Abrazos in Arequipa (Part 1)

(I'm beginning to doubt this app that I am using as it just deleted my entire blog post, despite my frequent saving. Thank goodness I keep back up but I am going to break this up into two posts to see if it will avoid crashing the app again… ahh technology)

Trying hard to keep up with this blog but so much has happened in the past week that it is difficult! In fact, I am cheating a little with this entry- I had my mother make an outline for me of the week's events so that I can put them into writing.

We decided to skip the 16 hour overnight bus ride from Lima to Arequipa and opted instead for a relatively cheap hour and a half plane ride. We were greeted in the tiny Arequipa airport by my godson's father's (Steven's) aunt Mary (I told you this trip was all about the connections!) Mary embraced both of us with a hug and a big smile, and then we were on our way to the apartment she shares with her sister Isa in downtown Arequipa. I learned soon after arriving that the plans were to not actually stay in the city of Arequipa that night, but rather to drive another 2-3 hours through the mountains with the family to a small coastal town known as La Curva. La Curva is the hometown of Mary and her sisters Isa, Cely and Aledia, and the homecoming occasion was the 61st anniversary of the district where La Curva is located. What made this anniversary special, however, was that the sisters' father was going to be honored at a special ceremony. Not only was their father the last remaining of the original founders of the La Curva district, he was also about to celebrate his 100th birthday. The whole family was very excited to share in this occasion with their father/grandfather, and my mom and I were honored to be a part of it as well.

La Curva is a beautiful quiet town near the southern coast of Peru. Quiet, I say, only by Mary's report, because when we arrived the town was bustling with excitement for the anniversary festival. We arrived just in time for the evening festivities which included food vendors, a tiny carnival for the kids, ribbons and lights, fireworks, and a quite cheesy musical show of local singers performing well-known songs to back-up tracks. The highlight of the performances was “Juan Gabriel,” an imitator of the well-known Mexican ballad crooner. Finally at midnight there were some fireworks, and by 1am, the cumbia band started playing. We danced a few songs before calling it a night.

Catarindo beach = Paradise

In the morning, Aledia and her children, Lizzy and Kenny, took my mom and me to several beaches and towns along the coast. October in Peru is just the beginning of springtime, so the beaches were fairly quiet and it was too cold to swim. The views were fantastic however, and it was easy to imagine this would be a fantastic summer vacation spot. As we walked along one of the beaches, we noticed two teenage boys with a fishing net. We watched in awe as they stripped down to their shorts and waded into the icy cold water up to their chests, dragging the net between them. As they pulled the net back out of the water, we were so surprised to see dozens of small fish dragged up onto the sand. Per Aledia's suggestion, we promptly negotiated with the fishermen and bought two kilos of “kingfish” for 24 soles (approximately 8 US dollars). We brought the fish home where Mary descaled and washed the fish. Cely fried the fish for lunch and it was some of the freshest most delicious fish I've ever eaten. Here is the full process in pictures:

Step 1: Strip down to shorts and wade into icy water with net

Step 2: Walk backwards out of water pulling net

Step 3: Dump fish onto sand and watch them writhe to a slow breathless death

Step 4: Proudly display catch and negotiate a price

Step 5: Wash, descale, gut and behead fish (this is by far the longest and most tedious of all the steps!)

Step 6: Fry up them fishies and enjoy!

Receiving his award

The anniversary ceremony itself was lovely. The whole town was dressed to the nines (my mom and I did our best to dress up with our limited travel wardrobes), and the daughters dressed their father up in a dashing suit and tie- he looked quite distinguished at his 99 years of age. The town hall was full of locals as well as the mayor, military officials, and the “queen,” the 2013 winner of La Curva's beauty pageant. The guest of honor was given his award in a formal presentation and, despite suffering from some dementia in his old age, he managed to give an eloquent and perfectly coherent acceptance speech. His daughters were glowing with pride. Wine was then passed out to the entire room for a toast, and then dinner and pictures. As the family gathered together around their father/grandfather, it was hard for my mom and I not to be reminded of our own family, and how wonderful it is to be together, especially for special occasions.

Mary, Isa, Aledia and Cely were so proud of their daddy

Lizzy and I escorted her grandpa home from the ceremony- he was pretty quick for 99 years of age!

That evening, Isa, Lizzy, my mom and I hired a driver to take us through the mountains back to Arequipa. The stars on the drive back were incredible- we could even see the Milky Way!

(Next entry to be continued…)



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