Friday, May 29, 2009

leaving Arequipa...sigh

What with my broken leg and Mike's broken foot we've been in this beautiful city almost a month. Yes, you read right, Mike broke his foot stepping off a curb and we have matching casts on our left legs. When it rains it pours or something like that. But we have been in a fantastic hostel this whole time, with the Josés (father and son) running the place, our wonderful housekeeper Marta, and lots of nice people coming in and out. Or sticking around to teach English. Our Australian friends Nev and Phil and Sam(antha) are teaching here and we've had a great time firing up the parrilla with them and many others. Nev and Mike hung out a good bit when I was laid up. In fact it was coming home from an evening of billiards and Cuba libres with Nev that Mike fractured his foot...hmm. Our new friends from San Francisco, Andrea and Chris, took pity on my condition and gave us some of their reserve pain medicine. When Mike showed up with his own cast the next day they gave us the rest.

Fortunately when we first arrived in Arequipa we took in some of the sights. The beautiful and peaceful colonial-era Santa Catalina convent is a monastic community within the city, all white and red and blue stuccoed walls and arcaded squares with frescoed lunettes. There are still nuns in residence but it is primarily a museum of rambling alleyways filled with geraniums, novices' cells with attached kitchens and the other necessary rooms for a community very much apart from the society outside their walls, though almost everything is open to the sky. The laundry was done in a kind of fountain where a water channel is flanked by halves of enormous terracotta urns. The art galleries had some remarkable paintings, my favorite a composite of the days of creation with God creating sea monsters on the second day.

We also spent a lot of time drinking fresh juices in the market, checked out the cathedral and went to a little historical museum with wonderful political caricatures and paintings of the great and the good of Arequipa. Early on we had a great meal with our Belgian friends John and Vanessa where Mike indulged in that Peruvian delicacy cuy (guinea pig).

Since I've been laid up for so long Mike has done quite a bit on his own, apart from all the shopping and cooking for which he deserves much praise. He and Nev went out hiking with a group of friends to a nearby waterfall, and he's been touring the city and rented a bike to ride out in the hills.

Through Nev we met Jamie, a wonderful girl also teaching English here, with an English dad and a Peruvian mom. Her mother Carolina and stepfather Chelo live in Arequipa and have had us over a couple times. Last Sunday we went to their house for adobo, a traditional pork stew and hangover meal. We went with a few other of Nev's friends who became our friends (Aukje from the Netherlands and Romáin from Switzerland) and stayed all day, talking with students from one of Jamie's classes, her half-sister Daniela, Chelo's parents, Carolina's mom and sister, and of course Carolina and Chelo. They're wonderfully warm people, always smiling. To accompany their elderly cockerspaniel Pietro they had just gotten a 3-month-old Peruvian hairless puppy named Yoda (to whom it bears a remarkable likeness) and were mourning the disappearance of their tortoise Francesca.

Carolina and Chelo love to cook and when they found out that Mike was interested in learning to make ceviche they invited us back on Tuesday. Again we spent the entire day, this time much more involved in chopping fish (that we think was flounder), octopus, onions, limes, etc. The highpoint of the morning was when Francesca the missing tortoise was discovered in the living room, having been sought in every nook and cranny for weeks. Carolina was beside herself with joy, not least because Francesca had been without papaya for sometime.

The ceviche was delicious, always served here with sweet potato and choclo (corn on the cob with really large starchy kernels.) Carolina whipped up some amazing mussels chopped with hot pepper and onion and then some little fried but not oily fish. After Nev and Jamie had left to teach their classes along with Jamie's friend Matt, we stayed for hours more talking, drinking Cuba libres and reveling in Arequipa's constant sunshine. We ended with crab consommé after the sun had gone down and caught a cab back with Carolina's mother.

We had a final group parrilla on Wednesday, barbecuing one more time on the rooftop terrace here surrounded by snowcapped volcanoes. Tonight we catch the 9pm bus for Lima and are looking forward to meeting up with our friend Steffen, and with our new Dutch friend Aukje who is running a half-marathon there. After a couple nights at a hotel highly recommended by Mike's mom and dad we'll make our way to Ecuador and join Tom and Corynn when they arrive in Quito on June 3. At the moment we're not letting the broken bones drive us home but we will need to figure out how we'll pass the time we can't spend trekking. ¡Vamos a ver!