Travel

Fun And Not-So-Fun Facts About Peru

Alibi’s Ilene Style reports from her volunteer mission in South America

Fun Facts

Peru is the third-largest country in South America. Lima is the capital and largest city.

Peru is the world's second-largest producer of cocaine.

There are almost 4,000 native varieties of Peruvian potatoes. (Guess what the staple of my diet is here?) Potatoes have been cultivated in the Andes for at least 7000 yrs. How about THAT, Ireland?

The Andes, the world's second-largest mountain chain, rise rapidly from the coast to spectacular heights of over 20,000 feet.

The median age in Peru is 25. The average life expectancy is at an all-time high of 70 years, a vast improvement from 1960, when it was 48 years. In the Andes, the life expectancy is 55.

The national culinary dish is cuy, or roasted guinea pig. It is served whole, with the head and feet intact.

The national beverage is the Pisco Sour, made from locally produced Pisco, or grape brandy. (Some of you were lucky enough to have sampled my homemade version before I left!) Peruvians celebrate an annual Pisco Festival in March, as well as the National Day of the Pisco Sour every Feb. 8.

Peru's Macchu Pichu was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007, along with the Great Wall of China and the Taj Mahal.

Not-So-Fun Facts

More than 50 percent of Peruvians live in poverty. The poverty line for a family of four is $300 month. Per capita income is $3,500 a year. About 60 percent of Peruvians earn less than $190 a month.

Because of the rampant poverty, Lima has a large number of pueblos jovenes, or shantytowns, where residents live without running water or electricity. Villa El Salvador, where I volunteer, is by far the largest, with slightly fewer than 400,000 people.

Unemployment in Peru is so out of control that it can't be measured. In Villa el Salvador, the unemployment rate is estimated to be up to 75 percent.

Earthquakes in Peru are common occurrences as the country in a seismic zone.

The postal service in Peru is extremely unreliable. Your mailed letter may or may not get to its destination, and if it does, it could take a month. Mailing packages is not recommended.

The water here is not safe for tourists to drink and should not even be used to brush one's teeth. Forget about ordering a drink with ice.

And the weirdest: Because of the unsophisticated plumbing in Peru, used toilet paper is not flushed down the toilet but is placed in a separate bin next to the toilet. This was a hard concept for me to grasp. Like, gross!