To be honest, the last few weeks have been a bit of an emotional roller coaster. Peru is beautiful, and I really do love it here, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss a lot of things about life in a more developed country. I miss the convenience of having everything I want at my fingertips in the grocery store. I miss having so many world-flavor options when going out to eat. I miss public transportation that fits my size (the busses here are basically just vans that people cram into–no capacity limit). I also just miss my life at home because this isn’t my home yet. I came here with a broken heart, and I miss the person it broke for. I miss my family. I miss my dog. I miss hugs and human contact because I don’t get a lot of that here.
At the same time, though, I am learning so much about myself and what I’m capable of. What I like and what I truly do not like. What I’m willing to try and what limits I’ve set on my courage. I’m learning a lot about Peru and its people. Most of it’s good, some of it not, and all of it surprising and interesting.
I spent the week before my break relaxing in and around town and exploring the historic heart of Arequipa. I visited the cathedral at the Plaza de Armas, and took a tour of their museum there. It is a beautiful cathedral, with plenty of European influence, but many differences that are plainly visible and unique to this part of the world. I enjoyed learning about its history, including that it has been rebuilt multiple times due to fires and earthquakes.
In addition to seeing the inside, I also got to walk on the roof and see the bells in their towers! That was pretty cool. Rooftops here are used frequently, sometimes for leisure, sometimes for practical purposes like drying laundry. The roof of the cathedral is just used so people can view the city and the mountains from a really good angle.
The cathedral also had a museum housing artifacts from the history of the cathedral. Mostly, there were beautiful old clothes that the priests have worn through the years.
After the cathedral I headed over to the Santa Catalina Monastery. It is still a functioning nunnery, so there were nuns living within the walls. Now, they are allowed to leave the walls with special permission for very special occasions, but they are still cloistered for most of their lives. I only saw the building in which they live–I did not see any nuns. Even all the windows of their building were shuttered, so no one can see in or out.
At the suggestion of Veronica I took a tour of the place with a guide, and I really enjoyed it. Celia was a fantastic guide, in her blue blazer and wide-brimmed straw hate with its matching blue ribbon. She had such a sweet voice and answered all of my questions very patiently. It is a solemn place, but she did make me laugh a few times.
The monastery is described as a city within the city of Arequipa, and it really is that. It’s not a functioning city, but this place at one point was a virtual village, with gardens, individual houses, a communal laundry, square, and kitchen. The policies have changed over the years. Nuns lived together in community, then in their own individual houses, and now, once again live in community with one another.
I loved this place. I will absolutely be going back, just for the serenity of it. It’s a little pricey to get in, but it’s worth it for a few hours of peace.
I will write more later! This post took over an hour to produce. I hope you enjoy the pictures! I’ll tell you all about my teaching and other adventures in a few days!