July 9-13, 2012
Five days of Spanish lessons at Escuela de Espanol Ari Quipay (EDEAQ) in Arequipa. We'd pre-arranged Spanish lessons and a homestay before we left Canada, so when we reached Arequipa we phoned EDEAQ's Max, who had kindly offered to pick us up. He found us at the bus station and then drove us to our homestay. During the drive our car was stopped by a traffic cop, but there was no need for us to be concerned because Max very calmly suggested to the cop that this unwarranted inconvenience for some innocent visitors from Canada would not reflect well on the Peruvian authorities and he promptly let us on our way. This was but one example of Max's impressive organizational abilities. He also gave us a thorough "security briefing" to ensure our stay in Arequipa would be as pleasant and trouble-free as possible.
Our homestay was better than we'd dared to hope - two bedrooms in a comfortable upper middle-class home in the Yanahuara district - and our host, Virginia, was extremely friendly and was to prove very helpful during our week here. We walked into the city centre on our first night to find somewhere to eat dinner but left it a bit late getting back to Virgnia's home. Darkness descended rapidly as we were trying to locate the right street and we soon became irretrievably lost, what with the maze of similar looking streets, buildings and small parks - we knew the house was near a park, but which one? Eventually we ended up being escorted back to the house by a small squad of policemen - we rode in a car with one, while two others lead the way, one on a motorbike and another on foot.
We managed the rest of the week a little more efficiently with each day following a similar pattern. After enjoying a filling breakfast prepared by Virginia and her maid, Juana, we walked to the language school in the city centre, then had two hours of lessons with Fabricio, followed by a refreshment break, then another two hours of lessons with Pedro.
For the rest of each day we walked around Arequipa, found places to eat or bought food at a grocery store, did our Spanish homework, and went to see some of the sights, including the 430-year-old Monasterio de Santa Catalina and the Museo Santuarios Andinos, which contains La Capaccocha or Juanita the Ice Princess (the frozen body of an Incan girl sacrificed on a nearby volcano more than 500 years ago).
This week in Arequipa was a perfect way to begin our stay in Peru. The language lessons, the homestay, and the city were all very enjoyable. And Virginia, as well as everyone at the language school - Fabricio, Pedro, Max, and Juana, were all incredibly kind and friendly.