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.

La Mansión del Fundador

Exterior of the mansion

This mansion was once owned by Arequipa’s founder Garcí Manuel de Carbajal, hence the name. It has been restored with original furnishings and paintings, and even has its own chapel. The mansion is in the village of Huasacache, 9km from Arequipa’s city center. It is accessible by taxi, but I visited as part of a bus tour of the outskirts of Arequipa.

Inner courtyard.

Built on the border of the Socabaya river, this residence has belonged to several proprietors through history. Originally the property of the founder of Arequipa, it belonged in the 16th century to the congregation of the Jesuits who built many enclosures, terraces and chapels. In 1785 it was acquired by Don Juan Crisóstomo de Goyoneche y Aguerreverre, who converted it into the residence it is today. The building has a main entrance with a dramatic vestibule with vaulted ceiling. There is also a Mirador (a look out place) with panoramic views in the back (obscured somewhat by trees) and beautiful, intimate chapel.

This bedroom was, surprisingly, just off the inner courtyard.
bedroom
The rooms are furnished with many paintings, mostly of a religious nature.
Entry

bar
outdoor dining area, probably used mostly by servants. Notice the ceiling.
Master dining area.
Sitting room, and my favorite in the house.
Sitting room from the opposite end of the room. Notice the armor.

Inside the chapel.
Chapel
Chapel door
The kitchen. I wouldn’t want to cook here!
a grinding stone, used to mix.
This is a type of water filter. The house would have had several of them, made from a porous volcanic rock. Water would slowly drip through.

Leaving the house
Exterior
View of the countryside from the front of the house.

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.
Lama
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.”