It’s that time—the time where I only have just over one week left in this country. Six weeks ago, I couldn’t wait to get home, but now that it’s actually coming up so soon, I am getting hit with bouts of weepy nostalgia. I will be happy to be home to be with my family, friends, and doggies, but I know I will still look back on Peru as an amazing experience and one I feel so blessed to have been able to do. That being said, let me catch you up on what we have been doing these last few weeks:
First off, we celebrated an arequipeño Halloween. We decided not to spend any of our extremely limited funds on costumes, so we dug into our pile of souvenirs and things that had been gifted to us by our students and dressed as the ultimate tourists for Halloween. We even wore our hiking boots. We quickly realized the joke did not land since all the Peruvians just thought we were normal tourists. Because European tourists actually dress like that on the streets, every single day.
In order from L to R: some woman I have never met before in my life, Kyle, our boss Christian (as a nun), our co-worker and fellow American Jeremy, our boss’ wife and secretary at the school Pilar, and two other people I don’t know. We were supposed to go with this group to some exclusive night club, which they told us they were leaving for in fifteen minutes. We sat down at a table and Christian ordered us a round, during which the other group immediately left. The five of us were happy to do our own thing for the evening, so it worked out. We decided to just meander to a different club in downtown and watch the Peruvians get silly.
We wound our way up the street from La Catedral, and smacked straight into a wall of people that only got thicker as we tried to push our way up Calle San Francisco where most of the discotecas are. It was crazy! It was more packed than a summer’s day at Disneyland! People seemed to have resigned themselves to not getting into the already overflowing discotecas and just started drinking in the streets. We managed to eek into a nice discoteca where I snapped this pic of the streets below.
So how do Peruvians spend Halloween? They take their kids out trick-or-treating for an hour or so, then spend it like they do every other holiday: getting heavily sozzled. We did not partake in the revelry too heavily since we were waking up early the next morning to see another aspect of arequipeña culture, las peleas de toros, the bull fights.
Now, as anyone who knows me knows, I am not okay with any form of animal cruelty: dog fights, cock fights, matador matches, etc. However, I read about Arequipan bull-fighting and thought it sounded like the fairest of matches when it comes to animal fights. How it works is that they parade a fertile cow around, and then put two bulls in a ring who lock horns and wrestle for the right to get with the lady. The fight is over once one bull runs away; there is no bloodshed and no cattle prods, only calming pats on the head for the loser and hugs for the victor. If the two bulls don’t want to fight, then the owners lead them out of the ring and the match ends in a tie. I was happy to see such decent treatment of the animals, but I know my Spaniard friends who had gone to a match a few weeks earlier were a little disappointed not to see any deaths. What very different cultures!
None of the photos are zoomed in, that is really as close as we were sitting and really as shoddy security as the wooden walls held up by branches provided the crowd. The most exciting moment is when a bull got loose from its owners and ran bellowing through the crowd standing right in front of us. No one got hurt, and now I know if you have an angry bull running straight for you, just wave a hat, sweatshirt, or even your arms in its face and odds are it will just run on and leave you alone. Click on the video below to see a bit of what the fights look like…
Kyle and I had been wanting to go see the fights since the first time we came to Arequipa, but they are not well-advertised and since they are generally held in the rural outskirts of the city, most people don’t know when they are. I had to go to three tourist information desks to finally find someone willing to look it up for me.
To get to where the bullfights were held (in the tiny little town of Quequeña) was an adventure in and of itself. Kyle, Jeremy, and I hopped on a oh-so-hellish combi where we were lucky to get seats, but unlucky to be at rear-end level when one of the large mass of people standing in front of us farted in a windowless, hour-long journey (which cost S1). Ugh. We got dropped off where we were supposed to wait for another combi to take us onward, but after waiting half an hour, we managed to hail a solitary taxi and just split the cost of that (S20 total for another forty minute ride). He took us straight to the ring (S15 admission) exactly when the fights were scheduled to start at 1pm. They didn’t start until 2:30pm, which is late even for Peruvian time.
We were the only white people in the crowd, and our risk of sunburn was increasing with every passing minute in the blazing heat. Once the first match began, we checked our brochures and saw there were 11 scheduled for that day’s games. We only made through like six before our skin couldn’t handle anymore, so we went out of the stadium to find a way home. As it turned out, all the taxi and combi drivers were inside watching the matches so odds were we would have several hours to kill before we could get home. We explored the town a little bit, and the surrounding fields, and then were lucked out and hailed a passing bus that took us all the way back to Arequipa for just S2.
On Saturday (November 3rd) we finally got to embark on a trip we had been hoping to do even before leaving for Peru, but assumed we couldn’t due to lack of money. We got to hike into the Colca Canyon, the world’s second deepest canyon, for three hot days and two sore nights. I’ll go into that more in my next post, since it is going to take me a little while to sort through 166 photos and three days worth of information. So stay tuned and I’ll be back with more experiences from Peru!