Looking out the window, playing with my new camera, on the flight from Dallas, Texas over to Peru. Thinking back to that flight that first brought me to this crazy beautiful chaotic country over two years ago, and how little I knew about what was going to happen after I stepped off that plane.
When I booked that one-way flight to Arequipa back in 2013, having signed up for the program VolunTeach Peru, I had not the slightest idea of what was going to happen out there. I knew I would come back with some incredible pictures, a few llama selfies, some colourful scarves and Inca trousers, and a slightly improved level of Spanish, but had you told me I would fall in love out there, I would have laughed in your face. But I’ve come to learn that life is just the most surprising an unexpected journey, and oh boy has life decided to throw some challenges at me! I found so much more than souvenirs and trips around the country, I found a sense of belonging I really wasn’t expecting. A close friendship with a colleague from my school turned into love, that school became a place where I felt valued more than ever before, and oh that Peruvian food… I couldn’t get enough. And somehow I couldn’t bring myself to leave.
Whilst my unforgettable VolunTeach Peru experience and the wonderful man who made me decide to stay deserve entire blog posts to themselves, let me just say that living here in Arequipa, Peru has been so far one of the biggest challenges I’ve had to face as an adult, in the best possible way. While its beauty and history still captivate me every single day, let’s just say that the Latino lifestyle is… very, very different, to say the least! And sometimes, downright frustrating. From the “hora peruana” (Peruvian time, a.k.a being at the very least half an hour late to everything) to being looked at everywhere I go like a strange unknown specimen, to being ripped off quite a few times before I had mastered the language, I’ve definitely had my patience tested many times. Thankfully that patience was able to grow and become accustomed to the ways of life here, thanks to a deeper understanding of the local culture (having a Peruvian other half definitely exposes you to a big daily dose of that culture!). In turn, this has helped me understand that while I don’t necessarily believe in a divine path being set out for us, I do believe this beautiful city is where I’m meant to be right now, in this beautiful frustrating little haven of music and colour, my heart has found love and comfort here despite daily annoyances and bouts of home-sickness for Europe. Incidentally, I’ve found the best cure for that home-sickness is going out for a big, spicy Peruvian meal, namely a humongous dish of “lomo saltado” (a.k.a paradise in a dish, that is also deserving of its own blog post) accompanied by a big glass of mango/papaya/passion fruit juice, and just sitting there in the hot sunshine while the spicy food burns my mouth off. Best distraction strategy ever.
So as you might have guessed by now, life in Arequipa will be a big part of this blog, as I navigate Latino life and learn as much as I can from it. To get us started with these Arequipa diaries, I thought I’d include some pictures of some of my favourite places around the city. Let’s take you on a little tour!
Until the next instalment of the Arequipa diaries, do let me know what aspects of Peruvian life you’d most like to see!