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Lima, a city of chaotic bliss

I was born and raised in Lima, Peru. Although 23 years have gone by since we left, I cherish each of my visits to my hometown. I recently came back from a trip and this time I saw the city and lifestyle through a different lens.

I was born and raised in Lima, Peru. Although 23 years have gone by since we left, I cherish each of my visits to my hometown.

I recently came back from a trip and this time I saw the city and lifestyle through a different lens.

It could be the enlightenment of my 40-something years or that I travelled without husband and sons, or that after all these years a North American perspective has infiltrated my Latin upbringing.

Let's say it's enlightenment.

Just leaving the airport upon arrival in Lima is a cultural shock.

Almost nine million impatient people populate this coastal desert city, with taxis, minibuses, buses and cars at varying degrees of disrepair comprising the majority of vehicles.

Impatience is a key word - you first notice it through the incessant honking for no apparent reason that can quickly destroy people's sanity.

Impatience instantly converts two-lane streets into four lanes for the sake of saving two minutes in your commute.

Impatience makes pedestrians cross intersections or - more often than not - jaywalk through lanes, streets or highways at the risk of losing their lives.

Impatience to go first, cross first, turn first is the rule of the day and a way of life. Coffee helps. Of course, I always drive - it's an adrenalin rush and part of the experience. Tourists beware.

Talk tends to revolve around food and eating. Food is a topic akin to the weather in our neck of the woods. And a reason to live. Lima's disorganized nature has inspired a chaotic cuisine that adopts and transforms all ingredients into an array of stunningly good food.

Each of the three main regions of Peru - the coast, Andes and jungle - has its own distinct and expansive cuisine. Chinese, Japanese, African, Italian and French influences quickly fuse with Peruvian food to surpass its origins.

It is simply because "Limeños" love to eat well and frequently. Food is made from scratch. Fish, seafood, meats, vegetables and the four staples: rice, corn, aji (a type of chili) and potato - king of them all and a Peruvian gift to the world - are mixed, spiced and arranged into a rainbow of flavours.

Driving and eating aside, the surroundings are extremely chaotic. A mix of architectural styles, vegetation, history and humans all thrown together in a city by the ocean that hardly ever experiences rain but often has thick fog and ridiculous levels of humidity.

Gates, fences and walls abound to protect, divide, control and deter. Checkpoints and guards in front of residential buildings, restaurants, offices and schools are a loud and clear message this city has suffered the infamy of terrorism.

People adjust and accept, but never forget.

A visit to the historic downtown speaks of a glorious past - the traditional and majestic enclosed wooden carved balconies that have been preserved are unique and spectacular.

The plazas, churches, museums and old houses are rich in history and traditions. The artisan markets, like the food, are places that showcase an inexpensive, mind-blowing mix of materials, styles, colours and techniques.

The suburbs are abuzz with shops, restaurants, theatre, art and dance. People, dogs and pigeons are intertwined in a concert of movement, sound, activity and purpose.

One adjective that describes the essence of a "Limeño" is resourceful-ness. No matter the limitations, space or background, if someone wants to make a living, they will.

From the creative use of a motorcycle to the dynamic negotiations of a street car washer, the examples of ingenuity are everywhere.

Kids juggling at intersections to make a living and the "20-cent" squeegee guy at a corner made me understand the meaning of dignity. And entrepreneurship.

There is so much to this chaos. I left thinking that in order to decipher this city you had to be biologically engineered there. But upon reflection I realized those with an adventurous soul will overlook the flaws and appreciate the flavours.

They will overcome the disarray to absorb the bliss; understand the dangers but enjoy the rewards.

If you are such an individual, this is a city worth adding to your bucket list.

Ana Arciniega is the executive director of the Business Improvement Association of Tsawwassen.