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School Daze in Arequipa

Two weeks in Arequipa, Peru

sunny 72 °F

We´ve been enjoying a stationary life for a couple of weeks in the southern Peruvian city of Arequipa studying Spanish. Here´s what we have been doing:

DSC_2501_2_.jpg Conjugating spanish verbs. We finally know what the pluscaperfecto tenses are.

Enjoying our own kitchen: making fresh squeezed tangerine juice, Peruvian mashed potatoes, and waking daily to fresh brewed Peruvian coffee in our new little french press.

We took a city bus tour on one of those open topped double decker buses for the first time in our lives....it was fun!

Enjoying Arequipean food - Greg´s favorite is Lomo Salteado, tender strips of seared meat tossed with a sligthly spicy sauce and strips of onions and pepers, served on a bed of french fries and rice.

Wandering the colonial center of town, getting lost in the hustle and bustle of city life on narrow sidewalks where people are constantly squeezing by each other, stepping off the curb to pass and7or bumping into each other.

Playing frogger every time we cross the cobblestone roads filled with the little yellow taxis.

We are now caught up on Lost episodes.

We have experinced a small earthquake, luckily, this was before we say a documentary film on the big earthquake that happened in 2001.

Sitting in Spanish class every afternoon for four hours with Luce, our competent and patient profesora.

DSC_2581.jpgEnjoying Arequipean drinks - Pisco sours and Arequena beer and lots of fresh juices. AND, we just had to try the favorite Peruvian yellow soft drink, Inka Cola. What flavor is "yellow" you ask.......take a guess.

Hanging out on our rooftop gawking at the gorgeous 6000 meter volcanoes in the distance.

Obsessively reading the papers and visting the travel agencies to see when the road blockade on teh route to Cusco will be cleared. (me, of course, not Greg).

The road is cleared for 48 hours only so we are heading off to Cusco this evening. Bye Bye Arequipa.

Posted by retomer 08:19 Archived in Peru Tagged backpacking

Papas en Peru

Peeling potatoes in Arequipa

sunny 72 °F

DSC_2566.jpg I heard that there are at a minimum 300 types of potatoes grown here in the Andes. Well, I am sitting here peeling one type and I am a wondering about a couple of things.

1 - this peeler is super cool with a very sharp pointy edge to cut out the eyes, do we have these at home in California?

2 - what causes potato eyes anyway?

3 - the markets in California must wash the potatoes really well before selling because these Peruvian ones are right from the earth and quite filthy, which is not a problem cuz I am peeling them.

One Peruvian delicacy that we have tried and love are the Papas Rellenas -- in a potato shape, it is a mashed potato covering a bunch of cooked vegies. In Latin American style, there is one olive in the filling (relleno), just like all the empanadas that we have been eating through Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and now here in Peru. We learned real quick that the olive most always has its pit.

Posted by retomer 18:41 Archived in Peru Tagged food

Loving La Paz

Life at 11,000 feet in Bolivia

sunny 70 °F

We´ve declared La Paz, Bolivia our favorite capital city. It´s actually not the official capital of Bolivia (Sucre is) but it has the hustle and bustle of the largest city in the country and we are loving life at 11,000 (except that we can´t really breathe too well).


I have thought often of the approach to La Paz since the first time I was here, nineteen years ago. I was not disappointed the second time around! Think of approaching the edge of a huge bowl and looking down - the edge of the bowl is the high dry altiplano from which we have travelled across on our nights bus (flota) journey from the south of Bolivia. As our bumbling flota approaches the bowl´s edge excitement builds as I keep nudging Greg to "get ready". We crest the rim and have our first glimpse of the bottom of the bowl, a thousand feet below, the city centro. From the rim down to the city centro thousands of dwellings are built into the earth, up the sides of the bowl. At the far side of the bowl´s rim a snow sprinkled 6,000 meter volcano stands at attention. It is early morning, and the morning sun dances here and there, warming our faces as we twist and turn making our way from the rims edge down to the bus terminal far below.

DSC_2417.jpgLa Paz is one of those places best explored by foot - we find ourselves wandering aimlessly day after day. The colorful buses look pretty cool, but the traffic is heavy and the horns are pretty loud, and walking seems to be the way to go. There are a lot of steep narrow cobblestone streets with sidewalks barely wide enough for us to pass a chola with her goods on her back, which is the essence of the city en punto! Modern city life is enhanced by the traditions of the indigenous, co-existing in a most natural way.

IMG_1862.jpgOur hostal is in the market part of town where there is never-ending traditional street markets filled with every single item one needs to exist - large corn kernals, bananas, fresh camomile, eight kinds of potatoes to lightbulbs and bowler hats and wool stockings and plastic bags and pigs feet and roasted nuts and whole chickens or whole sides of some meat that we think could be llama. Each time we step from our hostel into the street we feel like we are stepping into another time, or a movie set.

Then we make our way across the large main boulevard called The Prado, and we are among office buildings and restaurants and women and men in heels and suits rushing to work or meetings. There are many police and much security for each store and restaurant - the men are in full riot gear most of the time with real big guns and sturdy black boots. We have found a cafe that serves expresso and as we sit among the groups of business people we think how different life is just a handful of blocks away over on our side of town. Oh, the coffee is good!

IMG_1861.jpgLife happens on the streets for most people. I participate by squeezing myself into a tiny chair on a narrow sidewalk next to a man and his sewing machine and his work: a pile of shoes to be repaired. Ten minutes and 10 bolivianos later I am walking away and my toe is no longer sticking out of my shoe. For about $1.50 my shoes are repaired and I am smiling at the simplicity of getting this task done.

DSC_2361.jpgWe never really get used to the altitude and each time we trudge up our four stories to our hostal room we are huffing and puffing. And, actually, we never really see some of the tourist sites while we are here. We do feel like we have experienced this amazing city life, though, and are happy to be able to share the streets with the beautiful people!

Posted by retomer 07:01 Archived in Bolivia Tagged backpacking

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