A few words about weather in Lima

Lima is situated in an arid, coastal desert — it never rains here. Spaniards settled Lima mostly because of the location of three rivers which rolled full of glacial melt-off from the Andes into the ocean. Those once plentiful rivers are now trickles of water which still are responsible for providing much of the city with water. If I can, I would like to try and take some photographs of one of the rivers (Rimac, in particular, is my hope — it is hard to describe the vision of the homes perched precariously on the edges of the riverside, or cliffside, since the river is so low). Water is serious business here. Run on a water platform and you can get elected! I read somewhere that roughly half of the population of the city of Lima uses less water per day that is recommended for survival in refugee camps. I myself have seen mothers clean their children’s faces with dry rags… sort of re-arranging dust and dirt in want of some water to help the job along. Fights over the barrels of water filled outside of homes in shantytowns are not uncommon, bringing along all sorts of questions about how one develops a new community, how settlement should occur, and how new settlements should be laid out with respect to household water supplies.

It is winter here, cold and damp. La garua, a fine mist that hangs through the air of the city, keeps everything damp… and without the benefit of indoor heating, there is no escape. Imagine living in a tiny crowded tent, with a dirt floor and woven mats for walls and ceiling, with a constant drizzle drifting into your clothes to your skin. Even with relatively warm temperatures in the 60s, this constant cool translates to a cold that sets deep in your bones. Respiratory illnesses, including TB (and more alarming, rising cases of MDR-TB) are widespread.

So far, we’ve handled the weather with fleece and layers. It’s been pleasant, even though the grey skies and near shadowless days remind me of those impossible Michigan winters when I felt that the world existed only in 2-dimensions of grayscale color. Thankfully, the damp air is warm enough for plants… doorsteps and courtyards are filled with geraniums, cacti, ficus, coleus, and other bright and colorful foliage.