Saturday, October 31

Raw fish and alpaca steaks!

Every time Sergio and another Peruvian ran into each other in the States, they always talked about Peruvian food. This regional dish. That regional fruit. This is how you make this. This is the best restaurant for such and such. 

I didn't really understand why until I got here. In a survey, Peruvians were asked why they were proud of their country. Top answers? Machu Picchu.....and Peruvian food!

Thus, it was only right that el senor Raul, a proud native of Arequipa, the city famous for its regional dishes such as rocoto relleno (stuffed hot pepper) and cuy chactado (deep-fried guinea pig), made sure we got to the local food festival yesterday. 

I didn't understand why they held the festival at Yanahuara's (pronounced jon-a-wara) plaza, all the way across the river and up the hill from downtown. But once I got there I understood. Look at this view of the city:

The plaza and the surrounding cobblestone streets maintain their colonial flavor, even after hundreds of years and a few devastating earthquakes.

The festival itself was incredible too, better organized and better priced than many I've seen in the States. A dozen local restaurants and cooking schools had booths, in addition to the various beer, pisco (Peru's rum-like liquor) and wine stands. 

I was hot and sweaty from walking around in the desert sun, so I picked a local beer and a light ceviche (chopped raw fish "cooked" in lemon juice and spiced with the local hot pepper, rocoto):

El senor Raul ate mashed potatoes and alpaca filet, which Sergio thinks is going to be the centerpiece of the next diet fad. I guess the animal's meat has little to no cholesterol. Time to start my alpaca ranch, you know, get ahead of the curve! 

Sergio ordered a seafish combo of sorts, with crab, shrimp and other boiled sea creatures included. He liked it, and liked my ceviche so much that he ordered one of his own. He's always happy eating, as you can tell in this picture:

If I had food this good, I think I would be proud too! In trying to include me, el senor Raul asked me what American food I liked. I couldn't think of one single American food that didn't come from somewhere else. Hot dogs?

Thursday, October 29

I know I'm supposed to write about Peru

But I'm going to digress to the south a bit. I developed a lot of respect for Chilean President Michele Bachelet while I was there at the beginning of her term. 

The few months I was in Chile, Bachelet faced nationwide students protests calling for education reform. Student councils up and down the country organized simultaneous tomas, or takeovers, of their high schools. Soon many elementary schools followed suit. Bachelet was forced to respond directly to the students' demands and put education reform on the table. Not everyone was so sure she would come out of it on top.

But now she's on her way out of office, and could end up being one of the most popular leaders in Chilean history. Well done, I say, for being the first female president in a very conservative South American country.

Tuesday, October 27

Web cam? That's for teenagers!

video

He's makes $10 a day...

...as a taxi driver, but his three sons have traveled the world. 

After basketball practice last night, the taxi driver and I got to talking. When I mentioned I was from the United States, he told me about his son who had just returned after studying in nursing school in Los Angeles. Already, he wanted to go back.

His two other sons were also world travelers. One has lived in Los Angeles as well for about two years, and the other in Spain. 

For about $1.50, he gave me a 25-minute cab ride. I don't even want to think about what that would cost in NYC, DC or LA.

Yet on such a minimal salary, this man had sent all his sons off to developed countries. 

I asked him why his sons had traveled the world, thinking maybe their dad had encouraged them. He said that maybe the reason was that the economic and political situation in Peru had been so bad while they were growing up. In the 1980s, domestic terrorists killed 60,000+ Peruvians and inflation was 40% per month at some points.

I told him that when I left for Peru, my parents were worried I would never come back, and it made them sad. I told him I imagined it couldn't be easy having his sons on three continents. He gave me a quick nod of the head and then we were at my house in Miraflores.

Saturday, October 24

Peru close to decriminalizing abortion

It's a big deal in a country whose population is more than 90% Catholic. The Peruvian Congress will soon debate a bill decriminalizing abortion, which was proposed by a Congressional commission evaluating the country's penal code. 

Currently, Peruvian women who become pregnant from rape or incest cannot have an abortion. 

I thought I'd cite old Amnesty International's response.

Friday, October 23

Economic crisis? Not in Peru.

I was doing some research for my case study and found this interesting July article in Newsweek: "Peruvian Peaks: The small, poor country that made the right economic moves."

While many countries in the world have slipped into recession, Newsweek explains how and why Peru's economy has grown over the past year. 

Maybe I'll be glad to have exchanged some of my U.S. dollars for Peruvian soles.

Thursday, October 22

Remember that stolen lung?

If you don't, check out my earlier post about it. 

Anyway, it turned up a few days later. Someone had laid it on the front steps of the exhibition. I didn't think too much of it, not even to post about it again. 

Except for what came out last night.....that it was all a hoax (video incl.)! A marketing stunt to get more visitors to the Lima Body Worlds exhibit! 

Directors had threatened to close it down weeks early, so a high-level promoter pulled this lung-stealing thing off. People are pissed off that the promoter made Peru look bad (the initial incident did receive international coverage).

I, personally, feel ashamed for posting it on my measly blog for all three readers to see. I was complicit in the scam! 

Wednesday, October 21

How do you say "rebound" in Spanish?

Actually, it's rebote. And I will need to learn a lot more basketball lingo now that I'm going to be playing in Arequipa's women's league!

I went down to el coliseo municipal and found the league president behind iron grates in a small, trashed office. He led me to the gym and had me do a bunch of exercises to evaluate my level. I had to learn the words for layup, jump shot, fake, dribble and more. Soon, another coach showed up and did another few exercises with me.

A few hours later--to my surprise--they put me on a team! I will be playing for Cosmos Sachaca, and our first game is tomorrow. I checked out the league's website, and it looks like the team might be second to last, with few good players, but that's cool with me! I will be lucky if they put up with me. 

My first partido is tomorrow (yikes) and I get a snazzy uniform. So wish me luck! Go Cosmos!

Tuesday, October 20

Climate change means jungle diseases don't stay there

The LA Times' "La Plaza" linked to this video from Al Jazeera on how climate change in the Andes is letting tropical diseases into the high elevations:

63 days without rain

Last night I had a dream that it rained here. All the dust settled. The few areas of grass looked lush, not starving. I woke up again to find the thirsty landscape of Arequipa. 

In our nine weeks here, it has not rained once. Only one day did it even threaten to. The clouds covered the sky for a few hours, but soon dissipated. 

The photo below taken 10 minutes north of Arequipa gives an idea of what the Spanish must have been enchanted by--a little green oasis in the midst of a harsh desert. They built their white city under the shadow of a volcano, probably imagining that the Rio Chili could feed a grand city.
But the Incas were smarter than that. That's why they hadn't tried to conquer this desert land and its guardian, el volcan Misti, in their almost 400-year domination of the region.

Today, this average river hardly serves the city's more than one million inhabitants. At least once every two to three weeks, the water is cut off in our neighborhood, Miraflores. Arequipa's population continues to grow, and already the municipality has to ration the water. 

Sergio says I just need to wait a bit longer, and that it rains more in the summer. I can wait grudgingly, but I don't know if that rain will be enough to rescue this dry metropolis.

Monday, October 19

The floating city


While in Puno we visited los Uros, an indigenous community that lives on floating islands it's people have created in the middle of Lake Titicaca.

We paid $3 for the boat ride out to the islands, and a welcome party was waiting to show us around. One man gave us an explanation of the island culture, its history and life today.

In the picture below, the island host is showing us how the floating islands are created using blocks of soil and dried reeds. 
These same reeds they often eat for medicinal reasons--to calm nausea or a headache. I tried the reeds and could see that with a little bit of sugar it would be pretty tasty.
Then we looked around at the many weavings for sale. Soon they took us on a ride in a boat just like this. 

Instead of these straw boats, many Uros now have access to a speed boat to take the hour-long trip to Puno. 

Our boat ride took us to another island, complete with tourist shops, two small restaurants and a lookout. 

Their ancestors fished for their livelihood. Today's Uros fish as well, but they have also turned their floating city into a big tourist attraction. Now many homes have solar power to run their TVs and radios.  

This great 12-minute video from LinkTV gives you a look at the island culture we visited. It talks about how nonprofit ProMujer helped a Uro woman grow her business through a micro business loan. 

Sunday, October 18

The soda that beat out Coca Cola


They call it Incan gold--the yellow soda sold in every pincanteria and quiosco in Peru.  Coca Cola's former CEO said it "looks like pee" and "tastes like bubble gum."

Having tried it, I'd say that description is close to accurate. Inca Kola! It sure is satisfying, especially after a salty plate of chicharrones.

But the story of Inca Kola, and how it came to dominate the Peruvian soda market, is even more satisfying if you're the type who likes to "stick to the man." 

In 1935, a beverage maker in Lima brewed up a new concoction to commemorate 400 years since the city's founding. Using the herb "lemon verbena," they created a soft drink that appealed to Peruvian pride in it's heritage.

Within a few years, Inca Kola was the most popular in Peru. But Coca Cola and Pepsi, then competing to dominate the world soda markets, wanted to change that. 

JournalPeru, an online magazine on Peru, explains well what happened:

For years, Coca-Cola and its arch-rival Pepsi tried to dominate the Peruvian market, but despite their vast resources, they were never able to overtake Inca Kola as the preferred soft drink of the Peruvian public.

Inca Kola cleverly marketed itself as the nationalistic soft drink option, and Peruvians drank it by the gallons. Knowing the Peruvian market, Inca Kola targeted small mom-and-pop shops and restaurants, offering incentives and marketing assistence. Partly due to national pride, partly due to its sweet flavor, and partly due to its cost (less than its rivals) Inca Kola became the leader of the Peruvian soft drink industry. One of its key marketing strategies was to convince Peruvians that Inca Kola was a much better complement to Peruvian food than either Coke or Pepsi.

And their strategies worked! Coca Cola and Pepsi stopped fighting Inca Kola's popularity. Instead, the soda giant Coca Cola resigned to buying 50% of the company's stock. Thanks to the strategic business partnership between the two beverage companies, Inca Kola has expanded its distribution even into the United States and Europe. 

As for the future of the company, it's won my heart and my taste buds. I'm going to be looking for Incan gold in my Colorado supermarket when I return.

Saturday, October 17

UN: Peru reduces extreme poverty by half?

I'm watching a presentation by Peruvian President Alan Garcia and United Nations representatives about a big accomplishment: 

In 1991, 23% of Peruvians lived in extreme poverty. Today, 12.6% of Peruvians live in extreme poverty--only a percentage shy of the country's 2015 goal of 11.5%. 

While the United Nations report signaled that malnutrition is still a big problem in Peru, advances have been made in labor, education and rural development. 

But a July article in El Comercio, one of the national papers here, points out flaws in the methods of measuring the depth of poverty here, putting in doubt the level of today's positive development. 

The National Institute of Information and Statistics, on whose numbers this report is based, has not updated and reevaluated the canasta basica (basic food basket) from the 1991 prices and products. So when they count how many Peruvian can buy this canasta basica, the Institute is measuring on outdated standards, and receiving inaccurate numbers. 

Also, other experts point out that the Institute has not taken into account the difference between rural and urban prices for the same products in the canasta basica.

Considering these flaws, the article argues that the true level of poverty in Peru is still unknown.

A Peruvian family

Sergio said he didn't have a very big family. If this isn't a big family, I don't know what is.

The first family member I met in person was Mario, Sergio's younger brother. He visited us twice while we lived in Washington, D.C. Mario was on his way to and from Monterrey, Mexico, where he will soon finish his bachelor's in Business Administration and Tourism.

Sergio's two brothers, David (23) to the right and Mario to the left, met us in Lima when we arrived. David lives in Huaraz and works for the Peruvian branch of Caterpillar, Ferreyros, servicing heavy machinery for the mines.
The second day in Lima, we met up with their cousin, Yanira (27). Her family lives in Puno, but as a nurse, she wanted to work in Lima to get experience. She showed us the nice coastline parks there and shared some cebiche with us in photo below. 

A week after arriving, Sergio's brothers and I visited his mother's family--seven sisters total, each with at least three children. We met four of the five sisters and their families in Puno. Another sister lives in Tacna, near the Chilean border.

We stayed with his tia Nora and (my favorite!) tio Leonidas, Yanira's family (below). Their cousin Yeline (center) was our tour guide and chaperone throughout the trip. I've never felt so welcome in a house before. They were even patient with me when I didn't like chuno, the classic potatoes from Puno.
Sergio's other tia, Eva (right), invited us to lunch at her house. Her husband is a rancher here in Puno, and has sent his four sons off to be educated. Alex, at the end of the table on the right, is a lawyer for the Ministry of Agriculture. Eric, who lives in Arequipa with his wife and child, is a gynecologist. Anival is a civil engineer. Their youngest son, Elmer, is studying dentistry.

After lunch, we met up with *another* branch of the family, tio Jose and tia Elsa, who have a total of four kids, if I counted right (including the two at the left of the photo below).We climbed up to a viewpoint above Puno, with a beautiful scene to the east of the lake and the city. 
But we spent most of our time in Puno with Yeline, and James (left top), who is from another branch of the family. We spent a little time with James' mom and his siblings, but unfortunately, I didn't snap a picture.
What a beautiful family, and what a beautiful welcome to a new country. 

I still don't have a photo of Sergio's dad, el Senor Raul. He's camera shy, but I'll catch him sometime. All of Senor Raul's family lives here in Arequipa, but I've only seen them a few times. I hope to give you more photos with them soon.

Friday, October 16

If I could make a soundtrack...

The serenity of the ice-capped Andes mountains, the peaceful villages in the Altiplano, the mystic ruins--these are common images of Peru. 

But in the city, Peru is anything but serene. Last night I woke up at least five times, and I'm a deep sleeper. The mangy cat that steals into our apartment from the unfinished stairwell made a racket in the dining room. I came out and scared him off with a broom. 

The doorbell downstairs rang at 2 a.m. and Sergio went to the window to find a drunk man wanting in below. Because the bakery is busy cooking all night, some late nighters think it's a bar, I guess. 

In the morning, I woke to the announcements at the colegio (high school) on our block. The loud speakers broadcast the national anthem, the principal's words of the day and music. 

Just after breakfast, I heard the trash truck coming down the street, playing a classical music song to remind people to put their trash outside. 

It was followed by a man bicycling his merchandise in a cart up the street, shouting into his loudspeaker what products he was selling: "Baterias! Baterias! Vasos! Platos! Casacas!" "Baterias! Baterias! Vasos! Platos! Casacas!"

Beyond the occasional sounds of the morning, there is also the background murmur of the city--the honking. You see, a stop sign or traffic light is a rarity in the city. Instead of stopping at every intersection, motorists just honk to let oncoming traffic know they're not stopping. 

And all the honks are different. Some are whistles. Some are melodies. Some are just obnoxious. Maybe if I get the energy, I will try to make a soundtrack of the real sounds of the Andes. 

Thursday, October 15

A hunt for rebels in the jungles of Peru

Still on the topic of terrorism, I found this video produced by the New York Times in March 2009.

Wednesday, October 14

Terrorism has returned to Peru?

Arguably, it may have never left. The domestic terrorist group Sendero Luminoso, or Shining Path, was very active during the 1980s and early 1990s, killing an estimated 70,000 Peruvians.

With an iron fist, Peruvian President Fujimori extinguished the movement in the early 1990s. (He was recently sentenced to 25 years in prison for human rights abuses, including the murder of nine students and one teacher at a Lima university.)

While the group has not been very active since the capture of it's leader, Abimael Guzman, reports from Peru this year are stirring up questions about the group's resurgence.

The Shining Path retreated to the ungovernable jungle terrain, where it is said to have reformed, using this time the drug trade to prop up it's efforts.  There have been various attacks on military bases and police stations in the VRAE (Apurimac and Ene River Valley) region of Peru. But there is also the opinion that these attacks are specifically drug cartels, not the original Shining Path.

If you're interested, I found this good analysis of the different perspectives on the Shining Path today on Global Voices.

Tuesday, October 13

Miss Independent?

It's been all too easy to let my Peruvian boyfriend do all the work--choose the right bus to take, help me navigate the city or negotiate prices. But I realized that often times when I do utilize his help, I find myself waiting around. It has been making me feel powerless, like my time isn't mine.

So today I left to do my own stuff for the whole day. I went to find the National Institute of Statistics for my case study I'm doing on Peru's economic development. And I got lost. 

I read the address wrong that the university gave me. It wasn't Suite 103 at 402 Santo Domingo. It was Suite 402 at 103 Santo Domingo. The blocks aren't small here either, so it was quite the walk. By the time I got to the Institute, I was sweating bullets. 

After visiting the university library and finishing my English class, I went to find a bus home. The name of the most reliable company that heads to Miraflores, my neighborhood, is el 3 de Octubre. I waited for 20 minutes in a different spot where I knew the bus passed. Finally when it came, I realized we were going downhill, not uphill--the way home. Turns out that el 3 de Octubre has more than one route.

I asked the bus driver and he told me when to get off to take another bus. There I waited another 10 minutes until finally my bus came. I knew we were headed in the right direction, but nothing was familiar.

Then the questions starting going in my head--do I ask someone? But they might misdirect me. Should I just get off here? But our neighborhood is dangerous at night. Do I just keep riding? But who knows how long it will be.

The bus was crowded, so I just decided to wait until it emptied out and then ask the driver, as long as it took. 

But just my luck--I saw the park where we walk Marcela in the mornings! Only a few blocks away! I shouted to the driver--BAJO POR FAVOR--maybe a bit louder than I should have because I was so relieved. :)

So much for Miss Independent.

Nicolasa and Daisy

A few weekends ago, I was finally feeling good enough to eat something, so Sergio and I tried parrilladas (basically Argentinian barbeque). 

While tasty, I immediately regretted eating that dish, which included steak, pork, chicken, sausage, anticuchos (cow heart) and two pounds of french fries. I tried to wash it all down with some wine, but I knew it was going to be a rough night. 

Almost every time we eat downtown, a little boy or girl will enter the restaurant selling gum, candies, matches, or simply asking for a spare sole. Just as we finished our parrilladas, a little girl in a pink hat, not more than four years old, came up to our table to sell us candies. 

Sergio never buys, but he always gives the little kids a bite of food. He gave her some fries, and at first she didn't know what to do, so he convinced her to eat it. She was really shy, and looking over her shoulder to see if her big sister waiting outside would get mad. 

Sergio realized this and invited the big sister over to have a bite to eat. We didn't have much food left, only a few fries and a piece of chicken, but we invited them to sit down and chat. 

Nicolasa and her little sister Daisy chowed down. At this point, Daisy's shyness had completely worn off, and she was reaching for the salsas and the wine. She had decided that Sergio's sunglasses were hers, and after we took the picture above, she wanted to take a few.

I sat there just thinking about their lives. It was a Saturday afternoon, a time when a normal Peruvian kid would be kicking a soccer ball around or eating up at a family event.  These two little girls were working. 

And boy, were they happy to take a break, sit down, eat some food, use a real bathroom and teach me some Spanish. 

Thanks to the generous restaurant staff (usually they kick out kid vendors right away), we invited Nicolasa to some veggies from the salad bar. I asked her about school, about her brothers and sister, about her job. She was incredibly humble and shy, too mature for her age. 

Soon it was time to go, so we said goodbye. As Nicolasa and Daisy ran down the street, I hurried to follow them. Were there parents close by? Were they off to another restaurant? What was next for them? But after a block or so, I lost their pink hats to the crowd. 

Friday, October 9

Etymology and idiots

"Lo que natura no da, Salamanca no presta" or
"What nature doesn't give, Salamanca doesn't loan"

I heard Sergio use this saying to talk about one of the bakery employees. It's one of Peru's many etymological inheritances from Spain. 

The University of Salamanca near Madrid is one of the oldest in Europe. But if you weren't born with a certain capacity, like common sense for example, Salamanca can't even help you. 

But why refer to an ancient Spanish university when Peru claims the oldest university in the Americas, University of San Marcos?

My opinion? They should forget Salamanca and start talking more about San Marcos--a real gem to be proud of.  

Thursday, October 8

Nine!

Now that it's all over and done, Marcela has nine beautiful little puppies. I'm tempted to fall in love with one, but I have to remember how big and slobbery they get when they're older.


Wednesday, October 7

The Giant Bear-Like Dog is now a mama!

Marcela was acting fishy all day. Finally, at 9:40 p.m. this evening, she gave birth to one beautiful little puppy--especially tiny compared to it giant mama. I think there might be more coming, but I'm not going to bother her for awhile (she growls meaner than most dogs I know). 

He stole a lung!

Have you ever seen or heard of Body Worlds, that famous exhibit of plastified human bodies (volunteers, of course) displayed for the public to see? 

Well it came to Lima, Peru. And it will leave with one less lung. 

Someone pilfered a plastified human lung. Newspaper Peru21 says that Body Worlds, or "El cuerpo humano: real y fascinante," yesterday offered US$2,000 for the recovery of the missing lung.

What was this exhibit robber planning to do with a plastic lung? Put it on the mantle in the living room? 

I have to ask: what would that volunteer--who gave their body to science--feel if they found out that their lung was missing? 

 

Tuesday, October 6

Protests in Arequipa close down the national highway

Protests here in Arequipa stalled traffic on the Panamericana del Sur, the national and international highway that starts in Alaska and ends in Buenos Aires. 

Blocking the road to the west of Arequipa with large rocks, the protesters demanded answers from the regional president who has authorized the construction of a new water treatment plant in their area. 

Right now, 90% of Arequipa's residual water (and that's water used by more than one million people, by the way) is not treated, and much of it returns to the Chili river that passes through the city. The water then pollutes local agricultural land, not to mention the population. 

While most agree a water treatment plant *somewhere* is necessary, the people of Uchumayo, west of Arequipa, are concerned the plant will affect their health and environment. 

The protests stalled traffic for hours on one of the most important highways in Peru.

They also held a protest last Tuesday in which more than 1,000 people filled the streets. 

 


Monday, October 5

She was buried under ice on the top of a volcano...

...until 1995, when archaeologist Johan Reinhard and Miguel Zarate discovered her. 

Nearly 500 years old, Juanita the "Ice Maiden" is preserved today at the Museo Santuarios Andinos here in Arequipa. We went to see her on my most recent "Be a Tourist Day."

She is considered to be one of the most important archaeological finds in South America in recent years, mainly because she was so well preserved. 

Only 13 years old, Juanita was sacrificed to the Incan gods atop the volcano Mount Ampato, 20,932 feet above sea level (shown in the photo below). She remained frozen under a layer of snow and ice, until a nearby volcano began to erupt in 1990, melting the ice that had kept her hidden.
Fatefully, experienced archaeologist Reinhard and mountaineer Zarate came upon Juanita before any treasure hunters did. It took them 64 hours to take her down from the mountain and into Arequipa, fighting against time to keep this piece of history preserved. 

All the clothing and offerings that accompanied her sacrifice are well preserved in the museum. There are gold and silver figurines, 500-year-old Incan textiles, offerings of corn and coca leaves and other articles--all in great condition. 

One of the tourists I was with asked if they eventually plan to return Juanita to her sacred resting place after studying her, out of respect for the Incan traditions. The guide answered that her body would surely be destroyed by the mountain or by treasure hunters, and she was safer in Arequipa. I thought it was a worthwhile question.

And I thought I had culture shock

On National Geographic's Worlds Apart, they took a family from Detroit and put them with a Quechua family in Peru's Andes:

Sunday, October 4

The city within the city

I have now declared all Saturdays to be official "Be a Tourist Day." I go down the list in my Frommer's, each weekend visiting a choice destination in Arequipa.

For the first "Be a Tourist Day", Sergio and I went to the Santa Catalina Monastery, founded in 1579, only forty years after the Spanish arrived to Peru.

We paid 30 soles ($10) to enter, a chunk of dough considering that a good dinner could cost only three soles ($1). But when you are a tourist, you pay tourist prices. 

The monastery, situated near the main plaza, is said to be the finest example of colonial architecture in Arequipa, and the finest religious monument in the country. 

It was built with sillar, a form of white volcanic rock that is said to give Arequipa it's name: la ciudad blanca (the white city).  The design now tells the story of various earthquakes over the years, at least two biggies in 1958 and 1960 that changed the monastery drastically. 

From this picture, you can see just one of the many small Spanish-style streets within the monastery. A city within a city, the monastery is filled with winding cobblestone streets, gardens and courtyards.

It's always good to have an inside source, and we found ours; the man running the gift shop inside the monastery gave us the real scoop. While the brochure says that the monastery was open to women of all financial and ethnic backgrounds, our source had another story to tell:

Only Spanish women could be nuns at Santa Catalina. With them, they had to bring more than enough to pay for their food and board for the year--usually paid for with property. Along with them, they had to bring at least one servant, usually indigenous or black.

In fact, Arequipa got the name "white city" not because of the volcanic rock--because originally all of Arequipa's white sillar was painted in the rust and blue, as the monastery appears today--but because of the people. 

He said that the Incas and pre-Incan cultures were not stupid enough to build an important city at the base of a volcano, like the Spanish did in founding Arequipa at the base of Misti. Arequipa was a colonial center, a fact evident in the color of the population, said our insider.  

The monastery is still in use, and has very different requirements. There are nearly 35 nuns who still live there, aging from 18 to 83. Instead of a hefty dowry, the nuns can join Santa Catalina without paying a dime. Neither their financial or ethnic background matters, only their level of commitment to their faith. 

Sadly, my Frommer's tells me that the site appeared on the list of the "2008 World Monuments Watch list of Most Endangered Monuments." Beyond the threat of devastating earthquakes, the effects of pollution can be seen on the monastery walls. Smoke and graffiti have stained the antique sillar walls.

Sundays: Adobo de Chancho

Only on Sunday mornings is this delicious dish available. It tastes best with some fresh bread from La Senora Delia's bakery:

Adobo de Chancho (Pork Marinade)
2 lbs of pork sirloin, cubed
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
3/4 cup of dark beer, chica de jora or vinegar
1/4 cup of chili powder
1 tsp of paprika
1 tsp of oregano
1 tsp of cumin powder
2 bay leaves
salt & pepper to taste

Adobo:
1 small red onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 large peeled & seeded tomato, chopped finely
1/2 cup of fresh green peas
salt & pepper to taste

Mix the pork with all the ingredients for the marinade in a large bowl and leave refrigerated overnight. Remove meat and reserve marinade liquid.Coat Dutch oven with cooking spray over medium-high heat and brown the meat in batches until done. Remove and keep warm. Add onion and cook until soft, 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomato and half the marinade liquid and stir. When hot add the pork and cover tightly cook about 30 minutes. Add peas and continue cooking until meat and vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes more. Serve with rice and sweet potatoes. Serves 8.

Friday, October 2

Today, all South Americans are Brazilian!

South America is bursting with excitement and pride at the news that Brazil will host the 2016 Olympic games. Don't be offended, friends from Chicago, but the feeling is so contagious here that even I'm excited!

Brazil's President Lula da Silva, the golden political child of South America, won it for everyone. All the local presidents congratulated him! 

Xinhua summarized the reaction on this continent that, for the first time, will host the Olympic games.  Here's an excerpt with Peru's president's reaction, including his pitch for a Machu Picchu-Olympic Games trip package:
Peru's President Alan Garcia told media that Peru feels the victory as its own, that it represents a victory for all Latin America, and that it represents an opportunity for Peru's tourist industry.

"Even though I will not be in power, I will work hard so that all the citizens of the world who go to Brazil will make a stop in Peru, on the way there and the way back," he said.



Ode to Traveler's Diarrhea

I haven't eaten more than bread or yogurt since Sunday, and all the wonderful smells coming from La Senora Delia's kitchen are torturous.

If I can't enjoy the new and delicious food I have encountered here, at least I can share them with you until my stomach adapts to Peru.

First in my series will be one of my all-time favorite dishes, Aji de Gallina:


Aji de gallina 
4 lbs. chicken
1/2 cup of oil
1/2 lb. of chopped nuts
2 tsp ground garlic
6 chilis liquidized (the closest thing to aji in the U.S.)
4 slices of bread
1 large tin of evaporated milk
1 large onion , finely chopped
salt & pepper to taste
6 yellow potatoes ( normal potatoes are fine)
olives, hard boiled eggs
Boiled rice - enough for 8 servings

Boil the chicken in salted water. Remove from bone and break into bite size pieces. In a saucepan heat the oil and fry the onion, garlic and chili peppers, salt and pepper to taste. Fry until golden and add the bread which has been soaked in the chicken broth, having removed the crusts. Cook slowly for 10 minutes then add chopped nuts and chopped chicken. Two or three minutes before serving add the evaporated milk.

Decorate the dish with halved potatoes and eggs quartered lengthwise and olives. Serve with the boiled rice.