November 19, 2010
I have just found my seat on the plane to Arequipa, the altitude is higher – the taxis driver to the airport from my Hotel in Miraflores told me to make sure I chew on some coca leaves as soon as I arrive otherwise I will get a headache. He said they sell the coca leaves in any ‘Botica’ (small 7-Eleven type shops). We’ll see..
My second day in Lima was a bit more disorganized. I spoke to my contact in Arequipa about 7:00 am – his wife recommended that I try and find the opals (opalo) in Lima – she thought the price would be better. I had a few meeting to attend and I wanted to make a visit to the ‘Clinica Divino Niño de Jesus.’ It is on the grounds of the Children City (Cuidad del Niños); the Clinic is on a large parcel of land shared with an orphanage and home for unwed mothers and victims of domestic violence. The land and orphanage is owned by the Catholic Church while the Clinic rents space on the land – it reality, the Clinic is part and parcel of the Church- most of the support come from the congregations in Lima – technically it is an independent entity but the Founder and President of the Clinic is very committed to the Church – I am now the proud own of a stature of El Divino Niño de Jesus’ – not to mention a extensive assortment of holy cards and Catholic brochures. I joke but this woman is very impressive – she is in her mid sixties, her husband is an ophthalmologist in private practice. She decided to start an eye clinic for ‘los pobres.’ In four years she has raised the money to support 4 ophthalmologist, surgical suites, optical shop, pharmacy, and cafeteria, not to mention exam rooms, special testing, and electronic medical records – they do perform over 6 thousand surgeries a year and are growing rapidly.
This is where I come in, they need cheap consumables; a friend is putting together a consortium of VOSH (optometrist charity & Rotovision (Rotary Club Eye Charity) to make the donation – it’s my job to get the consumables and equipment and get it to the Clinic.
Well, enough of that, after I visited the Clinic I meet with a doctor I know that lives in Lima – she is a pediatric ophthalmologist; works for free – and has for many years – how she does it I haven’t a clue – she is not wealthy. Anyways, she offered to help take me to a place that I could find opals – it was a very large Indian Market – literally hundreds of stalls – and yes I did get lost.
I spend about 2 hours trying to get the best deals on a string of opals for Marilyn. As it turns out opals come in many shapes, color – it is all dependent on the location in Peru from where they are mined. Finally, I picked a type that I thought mom would like, and began the negotiation process between two vendors – I got them down about 30 USD, but not quite where I thought I could get; but they would go not further.
After a few more trips between the stalls, an older woman in the second stall told me in Spanish that they would go no lower and didn’t I realize that the same people owned both stalls. To make the situation all the more humiliating it was the same string of opals, as we were negotiating they were moving the string of opals from one stall to the other. In my defense they did have different business cards for each stall – they were different colors. What can I say; I bought the opals and left with my tail between my legs.
All is well that ends well; Marilyn liked the opals and enjoyed the story of my all too clever negotiations to get them for her.