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Archive for April, 2011

My thoughts on Arequipa

I have so much to write about, but first I want to apologize for taking such a long break from my blog.  As some of you may know, I have been applying for teaching jobs.  I have actually spent almost all of my free time on the Internet applying and am almost done!  In fact, I plan to finish today. 

The bridge I cross when walking to the Plaza de Armas.

So, what has been going on in Peru?  Well, the most important event is the upcoming election.  Unlike in America, voting is mandatory for all Peruvians between the ages of 18 and 60.  Also, in order to win the presidential candidate has to have over 50% of the popular vote.  There are currently six or seven candidates running.  The one candidate who has the highest percentage is on the left.  He is heavily influenced (and paid) by Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.  Unfortunately, the right is currently divided among four candidates.  All together, they have about 65% of the vote.  The election tomorrow (Sunday) will eliminate all but two of the presidential candidates.  It is a very tense time.

I did not quite realize how tense things were until Thursday evening.  I had seen groups of people marching during the week and there are all sorts of banners and pamphlets everywhere, but on Thursday two of the presidential candidates were in Arequipa.  One was in the center at the Plaza de Armas and the other candidate congregated 15 blocks away.  Anyway, I was walking through the Plaza de Armas on the way to pick up my laundry, and I passed by what must have been 40 police men.  They were all standing in a line next to the shops.  I have never walked by such a long line of heavily armed policemen before and it was a bit uncomfortable. 

I hope everything is peaceful tomorrow in Arequipa.  There have been problems in other parts of the country, but things have been OK here.

Cecilia's Garden: Where my classes take place.

Well, aside from the election news, I want to share some general observations:

1. Dogs are independent here.  Seriously, they walk themselves.  I took this series of photos the other day of a dog near my home.  Initially I just planned to have a picture of a dog from Arequipa, but then the dog climbed through the gate!  I have only ever seen dogs escaping from their yards, but I guess in Arequipa they return too!

A second later he jumped down on the other side!

2. Chickens.  Yes, there are chickens in the city.  I was walking down the street the other day and happened to look up to see a chicken walking around on top of an apartment building.  I have seen a number of other chickens wandering around, and each time it strikes me as funny. 

3. Agriculture.  The Chili River runs through the center of Arequipa.   For the most part, the city is built high above the river to avoid flooding.  However, on one side of the river, very close to the center of the city, are farm fields.  I see them almost every day when I walk to the Plaza de Armas.  Just like with the chickens, it strikes me as strange to see such a close bond between farm and city life.

Farms along the river.

4. Flood in the park.  Unlike in our suburban neighborhoods where we have watering systems, Peruvians use old-fashioned canals to water all the plants in the park.  They simply open the hatch to the city water and it flows through the trenches.  I also saw them use this ingenious water bottle-sprinkling system once.

The water bottle sprinkler.

4. The birds are different here.  For the most part I do not notice the birds, but there is one bird that is very loud.  Its call sounds a lot like a duck and can be heard at all hours of the day or night.  I also spotted this huge bird while walking to class one morning.  It is about the size of a large owl.  I asked my teacher, Rene, and he said that the birds usually live on the coast of Peru.

The huge bird from the coast.

5. Gold is a great reason to come to Arequipa.  Seriously.  I went shopping the other day and bought some beautiful gold earings for only $6.00.  I plan to return to the gold shops soon and buy more jewelery for my family and myself.  It is amazing how inexpensive gold and silver are here.

6. The Beatles are popular here too.  I ate lunch at a random restaurant the other day and there were pictures of The Beatles, Elvis and Marilyn Monroe all over the walls.

Yellow Submarine decal.

7. My home-stay is great!  I am still at the same house, but switched to a different room last week.  I have more privacy and it is a bit larger, so that is good.  Also, I have botten to know Brenda’s mother Angelica a lot better.  We eat lunch and dinner together almost every day.  I not only get to practice my Spanish, but I have gained a friend!  She is a very sweet, kind person and we both enjoy the company.  I will have to take a picture with her and post it here.  She will leave to visit her family in Lima on the 25th of April, and I think I will leave Arequipa around the same time.  I plan to do some sight-seeing and traveling before arriving in Cuzco in May.  I will have to decide what to do for my birthday.  Maybe a nice hotel?  Any ideas?

City center (as seen from the bridge).

I have not gotten to see any of the tourist sites in Arequipa yet, but I plan to do that during the next two weeks.  I decided to cut my lessons from four hours/day down to three hours/day.  That way I can study Spanish in the morning and have enough time in the afternoon to visit the city.  I will be sure to take photos and update you.  I can’t wait to finish my job applications and finally have some free time!

Laura

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