Monday, June 05, 2006

Where I Live

I´ve rented a small room on the fourth floor of a family house, just across the street from the Lima Sur shopping plaza in Chorrillos, a district in the southern part of Lima. Water is rationed here, and usually lasts from early in the morning till about 6:00 at night. There are three rooms on my floor that share a common bathroom (no hot water). Mine is about two by three meters -- just big enough for a mattress, a clothes closet and some space to store my bags. The floor is concrete and the roof is corrugated plastic, so it gets chilly at night. My friends Lucy and Walter loaned me an inflatable mattress that I´m going to use until I find a more ¨permanent¨ place. But I can´t complain about the price: $46 per month -- including utilities!

From the roof of my building, looking in one direction I can see two hills, San Genaro and Armapampa, both of which were settled by squatters about twenty years ago. The houses are mostly patchwork assemblies of plywood, corrugated metal, plastic, cardboard and woven straw. Few of the them have access to water or sewer services. People either buy water from a truck that comes by every few days or from neighbors down below who have a city water supply and a hose long enough to reach their house. They store their water in large plastic containers. (You can imagine how much water a family would have to store to last a whole week.) In August I´ll be building a pre-fabricated house in San Genaro with a group of Canadian teachers.

Looking in the other direction I can see a gated community across the street from my house, with a beautiful little park surrounded by an iron fence with four entrances, each of them closed and padlocked. Living in this area gives me the sense that no one feels secure. Everyone who has a decent house lives behind at least two layers of locked doors.

My landlord assures me that at the end of the month I´ll be able to move into a larger apartment on the first floor with a small patio and enough room for a kitchen.

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