Climb (almost) every mountain

The “holy” mountain, Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail in Maine.

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!

My first few days in Arequipa, including my first classes

It’s a Catholic country, so you expect to see religious statues and murals. This one is outside a religious school.


So far, so good. The school’s teacher meeting yesterday was informative–and I find it pretty great that they actually HAVE meetings and try to do a small amount of training for teachers. It bodes well! It’s a 10-15 minute walk from my house and the second location is 15-20minutes. As per usual, the teachers are all 20-somethings, so they probably won’t want to hang out with me, but maybe I’ll luck out. There are a lot of teachers–maybe 2 dozen or more! This is clearly a bigger school than I’ve worked at since Turkey.

Have not found a gym, but with all the hills, and the 9 flights of stairs (I’m on the 5th floor!) I’ll have to climb a few times a day, I may not need one. I may just have to figure out something for core strength and upper arms. Of course, the hard part is making myself DO them.

Just got back from 4 hours of walking in the city. (I’ve already posted these photos) I’m learning my way around, finding the things I need.

The boarding house is just functional–the biggest draw is the private bath. I have plenty of closet/drawer space, but not a single side table. I’ve already thrown a scarf over my suitcase (which I still have to replace) to serve as a bedside table and will probably find a sturdy cardboard box for another. I think the place will be OK, mostly because I have low standards and think that forcing myself to climb stairs a few times a day will be good for me. (Not fun, but good for my health) One drawback: By August 1, I’ll be the only teacher living here. Others have come but moved on. I hope I won’t have to do the same for such a short time–and it would have been nice to hook up with some other teachers for friends. To mitigate the situation, I paid a month’s rent, but haven’t paid a damage deposit because 1) The owner didn’t tell me there was one, even though I asked twice. 2) The kitchen isn’t as he’d promised. I’d been told that the “new” kitchen (on my floor) would be done before I arrived. It’s not even been started–not that I’m surprised. And it won’t be new, either. August 1, Leo says the stove and fridge on the fourth level will be moved to my level. There’s just a sink on the 5th so far. He promises it will all be functional by August 8th. But a week with no kitchen? And that is of course assuming it will only be a week–things don’t happen on schedule here. This doesn’t sound positive. I asked if at least the fridge could be working. He said he “thought so.”  I won’t cook much anyway because it’s clear that others have lower cleanliness standards than I I do. When I cook, I usually heating up prepared food, boiling eggs or making a stir-fry. The kitchen here is very basic–only one burner on the stove works, an oven that won’t reach high temperatures, no microwave and the barest of essentials in terms of mis-matched flatware, pots and pans, dishes, cups and glasses. Perhaps some of the other residents have items in their room, but there really isn’t much to speak of if you want to cook. But there’s a small coffee pot (with the same coffee in it since I arrived), an ancient electric kettle and a wine opener. I guess that’s something.

The view of Misti, from the highest point in the city of Arequipa.

I grocery shopped yesterday. But today I found some home basics to help me get organized. I bought my own coffee mug today–for traveling to school and back. I also found an inexpensive and lightweight “hot pot” type water heater. I think it will do for instant coffee and tea in my room. Also, clothespins. I mostly keep fresh fruit, nuts, tuna, wine, whole grain breads/crackers in my room, but I do need a fridge for cheese, hard boiled eggs, veggies and meat. There are far fewer restaurants near my house than I had in Mexico and NO street food at all. Surprising!

I’ve taken a shower after my long walkabout. I’m now resting, since I’m having my “I’ve over-done it” diarrhea. It’s inevitable in every trip. Nothing serious. But I’m probably down for the day. Or not. We will see.

People are always saying I’m so tough. Well, don’t be so sure! Today, in the shower, I noticed a half dozen bruises on my legs and arms, the result of traveling. I was very sore in all my joints for the first two days. I still feel a little beat up, in fact. I think it’s official–I’m too old for very low cost travel! Besides, I ended up having to pay extra for my checked luggage, not once but THREE times, since they considered all my flights “separate.” So I really didn’t save as much money as I’d hoped. And they weren’t nice at all. You couldn’t even get a glass of water without paying. The planes were 6 seats across and there were only 2 bathrooms. I’m surprised we didn’t have to pay to go! Never again! MY ADVICE: NEVER FLY SPIRIT. NEVER.

The Yuanahuara church, which I ended up seeing again the next day on my day tour. Then it wasn’t open….
….but this day there was a wedding! It’s a bad photo, but a lovely church. Iglesia de San Juan Bautista de Yanahuara.

The weather is amazing–highs rarely get over 72F and lows rarely drop below 40F. We are coming into Spring, too.  But dry. Current relative humidity is 19%.

The Spanish here doesn’t sound the same at all, but some fellow teachers told me not to worry about “vosotros.” While they do use “usted” that’s about as formal as they get. (In Mexico, everyone said “tu.”) If you go to Spain, though, you’ll have to learn it.”


From the looks of the 4th floor this morning, the roomies—Santi and Juanita–moved out overnight. I had seen them packing and knew they were leaving, but they still had a couple days before they had to be gone. Maybe that will stop the jam sessions? Santi is part of a band and they used the 4th floor (just below me) as a practice area. Good music; too loud. The good news is that they actually cleaned (some) before they left! Even did the dishes, though based on what I saw, they need more soap and more hot water. It has made it possible to do a rough count of the kitchen items. Only 2 forks, 2 plates and 1 glass. Lots of mugs, though. Just one burner works on the stove, there’s no microwave and the oven won’t get to high heat. Not going to do any fancy cooking here! I have been snooping around the empty bedrooms and baths. I notice one room is piled high with stuff—including kitchenware like plates, pots, pans and flatware. Once the kitchen is moved up to my floor, I may see if I can confiscate some of those items and move them to the kitchen.

There may only be one other tenant here, except for Leo (owner) and Trista (his US girlfriend). But I’m not really sure since I’ve yet to see another person. The place needs a lot of work if they want more tenants—like the shared bath on my floor has no shower. (There were workers here for the next 4 days–very messy, but they got both public baths mostly working and set up three rooms). I become more grateful for my private bath each day! And they need a housekeeper to clean the public areas at least once a week. Now, they depend on the tenants, which is a very bad plan–and since there’s no broom or mop or cleaning rags–impossible. This isn’t a long term stay, so I’ll probably make it work. At least it’s safe and I can keep my area clean. Still, all the other teachers have moved out–most to a place called “Soul House.” It was listed as one of the places I could board, but they didn’t respond to my request for weeks–until I’d already made arrangements to live here.

This is the Plaza de Yanahuara, just up the mountain from my boarding house. You can see the arches of the mirador (look out point). I love the palm trees, though they are not native.
The plaza is also lined with cactus, taller than my head.

Being on the fifth floor is daunting–9 flights of steps!!!–but I’ve decided to trade that for a gym membership. I’ll be doing a LOT of hill walking here just to get around. I’ll figure out some upper body exercise I can do in the room and save the $$$ from a gym membership. There are two branches at this school. One is 3/4 of a mile away and the other a mile. The “good” grocery is a mile and a half. Downtown is 2 miles.

Today, I have a city tour starting at 2pm, starting in the town square. I should learn a lot. Yesterday I walked to the highest point of the city–I’m getting in a long walk each day before school starts–at least 2 hours. One day was over 4. And it’s not so much hills as mountains! Today, I’m likely to get in a lot of miles on the tour. Plus it’s almost 2 miles just to the meeting point. There are lots of taxis and they are probably cheap, but I need the exercise. Feeling stronger each day–I was quite beat up from the trip here.

So, I’m beginning to think I’m a bad tourist for most countries. I went to Japan, 4 days later a huge earthquake/tsunami. Egypt visit, within 2 months the Arab Spring starts. I was in Russia, now the diplomats need to leave. Turkey, Erdogan pretty much takes over as dictator. Wonder what will happen to Mexico? A wall, maybe?


I took a city tour yesterday. The guide was young and inexperienced. She clearly wasn’t as prepared as she should have been so two of the churches was closed (I had already seen both, but she didn’t know that) and the Monastery was jam packed. She didn’t have money to get in and didn’t know how to bypass the line. It took 4-5 phone calls to her boss. Sweet kid, though. She’ll learn, but she needs to work on her English. It turned out to be a private tour, just for me. That was special. So many cobblestone streets—my feet kept me awake early in the night.

Tomorrow is orientation at the school. So far, the school seems fair, better than the others, but that’s a pretty low bar. On the plus side, they do a training/information meeting monthly and teachers have an orientation. They also have lesson plans for each day already made up. (it turned out to be a “scaffold plan–so maybe half the lesson plan is done for you.) On the negative side, they didn’t pick me up at the airport and we just got the schedule very late last night for classes that begin in a day and a half. I have all evening classes—6 straight hours—at the main branch. That’s three, 2-hour classes from 4-9p. Also, Spanish class on M-W-F at 3pm. And kids’ classes on Saturday, 2.5 hours. It’s an enviable schedule—not a split shift, enough hours to cover my expenses and maybe enough to save a bit. And I have mornings off.

I have dinner plans with three other new teachers. We are trying Chicha, a restaurant suggested to me yesterday by my tour guide. (We ended up going to Arthur’s instead) Should be a good chance to try some new food.

The drink is a pisco sour–THE Peruvian drink. The meal is ceviche (fish “cooked” with lime juice) with onions and sweet potato and roasted corn.
A poplular drink, Chicha morada is a sweet Peruvian beverage made from purple corn, a variant of Zea mays native to the Mesoamerica, and spices. Non-alcoholic, it is a type of chicha usually made by boiling the corn with pineapple, cinnamon, clove and sugar. Que delicioso!
A bad photo, but this is practically the national dish of Peru, lomo saltado. It’s a stir fry, influenced by Chinese cuisine, that typically combines marinated strips of sirloin with onions, tomatoes, french fries, and other ingredients.

Two young men just moved in: Jamal (who I met at the teacher’s meeting) and Jim (who was probably there, too, but I don’t remember). Both have been living at the “TEFL House” which is just a few minutes from here, I guess. They’ve just completed their TEFL course. But things here are not really organized for them. The kitchen hasn’t been moved from the 4th to the 5th (that starts tomorrow) and—worst of all—their shared bathroom doesn’t appear to be functional. No shower. I just hope the sink and toilet works. They can use the one on 4th, but it is completely filthy. I can’t believe anyone took a shower there before. Not me! And Leo doesn’t even have keys for them. They had to borrow mine for the 4th floor.

Just invited Jim and Jamal to the dinner tonight. Jim (who mentioned he was traveling the world “one drug at a time”) said he has plans with his church tonight. Jamal (who mentioned he was more of a “weed guy”) may come, but wanted to make sure he was done by 9:30. Other plans? Early to bed? In the end, he chose marijuana. He was smoking heavily and I was glad when he said he was “too high” to come to dinner. I don’t need to babysit.

I always try local foods, but for the UN-adventurous, start with the sweets, like these. It’s a “cone” of pastry filled with sweet caramel. According to Google (so you know it’s true!) the word “manjar” translates as “delicacy.”
And this is what they look like close up.


It’s one of those good news/bad news sort of days.

Good news:

  • Had a great dinner with new teachers last night. We went to the restaurant, Arthur’s, where they also teach cooking classes. I may take a few! The food and the company was great, though I stayed out later than I should have. Attending: Alina (birthday girl), Drew, Amy and Rebecca.
  • I really like the location of Alina and Drew’s boarding house—on the other side of the bridge from the school, but close. And they are near Plaza de Armas, but not right in the middle of it. They have much better restaurant choices, too. Though the location isn’t ideal, I like my room and private bath better than theirs.
  • Orientation at 9am went well. It was almost three hours, a bit long, but very full of information. The school is pretty organized. I was promised existing lesson plans, but that’s not the truth. They do have lesson plan templates, which is a good start—telling you what pages you need to cover and recommending exercises in the book. I’ll need to add a lot of activities. I’ve checked the share drive and don’t see nearly enough there, so it’s good that I have done this before.
  • Showed Amy the rooms here at my boarding house. She is in a hostel at the moment, and that’s not a great long-term living situation. She is concerned about the price, 500/soles for a room with a shared bath, but she’s looking at her options. (She found a room somewhere else with no kitchen, but a private bath)
  • The kitchen mostly got moved today. The gas stove appears to have four working burners (only one worked before). The fridge is a bit small for three (soon to be four) people to share. And it’s only three sides and a roof, so dust will be a huge issue.
  • I managed to get a SIM card for my phone and now have a working Peruvian number. Big Progress! (Note to self: it is called a “chip” in Peru. Pronounced CHEEP) I had to go to four separate places, stand in line a lot, but finally got it.

Bad News: 

  • Someone stole my empanadas out of the fridge today. I suspect one of my two, new roommates. This does not bode well.
  • Jamal, one of the new roommates, is a heavy pot smoker and I hate the smell of it. (As an aside, in orientation, he showed up 20 minutes late and he was almost completely unable to read two English sentences, out loud. I wonder what kind of teacher he will make? Or maybe I don’t wonder.)
  • The new kitchen is already dirty, filthy actually. Looks like I can only cook if I’m willing to clean up first. It’s clear that Jamal left the mess. I suddenly don’t feel sorry that the shower is still not fixed, nor that it’s only cold water.
  • At 5pm I walked back to the school and got my teaching materials. That’s less than 24 hours before my first class, which indicates they expect little class planning. I spent the next 3 hours working on the first three days of lesson plans for my 4pm class. Shortly after 8pm we were sent the “open” class list—which indicates that the schedule I was given Sunday night was tentative. QUITE tentative. My 4pm class doesn’t have enough students, so it won’t start tomorrow. In fact, it may not happen at all. Basically, the work I did was a waste of my time. And I still have two, 2-hour classes to prepare for tomorrow.
  • It appears I don’t have the book for the Saturday kids class. (It turned out there is no book. Oh joy.) Of course, at this moment, that class ALSO doesn’t have enough students, so it could be a moot point.
  • If neither of these classes make, I go from 33 teaching hours a week (a tad more than I want) to 20 (less than I need to pay rent/food). I guess we will see how this goes. It’s a good thing I have money back home.
  • After reviewing the entry visa on my passport today with the staff at school (I just couldn’t figure out how to read it without assistance) it turns out that I was only given 90 days in Peru. When asked how long I wanted to be in Peru by the woman at custom, I said that I wanted to stay 6 mouths, she smiled and said “OK” and stamped and scribbled in my passport. I thought “OK” meant I had that time. Probably she gives everyone 90 days. But, I’d planned to stay here 6 months. That means a border run–which is expensive. It’s suggested that I take an overnight bus to Chile. Clearly, I need more details and will have to work out a time to take care of this. Life is messy. And, frankly, I’ll have to see if it’s worth it to me to stay longer.
Plaza de Armas, the central fountain.
Surrounded by the Cathedral and various portals, the Plaza de Armas has a beautiful bronze fountain of three plates crowned with the figure of a soldier of the sixteenth century. The figure is locally called the “Tuturutu“, and considered a symbol of the city.


I survived the first day of classes. As usual, the entire day was all about preparing for and delivering classes. Didn’t really do much else. But I had to make my lesson plans for four hours of class, figure out how to use the copier, printer and CD player. Even finding my classroom took time—it’s in another building! But I think it was pretty successful and I believe I’m building a good rapport with my new students. At least, I’m off to a good start. My thoughts:

  • The existing lesson plans are really “scaffolds.” They do an excellent job of portioning out the pages per day and suggesting exercises to do. But half the class is exercises and you have to figure those out. I found I couldn’t deliver the “lesson” portion in the 20 minutes, so prepared too much material. I love the overall layout for class pacing: prepare board, warm up, presentation, practice…… I’ve followed it instinctively without their plan. BUT, yesterday I couldn’t cover each part in the time period. Yes, it would help if students showed up on time (or, heaven forbid, EARLY). Probably it will be better on subsequent days? However, it’s always better to be over-prepared than under. And I may use some of yesterday’s skipped material in today’s class to make planning easier.
  • I had both of my 2-hour classes last night. My first group is mostly young, 20yo or less, taking the Progressive 3 level. They are very verbal, strong speakers. The second group is an Advanced 3 group—very nearly completing the 21-month course. They are generally older, less verbal in English and some seem to be placed above their abilities.
  • All the students are polite. Most were paying attention–only one person with his head in his cell phone. I called on him a LOT. LOL! They seemed surprised that I would occasionally hand out candy—most notably for correcting ME when I’m wrong. Honest, I want to encourage questioning dialogue when something doesn’t make sense. I’m not perfect, particularly with spelling! Good questions means they understand.
  • While this is the most organized school I’ve taught at yet, I’m still evaluating it. I know I hold a grudge, but they didn’t pick me up at the airport as promised, and didn’t even apologize for it. I’ve talked with two others who were picked up, but only after waiting 2 hours and calling the school. I was also promised help with getting a SIM card for my phone. No dice. I asked a very small request–send me my current schedule, even if it will change. I was promised it. I didn’t get it. Obviously, these are situations that I can, and DID, manage myself, but, to me, it’s an indication that I can’t count on their promises–and so far it’s entirely the promises of the manager. It doesn’t help that my schedule dropped from 33 to 20 hours per week 11 hours before classes started at 7am. I may not be able to cover my daily living expenses on this—and there’s no possibility of covering my travel expenses and insurance. I’ll be dipping into savings again.
  • As it stands, I only have a 90-day visa. To stay, I must do a border run (leave the country and come back) to renew, probably for another 90 days. Most teachers are in the same situation. If I don’t have enough hours, or I can’t trust the manager’s word, it’s not worth the cost of this.
  • I’ve emailed my concerns—in a polite, adult manner—to Lilian, the manager. She basically replied with two things: 1). “Kids classes (3 hrs a week) ALWAYS make.” She just doesn’t post them until the day before. This strikes me, at worst, as dishonest or, a least, a total lack of concern for class prep. 2). “Don’t worry, it will all work out.” She mentioned private classes (which I have found unreliable and mostly a waste of my time). She also said that “when” a class starts late, you can “make up” the class with the students. This seems HIGHLY unlikely to me. Basically, I only have 1-3pm on Tues and Thursday available to make up my 3pm class. Good luck with that, IF the students can come.

In short, I’m pleasantly surprised with the students and materials. I’m still evaluating the school. It may all work out. Based on my history of working with schools, however, it may also crash and burn. I’m considering this another lesson in trusting in my ability to work things out, another opportunity to live in uncertainty and relax into it. I hate this much uncertainty, but this is life. You may think it’s only because I travel so much, but no one can trust completely in their future. Control is an illusion. You do the best you can and what happens is what happens. But mostly, I hate that I have not been able to trust the word of those I work with, but this is also the reality. It’s always better to face reality. And it looks like this is another school that lies to teachers.

I also survived my first day of Spanish class. It’s one hour, three days a week. There’s only three students and the teacher completely speaks in Spanish. Completely! Fortunately for me, she wrote much of the material on the board (not the explanation), and was covering things I mostly already knew. Listening comprehension is my worst skill, so I hope I can keep up. I understood the gist of what she was saying, but had to ask her to slow down and repeat several times. Unfortunately, Spanish just can’t be spoken slowly. AND she speaks in a Peruvian accent, not the Mexican accent I’ve been hearing for the last year. I may have only understood 60% of the words she used. Maybe. It’s just going to be tough, but there is no other way to learn, I fear. I have sufficient vocabulary, but I can barely use it or hear it. I hope soon that I will. Amy didn’t show for class yesterday, but Jayson (who turns out to be married to Lilian, the school manager) speaks VERY well. He doesn’t have any grammar lessons behind him. He’s learned entirely from listening. His speaking and vocabulary are excellent. He just needs some rules. I’m completely intimidated.

Cathedral of Arequipa, Plaza de Armas. When the city was founded on August 15, 1540 in the Chili River valley as “Villa de la Asunción de Nuestra Señora del Valle Hermoso de Arequipa” the city was begun and with it the square.

Santa Catalina Monastery

When my guide and I arrived, the line to get in was huge! This was the last Sunday of the month, the day when admission goes from 40 to 10 soles for Peruvians. Bad timing! But having a guide meant I could bypass the line. However, I had to wait half an hour for an English speaking tour guide to gather a group.

During my day tour last week of Arequipa, I also got the opportunity to visit this monastery–which is still a working home for about 20 nuns! The Monastery of Saint Catherine is a monastery of nuns of the Dominican Second Order, located just a couple blocks from the Plaza de Armas. It was built in 1579 and was enlarged in the 17th century. The over 20,000-square-meter monastery was built predominantly in the Mudéjar style (Moorish or Muslim style as seen in the Iberian peninsula) and is characterized by its vividly painted walls of red, blue and gold. The nuns who still live here are in the northern corner of the complex; the rest of the monastery is open to the public.

The foundress of the monastery was a rich widow, Maria de Guzman. The tradition of the time indicated that the second son or daughter of a family would enter a life of service in the Church, and the monastery accepted only women from upper class Spanish families. During part of the monastery’s history, the higher level nuns were allowed their own private rooms with opulent sitting rooms, like this one. Other times it was more austere.
This was handmade by the nuns. Jesus’ hair is REAL–taken from one of the novices, when her hair was cut before taking her vows.
Silence! After passing under this arch, novice nuns were required to zip their lips in a vow of solemn silence and resolve to a life of work and prayer. Nuns lived as novices for four years, during which time their wealthy families were expected to pay a dowry of 100 gold coins per year. At the end of the four years they could choose between taking their vows and entering into religious service, or leaving the convent – the latter would most likely have brought shame upon their family.

At its height, the monastery housed approximately 450 people (about a third of them nuns and the rest servants) in a cloistered community. In the 1960s, it was struck twice by earthquakes, severely damaging the structures, and forcing the nuns to build new accommodation next door. It was then restored in stages by groups including Promociones Turisticas del Sur S.A. and World Monuments Fund and opened to the public. This also helped pay for the installation of electricity and running water, as required by law. Notice the bed. Though the ceiling is covered by a curtain, it is built as an arch, a safer place in an earthquake.
This is where the bodies of the nuns were displayed before burial. The walls are covered with portraits, taken after death, of a few of the nuns who lived and died here. Artists were allotted 24 hours to complete these posthumous paintings, since painting the nuns while alive was out of the question. It was considered too vain.
Graduated novices passed onto the Orange Cloister, named for the orange trees clustered at its center that represent renewal and eternal life. This cloister allows a peek into the Profundis Room, a mortuary where dead nuns were mourned. Paintings of the deceased line the walls. Artists were allotted 24 hours to complete these posthumous paintings, since painting the nuns while alive was out of the question.
In 1871 Sister Josefa Cadena, O.P., a strict Dominican nun, was sent by Pope Pius IX to reform the monastery. She sent the rich dowries back to Europe, and freed all the servants and slaves, giving them the choice of either remaining as nuns or leaving. In addition to the stories of outrageous wealth, there are tales of nuns becoming pregnant, and amazingly of the skeleton of a baby being discovered encased in a wall. This, in fact, did not happen in Santa Catalina, and there are rumors of the same story in the nearby Santa Rosa monastery, as well.
This is the laundry. Broken pots that once held wine or oil were sawed in half to use for scrubbing clothing. Notice the water running down the middle. By placing a stone to stop the water’s flow, you could fill the pot. There’s a drain in each, usually stopped up by a carrot or piece of potato.
Diverting the water into your pot is easy!
This is the national flower of Peru. It is also, a sacred flower of the Incas. It is called cantuta, although in Cuzco people know it more by its Quechua name, qantu. It is native to the Andes of Peru and Bolivia between 1200 meters above sea level and 3800. It is said that the Incas found in it sacred essences that made water stay pure longer.

Each family paid a dowry at their daughter’s admission to the monastery. The dowry expected of a woman who wished to enter as a choir nun–indicated by wearing a black veil—and who thereby accepted the duty of the daily recitation of the Divine Office, was 2,400 silver coins, equivalent to about $150,000 (U.S.) today. The nuns were also required to bring 25 listed items, including a statue, a painting, a lamp and clothes. The wealthiest nuns may have brought fine English china and silk curtains and rugs. Although it was possible for poorer nuns to enter the convent without paying a dowry, it can be seen from the cells that most of the nuns were very wealthy.

This was once the old chapel, but it was converted to a kitchen. Heading down Burgos Street toward the cathedral’s sparkling sillar tower, visitors may enter the musty darkness of the communal kitchen that was originally used as the church until the reformation of 1871. Just beyond, Zocodober Square (the name comes from the Arabic word for ‘barter’) was where nuns gathered on Sundays to exchange their handicrafts, such as soaps and baked goods. Continuing on, to the left you can enter the cell of the legendary Sor Ana, a nun renowned for her eerily accurate predictions about the future and the miracles she is said to have performed until her death in 1686.
The oven where bread was baked. The interior of the kitchen is black, from years of cooking fires, and it was difficult to take photos.

The Great Cloister is bordered by the chapel on one side and the art gallery, which used to serve as a communal dormitory, on the other. This building takes on the shape of a cross. Murals along the walls depict scenes from the lives of Jesus and the Virgin Mary.



Day tour of Arequipa, Peru

First stop on the tour was Carmen Alto–a high point overlooking the Chili River Valley. It’s called in Spanish a “mirador,” a lookout point.
This is the awesome volcano Misti from the overlooks balcony. This is a great tourist spot–with a cafe and gift store. They even have a zipline. I may come back to try that! Originally, it was just a farm house (and it’s still surrounded by farms).

Yesterday, I took what turned out to be a private tour of the city–just me and a young guide named Stephanie. She was pretty nervous so this must have been one of her first tours. Her English was better than my Spanish, and we managed to communicate.

At the bottom, you can see the Chili River. And yes, it’s cold. In fact the Quechua name for the river is spelled similarly and also means “cold.”
To the right is Misti, an active volcano. Her last eruption was a very long time ago, but occasionally you can see smoke rising. The last serious earthquake was in 2001.
To the right are the dormant volcano chain called Chachane.
This is Casa de Retiros de la Luisa, a religious retreat center, surrounded by terraced farms.
In the far distance, the upper right hand corner of the photo, you can just make out the dormant volcano chain Picchu Picchu. “Picchu” is a Quechua (KET CHU WA) word that means “mountain.” To make a plural in Quechuan, you just say the noun twice.

I also found a short video of the area:

Chachane mountains and the terraced farm land below.
These cows only seem to have a fence on three sides of this triangular piece of ground. The far edge for them is just a cliff!
A display of Peruvian items. at the top are three fruits and vegetables: Tumbo (also called Banana Passionfruit) Papaya de Arequipa (a small, sour papaya of the area) and Macha (a small potato like vegetable that is used only in small amounts). the last item doesn’t seem to be related to the green tea-like drink. I clearly need to investigate more.
To the left is Cat’s Claw and to the right are powered preparations of Macha.
To the left is Una de Gato (the herb Cat’s Claw) and to the right are Coca leaves, which also have small “stones” of ash to be taken with them. Yes, this is legal in Peru. Yes, I bought some. No, I haven’t tried them, yet. I also got some Coca candies, which tasted like horehound and had no effect.

I didn’t buy the Cat’s Claw, but after reading THIS, I will: “With a lengthy history dating back to the Inca civilization, Cat’s Claw has been used as a traditional medicine in the Andes to treat inflammation, gastric ulcers, rheumatism, dysentery, intestinal complaints and wounds.
The tribes of the Amazon have used this woody vine as a general tonic to promote good health for 1000’s of years – a tonic that can be used to bring anyone back to health. Its reputation as a “cure all” now seems to be validated by modern science, with numerous studies on the plethora of active compounds shedding new light on this ancient herb.
A recent study showed that Cat’s Claw significantly elevated the infection fighting white blood cell count in adult men who supplemented with this herb for 6 months. Researchers also noted a repair in DNA – both single and double strand breaks.
Its effect on the immune system appears to be two fold, with the ability to both boost and dampen immune response, depending on what is needed. Hyper immune responses can be contained, whilst a weak immune system that allows disease to advance undeterred is strengthened by supplementation with Cat’s Claw.”

This is the front of the Yanahuara District church, Church San Juan Bautista, in Yanahuara with it’s Peruvian Baroque facade. I actually live in this neighborhood, so I’d found it the day before. It’s the highest point in the city, so basically, I just walked straight up from my house.
The church was constructed from sillar, a pearly white volcanic rock, in 1750. It was closed this Sunday afternoon, but I’d seen a wedding there the day before.
This is one of the “teaching tools” for the natives, to help them understand Christianity. Latin and Spanish was spoken inside the church for the Spanish, but outside the mass was in Latin and Quechua.
This is the overlook from Yanahuara Plaza.
One of only a few olive trees in the city, but it doesn’t bear fruit.
Next we drove back to the Plaza de Armas–the central square of the old city of Arequipa. This is the cathedral of Arequipa, which is along one side. I’ve tried three times to visit it, but it’s been closed each time. Better luck next time.
This is a close up of the clock on the cathedral. There’s a bullet hole just inside the number 9. This from Arequipa Travel: “Arequipeños like to think of themselves as being separate from, and superior to, the rest of Peru, and much of Arequipa is very traditional and regional. It is even possible to get an Arequipeño passport, although this is no more than regional pride. However, the independence of the city is reflected in its history, which has often opposed itself to directives from Lima. In 1950, students from the Colegio Independencia school went on strike to protest again central government policies. In a march in the Plaza de Armas the police opened fire on the students, killing many. Signs of this are still visible in the clock face of the Cathedral, where a bullet hole from the shooting can be seen.” My guide assured me that Peruvians are quick to go to fight when needed.
We were supposed to go inside the Inglesia de Compania (church of the Companions of Jesus/Apostles), but it was closed. This is from the nearby cloisters, now a public square with shops.
A close up of the details pillars and arches. Remember, this is an seismically active area. Arches are not only decorative, but strong in an earthquake. It’s not always enough, though. This area has been re-built a few times. The last big quake was in 2001, an 8.4 on the Richter scale! The earthquake occurred at the boundary between the Nazca and South American plates. The two plates are converging towards each other at a rate of about 78mm per year. At least 74 people were killed, including 26 killed by a tsunami. At least 2,687 were injured, 17,510 homes were destroyed and 35,549 homes damaged in the Arequipa-Camana-Tacna area. An additional 64 people were missing due to the tsunami in the Camana-Chala area. Landslides blocked highways in the epicentral area. Many of the historic buildings in Arequipa were damaged or destroyed, including the left tower of the Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa.
This is the students’ cloister–much plainer, so they wouldn’t be distracted from their studies.
An exterior door of the Iglesia de Companias shows St. James fighting the Moors, with mermaids below.
Plaza de Armas, facing the basilica of Arequipa.
A lovely church garden, on my way back at the end of the tour.
And here’s what the chef recommends at Dimas Restaurante: Carpaccio of alpaca (thinly sliced, air dried alpaca meat), Grilled salmon and Lomo Saltado–a popular, traditional Peruvian dish, a stir fry that typically combines marinated strips of sirloin (or other beef steak) with onions, tomatoes, french fries, and other ingredients; and is typically served with rice. The dish originated as part of the chifa tradition, the Chinese cuisine of Peru.

We also visited the Monastery of Santa Catalina, but I’ll post those separately.


A walk through Arequipa


Today, I was organized enough to start to more seriously explore my new home of Arequipa, Peru. I left my apartment at about 9am for a 4+ hour walk. I took photos along the way, so that you could join me.

This is the entrance to my gated community–which seems to be called an “urbanization,” here. There are LOTS of similar security gates here and I’ve been warned about pickpockets.
So, there seems to be a passenger railroad station very near my house! Everything was all locked up, but I could see people doing maintenance of the groups at the station below. A quick Google search and it appears this is the train station that will take me to Cusco, via Punto (Lake Titicaca). Here’s some details.  Obviously, I’ll need some time to do this, but will try to find a break in the teaching schedule that will allow it. That is, if I can afford it. It’s pretty pricey for one person. But something to think about.
This is the view overlooking the station entrance. Notice the lamas grazing to the lower right. I assume the metal roof is the train station. You can’t see the river, located in the middle of the photo, but you can see the terraced land on the other side, rising to a highway.
Next I enter the long park along Bolognesi Avenue–one of the two main streets I can actually locate. I can’t seem to find the name of this green space–sandwiched between Avenue Bolognesi and the Chili River. I notice from the Google map that across the river is the Parque Ecològico Alto Selva Alegre (Roughly translated, the high happy jungle eco park, I think). I’ve got to check that out in the future. Not yet sure how to actually get there, but with a name like that, I really must try.
This is taken from the park, overlooking the terrace below, Club International, which has a lot of tennis courts, a swimming pool and what appears to be soccer fields as well as other sports. It’s a private club, so I probably won’t ever use its services. It’s bordered by the long narrow park and the Chili River. In the distance is Misti, an active (though fortunately not very active) volcano.
Lots of monuments along the way.
Signage from monument above. Mariano Ignacio Prado Ochoa (December 18, 1825 – May 5, 1901) was a Peruvian army general who served as the 27th (1865), 29th (1865 – 1868) and 32nd (1876 – 1879) President of Peru.

This monument is along Avenue Bolognesi, one of the main streets. It’s located right outside my gated community, and the main branch of my school is located here. Francisco Bolognesi Cervantes (1816-1880) was a Peruvian military hero. He is considered national hero in Peru and was declared patron of the Army of Peru by the government of Peru on January 2 of 1951.

A statue to Francicso Bolognesi Cervantes, located in the park along the avenue of the same name.
At the base of the previous statue. Here’s my rough translation: “The city of Arequipa, in homage to the hero and patriot of the army, Colonel Francicso Bolognesi Cervantes, for outstanding action in defense of the fatherland on June 7th, 1880.”

This is the main branch of my school, a 10-15 minute walk from my boarding house.
There are chess/checkers tables in the park, too. These two men were having a heated discussion, but I didn’t get the sense that they were arguing about the game.
This is a long distance glimpse of today’s destination, over the rails of the park. In the mid-ground is the bridge over the river Chili. Past that, you can see a few tall spires, from buildings in the Plaza de Armas.
There are two lamas grazing in the park (or maybe they are alpacas). I didn’t see anyone keeping them, either. This one isn’t even tied up. Of course, I don’t know the difference between a lama and an alpaca, so I could be identifying these incorrectly. I’ll figure it out. Eventually.
Here’s the second one, possibly the mother of the first, bedded down for a rest. To the upper left, you can just see the small woven structure for them to retreat to.
At the end of the park, Avenue Bolognesi hits this roundabout (called an ovalo grau on my map). Facing this direction is Avenida Ejercito (Army Avenue) the second major street I can locate, so far. It has a couple major stores and a large mall.
…but I didn’t go up hill to the shopping area. I went the other direction and crossed the bridge over the Chili River. This is the left side, showing Misti Volcano and a gentleman cleaning the roof of the swimming pool. It’s very dry and dusty here, so you often see people cleaning.
Another view of the bridge and my first real look at the river.
These are also volcanoes, but dormant, Pichu Pichu and Chachani.
On the other side of the river is this small, but lovely park. It was locked up, but some people were inside building a play structure.
This is the park on the other side of the bridge. That’s the Peruvian flag and a statue of a lama.
I’m walking down a side street on my way to the old center of town, Plaza de Armas. But found this door interesting. This is Church John 3:16.
The gated entrance to Plaza de Armas. Many old Spanish towns have a similarly named square.
By coincidence, there was a protest going on, since today is the date of Peruvian Independence. In 1821, Peru declared independence from Spain.
Here, you can see the protesters, parading around the square…..
….and to the left, to can see the riot police squad that completely ringed the plaza. This was a peaceful demonstration and while I took a few photos, I didn’t stick around long. It never seems like a good idea to be involved in a protest outside of one’s own country, even a peaceful one.
Arequipa is called “The White City” because of lovely buildings like this one. Arequipa’s main plaza is filled with buildings made of sillar--a white, volcanic stone. Impressive colonnaded balconies line three sides of Plaza de Armas. The fourth is given over to Peru’s widest cathedral, a humongous edifice with two soaring towers.
Because of the protests, the museum and the cathedral were closed. But I’ll save it for another day.
On a side street was this lovely church, Iglesia de la Compania (Church of the companions/company of Jesus, or Church of the Apostles). This diminutive Jesuit church is on the southeast corner of the Plaza de Armas. The facade is an intricately carved masterpiece of the churrigueresque style (think Baroque and then some – a style hatched in Spain in the 1660s). The church is dated 1668.
Inside, the central altar is stunning. It’s completely covered in gold leaf, and is modeled after the one in Seville cathedral in Spain.
This is a side altar piece.
….and the other side altar. To the left of the altar is the San Ignacio Chapel, with a polychrome cupola smothered in unusual jungle-like murals of tropical flowers, fruit and birds, among which mingle warriors and angels. I couldn’t take photos of that. I had to pay 5 soles (about $1.50US) but it was completely worth it. There were also gold reliquaries and other church treasures on display, with a little English signage.
OK, so it isn’t just lamas and alpacas I don’t know. Apparently, there are four similar animals for me to learn here in South America.
I stopped in a grocery store and found this fruit I didn’t recognize. The package says aguaymanto. Google identifies it as Physalis peruviana, a plant species originally from Peru. The plant and its fruit are most commonly known as Cape gooseberry. Gonna have to try this. It’s related to the choke cherry (which grew wild on the farm I was raised on in the Midwest) and the tomatillo. It’s a member of the nightshade family.
A quick photo of the Cathedral of Arequipa, on the Plaza de Armas. The protest had moved mostly to the center fountain area, so I grabbed a shot while it was visible.
The Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa is the most important Catholic church of the city and also of the larger Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Arequipa since it is the base of the Archbishop and the Metropolitan Council. The cathedral is also considered one of Peru’s most unusual and famous colonial cathedrals since the Spanish conquest.
This was a mural on the wall. Say the word on the blackboard out loud: “cuckoo”  Honest, this is a good way to figure out words you don’t know. Often they are pronounced almost the same as an English word, just different spelling.
Another interesting mural.
Crossing the bridge again on my way back home. This is the other side and I’m standing in the middle of the Chili River bridge. This is facing the left side, where you can see a small park in the middle left and a major highway on the right. Just left of center, on the horizon, you can see the spires of the Cathedral of Arequipa, on Plaza de Armas, which we are now walking away from.
Middle of the bridge, center. This shows the River Chili, with water moving downstream, toward the Andes Mountains in the distance.
Middle of the bridge, right side. Looks like a pretty rough area. I will not be hanging out here at night.
Everyone’s warned me about the packs of dogs, which seem to be sleeping off the heat of the day.
This city is dry and dusty. Some days the air quality is really poor because of dust. Also, I’ve never seen so many taxis in one city. They all seem to have spots like this one for washing the bodies down from the dust.
Another pack of dogs. Hummm. Remember how they dealt with this problem in Vietnam? Yeah, they ate the mean dogs. Wonder what they do here?