Two weekends ago, Alvaro and I spent Saturday morning being tourists. I was nearing the end of my tolerance for Lima and he needed a change of pace from school, work, more school and more work. Thanks to Lima's best touring company, Mirabus, we embarked on an early morning ride to Callao, the port of Lima.

After arriving in Callao, we got off the bus and followed our guide who was carrying a bright red flag. Like children following the line leader, we walked to the end of the port and stood in line. Immediately we were bombarded by street vendors of all sorts, selling sun screen, soda, crackers, hats, binoculars for rent and lemon candies for seasickness. A very tan Peruvian girl wearing a tank top and short denim shorts stood right next to us, yelling, "The trip is four hours, you need these lemon candies for sea sickness!" The very annoying, very demanding family behind us summoned her to their side and bought several candies and at the end of the transaction, without moving down the line, she again yelled her sales pitch. This scene is one of the perfect examples of how Peruvian street vendors are cunning entrepreneurs. During the summer months they sell sunscreen, hats and soda. Around Christmas, you can purchase wrapping paper. In the days leading up to New Years Eve, every vendor is selling yellow leis or plastic glasses, as Peruvians believe that the color yellow will bring you good luck into the New Year. Valentine's Day allows for everything red and I can only imagine what sort of green products will arrive in time for St. Patrick's Day.

Once we boarded the boat, we were directed to the lower cabin and took a seat on the last row. On top of our seats were faded orange life jackets that we instinctively put on the ground. They stayed there until our guide came by and told us that we had to wear them. Reluctantly, we put on the awkward vests and sat back down.

Our boat was to circle four of the largest islands just off the coast of Lima. The first island that we passed, the largest one, is currently the home to the private beach home of Peru's President. Other than the three houses with red roofs that belong to that complex, the island is deserted. I have heard rumors that this is the island that the Peruvian government hopes to turn into a major hotel, casino and resort oasis. Though like most things in Peru, the reality is far, far away.

The second island is now deserted but once housed a jail that was home to Peru's most dangerous criminals. The primitive looking buildings were still in use until the late 1980's when Peru's then President, Alan Garcia (who is currently serving a second term, with a fifteen year recess in between), brought several terrorists to the island to be executed. This controversy, as well as other logistical problems led to the jail's final closure in 1986.

After the boat rounded these two islands, we finally arrived at the main attraction of this whole adventure- the sea lions! In this cluster of several islands is one island that is home to thousands of sea lions. It is an interesting phenomenon that the sea lions have chosen this one island, Besides the neighboring island that is used as the “nursery,” for moms to take their children to learn to swim, hunt and feed, the sea lions only reside on this one particular island.

At this island, the boat stopped for a few minutes and we were allowed to walk to the front to take pictures and get a closer look, I now know that those awkward life vests were specifically for this ten minute period. Immediately upon stepping out of the boat, I was knocked over by a horrendous stench. What I can only imagine was a mix of salt water, dead fish and sea lion excrement, was so powerful that my nose never adjusted to the smell. I was oddly aware of it the whole time. And the noise, the noise! Before arriving at the island I had my questions about the origin of the name “sea lions” but after hearing their roars similar to that on a real lion, I had no further questions. It was a truly amazing site to see thousands of sea lions perched on the island. Those closest to the water were jumping in the freezing waters and then using only their flippers, they began a comical climb back onto the island’s shore.

In between taking photos of the sea lions, I noticed the breathtaking view around me. I was floating in the Pacific Ocean, of the coast of Lima, Peru, and was facing two gorgeous, sand covered islands nestled into the clear blue water. The unusual reality of watching sea lions hit me and I realized, “this isn’t Nashville”. It’s easy to discount living on the ocean when the water rolling into Lima is brown and the shore is full of rocks, but while in the ocean, navigating the waters, I saw a brand new beauty in Lima. Despite all the ugliness and struggles and compromises, at least Lima has sea lions. There’s a serious Point for Peru.