Lots Going On!!

Trip Start Aug 27, 2008
Trip End Oct 23, 2008

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Flag of Peru  ,
Friday, September 12, 2008

There are many things going on here in Peru and in our lives. Tomorrow is Dean's birthday. We are celebrating by going to Colca Canyon, about 100 kilometers from Arequipa, for three days. At 3191 meters (10,469 feet) deep, Colca Canyon is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon but not as deep as the nearby Cotahuasi Canyon 3501 meters (11,488 feet), another 100 kilometers away and considered the deepest in the world. From what we have read, Colca Canyon's walls are not as steep as the Grand Canyon's walls and there are some villages in the bottom of the canyon that still use the terraces established by the Incas to grow food. We will give you a report in next week's travel blog.

We have been going to El Centro, the historic center of Arequipa, almost daily. The buildings in the historic center are made of Sillar, which is a white color volcanic rock that can be easily formed into blocks. Many people claim that the central square in Arequipa, Plaza des Armas, is the prettiest central square in Peru, and we can believe it. There is a cathedral with two steeples that stretches the full width of this wide square and the buildings surrounding the square on the other three sides are made up of colonnades, so the entire square has the feeling of being cloisters, but with traffic on those three sides. The block surrounded by the cathedral and collonaded buildings is a park with a beautiful fountain and palm trees.

Some of the buildings in El Centro date back to the 1500's but most of them have been rebuilt after earthquakes. One of the most impressive things to us is the decoration on some of the buildings. It consists of carved rock in a style called "churrigueresque" and, besides being very beautiful, is interesting because it mixes traditional Catholic symbols with classic Inca symbols.

Also, in El Centro are a lot of restaurants, tourists shops, and tour operators. Our favorite place is the market place for locals where most things can be bought. There are rows of meat, dried food in bulk, cheap kitchen utinsels, olives, a row dedicated to fresh fruit juices, and lots of piles of fruits and vegetables piled up attractively at least 10 feet high.

The food here varies. At the school all of our meals are provided. The food at the school has been fairly bland and often blended together in one mass and served over rice. We eat out every other day or so and have really enjoyed the meals we eat out. There is a vegetarian restaurant in El Centro that we have eaten at several times that prepares traditional Peruvian meals, but vegetarian style. We can have a Menu (full 3 course meal) at this vegetarian restaurant, including softdrinks, for less than $5 for the two of us. We also have enjoyed the ceviche which is fish or seafood pickled in lime juice with some spices added. It reminds us of a spicy "silt" (pickled herring) that we came to enjoy when we were in Sweden many years ago. Tonight we are going to eat out at a fancy restaurant on a terrace overlooking the plaza and Cathedral in El Centro to celebrate Dean's birthday.

Even though it has been several years since we have lived overseas, many of the attitudes that go along with being overseas have returned to us quickly. The "airport malaise" that frequent overseas travelers have that allows them to enjoy waiting in airports for hours, came back naturally. Every country has different things that require precautions. The tap water in some countries is better than in the U.S. but in countries, like Peru, cannot be drunk without fear of illness (bottled water is available everywhere and we carry a water filter with us). The food in most places is good, especially if it is cooked, but the frequent traveller learns how to disinfect fresh fruits and veggies with a little chlorox in a sink of water.

Crime varies in much of the world. While crime in places we have lived in the middle east (Turkey and Northern Cyprus) is mostly limited to minor bribes to get things done more quickly, in much of the world petty crime is a concern. In Europe, Italy and Amsterdam have a reputation for having a lot of petty theft (breaking into cars, breaking into hotel rooms, and pickpocketing). In most of the world outside the U.S., violent crime is fairly rare but petty crime is common. We once had a laptop stolen from our car in southern France. The worst crime that affected someone we knew happened in Italy when one of the faculty members for our university was carrying a purse with a sturdy strap over the opposite shoulder, like the tourist books recommend. A big guy grabbed her purse and ran, dragging her for a number of feet and causing some serious injuries. After these experiences we have learned to be ready for any petty crime that might happen.

Before coming to Peru, Kris minimized what was in her billfold like purse. We carry a neck pouch to keep passports and large amounts of money in while traveling. We also often wear pants with zip pockets but were not wearing then that day. She put the most important things in the neck pouch and left it in our room at the school. We were walking in El Centro, Kris had fallen a couple of steps behind me. She was slowed to a crawl for a few seconds by three people almost stopped in front of her. A person drew her attention to her left shoulder so she put her right hand, that is usually near her right pants pocket, to her left shoulder. The people quickly dissolved into the crowd and a few seconds later she realized that her purse, that had been in her right pants pocket, was gone. In it were less than $50, a credit card, and a ATM card. Within a short period of time we had cancelled the cards and were enjoying ourselves again, hardly affected by the incident. Frequent travelers learn that things like this, no matter where one is in the world, are part of traveling and even become the gist for interesting stories when getting together with other travelers.

When we were living in Northern Cyprus, Kris used to play bridge once or twice a week with a group of expats from many different countries that were experienced world travelers. This group consisted of people originally from Germany, Britain, Turkey, and other Middle Eastern countries that were mostly teachers, university faculty members, or business people. These people had worked all over the world and were more experienced travelers than we were. When we left Northern Cyprus they gave Kris a plaque that said "Life is a Game, Bridge is Serious." This attitude summarizes the thought processes of many world travelers. Basically, don't get too serious about life, but concentrate on doing whatever specific things you are doing as good as you can.

Please keep in touch and keep the e-mails and comments coming. So far, we have a strange feeling of being home while we are traveling away from the U.S., but we really value the e-mails and comments we get from all of you.

Our thoughts are going out to those of you with interests and family in the Texas Gulf coast area as Hurricane Ike approaches.
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zapjillski on

Fairplay Bison Shootings
On Saturday, September 13, on the front page of the Business section of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer there was a story about the bison shootings in Fairplay. Things are pretty slow in Seattle.

WOW, you guys leave Fairplay and the truth about the dangers of life in Fairplay reach the national media.Is this why you left the country so quickly ? Is your freezer stuffed with frozen bison ? Did Kris really hit a bison rather than hit an ice patch ? I hope the Colbert reporters don't pickup this story. No matter what happens, I'm here if you need me. Zap

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