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.
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.”
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.
Next we got to see the animals!
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).
And now it was time to walk home, almost 2 miles more!
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Three years ago this week, I made it to Mount Katahdin….sort of. I’d planned to walk all the way there from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Maine along the Appalachian Trail. I only made it 1,405 miles to a road crossing (and convenience store with decent pizza) in New York. My feet had been in pain for more than a month. Every step hurt. I couldn’t make my daily mileage and I certainly had stopped having any fun. Sitting there, eating my pizza, I knew I had to get off the trail. A friend who lived in the area took me to her house and got me to a doctor. Prognosis: The bones in my feet were breaking down. My hike was over, unless I wanted to suffer permanent damage.
I cried like a little girl for a whole day. Then I began making a new plan.
As part of that plan, for a month, I worked at a Maine hostel at the nearest city to the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. I did it mostly to stay near the trail for a little bit longer. While I didn’t hike Mount Katahdin, I did get to see it as I shuttled hikers to and from the trail.
I’m at peace with my hike and (surprisingly) have no desire to finish the last 800 miles. I may never climb this mountain and that’s OK. Plans have to change sometimes.
And now, it seems, my plans are changing again. I’d hoped to stay in Peru for 6 months. The vagaries of visas and less-than-professional English schools have helped me move along a bit faster. Don’t worry, I won’t leave Peru without seeing a bit more of it.
And I have an interesting hike that’s developing for the near future. Stay tuned!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.