Finding a more permanent place to live

I’m told there is some really great hiking just outside the city. Some of the foothills are accessible by bus. Once I get settled, I’m going to talk Kathrine into taking me.

2/7/2018 Wednesday

Orientation this morning with Alejandro went well. He used the Beginning book as an example, but it looks like a pretty well written program—good vocabulary at the end of each section, lots of workbook style activities. No separate teacher’s manual, but most of the time, they don’t add much anyway. There are three program styles: Super intensive (4hrs a day, 4 days a week), Intensive (2 hours a day, 4 days a week) and Not Intensive (4 hours each Saturday). There are 15 levels. If you complete all 15, you’re at a B1 speaking level (on the British scale). Plus the school has 5 more conversation classes available to get a student to C1. I’ll be teaching Review 3 on Saturday, which looks like something I can handle. I’ve read the first two sections so far, and my job is to finish section 2 on Saturday.

We didn’t quite finish the orientation this morning, so I’ll come again tomorrow at 11am, before the noon teachers’ meeting. I did get to meet Katherine, an east coast Canadian who has been here 3 years. I’m taking over the Review 3 class from her and she showed me what she covered and gave me an idea of what needed to be done to finish the unit. I really like her and hope we can be great friends. She even likes to hike. We had coffee and a short conversation, but she’s funny and great to be around. I’ve also met Anna, from Kentucky, who was very helpful. She exchanged emails with me before I came.

A rainy morning in Ibague

When I got home, I tried to talk to Hector again about the rent. I had great difficulty, partially because someone is always around. While nice, this place costs half my salary. It became clear that he thought this was a permanent arrangement. It’s not. I can’t afford it. I thought that was clear yesterday, but I guess not. Maybe he looks at me and sees “una americana rica” who doesn’t care about money. Not so. I don’t want to pay for a full month because I’ll probably not stay that long. I won’t see the money back if I pay.

Also, I’m simply not that comfortable here. Hector has people over all the time. Many are pretty young boys. Two came from his bedroom and were wearing pajamas. I don’t really need to know the details, just leave it at he has a lot of people over. AND he has to come to my door with all of them (or, I suspect, show off my room if I’m not here). I can’t lock my bedroom door, so I feel exposed. This is still just a shared house and it’s Hector’s house, not mine. It’s expensive for the lack of privacy. Someone stayed over last night and was walking around after midnight. There was some loud music. I had a difficult time sleeping.

And the amenities aren’t exactly posh: The shower, kitchen and laundry have no hot water. There’s no air conditioning. These are common conditions in Colombia, but I’m paying a premium. Windows need to be open all the time. We are on a very busy corner, so the traffic noise is substantial. And there’s not even screens on the windows. For the same price, I could find an apartment alone.

And one more thing made me really uncomfortable. I got admonished for not making my bed this morning. I’m trying to talk money, and he forces me to watch a 5-minute video on why you should make your bed. He made me watch the beginning three times, I assume to make a point. It’s none of his business whether or not I make my bed!

I really like how the number system is. I’m told it’s quite new and not everyone is on board, but to me it is clear. Most corners are marked with the carrera (avenue, north and south) and calle (street, east and west).
Buildings are marked like this. This particular building is on carrera 7. It’s building #3 from calle 40. Once you figure out the system, it’s easy.

I tried last night, then again twice this morning (between appointments at the school), to talk to Hector about money. He conveniently doesn’t understand when he doesn’t want to. When I came back from meeting Katherine, I insisted that we talk. He finally called Astrid at the school to interpret. She was a great help. Yes, he thought this was a permanent situation, despite the conversation yesterday in front of Astrid where we all agreed it was temporary. He offered to drop the monthly rent if I wanted to stay. I really don’t. So we agreed to a weekly rate and I paid for just one week. He says he will help me find something more economical. From what the other teachers have said, he may not be the world’s best landlord, so I’ll also keep looking on my own, too. Hope something works out soon.

What still surprises me is how very uncomfortable I am with discussing money—in any language. It really upset me, though the conversation went well. Imagine how it would have been if it had gone badly? I actually had to lie down after we talked. You’d think I’d be more comfortable by this age.

Exercise park near the school. It’s on quite a slope.
There are birds here I’ve never seen before. They are beautiful.
Here’s another in red.

2/8/2018 Thursday

I’m having trouble sleeping. Some of it is the high humidity and lack of air movement. (Does no one own a fan?) Some is the traffic noise. Mostly I’m just not that comfortable here. Hector is nice, but invasive. Last night he fixed spaghetti for is both (which was sweet, though I hadn’t agreed to it and was sort of ordered to the table. It was pretty good food, but he spent the dinner correcting my Spanish and explaining why I should stay here with him and not move out. He also had to  tell me why I shouldn’t walk around in bare feet. I get the bed dirty, he said. Sweep the floors, I thought.

Another whirlwind day. This morning, I found the spaghetti still sitting out on the counter. He tried to get me to take it for lunch today. Not a chance.

Flowering trees, too.

It was raining heavily this morning. Hector was up early, walking around in his boxers. Not my idea of a great morning. I didn’t want to stay cooped up in the house anyway, so went for a walk about 8:00a to orient myself to the neighborhood. I didn’t really have anything to do until 11 when I was finishing my orientation with Alejandro. I walked, had an arepa on the street. Yum! Took a few photos. Nice, leisurely morning.

Areapa con queso y miel. A corn griddle cake, with cheese in the center and topped with honey butter. YUM. This was my breakfast.
And here’s the street vendor who made breakfast for me. Looks like arepas, coffee and fresh fruit or juice are easy to buy on the street.
The man was very nice and helped me with the change to buy the arepa. I’ve just about figured out the paper money, but still learning the coins.

After orientation, there was a teachers’ meeting where I got to meet the other teachers. I really like the group—it was a very welcoming feeling. I think I’m going to fit in here, maybe better than in any other place I’ve been. The teachers are great. I already like Anna and Katherine, but also met Brandon (here with his partner Jason, Canadian), Hannah, Karen and Kelvin.

And Kelvin is about to be my new roommate! Turns out we were looking at the same apartment. It’s a little pricey for one person, so we rented it together. We move in tomorrow.

Kelvin is very handsome, buff, perfect smile, from California, late 20’s or maybe 30, and has great Spanish. The place is semi-furnished—fridge, beds, curtains, but not much more. Not even sure if there’s a sofa. He has lived here in Ibague for over a year and has a lot of kitchen and household items already. I have nothing. I’ve told him that after we move in, we can make a list of what we need, and I’ll be responsible for supplying most of it, since he’s bringing so much to the place already. Today he took me to the mall where I bought pillows and towels—things I know I’ll need right away. I think I’m lucky with how this worked out. If I were 25 years younger, I would swoon over Kelvin. It’s hard to stomach that he probably thinks of me as “that harmless, old woman.” I just hope he doesn’t come to regret living with an old lady.

This is my new building! Fortunately, I only have to walk up one flight of stairs. But the laundry is on the top floor. A few of the rooms don’t have kitchen facilities, so the top floor also has a kitchen, dining table and several refrigerators. The view is pretty nice.

So tonight, I’m going to start packing. Will also try to work on a lesson plan for Saturday morning. Looks like there’s no classes for me this coming week, but the week after there should be.

This place is adorable. It’s called Heladogs. Helado = ice cream. The sign translates as “cake and ice cream place for pets.”

Aji de Gallina

Aji de Gallina–chicken breast in spicy chili sauce, served over sliced roasted potato and topped with boiled egg slices, olives and cilantro.

I learned to make this Peruvian delicacy at Arthur’s Restaurant during a cooking class with three other teachers. It’s a thick, creamy, spicy chili sauce, with shredded chicken. Ours was atop thick slices of baked potato and garnished with boiled eggs and black olives. Tasty and quite easy to make, this is a staple of Peruvian Cuisine. The yellow aji chilies are probably tough to found outside of South American, so Arthur suggested we substitute a yellow bell pepper and a habanero pepper.

We also made ceviche, which I posted here.

Aji de Gallina

Ingredients, per serving:

  • Chicken breast, 1 (bone-in will give more flavor)
  • Aji amarillo pepper, a Peruvian yellow chili, which is quite hot, 1
  • Garlic, 10 grams (5-6 small cloves)
  • Whole milk, 50ml
  • Bread crumbs (Traditional Peruvian cooks use fresh, white bread, not dried)
  • Grated cheese (use a fresh cheese like mozzarella or feta)
  • Red onion, 1/4
  • White potato (Yukon Gold work well, but any good baking potato)
  • Egg, 1
  • Black olives, 2-4
  • Pecans, 4, roughly chopped
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt

Split and de-seed chili. Chop roughly. Saute with whole garlic cloves until brown in a small amount of vegetable oil. Process until smooth.

Preheat oven 250C. Bake potato 30 minutes or until done. Peel and slice into 3-4 thick rounds. Put on serving plate and keep warm.

Roughly chop onion. Blanch chicken, onions, salt in enough water to cover for 12 minutes or until just cooked. Hard boil egg in the same pot. Save stock. Shred chicken. Discard bones. Take out the egg, remove the shell and cut into 3-4 slices.

Saute pureed chili and garlic paste in a deep pan with a small amount of oil for 2 minutes. Add 3/4 cup reserved chicken stock (about 200ml). Mix milk with bread crumbs. Add mixture to pan. Stir and reduce to a thick consistency.

Add grated cheese and shredded chicken. Salt to taste. Heat through. Pour thick chicken mixture onto potato slices in heated serving dish. Garnish with slices of hard boiled egg, chopped pecans, olives. Additional garnish of cilantro and colorful peppers is also attractive, if desired.

I arrived early and had a drink while I waited for class to start. Times are very “fluid” in Latin America, so our 2:30p class started almost an hour late. This spicy drink of purple corn, lime juice and star anise with rum was very refreshing.
This is my work station with all my ingredients.
Hard at work, prepping the food.
All plated and ready to be served.
And now for the best part–eating our creations.

Ceviche!

All the cooks in a row–me, Drew, Alina and Scott

I continue to find fun things to do here in Arequipa as I live the life of a Lady of Leisure.

I took a wonderful cooking class at Arthur’s, located near the central square. (I ate there in my first week in Arequipa) The menu was Ceviche–fish “cooked” in lime juice for the first course. (The recipe is below) The main course was Aji de Gallina--chicken breast in a spicy aji chili sauce. Both are tasty and easy to prepare traditional Peruvian dishes. I posted the recipe for the chicken dish here.

Ceviche–served atop boiled sweet potato slices, and ringed by toasted corn.

Ceviche

Ingredients (per serving):

  • Fish fillet, 100 grams (any white fish will do. We used mahi mahi, but also scallops or shrimp are good)
  • Ginger, 5 grams
  • Garlic cloves, 5 grams (4 small cloves)
  • Limes, 2 fresh, whole (room temperatures and roll them on the table before squeezing)
  • Red Habanero chili, 1 small
  • Fresh cilantro leave (also called coriander leaves), small bunch
  • Medium, red onion, 1/4
  • Medium sweet potato
  • Dried corn, 50 grams (This is difficult to find. Substitute dried bananas)
  • Celery, 5 grams
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt

Boil sweet potato, 30 minutes. Peel. Slice into 3-4 rounds. Put into bowl and let cool. Ceviche will be placed on top of this.

Finely chop ginger, garlic together. Place into a bowl and cover with 4 Tablespoons of vegetable oil and mix. Set aside.

Finely chop cilantro. Julianne onion into long, thin strips. Put onion in a small bowl and cover with water.

Cut fish into large cubes. Place into a bowl. (Reserve one piece of fish for the Tiger’s Milk) Add 1.5 grams of salt, chili, cilantro and 3T of oil from the ginger and garlic mixture. Mix and set aside.

Toast the dry corn kernels in a dry pan until they start to brown. Some may even pop. Remove from pan and set aside to cool.

Tiger’s Milk (Leche de Tigre): In a food processor, mix celery, ginger, garlic, pinch salt, a few pieces of onion, 4 T of onion water, and the piece of raw fish. Process until smooth.

To the fish, squeeze juice of two limes. Stir and allow to “turn white” for about 3 minutes. Add onion slices and Tiger’s Milk. Mix. Top the sweet potato slices with fish mixture. Surround with toasted corn. Garnish with cilantro and peppers.

Sonccollay, a pre-Inkan restaurant

Amy didn’t really like the idea of cuy and politely avoided looking at it. She ordered alpaca, which she enjoyed. It’s a good thing that she’s a great companion since it took well over 1.5 hours between ordering and seeing our food! We drank a local fermented drink, called chicha de jora, made from purple corn. It was a very lightly alcoholic mixture.

My friend, fellow teacher Amy, and I decided to splurge a bit and try what seems to be a fairly unique restaurant, not just in Arequipa, but in South America. Sonccollay is located on the Plaza de Armas and is listed as a “pre-Inkan” restaurant, serving the traditional foods of the Andean region. I was most interested in the cuy–local guinea pig. I’d had it earlier in the week, but it was fried and I wanted to try a traditional roasted dish.

One of the side dishes including tomato, cape gooseberry and avocado.

Amy and I had each met the owner, while we were on separate free walking tours. The tour ends at the restaurant, which has an impressive view of the plaza below and the surrounding mountains. The owner is personable with a commanding voice, but seemed quite disheveled and stressed both times I saw him. He seems to run the restaurant almost entirely alone!

Here’s the cuy, dusted with herbs and roasted in the oven. As a farm girl from the Midwest, I couldn’t help but think that the cuy (guinea pig) looked a LOT like squirrel. It had been roasted in the oven with a weight on top to keep it flat. There was surprisingly little meat on it and if it hadn’t been fairly fatty to start with, probably would have been quite dry. As it was, it tasted like dark meat chicken. Most of the fat had dripped away, so it don’t think I over indulged, too much. On the other side of the cuy are two small alpaca steaks which Amy said were quite tasty.

While I had a good time (mostly because of good company) and enjoyed the food, I’m not sure if I can recommend the restaurant. It was a bit over-priced and we waited almost 2 hours to eat, despite being one of the few diners. They also took almost all my cash, since they had “trouble” accepting credit cards, though the menu had indicated that they did. I also felt the owner was openly disappointed with our orders–we hadn’t spent enough money to satisfy him. I won’t go back.

This is the land of potatoes, so you’ll usually see them served with any dish. These included three varieties of potato–white, purple and a sweet potato that was tasty, but beige in color. The corn is the local, native variety, called choclo. The kernels are large and it’s not terribly sweet. Honestly, it always tastes a bit like field corn to me.

Do not expect beef, chicken, garlic, onions or cilantro when eating here. The main meats are alpaca, cuy, duck and “river shrimp.” And everything is a little charred, typical of the use of stone and wood logs. Most of the reviews I read simply raved about the food, but I thought it was good, but not fantastic. Of course, I’m really put out by being expected to wait a long time to order and receive food in what was clearly not a busy night. I also felt I was slightly over charged based on the menu prices.

There are highlights, however. The restaurant seats diners on a second story balcony over looking the Plaza de Armas. It’s great for people watching and we even observed the ceremony to take down the flags in the courtyard. The owner will give you a brief tour of the kitchen, which should not be missed. And the view from the roof is simply spectacular.

Misti Volcano is visible from much of the city.
I met Amy on the corner of the park, near the bridge where the alpaca are. I’ve grown quite fond of them. They remind me of a cross between a sheep and a long necked teddy bear.

Sonccollay

  • Address: Portal de San Agustin 149 | Terraza de la Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru
  • Location: South America  >  Peru  >  Arequipa Region  >  Arequipa
  • Phone Number: +51 54 281219

Tasting cuy and alpaca

Both of the meals described here were eaten at Wayrama, located near the Plaza de Armas, Santa Catalina Calle, 200, Arequipa, Peru.

Those who follow this blog probably also know my slogan: “Traveling the World, one bite at a time.” I’ll taste almost anything at least once. This week, I’ve crossed two more culinary milestones off my list: Cuy and Alpaca.

I started with a beer, the local brand is Arequipena. These roasted corn nuts are are served everywhere–very dry and salty. Perfect in bars to get the customers to order a second. Or third.

I’ll start with the Alpaca. It was a steak filet (lomo), grilled (asado) and served medium with a fresh vegetable sauce and french fries (papas fritas). Alpaca is a very lean meat, much like deer, so roasting needs to be slow. Overcooking could quickly dry out and toughen this meat. Fortunately, my chef was an old hand and I suffered neither issue, though it seems to be a naturally tough meat and I neede a knife to cut it. Despite the outward resemblance to deer, the meat was mild with no gamey taste. It was much like beef, frankly, and I’m not sure I could tell the difference. It was flavorful. I can recommend it!

This is alpaca (lomo de alpaca) with fresh vegetables. Every dish in Peru is served with potatoes, usually papas fritas (French fries), like these. The meat was a tad tough and very lean, like deer. But the taste was very close to beef, mild and not “gamey.” It was served medium and I assume more cooking would have dried it out and toughened it even more.

The cuy was not quite as I was expecting. First, let me explain that cuy is guinea pig, native to the Andes and once a staple in this area. I was ordering from a menu entirely in Spanish, so sometimes I’m a tad surprised by the resulting dish. Good thing I’ll eat almost anything. I’d expected the cuy to be roasted, which is traditional. This was deep fried filets, dipped first in cornmeal. I suspect the same cornmeal is used for trout. Tucha is very popular here and it’s usually deep fried. I detected a fishy smell with the first bite, which was disappointing. This turned out to be a very fatty piece of meat, so deep frying made for a somewhat greasy, heavy dish. After a few bites, I pulled away the breading and fatty skin and just ate the small amount of meat remaining, which, tasted like dark meat chicken. Isn’t that always the way? The saving grace to the meal was the creamy “Andean herb” sauce. It looked like it might taste too “green” but proved mild with a hint of mint. I used a couple of the ubiquitous french fries to sop up the last of the sauce, though I left most of the fatty skin and breading.

I’m going to have to give cuy another try, but find a roasted dish. I’m dining with a friend Sunday, so may try it then.