There are the usual busy city sounds: dogs barking, people yelling, horns blaring.  But there are also a series of distinct sounds for everything here. The garbage man comes every morning.  He rides a little moto around and sings a sort of song into a megaphone:  “Come with your garbage.  Come with your garbage.”  People then come running to give him their trash.

There are some other words to that song, but I’m gonna need to Google the lyrics – the megaphone tends to distort.


Then, we have the mothers who use horns to call their children home.  One toot is not enough.  They toot until the child shows up.  Around sundown the mom-horns start to kick in.  Each horn is a little different, and the voluntarios who have been here long enough can even tell which kid belongs to which sound, and thereby deduce who is in a crapload of trouble for not showing up on time.  Alejandro seems to be in trouble a lot.


Then, there are the sounds of the whistles that the security guys use to ward off would-be thieves.  The sound of the lady who sells bread from her bike basket: just a standard bike bell while she yells “PAAAAN.”  The man who sells his wife’s leftovers is my favorite. He’s got a pretty good voice and he just sings about whatever she’s made.  The papas rellenas are pretty legit.  When all the sounds start to happen at once, it’s all so very Oliver Twist ala the “Who Will Buy” number.  All the street vendors singing about there wares.  “Who will buuuuuuy my sweet red rooooooses, twoooooo blooooms for a penny…”



A bunch of the voluntarios pile into a Combi.  There are no seats and we have to stand.  I realize I’m literally the only one in the bunch who doesn’t isn’t required to be doubled over in order to “stand-up.”  In fact, I couldn’t even touch the roof with my head if I stood on tiptoes.  I feel a little bit like the Bee Girl in that Blind Melon video… I’ve found my people!  We’re all sort of short, and stout, and into carbs.  I totally fit in here.  Take that tall, fit, handsome Germans!



The Combi system is really ridiculous.  In addition to there not being any legit stops or schedules, you also can’t actually trust the cobrador to tell you where you’re going.  They get a commission for every person they get on board, so sometimes they just lie to you about where they’re headed.  Or, actually, it’s not that they lie really, but they omit.  So if you walk up to one and ask: “Avenida de Quince?” they don’t actually say yes, they just yell:  “Sube. Sube. Sube.” (Get on. Get on.)  They bang the side of the bus and yell to people walking by on the streets trying, I can only assume, to solicit them into taking a Combi ride they weren’t otherwise planning to take.  (“You know, I wasn’t planning on spending money to be packed so tightly into a van that I’m actually covered in other people’s sweat, all just to go somewhere I don’t even need to be, but that Cobrador is quite the salesman.”)


They just act like they didn’t hear you, or that they’re so busy taking money and advertising that they don’t have time to say anything but “Sube.”  So they just keep yelling at you, and so eventually you just sube and hope it’s going to where you need to be.


So today, in Zone Z, I discover a bunch of children standing around a giant turtle….wait….let me back up and paint a better picture for you with these actual pictures.

This, friends, is Huaycan.


It’s basically a desert valley between a bunch of mountains.


There’s no water for miles. None.  Like sometimes not even to drink.  The only wildlife I’ve seen so far are stray dogs.  Animals don’t live in these conditions.  People barely live in them.  I’ve seen cacti dried out and keeled over.  So marine life certainly does not live here.  And listen, I’m no scientist, right.  Maybe it’s a land tortoise or something…. but he doesn’t live in Huaycan anymore than he lives inManhattan.

– Um, Ernesto where did you guys get this turtle?

– We found him.

– You found him where?

– Here.  (Points to mound of garbage on the side of the road)

– Here in the trash?

– Si.  We wanted to feed him something, but I think they eat leaves and we don’t have those (See above In re: no water/vegetation).


Enter another voluntario.

Other Voluntario: – What the hell?  Is that a tortoise?

Me: –  I’ve been saying turtle, but what do I know?

OV: –  Yeah, it’s definitely a tortoise.

Me: –  You sure learned a lot majoring in Spanish literature.

OV –  But how did he get up here? (Looks down the massive hill.) There’s no way it climbed up the hill, right?

Me-  Doubtful.  I feel like we would’ve seen him making his way up here for days.  This is apparently the first sighting.

OV: – Crazy.

Me: – Yeah, the poor little guy probably got on the wrong Combi and shit.  He was all like “Galapagos?”  and they were like “Sube! Sube!”

OV: – Yeah, I guess.  But once you see you’re on the wrong Combi, you just get off.

Me: – Dude, he’s a turtle…

OV: – Tortoise…

Me: – …tortoise…by the time he was able to get moving it was too late.  Now he lives here among the Zone Z trash.  He’ll probably never be able to get up enough speed to catch another Combi headed back down.






One thought on “Wednesday: Huaycan is literally the loudest place I have ever been

  1. These are unbelievable pictures of what others human beings have to live in and endure. We are certainly people of priviledge.

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