I’ve made it to Arequipa!

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That’s a volcano in the background–Misti.
The climate of Arequipa is predominantly dry in winter, autumn and spring with a climate of a cool desert. There are sweaters and moisturizer in my future. Arequipa has 300 days of sunshine a year on average, but temperatures do not exceed 25 °C (77 °F) and rarely drop below 5 °C (41 °F). The wet season lasts from December to March, marked by clouds in the afternoon and low rainfall. It is now the end of winter. Winter is June and July in Peru. Remember this is the opposite side of the earth, so the seasons are reversed. The weather now is a little cooler and the low temperature drops to an average of 6 °C (43 °F). The average relative humidity is only 46% and can drop to 20%.

July 26th, 2017

I arrived in Arequipa this morning, but it was such a bad trip here, that I didn’t get much done today except find my new digs, unpack and catch up on sleep.

As with most long distance, cheap travel—it was frankly horrible getting here. All in all, it was about 27 hours, 3 flights, delays, and long lay overs–including overnight in the Lima Airport. It’s official. I’m now too old to try to sleep on the floor of an airport. My suitcase is completely trashed and a few small items are “missing.” The most important ones are my Imodium (I never travel without it) AND I’ve lost both my professional yo-yos! But at least I’m in one piece, if cranky and sore. Short Version: NEVER fly with Spirit Airlines. Never.

The school says they sent someone to pick me up at the airport, but no one was there. After the entire arrivals area cleared out, I gave up waiting. I hired a taxi (20 Peruvian soles, about $7US) and found my way to my boarding house. Luckily, Trista (Leo’s American girlfriend) was there to let me in. If she hadn’t been, I don’t know what I would have done. I didn’t have phone service or internet. I didn’t know where the school was and couldn’t go hunting with all my luggage in tow.

I started my mountain climbing exercises immediately–My room is on the 5th floor. That’s 10 flights of stairs. No, of course there isn’t an elevator. The room is pretty spartan, but at least it has a private bath for a change and a respectable number of electrical plug ins (all on the European system).  I have a lovely, shared balcony and a messy kitchen-in-progress–basically, there’s a sink. I’ll be using the one on the 4th floor until the one on the 5th is finished. IF I can ever figure out how to open the door.

I’ve got an 11am teachers meeting at the school tomorrow and orientation August 1. That’s assuming I can find the school tomorrow. (Why does no one ever give you a map?) I’ll try to get a new SIM card and phone number in the meantime. And I’m going to check out the downtown, walking distance from here.

Left side view from the balcony. That overpass blocks the view of Misti Volcano. It was built about five years ago and sort of ruins the view.
I’m in a small “urbanization” unit called Paisajista Chilina. It’s really a gated community, though it looks fairly easy to get into without the one guard noticing. Gated communities seem fairly common and most homes have either large fences or at the very least bars on ground floor windows and doors.
Center view from the 5th floor balcony. Just left of center in the photo is a small, colorful building, green and yellow, with a corner store (tienda) on the ground floor. The owners were very kind and patient, but didn’t understand my Spanish at all. I did a lot of pointing to buy things.
View from the right side of my balcony–fifth floor. At the moment, I’m the only one living on this floor, but there are three other rooms available.

My initial impression of the city is that it’s very dry, fairly poor, and that Peruvian Spanish sounds completely different to me from Mexican Spanish. AAAhhhhgggg! How will I ever learn this language?

This is my shower. There’s no central hot water heater–for example, sinks only give cold water. So that contraption embedded in the shower head (with a few electrical wires showing) is an on demand heater. The switch is to the left–which you have to turn on while standing in the shower. Unfortunately, it seems that when the water heater is on ONLY hot water comes out. I run the risk of both being burned and electrocuted. Yes, my life is always interesting.

July 27th, 2017

I’ve managed to meet Juanita and her boyfriend Santiago here at the boarding house. I guess Peruvian men must be something special because the only two women I’ve met here so far are young Americans who have fallen for Peruvian men. Both are extending their stay here in country. Unfortunately, Juanita and Santi are moving out in a few days. Also, as they move out, the stove and refrigerator on the fourth floor are to be moved to the fifth-floor balcony. I hope the few kitchen appliances, plates, cups, flatware, pots and pans will also be moved. I’m fairly certain that there will be at least a few days with no kitchen, however. Not excited about this as it’s clear from everyone that Leo, the owner, doesn’t get things done as quickly as promised. Even with a kitchen, it’s not going to be much to cook with. Only one burner works on the stove. The oven works, but never comes to a high temperature. There’s no microwave. But there is a coffee pot, electric kettle and a wine opener.

This is the front of the main branch of the school. There’s a second branch, but it seems to be very close by.

I’ve found the small neighborhood grocery and managed to buy a few things, but our Spanish isn’t compatible. Apparently, my Mexican accent is so strong they don’t understand what I was saying. I asked for tuna with no luck (Tienes atun? Pescado en lata? Do you have tuna? Fish in a can?). Similarly, with eggs (Puedo tener un doce huevos? Can I have 12 eggs?). I finally pointed to them, but they asked if I wanted ten, and I just agreed. I don’t remember the word for toilet paper, so I just said papel de bano five times until they got it. I believe the only words they understood in under three attempts were “coffee” and “all” (café y todos). This is going to be difficult.

It’s very dry here, sunny but cool. Overnight I added a third blanket to my bed. My room is on the top floor and exposed to the elements, so very cold at night. I’m lucky we are moving into summer here and not winter.

Arequipa is the capital and largest city of the Arequipa Region. It is Peru’s second most populous city with 861,145 inhabitants, as well as its second most populous metropolitan area as of 2016 (after Lima). It was even briefly the capital city of Peru from 1835 to 1883.

With Juanita’s help, I found the main branch of the school and met Lillian and Emma, who seem to run things. I then sat through the monthly teacher’s meeting. The very fact that they have a teacher’s meeting tells me I’m in a better school than I’ve been in before. Teachers were recognized for things they did well, new teachers were introduced. They even have a Teacher of the Month. There was actually a short, understandable teacher training session. This bodes well. There’s an orientation for new teachers on Tuesday, August 1 at 9am and classes begin on Wednesday. I should even know my class schedule later today and I have on line access to the books. Naturally, the teacher I liked the best, Ben, is leaving next month. Isn’t that always the way?

Along one side of the street from my apartment to the school, is a long, narrow park. It has lots of benches and statues. The city is built in “steps” since this is a mountainous area. To the right side of this park, the ground drops to another step–a country club called the International Club. It has tennis courts and lots of activities, but I’m not rich enough to become a member.
I’m actually living in the neighborhood of Yanahuara , located 2 kilometres (1 mile) from the city center. It is supposedly famous for its churches built in Andalusian style alleys.

With Juanita’s instructions, I found the Metro Store—Two floors, half grocery and half household items. I bought several things I need (pretty much all I could carry) and am set for the next few days. I also found a store that should have been able to help me with phone service. I asked for a SIM card (tarjeta de SIM de telefono), but they said they couldn’t do it until Monday (No hoy. Lunes. Not today. Monday.). I suppose they are out of SIM cards? Or they don’t want to work with a gringa?

It took me until almost 3p to make it back to the boarding house with my purchases and climb the formidable stairs with my numerous bags. I’d planned to go out again, but find I’m still very tired. Not sure if it’s the travel or the slightly higher altitude. Maybe I’ll check out downtown tomorrow.

…And the park even had lamas grazing in it. Maybe that’s done instead of mowing? Coming into town from the airport, my taxi was stopped by a small herd of sheep and again by three cows and a mule crossing the street.
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Beth

I'm a professional vagabond. I quit my cubical job in January 2014. Since then, I've hiked the Appalachian Trail, The Camino, and taught English in Vietnam, Turkey, Russia, Spain, Mexico and Peru. I'm exploring the world and you can come too!

2 thoughts on “I’ve made it to Arequipa!”

    1. I mean all the exterior walls are exposed. I’m in this small building, constructed on top of the roof. Nice privacy, but it could be really cold in the winter since there’s no insulation. Fortunately, it is almost Spring here. Last night was warmer than the first evening. I only needed two blankets. 😉

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