just my general impression from walking around.


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