We get out of the taxi and find ourselves on a dusty slope, waiting to be let into the warehouse. Somewhere in the north of Callao, far from our holy and protected La Punta bubble, the clean and safe neighborhood in which we are staying. I try to orient myself. The Pacific cannot be far away, I can see a fish trawler‘s bridge towering over a wall in the distance. Vultures let themselves be carried upwards by the rising air. The reason why Pete and I are here: our containers have to go through customs clearance, and there is a preliminary inspection for this. So we want to go into this warehouse where our containers are, but we have to be patient, our agent talks to the customs agent and he talks to the security man at the entrance.
Documents change hands and we are told to wait. I have already experienced this in November last year and know what to expect. Every container is cleared, every device, every screw, every pen, everything is checked, counted and photographed. I already know all of this, and yet this place has never seemed so sick, so dirty and hopeless to me before. Maybe it‘s because I‘m uncomfortable myself. The diarrhea of the past few days is gone, but stomach cramps regularly affect me. My foot hurts, my throat is scratching and for a few days I have also had a slight fever. Maybe the Zika virus?
With this physical condition, we are waiting for it to start. In this place that is always under a dense cloud of dust. Trucks come in and out every minute, deliver new containers or remove them. None of the trucks is under ten years old. Most of them clearly older. Their worn-out tires keep whirling up this very fine dust that stays in the shimmering heat for minutes. Lazy dogs drag themselves apathetically into the shadows to rest their battered bodies. A truck driver who is also waiting for his entrance scratches his psoriasis from his skin next to us. We consider changing seats.
In the distance you can see clouds of smoke from smoldering garbage fires. The smell becomes infernal. It smells like burning fish, excrement, car tires, exhaust gases, oily puddles and a rotting ocean right behind the site. The stench is so acrid that I wonder how my body will react to it. I‘m waiting for a headache, gagging and nausea. Nothing, everything ok, but I‘ve already taken two ibuprofen. The smell mixes with the whirled-up dust and the exhaust gases of the booming diesel engines. It lays heavy over the scene. Men with whistles try to regulate the traffic, but their high-pitched tone fades away in a mixture of alarm sirens, horns, passing mopeds and cars, from which we are constantly offered a ride. With narrowed eyes we perceive this world. This place is so far from me, so far from my world, that I am fascinated by its repulsive difference. I feel like an honest tourist in its purest form.
I think of the guys in the Navybase who are building mesocosms at the same time. This Navybase, right next to the container port in Callao, is a perfect landscape compared to this scene here. Everything is draped, decorated and organized there. There is even an old bomb that is for decorative purposes only. It is cleaned with a rag and water every few days. So that you can enjoy the clean bomb. It is the best place to build mesocosms here in Lima. There are short distances and very helpful people on site. Best lunch, clean toilets and security; true in all senses. Do I want to trade with the others? No, not yet.
A door opens, Walter, our agent gestures to us that it starts. For hours we sort boxes, pack stacks, count bottles, tweezers, screws and lines, simply everything that is contained in these five containers. It‘s getting dark. With a box, an inscription grabbed my attention. There is something about „Polar- und Meeresforschung“ and next to the writing is a stylized image of an ice surface that ends in the sea with a small snow-covered mountain in the background and further to the left in a darker area is the Southern Cross. The front area and the small snow-covered mountain are apparently illuminated by a polar sun. It takes my head a few seconds to imagine such a different place.