The Lighthouse

One day I’ll write a book about my taxi adventures in Lima.

Tonight once I got into the taxi, the driver asked me to confirm the address. I told him the building was on “Malecón Cisneros”. He began driving and after a few minutes we were driving along “Malecón Reserva”. He asked me, “Señorita, what is the address?” To which I replied, “No, Señor, it is on Malecón Cisneros.” I thought this would be an easy solution, that is until he asked me how to get there.

Since Lima is mainly comprised of a confusing collection of one-way streets, I am still trying to find my orientation within the city. I usually know where I am and in what direction I need to travel, but I struggle with knowing what streets to take. Often times, the most direct route is impossible to take because you will run into at least one one-way street along the way. Instead, you must take a convoluted path of several one-way streets until you reach your destination. I now realize that I have inherited my parents’ need for annoyingly precise and direct traffic routes from any Point A to Point B. Yes, mom and dad, I publicly admitted that.

Though I couldn’t explain how to get there, I did remember that the building was near the lighthouse. Surely he would know how to get there. I began to tell him that the building was near the-oh no-in this exact moment I realized that in all my years of Spanish education, I never, ever learned the word for lighthouse.

“Señor, it is near the, oh no, I don’t know the word in Spanish. But it is a small white and black building with a light on-uh- with a light.”

He didn’t understand.

Thinking that he might understand if I said it again, I repeated my description, “the building is black and white with a light...” This wasn’t helpful.

“Señor, when boats are in the ocean at night, it helps them to see the beach...”

His only response was laughter and a sincere apology that he still didn’t understand what I meant.

I frantically called Alvaro- no answer. I then called his sister and right after she said “hello” my phone cut out. It was only natural that I ran out of phone credit at that exact moment. She called me back and I quickly told her I needed to know the word for lighthouse:

“Saro,” she told me, meanwhile I was thinking, “I have definitely never heard that word before.” She repeated the word and finally spelled it for me “s-a-r-o”.

“Señor, Señor! It’s near the saro! It’s near the saro!” I caught his eyes in the rearview mirror and instead of being met with understanding, I found more confusion. “The saro! The saro! The saro! The saro!” I repeated over and over again.

Finally he replied, “Señorita, near the faro?”

“No!” I said, “The SARO!!! S-A-R-O!”

“Señorita, the word is faro, not saro. Faro with an F.”

“With an F, not an S?”

“Yes, Señorita, with an F.”

By this point, we were driving by the faro and he pointed to the small black and white building repeating, “faro, faro, faro”.

Without a doubt, that evening at dinner he told his wife about the American girl who spent ten minutes trying to say the word faro.