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.

8/4/2017

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

8/5/2017

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.

8/6/2017

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.

8/7/2017

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.

8/10/2017

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.

8/12/2015

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.

I’ve made it to Arequipa!

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.

Planning ahead

My stay in Mexico is almost up. My job ends in about a week. After that, I’ve got a week in Mexico City where I’ve planned some day trips. Then to the US to take care of some business and visit friends in Atlanta. (For my ATL friends: It’s my first trip back in 3 years! I’m going to post a restaurant where we can meet up, probably Saturday, July 22nd, from 6-8p, somewhere in downtown Decatur. SAVE THE DATE!)

I start my new job in Peru on August 1, but will arrive a week earlier to get settled in. I’m ready for the next adventure!

Peru is only 6 months, though, at most. Visas are limited and it’s tough to make plans until I’m positive of the length of the stay. But I can dream now! I’m making a list. If I’m lucky I can do many of the things I want to do.
The following list probably seems aggressive to most people, but I’m still in good health and have a lot I want to see. Also, I’m not getting any younger and hiking is only for those with good knees (So far; so good!). I’m lucky mine have lasted so long. And, let’s face it, life is short. Here are things I’m considering over the next two years:
  • Taking a tour of Peru in January 2018, before I leave the country. I’ve found one that will let me see Machu Picchu and the Amazon, but still get me out of the country before my visa expires. I have a few short breaks in my teaching schedule while in Peru and should be able to do some touring, but nothing this extensive. One of my mistakes in Mexico was not taking a full country tour before my visa runs out. In the future, I’ll try to get a full country tour before I start a new job. It will give me a better orientation to the country and besides, it’s a shame to live in a country for a year and see so little of it because you work 6 days a week!
  • The Annapurna trail in Nepal. It would be best for me to do this in February 2018, just as I’m returning from Peru, since I’ll be more accustomed to high altitudes. Altitude sickness and hiking is a poor match and I’m very susceptible to it’s affects. I’ve had an interesting email exchange with a trekking company and I feel really good about this possibility.
  • Taking a teaching job in Ecuador. (This is likely i​f​ the next adventure doesn’t work out) They like new teachers to start in January or May of most year​s (Remember they are in the opposite cycle of seasons to the USA), but most seem to only allow 6 month assignment​s. It’s an interesting country and I can probably continue my Spanish learning and see the Galapagos Islands.
  • I’ve applied to The Peace Corps to work in Madagascar. My odds are probably low, but my application has been accepted. If it works out, I’d go in June​ ​2018 for 27 months. ​This is a long shot, but who knows!​ I find my life is more exciting if I have a few odd possibilities in my future. And some of them even happen! If successful, obviously, my life is planned out for quite some time (at least by my standards!). Not getting my hopes up. The worst part is that I probably won’t know until December 1 if I’m accepted as a potential candidate, and will still have to pass various physical exams, learn the language and more.

Author’s note 6/29/2017: I applied to The Peace Corps 3 months ago, but today got a note saying that the starting date for the position I applied for (they only let you apply for 1 at a time) has been pushed back. It is now listed as “indefinite.” My application is being withdrawn. If I want to try again, I have to reapply from scratch. Again. This is the 2nd time a program has been blocked like this. Additionally, 2 programs (in 2 completely different countries) were announced in a press release last year. I was very interested both. These should have posted in January, but they haven’t. When I inquired I was told that these also had indefinite start dates. I assume this means the programs are on hold or have fallen through.

The current administration isn’t too crazy about helping its own citizens (the health care program, cuts to various social programs etc.). Perhaps The Peace Corps anticipates budget cuts and/or a reduction to the countries it will support? All I know is that an organization that makes promises and doesn’t follow through isn’t a good place to risk a couple years of your life on. I hope it will gain stability again, but this just doesn’t look like a good time to enter The Peace Corps. I tried not to get my hopes up, but am sad and disappointed by today’s email. 

  • An African safari (photos only, of course). I’m very interested in Kenya. A couple of my favorite books are West With the Night by Beryl Markham and Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen). Both are based in the former British East Africa.
  • The Mountain to Sea trail in North Carolina.
  • The Coast to Coast trail in the UK. I’ve practically memorized Pride and Prejudice and they talk about the wonders of The Lake District. This trail goes through it. I could see the United Kingdom in a way few people do.
  • ​One of the nicest teachers here has a (remote) possibility of a short term teaching job in China (maximum 3 months), living in an apartment one of her family members owns. ​In a perfect world, we’d get lessons in Mandarin as part of the rent. If she decides to go, I might be able to get a job there, too. It’s another long shot and we really just discussed it in passing. Still, sounds exciting. I’ve avoided teaching in China because they have a reputation for violating their contracts, offering substandard housing, and because of the limited internet (a.k.a The Great Fire-Wall of China). If I had secure lodging, a short time span, assistance with the language and a friend, it could be a great adventure.

OK, so it’s a lot. But what is life without our dreams!

Still in Mexico!

This is from my new neighborhood, Insurgentes. One of the things I truly love about Mexico, is how colorful things are.

…but not for long. Monday, I’ll start my final 4-week session with English Unlimited in San Luis Potosi. I’ll finish the first week of July and then will move on to my next adventure. More about that soon. Hard to imagine that I’ve been here almost a year! Every new country feels like a separate lifetime–full of new adventures and surprises.

…Even the graffiti is attractive.

I’ve lost motivation to work on this blog for a while. I hadn’t intentionally taken a break, but my mother’s death has hit me hard and I’ve needed extra time to contemplate. I’ve also had a series of small illnesses, which might be related to my mental state. Still, I want to post a few more times before I leave this area.

The houses are always a riot of color, even old ones that need some attention.

Flowers too. Here, poinsettias grow taller than a man and burst into flame red for a few months of the year.
You see a lot of religious iconography.
Not many orange buildings in the US, but you can easily find them in Mexico.
A jacaranda, crepe myrtle with a bougainvillea vine.
This is not the finished version. I’ll show that soon.
A white bougainvillea, with petals so thick they look like flowers.

And the street reconstruction continues. I’d hoped they finish with the main street of Carranza before I left, but it’s as messy as ever. Still, they need the plumbing fixed. Drainage is a major issue during heavy spring and fall storms.