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.
I also found a short video of the area:
We also visited the Monastery of Santa Catalina, but I’ll post those separately.
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.
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.
My stay in Mexico is almost up. My job ends in about a week. After that, I’ve got a week in Mexico City where I’ve planned some day trips. Then to the US to take care of some business and visit friends in Atlanta. (For my ATL friends: It’s my first trip back in 3 years! I’m going to post a restaurant where we can meet up, probably Saturday, July 22nd, from 6-8p, somewhere in downtown Decatur. SAVE THE DATE!)
I start my new job in Peru on August 1, but will arrive a week earlier to get settled in. I’m ready for the next adventure!
Peru is only 6 months, though, at most. Visas are limited and it’s tough to make plans until I’m positive of the length of the stay. But I can dream now! I’m making a list. If I’m lucky I can do many of the things I want to do.
The following list probably seems aggressive to most people, but I’m still in good health and have a lot I want to see. Also, I’m not getting any younger and hiking is only for those with good knees (So far; so good!). I’m lucky mine have lasted so long. And, let’s face it, life is short. Here are things I’m considering over the next two years:
Taking a tour of Peru in January 2018, before I leave the country. I’ve found one that will let me see Machu Picchu and the Amazon, but still get me out of the country before my visa expires. I have a few short breaks in my teaching schedule while in Peru and should be able to do some touring, but nothing this extensive. One of my mistakes in Mexico was not taking a full country tour before my visa runs out. In the future, I’ll try to get a full country tour before I start a new job. It will give me a better orientation to the country and besides, it’s a shame to live in a country for a year and see so little of it because you work 6 days a week!
The Annapurna trail in Nepal. It would be best for me to do this in February 2018, just as I’m returning from Peru, since I’ll be more accustomed to high altitudes. Altitude sickness and hiking is a poor match and I’m very susceptible to it’s affects. I’ve had an interesting email exchange with a trekking company and I feel really good about this possibility.
Taking a teaching job in Ecuador. (This is likely if the next adventure doesn’t work out) They like new teachers to start in January or May of most years (Remember they are in the opposite cycle of seasons to the USA), but most seem to only allow 6 month assignments. It’s an interesting country and I can probably continue my Spanish learning and see the Galapagos Islands.
I’ve applied to The Peace Corps to work in Madagascar. My odds are probably low, but my application has been accepted. If it works out, I’d go in June 2018 for 27 months. This is a long shot, but who knows! I find my life is more exciting if I have a few odd possibilities in my future. And some of them even happen! If successful, obviously, my life is planned out for quite some time (at least by my standards!). Not getting my hopes up. The worst part is that I probably won’t know until December 1 if I’m accepted as a potential candidate, and will still have to pass various physical exams, learn the language and more.
Author’s note 6/29/2017: I applied to The Peace Corps 3 months ago, but today got a note saying that the starting date for the position I applied for (they only let you apply for 1 at a time) has been pushed back. It is now listed as “indefinite.” My application is being withdrawn. If I want to try again, I have to reapply from scratch. Again. This is the 2nd time a program has been blocked like this. Additionally, 2 programs (in 2 completely different countries) were announced in a press release last year. I was very interested both. These should have posted in January, but they haven’t. When I inquired I was told that these also had indefinite start dates. I assume this means the programs are on hold or have fallen through.
The current administration isn’t too crazy about helping its own citizens (the health care program, cuts to various social programs etc.). Perhaps The Peace Corps anticipates budget cuts and/or a reduction to the countries it will support? All I know is that an organization that makes promises and doesn’t follow through isn’t a good place to risk a couple years of your life on. I hope it will gain stability again, but this just doesn’t look like a good time to enter The Peace Corps. I tried not to get my hopes up, but am sad and disappointed by today’s email.
An African safari (photos only, of course). I’m very interested in Kenya. A couple of my favorite books are West With the Night by Beryl Markham and Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen). Both are based in the former British East Africa.
The Coast to Coast trail in the UK. I’ve practically memorized Pride and Prejudice and they talk about the wonders of The Lake District. This trail goes through it. I could see the United Kingdom in a way few people do.
One of the nicest teachers here has a (remote) possibility of a short term teaching job in China (maximum 3 months), living in an apartment one of her family members owns. In a perfect world, we’d get lessons in Mandarin as part of the rent. If she decides to go, I might be able to get a job there, too. It’s another long shot and we really just discussed it in passing. Still, sounds exciting. I’ve avoided teaching in China because they have a reputation for violating their contracts, offering substandard housing, and because of the limited internet (a.k.a The Great Fire-Wall of China). If I had secure lodging, a short time span, assistance with the language and a friend, it could be a great adventure.
OK, so it’s a lot. But what is life without our dreams!