A free month in Peru!

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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.
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Beth

I'm a professional vagabond. I quit my cubical job in January 2014. Since then, I've hiked the Appalachian Trail, The Camino, and taught English in Vietnam, Turkey, Russia, Spain, Mexico and Peru. I'm exploring the world and you can come too!

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