Sunday, January 13, 2013

Week One

So I just had this good entry written and the computer crashed..and none of it saved, all from trying to copy and paste the Spanish for Avocado. This is too stressful for very early on a sunday morning. I've set up a new blog on a different website-  Sorry Wordpress is useless!

(I will try and remember exactly what I wrote..) At the moment, I am sitting in my pyjamas and its about seven in the morning- still jetlagged, even though its been a week since I left the comfort and safety of the UK and everyone else. The house is silent as no one else is up yet- this jetlag has left me bailing on nights out..completely unheard of so it must be serious. It is fair to say I am loving it here. Arequipa is mostly what I envisaged- a sprawling city at the foot of three volcanos with an old colonial centre with a divide here between that and the slums. I've spent quite a lot of time sitting on the colossal Cathedral steps watching yellow taxis whiz around the square narrowly missing each other, many stray, seemingly wordly stray dogs go about their business dodging them. Foreseeing that the altitude of the city would take some getting used to, I spent two days sleeping managing I think to not really notice the difference in air between here and Lima and certainly not get 'altitude sickness'. I am really happy to be here.
They call Arequipa the city of 'Eternal Spring' and its easy to see why. Apparently I've arrived in 'wet-season' meaning that excursions that I wanted to do such as the three day trek across to Misti (Arequipa's most iconic volcano) isn't advised because the ash is too slippery. However, I've seen little rain so far- on the contrary its been really hot but nice.

I've had two days at HOOP- (Helping Overcome Obstacles Peru), the school is in the poorest slums of the city, a district called Flora Tristan. The kids are great- very friendly and talkative, most keen to learn English. Some are as young as four and are too shy to talk up in class which means I get to practice my Spanish. I've found that Peruvian Spanish is really great- it is spoken slowly and clearly, and unlike on the continent, when speaking to native speakers they are happy to have a conversation and don't try and correct you. It is a half an hour trek to the school by public bus- a mini bus that runs a long a busy route in to the centre which basically means you run at its swinging doors whilst its moving at about 20 mph. It is the kids summer school really, meaning that its a short day. Lessons begin at 10:15 and finish at quarter to twelve with a half an hour play in the Gaucho (playground) afterwards with footballs and skipping ropes which is good fun. Managed to find three girls which a mutual love of horses so, so far, I've spent my time skipping about and playing with them.

The food of Arequipa is questionable. Mostly you get what you pay for and I've had some great meals out so far. All are relatively cheap- one of the housemates I share with has got himself a job at the Peruvian version of Mitchel and Star and apparently meals there go for 120 soles or thirty pounds which is by far the most you'd probably pay here. Last night, we found a quirky Spanish Tapas bar which two of my friends loved as they hadn't been home to the UK and Belgium respectively in six months and had missed cheese and 'good ham.' I just missed good wine- Peruvians seem to be under the impression they can re-create or rival Chilean and Argentinian wine..definitely not. Another good meal I've had is Abarzo- a beef stew with Amarillo (a Peruvian Chile) for 10 soles. Coming in at the worst was el menu a dia (a deal for 9 soles in which you get three courses) which sounded good on the board outside 'pescado con arroz'. I was further convinced by seeing the crowd inside consisted of wealthy looking bussinessmen. It was revolting- an avocado served up with the worst sort of mayonaised vegetables to start, then the fish with rice then an orange jelly. Coming back to the house, I was informed that places like that really were only for emergencies.

In terms of the place being dangerous- so far I've come to feel mostly like at night if I've been by myself for a little bit, as at danger as I would be in Lawrence Hill in Bristol. I did one unwise thing of hailing down the first Cab I saw when going into town (Taxi Libre- not a respectable taxi firm, if its a taxi firm at all), agreeing the fare for five soles only to find he didn't have I.D. Still, it was fine and I won't be doing that again...You hear of bad things even with the good taxi companies and I'm cautious because where I live is relatively far out of town and there are no other Gringos (westerners) living near by, as hostels are based around the Plaza. Not sure if that makes any difference or not.

I've been to one Gringos party scene so far- an Irish hostel called Wild Rovers which has two sister hostels in La Paz and Cusco. Partied the night away with Brazilians and Germans but turned up with two Peruvians who knew and loved the Inbetweeners and called one another wankers. It doesn't feel that far from home.

People are starting to wake up around me. Today we are taking the kids with the highest attendance records at the school to a waterpark (similiar excursions run every month to reward consistent and well-attending kids). Entry is three soles so we're all left wondering if swimming is a good idea or whether its going to be a bit gross. Still I'm looking forward to getting in a bikini as I hear the UK is under three foot of snow or something.

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