Friday, August 2, 2013

De las sombras de las mantañas

About 16 hours from boarding a flight to Cusco. Arequipa, despite an unpleasant bacterial episode, has been good to me. This is a beautiful, friendly city.

I'm always a little lost, at first, in this kind of classical Spanish downtown. Everything begins looking the same. My first morning here I got lost on my run. The narrow streets and unbroken wall of buildings (edificios seems perfect here) obscure even nearby landmarks, and despite being laid out in almost a perfect grid, I seem to have a knack for finding the discontinuities.

Still, you get used to it. And every now and then, a street is just wide enough, and oriented just so, to give you a breathtaking view of the mountains hanging over it all.

I've had great company here. My host family, Rafael and Beatrice, were just as kind and gracious as you could ever imagine.

It was tremendous fun studying spanish with some fun folks from around the world.

Here's a picture from on top of the monastery next to where I'm staying:

And here's a bunny from the market, to round things out.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Hello Peru, so long Lima

Lima in winter always feels dystopic. I think its the fog. At night, smoldering in the orange of sodium lights, it reminds me of that opening panorama in Blade Runner. I half expect flames to belch out the tops of skyscrapers. 

In the daylight, you can see the dust, too -- a dull orange dust that must blow in off the dry foothills. It tints everything that doesn't move too much, like the geometric progression of whitewashed terra cotta buildings, and the massive hulks of Soviet-built helicopters decaying on the airport tarmac. More Mad Max than Blade Runner. But a weird, urban version, the fog and haze and dust making a confusingly somber backdrop to the frenetic, honking, LED-spangled bustle of the street. 

After I made it through immigration control (pro tip: Argo, with its excruciating three-tiered passport-wrinkling climax, is not the ideal in-flight movie for international travel) I pushed the button at customs and got the green light, mercifully avoiding having to explain the cornucopia of scientific and photographic equipment to anyone in a uniform. Then I got to wander around for half an hour or so reflecting on the importance of clarity and precision in prearranged meetups in the absence of functional cell phones. 

Eventually, I made it to my eleventh-floor hotel room (suite!) and the compelling view above. A few hours sleep, a shower, breakfast, and lots of manuscript revision later and I said hello once more to Señor Alarcón (having learned my lesson about precision) and was back in the taxi al aeropuerto. 

Maybe someday I'll get to enjoy Lima. So far it's been mostly a dreary way station, some place I'm excited to get to primarily  in order to leave as soon as possible. 

But let me tell you: it's worth it. Peru is awesome. So far, Arequipa is brilliant. And we haven't even gotten to the ants.