Lima was difficult for me in some ways. My Spanish was only so so. While I could communicate, my comprehension was not adequate for the rapid language that bulleted back at me. I felt handicapped and inadequate in my Spanish. And while Peru is a beautiful country, Lima itself is cold and grey and crowded with nine million people. I was so fortunate to have discovered Julio.
He was a small man, probably Quechua. He talked fast and walked fast and liked to do business fast. He arrived in a taxi and brought bags with stone beads in them. Sometimes he had old Venetian beads from old houses in Cuzco. Usually he had amethysts or quartz or chrysocola to sell. I like to think that I started designing necklaces out of some creative explosion in myself. But in hindsight I realize that I started making/ selling necklaces so that I could buy beads from Julio. He would arrive, run-walking up the walk, come in, and we would do business. He would name his price, and I would balk, but I wanted the beautiful beads and so I would make offers, and then try to get them ALL for something much less. Julio’s business plan was to move his inventory. And I know that he loved coming to my house for that reason. I learned the prices; the serpentine and onyx and orange jasper were very inexpensive, while he could ask more for the Peruvian opals and turquoise. Once he caught himself up because he asked more for small quartz heishi beads than the large quartz beads. When I asked him why the small ones cost more he told me that there was so much labor involved in the cutting. I didn’t fall for that one; and I told him so.
I miss my bead buying with Julio, and I remember those business transactions with nostalgia. The thing is-- Julio didn’t know one word of English.