A free month in Peru!

Yes, that’s Misti Volcano, but two things have changed. First, no snow. It’s really warmed up here and I’ve had to take two of the three blankets off my bed. The second is the clouds. In the entire time I’ve been here there have been none, but last night these clouds rolled in. Feels like rain, which would also be a first. (By evening the clouds rolled out with no rain)

The short version is that I wasn’t enjoying the school here in Arequipa. There were broken promises, which I’ve discussed. I had a 33 teaching hour work load, 15-20 additional hours of preparation, the worst classroom in the school (for a second month in a row), and a cold that was making me miserable. No amount of discussion seemed to be able to improve the classroom (three of four light bulbs needed replacing, but nothing was ever done) and I’d asked for a lower teaching load (this was promised, but I had the same number of hours on the next schedule). The final straw was an all day Student’s Day event we were required to “volunteer” for. It was even assumed that all teachers would be participating, even serving on at least one soccer/volleyball/basketball team. I’m not interested in sports and have no ability in this area.

Though there are fewer flowers here in Arequipa than in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, they are still welcome. It’s so dry here that watering is required all winter and spring. It’s not rained even once in the time I’ve been here.

Possibly, I should have tried to discuss a more reasonable compromise. That does seem like the adult thing to do. Except 1) I’d had no success with previous communications or promises, 2) I’m not getting paid much for my work anyway and 3) I was so sick I just didn’t care anymore. I turned in my books on the third day of classes and gave up. I slept for most of the next two day, and awoke feeling better and much less stressed. I should have done it earlier. Don’t get me wrong, this school isn’t any worse than most of the others, but I’m just tired of allowing myself to be treated badly. And I simply don’t want to work on a tourist visa with a contract that calls me an “intern.”

Always a problem–gaping holes in the sidewalk. Always watch your step.

In the meantime, I’ve recovered from the cold and am dealing with a large block of uninterrupted time for the first times in years. I’m truly efficient with small blocks of time. I fit the saying, “When you want something done, ask a busy person.” I know how to schedule my time and get things done under pressure. But dealing with a large swath of free hours with no plan each day is new to me. And a little overwhelming. Lazing around for a day or two is probably good for all of us once in awhile, but a month or more and I fear I’ll fall into a deep depression. To combat it, I’ve set myself a daily “to do” list. The major categories are exercise and Spanish study.

There’s a piqueria–traditional Peruvian restaurant–just up the hill from my apartment. Lunch is the big meal of the day here, so I usually get something off the “menu”–the daily specials. It’s 8 soles (about $2.30US) for a huge portion of soup (always with some meat, vegetables and a single, large boiled potato) and an entree (showed here is fettuccine with a simple sauce and a chicken leg and thigh). The soup is a meal alone, so for the price I get two meals. Hard to beat.
Two workers eating at the piqueria up the hill from me. The soup is a first course and it’s also served with a drink. When I asked what it was, I was told “agua” but it was clearly more–perhaps a sweetened tea.
Here’s the proprietor. I’m not sure if the place even has a name. There’s only a handful of tables, but it’s popular at lunchtime, which begins at noon. I learned the hard way not to come earlier.

The exercise is quite practical. I’m in training for a hike of Nepal in November. I’m already at high altitude (2,335m  or 7,661ft) here in Arequipa, though I’ll have to deal with much higher in Nepal. I fly into Kathmandu, which is at 1,400 metres or 4,600 ft. So far, so good. But it’s 18 days, hiking 4-6 hours most days and climbing to Thorung Phedi, 4450m/14600ft. High altitude has been difficult for me in the past and I’ve never experienced anything like what I’m facing. So while I really want to do this, I don’t expect it to be all pleasant. That’s why this week, I’m doing a combination of stretching, strength exercises and walking with a light pack at least 2 hours a day. I’ll increase the walking next week.

These are a special style of empanadas, considered Bolivian. They are called Salteña. These held meat (Saltena de Carne), but can contain vegetables or potatoes and cheese. They are a common street food here. Though Bolivian, they are named after the Argentinian city of Salta.                              
According to this website: “Salteñas have two main features that differentiate them from most empanadas. The repulgue, or the “braided” seam that seals the empanada closed, is placed on top, and the empanadas are baked in an upright position, rather than on their side. The filling is also different – it’s much juicier with lots of stewing liquid accompanying the meat and vegetables. This is accomplished by adding gelatin to the filling while it is still hot, then chilling the mixture in the refrigerator until it thickens. The gelatin-thickened filling is easier to handle when shaping the salteñas. As the salteñas bake, the gelatin melts and the broth becomes liquid again. It’s a nice trick that keeps the salteñas from getting soggy!”

I bought two for about 5 soles (less than $2US) and ate them on the way home. Empanadas are a bit more common, though I’m not sure I can tell the difference by taste. I can attest to the filling being more stew like–I was wearing part of it after the first bite.

These were popular in Mexico and Paula and I ate too many of them. My last 6 weeks in Mexico were depressing and I did a bit of comfort eating to make up for it. I’m still losing the pounds. Paula, however, dropped several pounds, so I may have eaten more of these than she did. Or maybe it was the street tacos?

I’m also spending more than 2 hours a day studying Spanish. Some is online (I’ve finished the DuoLingo course and am now using Tiny Cards), two different video lessons (one speaking and one listening), vocabulary review on my own, and I’m about to finish a grammar book I started in Mexico. Today, I was able to do some bargaining in Spanish, reducing the price of gifts for friends and family. I also ordered alpaca steak (my first) entirely in Spanish!

Moco de gorila translates as gorilla mucus or gorilla snot. It seems to be a hair gel, but I can’t imagine why anyone would buy a product with a horrible name like this.
Adventures at the grocery! To an English speaker, this is a truly terrible name for candy. Google translates it as “thick” but it’s probably more like “chewy.”

Also on the to do list, practicing my ukulele and drawing. I’m really terrible at both, but enjoying myself. In addition, I do some reading and watch Netflix and of course exploring the area. This week, I found a little plaza near me, tasted alpaca steak, located the traditional market, and bought a few gifts. It’s relaxing and I feel productive. Besides, it’s just a month.

The photos are from my walks over the last couple days.

Even inside this city of almost a million people, there’s some farmland.
These cows seem out of place, but happy, among the city buildings.
This is the entrance to a small plaza, new to me and not too far from the Yanahuara Plaza. It seems quite old.
The plaza inside the archway.
Adobo is a stewed and very flavorful meat dish. The cooking marinade differs from chef to chef, but what surprises me is that this is a breakfast dish. It seems very heavy to me! I’m told that if you don’t arrive before 9am, preferably 8am, no decent restaurant will have any left.
There’s always a church in these old squares.
I couldn’t find a date, but the entrance is lovely.
Church, inside
There were two huge old trees in front of the church.

A museum to….a bull? Yup!

The big draw of the museum seems to be the opportunity to stand with or climb onto a life-sized replica of the once great bull. If this is truly to scale, he was immense.

Last weekend, I went on a second, different bus tour of the Arequipa area. This one cut a wider path to the outskirts of the town. One of the last stops was a museum to Peru’s most famous fighter–a bull named Menelik. Yes, that’s right. It wasn’t much of a museum and I learned almost nothing about this famous fighter. There was little information in Spanish and none in English. But it was clear from the response of the visitors that they were pretty excited about this guy. Maybe if you’re from Peru, he needs no introduction?

Can’t say as I’d want a museum of me if my head was going to be on display like this.

First, you have to understand that bull fighting in Peru is different than the rest of the world. It’s the bulls that fight each other. There’s no toreador in tight pants, pink socks and a funny hat, a waving a sword at a weakened bull. In fact, no bulls dies. One concedes defeat and the fight is over. Seems much more civilized, to me, having watched 5 bulls die in rapid succession at a fight in Madrid. The 2 hour spectacle has 6 bulls, but I couldn’t stomach the last one.

The museum had the remains of Menelik, but little explanation in any language.

I found this article that explained much more than the museum did. The words in parathesis are mine. “The legend of Menelik is instructive. Perhaps the best-known bull of “all time” was the legendary Menelik, who launched the current resurgence of campina bull-fighting by winning the championship in 1946. Menelik, born in the traditional campina (country, countryside) district of Socabaya, was the offspring of a plow ox and a prize cow. … At age one Menelik was taken to the new irrigation 12 project of Sta. Rita de Siguas, where he was raised “con toros serranos de inverna, donde seria su escuela. [Al dueno] le agradaba ver que pelee guaguito con los toros serranos.” (“With Sierra Serrano bulls, where his school would be. [The owner] was pleased to see that he fought with the Serranos bulls.”)

Menelik gained strength fighting the sierran bulls. …A fair took place in October, 1940, during which a silver cup, donated by Leche Gloria (a popular brand of milk), was awarded for the Best Creole Milk Cow by none other than Manuel Prado, then President of Peru. During the fair a bullfight was held, with Menelik – certain to lose to the then champion Smeling – to be raffled off afterward to the winning ticket. The holder of the  winning ticket was a boy whose father had purchased the winning ticket; a ticket of S/. 5.00 had won the boy a bull worth S/. 2,000.00! The boy and his friends tied their belts together to lead the legendary bull back home to Paucarpata.”
This must be his hide, though there’s no identification.
It looks bronze, but it’s not. You could move it easily. But it looked impressive in the small courtyard of the house that now holds the memory and what remains of Menelik.

Walking tour of Arequipa’s old town

Misti Volcano, between the two towers of the Arequipa cathedral, Plaza de Armas.

I took a free walking tour of Arequipa beginning in the San Lazaro neighborhood. I learned a few things, took too many photos and also got some serious exercise.

To get the the day tour, I had to cross the bridge to the old town section, going through a long narrow, landscaped park. I love this cactus–some are so large they are like shade trees.
This is plaza San Francisco, my new favorite plaza in Arequipa. It’s where the free walking tour would start.

I recently found this great description of the city: “Surprisingly, despite a population of nearly 900,000, the city feels less like a metropolis and more like a compact town, one that’s graced by magnificent Spanish Colonial and Moorish architecture, fancied up with baroque, rococo and neoclassical embellishments. Located at roughly 7,500 feet above sea level in a lush valley between the Andes and coastal desert of southwestern Peru, Arequipa was founded in 1540 by those land-grabbing Spanish conquistadors. The city sits at the base of El Misti, a 19,000-foot volcano that’s bookended by slightly higher and lower volcanoes. But it’s the cone-shaped, seasonally snowcapped El Misti that symbolizes the spirit of the town, which was nicknamed the White City for its many buildings constructed from a pearly-hued volcanic stone called sillar.”

You can see Misti Volcano from the edge of the plaza.
The central fountain wasn’t working, but I liked this detail–the water comes from the frog’s mouth.
This is our tour guide, Johnathan. He is from Peru, but says he’s been traveling the world for the last 8 years. We had a group of about 20 people and I was the only US American. Most everyone was from Canada, and one man was from Tibet.
Johnathan was an OK tour guide. He walked REALLY fast and much of the group had trouble keeping up with him. I did OK, which must mean I’m getting used to the altitude. Dropping another 10 pounds would make a difference, too.
We started our tour in the San Lazaro neighborhood, part of the old historic downtown and mostly constructed of sillar, a volcanic stone mined locally. The San Lazaro neighborhood in Arequipa has narrow alleys like this one. It’s a maze, but once you figure it out, it’s probably fun. Teachers Alina and Drew live in this neighborhood. So far I’ve always had them to show me which turns to take.
I love this wall detail.
This is San Lazaro plaza. Arthur’s (a restaurant some of us ate at a couple weeks ago) and a bar some of us went to last Friday, are in this area.

The guide then took us up the hill to the Parque Selva Alegre (the Happy Forest Park). According to Wikipedia: “Parque Ecològico Alto Selva Alegre. Located in the eastern part of the city, in Selva Alegre District, next to the Chili River. The park and its surrounding areas occupy an area of 1008 hectares of which 460 hectares covering only the ecological park. A part of the park is located in the buffer zone of the National Reserve of Salinas Aguada Blanca.”

There were also a few animals, mostly monkeys, in small, sad cages. I felt sorry for them. The guide assured us they had been rescued and would be returned to their native habitat. I hope so.

This is Parque Selva Alegre–a park that Amy (another teacher) and I found last Saturday. We were allowed in for a quick look by a kind guard at the time, but it was too dark for photos and we didn’t have time for a good look. I feel lucky this was on the tour. It’s only open weekends and holidays.
There were many pictures worked into the walking path. This one is corn. There were also flowers, trees, two bulls fighting and a snake.
The fighting bulls are a tradition here. Instead of a matador killing a bull in the ring, two bulls fight each other. Neither dies. It seems a much better sport.
I love all the designs on the sidewalk. You can see why I keep saying my feet hurt. Most outdoor walking surfaces are cobblestone. Hope my feet toughen up soon.
We were told Selva Alegre park is only open weekends and holidays. It cost 1.50 soles to enter (about 50 cents in the US). This was a Tuesday, but fortunately it was a holiday, Arequipa Day.
The duck pond has a few boats you can rent.
This is in the center of the duck pond (lagos de patos)

Selva Alegre is almost directly across the river from my rooming house. The park is well up the side of a mountain from the Chili River, which you can’t quite see for the houses. This overlook shows the river valley.
You can see mountains from almost everywhere in the city.
Lookout spots are called Miradors. This mirador of the park overlooks the university below.
Choclo con queso, traditional corn with cheese, is a common snack.
The Lazaro church, just outside the park.

Next we got to see the animals!

Lamas and alpacas! The cutie in the middle, facing the camera is an alpaca. To me, they look like long necked poodles.
Dry. It’s a desert here.
Then guide Johnathan brought us into a room filled with alpaca wool for us to touch.
This is the alpaca wool. The baby alpaca (the first sheering of the baby’s wool) is softer than an adult, though both feel pretty good to me. The softest wool of all comes from the vicuna.
These are the different types of camelids in South America. The Vicuna are wild and a protected species (to the far left). I can now tell a lama from an alpaca!
As a final stop on the walking tour, we were taken to the roof of one of the buildings overlooking the Plaza de Armas.
Plaza de Armas, and a great view!
Misti Volcano, between the two towers of the Arequipa cathedral, Plaza de Armas.
The cathedral of Arequipa on the Plaza de Armas.
Santa Catalina street, from above
Plaza de Armas

We then went down two floors to meet the owner of the restaurant on the building. The restaurant, Sonoccolloy, claims to be the only establishment of its kind, serving Inka cuisine–including alpaca, duck and cuy (guinea pig).

This is the chef, a charming, articulate man who clearly loves his restaurant and cuisine. this voice is very deep and inviting.
He shows us what’s cooking in the wood fired oven.
This is cuy (guinea pig) roasting. One of the guests on the tour was clearly disgusted and couldn’t even look at the roasting meat. The body is laid out flat and a heavy weight is put on top during the roasting process. The weight has been removed for the photo.
This is the bread baking oven
Here’s the dining balcony for the restaurant.
This is billed as the only restaurant in the world that serves Inca cuisine. It’s pricey, so I didn’t go today, but I’m going to try it before I leave.

And now it was time to walk home, almost 2 miles more!

This woman is an artist. Her hats were lovely.
Candied fruit. To the right is figs (higos), but I was never sure what was in the cups. For 2 soles, I bought the cup of orange balls of candied fruit to the right. I asked the vendor what they were, but the word meant nothing to me. She finally told me they were similar to grapes. They were good but anything with that much sugar can’t be all bad tasting.
On the way home, I passed by a group of young dancers, dressed in traditional costumes of the Colca Canyon area. This was a holiday, Arequipa Day, and so there were parades, dances and music.


Eating in Peru

Purple corn is popular here, and often made into a drink. It’s not called Maize (southern US) or Elote (Mexico). Here it is Choclo (also referred to as Peruvian corn or Cuzco corn) is a large-kernel variety of field corn from the Andes.
In Peru, choclo is commonly served as an accompaniment to dishes such as ceviche, and its toasted, salted form, similar to corn nuts, are customarily given free to restaurant patrons upon being seated. Full ears of choclo are also a popular street food in Peru and other Andean countries, typically served with a slice of cheese as choclo con queso.

I’ve officially tried the top two dishes in Peru: ceviche (fish “cooked” in lemon or lime juice. Also spelled cebiche here since the v and b sounds are the same and, hence, interchangeable) and lomo saltado (stir fried beef with french fries). I like them both and I can buy them at the grocery’s prepared foods section. Other delicacies I can buy there include Rocoto Relleno (Stuffed Spicy Peppers), Pollo a la Brasa (Roasted Chicken) and Causa (a type of Potato Casserole). Remember this is the land of potatoes, so they are served with everything (much as when I was growing up!).

I took this photo at the grocery store, but didn’t buy the item. According to Wikipedia, Chuño is a freeze-dried potato product traditionally made by Quechua and Aymara communities of Bolivia and Peru, and is known in various countries of South America, including Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru. It is a five-day process, obtained by exposing a frost-resistant variety of potatoes to the very low night temperatures of the Andean Altiplano, freezing them, and subsequently exposing them to the intense sunlight of the day (this being the traditional process). The word comes from Quechua ch’uñu, meaning ‘frozen potato.’

I don’t really eat out that often. I buy prepared foods at the grocery and rely on fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, tuna and crackers in my room. I’ve got access to an extremely ill-equipped kitchen (for example, we have 2 forks, 2 plates, one glass and about 2 dozen coffee mugs), so I mostly use the fridge for yogurt, take out food, cheese and hard boiled eggs (which I boil in my electric kettle). I only got out to eat about once a week or less. Remember, I’m a poor teacher trying to live within my means! But even a trip to the grocery or a walk down the street in Arequipa can be a cultural experience. These are just a few food related photos I’ve not posted.

This is better known as passion fruit. I didn’t buy this, but bought a similar fruit…..
This is granadilla another type of passion fruit. It is native to southern Brazil through Paraguay to northern Argentina.
Here’s the granadilla after I got them home. The outside “shell” is hard.
…and this is the inside. It was sweet and the seeds are edible, but it’s never going to be one of my favorite fruits. It is cultivated commercially in tropical and subtropical areas for its sweet, seedy fruit. The passion fruit is a pepo, a type of berry, round to oval, either yellow or dark purple at maturity, with a soft to firm, juicy interior filled with numerous seeds. The fruit is both eaten and juiced; passion fruit juice is often added to other fruit juices to enhance aroma.
Aguaymanto: The plant and its fruit are most commonly known as Cape gooseberry, a member of the nightshade family. It’s quite tart. I liked it, but it won’t be one of my all time favorites. The fruit is indigenous to western South America, but has been cultivated in England since the late 18th century.
Physalis peruviana is closely related to the tomatillo and to the Chinese lantern–and all have a distinctive, papery covering on the mature fruit. Aquaymanto it is distantly related to a large number of edible plants, including tomato, eggplant, potato and other members of the nightshades.
Aji is a pepper and the one used here is a spicy yellow pepper. This sauce, cream of pepper, is common here. The fruit is very pungent and hot, 30,000 to 50,000 on the Scoville Heat Unit scale. The variety here is the Ají amarillo, also called amarillo chili and ají escabeche. Originally, I mistook the word “aji” for “ajo” and was quite surprised. Ajo is garlic, not pepper!
Traditional foods here don’t use onions or garlic, though they’ve been widely adopted, especially in the Pervuian/Chinese fusion dishes, known as chifa and so common here. In traditional dishes, peppers and herbs add the flavor.
There isn’t much street food here, but queso helado, a traditional ice cream, is an exception. It’s usually served by attractive young woman in traditional dress, from big buckets like this. Despite the very sunny skies, it’s quite cool in the shade here, rarely getting above 75F, so the ice cream doesn’t melt quickly.
Queso Helado translates as “iced cheese” but it’s really great. It tastes like creme brulee, but frozen. I’m glad they only serve it in tiny cups, so I don’t eat more. It’s topped with cinnamon.
These are some sweets I found at a temporary market, set up in a park at the foot of Puente Grau. On the left are overly sweet lemon candies. I thought the coating was white chocolate, but it didn’t taste like it. The cake is actually called King Kong cake! I couldn’t believe my ears and had the vendors write it down for me. It’s just a layered cake, but filling between the layers are a sticky caramel (called manjarblanco), pineapple (pina) and mani (peanut butter).
According to wikipedia: Manjar blanco, also known as manjar de leche or simply manjar, is a term used to refer to a variety of related delicacies in the Spanish-speaking world, all milk-based. In Spain the term refers to blancmange, a European delicacy found in various parts of the continent as well as the United Kingdom. In the Americas (South America primarily) it refers to a sweet, white spread or pastry filling made with milk. This term is sometimes used interchangeably with dulce de leche or cajeta (as in Mexico) in Latin America. According to Google Translate, Manjar means “delicacy.”

August in Arequipa

I never tire of this site as I cross the Chili River on the Puente Grau. The mountains int he background are the Chachani range.


Still evaluating the school, but I continue to be disappointed in how LATE information comes. Honestly, if you’re going to cancel a class, give me 24 hours’ notice, or pay me. I’ve probably already spent time preparing a lesson plan, so it’s only fair. If you’re going to open a new class, give me time to prepare a lesson plan. 16-18 hours before–just as I’m beginning to teach a 4-6hr block of classes–really isn’t fair. The Saturday 9am classes were announced at 7pm Friday. I worked until  9pm. I’ve been feeling uneasy about the school from the first day, but it seems to me that timely communication shows respect for my time and demonstrates your commitment to having teachers come to class prepared. I’m not seeing that.

Also, we are having intermittent email connectivity here at the boarding house. If the school sends information by email late is doubly bad because I may not get it before the event. The internet at the school isn’t anymore reliable.

I’ve been told the last two days that they will put new bulbs in my light fixtures. Three of four are burned out and the room is DARK. Today, they decided it was easier to make me move my classroom than fix the problem. (I later found out that this is a long term problem. Jeeze folks! Change the bulbs, add additional light or don’t schedule classes in this room at night!)

Maybe all private schools like this. <SIGH>

Ok, Let’s try to focus on the positive……..soon. Very soon.

The temple of Saint Augustine, located in the old town, near the Plaza de Armas.
The temple of Saint Augustine


When you work 6 days a week, you spend your Sundays cleaning, shopping and preparing for the week. It really sucks the joy out of your day. I could have (should have) been more productive after my classes ended at noon Saturday (yesterday), but honestly, my feet HURT! Lots of walking on cobblestones. Six straight hours of classes, standing on tile, and the “rule” is that you can’t sit down. That’ll teach me to gain weight!

I’m really struggling in Spanish class—I understand the written material—on the board and in the handout we got Friday. But I simply suck at listening. The teacher talks fast and uses vocabulary I just don’t know yet. I’ll stick it out for the month, but I’m not sure if this will help or not. Total immersion sounds so good, but it may not work if you’re…<ahem>…“past a certain age.”

I find that I’m just not “getting over” my distrust of the school, particularly manager, Lilian. I’m getting quite testy about being lied to by schools. This is my 6th school, not my first, so I’ve lost my “sense of adventure” and naiveté. I’ve tried to talk with her in her office, but she always acts stressed and busy and seems to just want me out of her office. I’m sure she is busy. It’s a big school and since teachers don’t stay long, she’s constantly recruiting. BUT, my issues are important too. An adult conversation in person is not working. Emails aren’t fairing better, however. She always answers them, which is something, but she never answers fully. She dashes off the least amount of information and is done with the problem.

Classes can start up to 5 days late, but the end date stays the same. I can understand making up 2 days, but 5 seems like too much to try to cover in the reduced time. (And this month we have a holiday, so that adds another day.) Lillian and Emma say I should “make up” the classes–find a time my students will come to class, outside their regular hours, and schedule classes to teach them the materials they missed. Most students aren’t able to come at another time to make up sessions. Heck, I have a hard enough time getting them to show up to regular classes on time! I have little time to do this, as well. And if I hold make up classes and only half the students attend, I’m setting the other half up to fail.

On Saturdays I have a Speaking and Writing class. There’s no text. You have to find topics for them to read, based on what they vote for. Classes take about 1 hour of preparation for each hour in class. There is very little in the share folder to help you prepare. I’m not paid well for my in class time. I’m not paid at all for prep time. Saturday class is six 15yos. It’s really hard to like a 15yo that isn’t yours. These are no exception. I’ll be glad when the class is over. I just hope I don’t lose my mind.

In short, I’m angry with the school. It’s an exercise in futility to continue to try to work with someone you know will lie to you or just dismisses you. So I’m toying with the idea of working the August and September sessions, then taking the first three week in October (before my visa runs out) and touring Peru. Of course, if I leave early, I have to make a plan for after that. Wonder what I’d do? I don’t know yet. But in the meantime, I’m going to try to do a better job of enjoying myself. I’m going to book tours for Sundays and spend less time on lesson planning.

The is the sidewalk along the edge of a park. It is seriously dry here. While it sounds nice to say “300+ sunny days a year” what that means is, this is a dessert. To keep the park green, water is diverted into the channel along the side of the park, flooding the grass. The park workers flood each section about once a week.
Here’s a flooded section of the park. The water won’t stand long. These plants need a drink.


I wasn’t raised with wifi but I sure have come to count on it. The struggles here with internet access seem to be getting worse. I don’t know if it is the internet provider, the ancient router, or if something is happening downstairs to cause this. I only know that until the workers were painting and cleaning downstairs, I didn’t have any trouble. Now, it’s constant. I no longer can access the fourth floor, because Leo and Trista just moved to that floor, so I can’t reset it myself. I have to knock on their door or text them. But that only works if they are home, which they aren’t during the day, as I am. I really don’t want to move to a new flat over this, but I need internet. I depend heavily on it to prepare lesson plans, communicate, keep up with my blog, get directions and plan for travel. Not to mention, entertainment.

Another frustration, as well. I tried booking day tours for my free Sundays last night (when the internet was working). I couldn’t. It took me awhile to figure out what the issue was. They are mostly private tours and they won’t book a single person. Maybe I can find another person to tour with me? Maybe if I go in person to some of the tour agencies in Plaza de Armas, I can find a tour to join?

I’m really relaxing into the idea of just working 2 only months here. I’m a little ashamed of myself for how much I’m enjoying the idea of telling the school I’m leaving. It’s pretty childish of me and this is just a stupid fantasy. I’d never tell them off. This school is no worse than any other I’ve worked at. But that doesn’t mean I have to stay.

One of the parks at the foot of the Puente Grau had a market this week.
Inside the market set up in the park. I bought some sweets, but had a little stomach upset the next day–the price of the adventurer. Notice how the dog just wanders through. There are many wild dogs, but so far, none have been a problem for me.


It’s not even 1pm and my day is looking very successful! All my lesson plans are ready—and I got my planning down to about 2hs for 6 hours of class. That’s probably still too much for the amount I’m paid, but I’m never going to come to class unprepared. Then I headed out of my apartment, first printing my school materials, then off to Plaza de Armas. I found a cash machine. Leo “neglected” to mention the damage deposit to the room, though I asked about it twice. Paying it means I’m low on cash, since I’ve not gotten my first paycheck yet. (Nice guy, but a bad communicator) Next, I found a tour agency and booked two half day tours. One is a Saturday after my classes, a Hop on/Hop off bus tour (for two weeks from now). The other is a Sunday morning horse ride in the dry lands around the city. Should be interesting. And I even have social plans for the weekend! This Friday night, Amy has organized a small group to go get a beer after work. Saturday evening, the owners Chris and Sandy have invited everyone over to their house for a BBQ. I almost feel I have a social life!

This is a huge protest about low wages for teachers. It was supported by groups of doctors and nurses as well. More than a thousand marched and it was loud! Many of the signs said, “We are not terrorists!” There were many police surrounding the event and I moved away, just in case violence broke out.


Emma unexpectedly dropped in on my class today. She gave me a good review of my class and seemed pleased at my teaching. I told her I didn’t think I’d stay at the school for the 6 months I’d originally planned. Her first response was that I “should take that up with Lilian.” I found this both disappointing and reassuring.  There are only two senior staff members. She’s one of them. Getting “blown off” is a major frustration here.

I’m done.

SO: I’ve made up my mind to teaching only two months at ELC, instead of 6. I was always uncomfortable about working on a tourist visa and it’s clear that you won’t get a work visa here. The school said it has an “agreement” with the local police department about foreign English speaking teachers working on a tourist visa. Maybe that’s true. Maybe it isn’t. But up to this point I still don’t have a contract and I’ve worked over a week. In fact, I’ve not even seen a copy of it so I could read it over. (Eventually I did get to see a contract. They don’t even call us teachers, but “interns.” We are NOT working, according to the contract. We are learning. No. Just NO.) And tourist visas are precarious for another reason. I’ve only got a 90 visa to stay in Peru. In order to stay, I have to make a 6-hour bus ride to Chile, probably overnight, cross the border. Stand in line. Hope that the border agent will give me enough time on a visa to complete my time here. And then I have to wait for another bus and travel 6 more hours back to Arequipa. It sounds exhausting, not to mention the monetary cost, or the fact that I can’t get the school to tell me the session schedule so that I can schedule it between sessions!

It’s only worth this kind of trouble for a school that’s lived up to their promises and gives me reasonable assistance and information in a timely manner. This one hasn’t. If you’re interested, here are the reasons. If not, just skip ahead. It’s all negative stuff.

  • The school didn’t pick me up at the airport as promised. Didn’t get an apology, either. When I asked, the response from Lilian was, “I’m really busy and I don’t feel well.” Let’s diplomatically say that this did not make me feel welcome.
  • During my Skype interview, I asked if she would help me if I needed assistance. I asked, for example, if they’d help if I had trouble getting a SIM card. Lilian said that, yes, she would come with me or send someone with me if this occurred. It did. I asked. She didn’t.
  • During my interview, Lilian said that there was little lesson planning time because they have “complete” lesson plans. While there are good outlines, they aren’t complete. The outlines tell you what pages to cover and suggest textbook exercises for the central topic part of the class—roughly 25 minutes of a two hour class. The rest is activities and those aren’t planned. In most cases there isn’t even a suggestion of what to do. There are some activities on the Google Share Drive that you can dig through, but not nearly enough. You’ll have to search, invent and borrow. That takes time. I have a lot of existing activities and I am still spending an hour preparing for each 2-hour class. And that’s all unpaid, BTW.
  • I made two small requests of Lilian that I felt were easy ones. She didn’t follow through. First, since our schedule was coming much later than we’d been promised, I asked Lilian if she could tell me the current classes she had for me on the schedule for (understanding that these could change). She said yes and that those classes were unlikely to change. The schedule was open in her computer and she could have read it to me, but said she’d email it. I felt that she just wanted me out of her office. I left. She didn’t email the information. Second, I emailed a request for the upcoming class session dates for the next few months, so that I could plan events between sessions. I used as an example that I’d need to do a border run before my visa expired around October 24th. She only sent the October session dates, not even the date I’d have to be back to begin the November session. If you want me to work for you, tell me WHEN.
  • We were only given our teaching materials at 5pm the day before classes started. First classes are at 7am. It’s hard to believe the school cares about lesson planning if they won’t give you the tools in a timely manner.
  • Schedules and schedule changes come LATE. The “open” schedule was emailed less than 11 hours classes started on Wednesday! We’d gotten a tentative schedule the Sunday evening before. But the night before the session started, I found out that of the 33 hours I “thought” I was working, only 20 hours of classes had enough students to hold the class. Eventually, they did open up, but, again, with little notice. For example, my 9am Saturday class opened up at 7pm Friday, the night before. And since I was teaching until 9pm and the school’s internet wasn’t working, I didn’t know until I got home at 9:30p. The wifi at my boarding house has been intermittent, too, so it’s possible I could have missed the notice altogether.
  • I complained that there isn’t enough light in my classroom. Three of four bulbs are burned out. Instead of replacing the lightbulbs, I have to move my classroom. Today, I find out it’s been this way for months.
  • I’ve been here two weeks. I arrived a week before classes, so I could settle in (after paying for the flight myself and spending 27 hours in transit). I rented a flat and paid a damage deposit. I also attended a teacher’s meeting and new teacher orientation (both without pay). In short, I’ve invested a lot of time/money/energy into this job. Now I’ve been working over a week and still don’t have a contract. I haven’t even seen a copy, though I asked for one before I came.
  • In orientation, we were warned, strongly, to check-in using the finger print system or we wouldn’t be paid. However, the system wasn’t shown to us. Turns out it doesn’t work. We were also told there was a “break schedule.” There isn’t. I seriously wonder if I’ll be paid the actual hours I worked.
  • Another mitigating circumstances: I’ll have to move from this boarding house before the rainy season since my room clearly floods during heavy downpour. I can see that the bottom of the drywall has been wet and all the trim removed. The owner confirmed my suspicions. Yet, nothing has been done to change it.
This is the craft beer bar we had a drink at. The staff spoke some English and the owner is from Portland. Nice place. A tad pricey on a teacher’s salary, but charming.
There’s very little street food here, which I really miss. There are these small, portable stalls that have candy, magazines and snacks. Everything is sold by the piece, so you can buy one stick of gum, for example.


Amy invited a few of us out for a beer last night and I’m glad I went. There’s a good group of teachers here and we went to a craft brew spot with local beers. I had a really great time, though I was pretty short on sleep this morning for my class. Turns out she could sleep in. She told the school she didn’t want to work Saturdays. I seriously should have tried that! Saturday is my least favorite class: a room of six 15-year-olds. I spend half of the class time policing them. They like to kick, punch, call each other names, speak in Spanish and use their phones instead of listen. I will not miss these kids.

As I write this, there’s a karaoke singer whose voice is wafting over the valley. I can barely hear the music, but I can certainly hear him. He should not give up his day job. There is not enough beer to make him sound good!

Later: I’m just back from a cookout at the owner’s home. It was a nice event, though I didn’t stay long. Great burgers and guacamole! It was hard finding the place and I had to use my Spanish skills on the street to ask directions. (Again, would it be so difficult for the school to give some information, like WHERE the place was?) I’m lucky than Juanita and her boyfriend saw me from their taxi and rescued me.

Amy and I decided to check out the nearby park, Selva Alegre, the happy forest. It’s a large park, but was closing when we arrived around 5pm. The nice guard at the gate told us we could run in for a few minutes while he waited for the other visitor to leave. There’s a large duck pond where you can rent boats, a children’s play areas, lots of flowers and the sidewalk is quite decorative. It was too dark to take photos by then and we just had a few minutes to explore.

Walking back, we took a new route. We found a place that rents bicycles and organizes tours. I’m quite envious of Amy’s superior Spanish skills as she asked questions! We also found some much more reasonably priced stores for buying Peruvian gifts. The stores I’ve seen near Plaza de Armas are too expensive. I got a bag for my upcoming tour of Peru, and I’ve got my eye on a scarf. We ran into another teacher who just happened to be standing outside the hostel she lives and works at. She showed us around. It looks like a good place to book adventure tours and the bar had reasonably priced drinks, too. We also found the Plaza San Francisco, so far, my favorite plaza. (That was the name of my favorite plaza in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, too) I finally left Amy in the downtown area and walked home, even though it was only 8pm by the time I got back to my room. My feet were done for the day! Amy got to sleep late this morning and rest. I got up early (short a couple hours of sleep), taught a 3-hour class, did some grocery shopping, washed clothes (by hand, we have no washer), then walked to the cookout. I think it’s all the standing on tile floors and walking on cobblestones.

(Another day while I walked through the plaza, I was looking at some lovely jewelry. The owner tried to offer me a piece. I said that it was beautiful, but I didn’t need anything (“Es muy hermosa, pero no necesito nada, gracias.”). He then offered me an older gentleman. Do you need a man? (“Necesitas un hombre?”) I faked a swoon and smiled.

Humita is a Native American dish from pre-Hispanic times, and a traditional food in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru, although their origin is unclear. It consists of masa harina and corn, slowly steamed or boiled in a pot of water. They look like tamales, but the corn husks are removed when they are sold to you.
Watercolor artists at the Plaza de Armas. Beautiful, but another reason it’s almost impossible to use the sidewalk.
A vegetable market off Avenida Ejercito.
more of he vegetable market. I bought nothing, though the produce looked really good. They sold in bulk and the smallest quality was a kilo.