Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The tower on the hill

I love to wake up early in the morning. Today i woke up before 6. The sun falls laterally at this hour and the hills around the house throw long shadows. You can see their relief much better than during midday. They turn into something magical, calling you to visit them, to discover every pleat and they reveil secrets, which are hidden during bright daylight. 
On one of the hills, there is a surveillance tower from a military installation on the other side of the hill. I know it is made to survey the military ground so no one can approach from the back. But I like to think at it as if it would be watching over my small valley. I live in a neat residential area, most of the buildings here are two to three stories, with tiny front-gardens which have only a decorative purpose for the one or two families living inside each house. The people here are the growing middle class of Lima. They send their children to universities they just start being able to afford since one or two generation. They have relatively good cars and are able to support the growing consumption habits of the mega-city: cinemas, shopping malls, restaurants, bars, theatres, concerts and other spectacles. 
This citizen, they suffered the hardship from the years of high inflation and terrorism, but who knows if they actively remember it. Everything seems so calm here. We have parks with trees which are barely visited. People don't go out to the parks here, don't sit by the trees and enjoy the sun. ... The people in my area, they are mostly homey people, polite, cultivated and reserved. But the parks are necessary. Lima is a desert, it’s brown and grey. If you go out of Lima, you will see that the whole coast is like that. It has its own beauty, especially during morning and evening hours. When I visited Huarmey, the landscape was impressive. It made me remember these American movies where you make a road trip over the desert. The dunes are not yellow like the ones you imagine from the Sahara. They are grey, brown, even a bit white. Sometimes they shine and the air plays freely around them, painting beautiful formations on the hills backs. ...But in Lima, you don't have this openness from the desert. It's full of houses, and streets and pavement. The limeños used to paint their houses green, and red, and blue and yellow. When I arrived here 15 years ago, the city looked like a chaos to me. All colourful, nothing had an order. Today, my eye is not that of a European used to proper order anymore. I got warm with the chaos, I learned to love it. But today the Limeños are getting tired of it. The colours of the houses around my area are more decent nowadays. Light yellows, light greens, light greys. Everything starts looking more harmonic now; the parks are the only things bringing colour into the scenery. It's like the citizens are starting to get used to moderate, civilized conditions. No bombs anymore, the current war they are fighting is mostly against corruption, and they have many battles won. Not everything is yet clear in the state of Peru, not at all, but the process is started, and people forget, people seem to forget quiet quickly. 
When i was living here 15 years ago, you bearly couldn't carry a handbag with you. You usually closed it up in the trunk of your car or put it under your seat, and made sure to close the doors and no matter how warm it was, the windows stayed closed too, …at least, in most of the city areas. Last saturday, I was on a local transport driving through Surquillo, when I saw something, which reminded me, how much the city has changed and how little the citizens notice it. I was sitting in the transport when we stopped at a red light. And there I saw it: A car next to me, with a couple around their sixties. They were driving an old car, a model which might be 15 to 20 years old or so, one which has the door security locks on top, not the ones which are placed in the middle of the door and you can't see them from outside. The door locks, ... they were open! Inside me, all the security bells rang. We were driving through Surquillo. One of the former dark parts of Lima. There have always been worse parts in the city, parts you can't even access, if you don't live there, but you could say, it has always been the bad part of the town which is surrounded by most of the residential areas like Surco, Miraflores, San Isidro. That means, in former days, if you wanted to visit someone living in one of the other residential areas, and you had to cross Surquillo, you used to check again on all the doors, all the windows and nearly hold your breath if it started being late. When a car or a bag got stolen in the residential areas, if you were quick, you could have probably found it back in one of the ambulant markets or garages of Surquillo a few minutes later... 
But now, ... things have changed, or people seem to have forgotten. They seem to be relaxed. I wonder how that can be? 
The area looks truly different. Big, global supermarket-chains and handcraft-markets have opened modern shops here, with automatic doors and attending personal in uniform, with price catalogues, and shopping trolleys. You have a very famous clinic which treats for low budget, but nevertheless has a good reputation, from Surquillo I always take one of the very modern trans-city busses, el metropolitano, who has a special trace and therefore practically flies you through the immense city... and all over Surquillo there are placards announcing "Surquillo está cambiando" (Surquillo is changing), repeating it again and again, like when you speak out a wish in a fairy tale. And every three times you say it or read it or think it.... something actually changes in Surquillo... 
But the people, when they speak, they say that Lima is getting more and more dangerous, that the organized crime is taking over the city, that the government is making a dissatisfying job ensuring the area.  People seem to have forgotten what it was, truly living in fear. People in the civilisation often ignore the drums of the wild, the coldness of the winds in the desert, the desperation of the darkness during the nights. Here, in the city who never sleeps, full of lights and of progress, of green calm parks and light painted two story houses… Here, a watchtower on a hill of a residential area -seems to me- is of high necessity. And be it only to remind you that there was a time, where such a watch tower was needed in the middle of the city, in the middle of residential areas.

No comments:

Post a Comment