Wednesday, May 19

Planeta Agua: Learning Portuguese in Peru?

 The more I learn about Latin America, the more I learn about the importance of Brazil in South America. I wanted to learn more, so a few months ago, I started taking a Portuguese class at a Brazilian institute here. 

I'm still at a basic level, but I understand enough to interpret this beautiful song about water. By Guilherme Arantes, it's called Planeta Agua. My favorite line is the one about the water always returning humbly deep within the earth, after giving us so many awe-inspiring phenomena.

Água que nasce na fonte serena do mundo
Water that's born in the serene spring of the world
E que abre um profundo grotão
And that opens a deep canyon
Água que faz inocente riacho e deságua na corrente do ribeirão
Water that makes an innocent creek and consumes the current on the riverbed
Águas escuras dos rios que levam a fertilidade ao sertão
Dark waters of the rivers that bring fertility to the desert
Águas que banham aldeias e matam a sede da população
Waters that bathe villages and kill the thirst of the population

Águas que caem das pedras no véu das cascatas, ronco de trovão
Waters that fall from the rocks of the waterfalls, thundering down
E depois dormem tranqüilas no leito dos lagos, no leito doslagos
And afterwards sleeps calmy on the lakebed, the lakebed
Água dos igarapés, onde Iara, a mãe d'água é misteriosa canção
Water from the , where Iara*, the water's mother sings her mysterious song
Água que o sol evapora, pro céu vai embora, virar nuvem de algodão
Water that the sun evaporates, then makes into cotton clouds

Gotas de água da chuva, alegre arco-íris sobre a plantação
Drops of rain hearten a rainbow over the plantation
Gotas de água da chuva, tão tristes, são lágrimas na inundação
Drops of rain, so sad, are the tears of the flood
Águas que movem moinhos são as mesmas águas que encharcam ochão
Waters that move mills are the same waters that fall from the cliff
E sempre voltam humildes pro fundo da terra, pro fundo da terra
And they always go back to their humble state, deep in the earth, deep in the earth.

Terra, planeta água (2x)
Land, water planeta

*Iara is a fabled mermaid in Brasil who enchants sailors with her beautiful sea song. Those who hear the song never return. 

Tuesday, May 18

A day in old Arequipa: Mollebaya

Last weekend Noelia (a friend from the English institute) took me to the outskirts of the Arequipa, to one of the traditional villages that are not yet part of the sprawling urban growth that has overtaken the city's countryside in recent years. Her best friend's father is the mayor of the town, which must have less than 100 people living in it. 

When we arrived, we went walking to buy some water. On the way to the store, everyone said "Buenos dias" to me, which, only 30 minutes away in downtown Arequipa, is not common. We passed a family pulling their two cattle behind them. The community's cathedral had finally been rebuilt after the steeple fell during the 2001 earthquake. 

From there, we hiked about 30 minutes to the hill overlooking the town. Noelia and I could see Misti, the volcano, the Chachani mountains in the distance, and the green fields that surround Arequipa, a city of 1 million. 

Noelia, pictured here, and I talk mostly in English because when I'm around her I get all shy about my Spanish. She spent two years in Parker, in my home state of Colorado, as an au pair, so we have a lot to talk about. We also have the same taste for hiking. I think I found myself another good friend. 

Monday, May 17

Where did she go? To work..

For the three people that read my blog, you might have been wondering where I've been the past month. It's almost as if I had found a life or something. 

Well, I've been here, the Peruvian-American Cultural Center, where I now work:

Since November, I had been giving a Conversation class at the "Cultural" in exchange for a Spanish class. They had offered me a teaching job there starting in January. Why did it take until April to start working there, you ask?

Well, in order to work legally in Peru, I needed to get my work visa. The first step in that process is signing a contract. I had heard more than a few unfortunate stories about foreigners working at English institutes and having bad experiences: not getting paid on time (or at all) or not being given the hours they were promised. I wanted to be sure I committed to a place I felt comfortable with before I signed a year-long contract that was linked to by legal status in the country. 

But after seven months observing this institute, and now working there, I can say I am more than satisfied with my choice. The Cultural is professional, dynamic and a positive environment to work in. They even offer teacher training courses, which I plan to take starting in October. Because the institute serves more than 5,000 students, you can be sure that there will always be at least one class for me to teach.

Check out the Cultural's website here to learn more about it.

For now I have four classes of widely differing levels, each 1 1/2 hours plus planning time. That doesn't leave too much time to blog. But I promise to be back here soon. 

In the meantime, here is a photo of a few of my Peruvian colleagues that I snagged from the website. Claudio, left, and Giselle, middle, were also my Spanish teachers!

Sunday, May 16

Majes Valley: Witchcraft, Dinosaurs & Shrimp

Bryam and Briggitte (who I met through basketball) have become some of my favorite people in Arequipa. Also our neighbors in Miraflores, they are down to earth, sweet and always up for an adventure. 
A few weeks ago, they took us to Majes valley, about three and a half hours through the desert from Arequipa. Briggitte, Bryam, Bryam's friend Oliver, Sergio and I loaded up and headed out on Sunday morning around 8:30.

Located on the dusty road to Cotahuasi canyon--the deepest in South America--is this breathtaking, fertile oasis. Southern Peru is full of river valleys like this. 
Majes valley, however, is particularly attractive. Pre-Incan petroglyphs (called Toro Muerto) are located nearby. The freshwater shrimp, as well as Majes brand piscos and wines, are famous. There are dinosaur tracks etched in the rock. But what really caught my hear was the area's reputation for witchcraft. 

As Briggitte told me, one of the smaller towns is known for producing towns of curses. You always have to be careful to accept food and drink there with the left hand, because if you accept something with your right, you could be cursed. Many people in Arequipa come to the Majes valley to visit the witches, and have a love curse placed on someone they're infatuated with. At the least, I can vouch for the bewitching scenery and energy in Majes.

We drove through the valley floor until we found a patch of shrimp shacks that Oliver had heard about. But before we settled down to eat, we took a walk out to the river nearby. A group of boys were getting informal swimming lessons near this wooden bridge where Oliver (red) and Bryam (pink) are standing. You can see the boys in the background.

Explorer Sergio immediately found the shrimp nets, made of bamboo, I think? 

After we'd played around in the water enough, we found our shrimp shack. For, I think it was, $7 we each had a *giant* plate of freshwater shrimp. Here's Briggitte with some Inka Kola showing off all of our plates:
Afterwards, we took a drive up the valley to see the dinosaur tracks. Here Briggitte and Bryam are pushing each other up the hill, with the impressive footprints in the background. 
And of course, what would a dinosaur park be without a giant T-rex model? 
We spent the whole day in the valley and had even more fun on the drive chatting. Thanks again Briggitte and Bryam for a wonderful weekend!