PERU IS A WONDERFUL COUNTRY TO TRAVEL IN, significantly easier if you have some basic Spanish skills. After spending a week practicing more sign language gestures than Spanish, I’ve decided to stay for a few more days in Arequipa and make good use of its cheap and high quality Spanish classes.
The guesthouse Casa de Avila doubles as a Spanish School, and one of the best in town. I booked myself a whole week worth of classes, spending 4 hours a day with 2 different teachers. Jennifer is a proud Arequipena, who specializes in conversational Spanish, and is constantly cheerful. Beatriz is my grammar teacher, very down-to-earth, somewhat strict, but always helpful.
These one-on-one lessons helped me so much. Within the first day, I am comfortable greeting and asking for directions. After two days, I can order in restaurants, confident that I won’t get surprised with food that I wasn’t expecting. In a week, I can communicate with the friendly janitor lady about her family, and explaining about my life back at home. The teachers here skillfully allowed me to manage through the bare basics, just enough to survive my days here in Peru.
ANOTHER GREAT WAY TO KNOW THE CULTURE IS TO GET INTO A CITY TOUR. The tours have good reviews. I find them very informative, and gets you out from the tourist sites and into the locals life. The trip to the local market is especially eye-opening. Maca drinks are sold like orange juice. Same thing with cow placenta and dried baby sheep.
Peru is blessed with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. No matter how weird they look, they taste incredibly good. Street food are also typically cheap and large portioned.
The walking tour lasted at least 3 hours, and only requires a USD20 suggested donation (you can pay more or less if you want). At the end of the tour, we bumped into another tour, who spoke in Spanish. I am glad that I joined an English-speaking one. Even with my fantastic teachers, Spanish is still a very difficult language to master.
Only 7 of us in the walking tour
Lots of fruits on sale, some familiar, some downright strange
Maca has a very distinct flavor and smell
Dried baby sheep with medicinal properties
A peculiar green cross in front of a church
View of the suburbs
Brightly decorated saints