It's so lovely to be back in Arequipa. My godson's family welcomed me again with open arms and hearts, and I'm starting to feel more a part of their beautiful family. I arrived in the afternoon, just in time to enjoy a delicious lunch of ceviche at a local cevicheria with Lizzy, Kenny, Jimmy and Aledia. The lime marinated fish was even tastier than the dish I had enjoyed in Lima earlier in the trip. We then headed directly to a local cemetery.
In Peru, November 1st is “El día de los santos” (All Saints Day) while November 2nd is “El día de los muertos” (The Day of the Dead). On this beautiful afternoon, the cemetery was packed with families, sitting around the graves of their loved ones, planting flowers, and even bringing some of the favorite food, drink and music of the deceased. The atmosphere was both peaceful and joyful, no tears were shed but rather laughter was shared as people celebrated the lives of those they had lost. On a personal note, this is one of my absolute favorite practices in Latin America; how beautiful it is to celebrate life instead of just mourning death. We met up in the cemetery with Mary, Isa, Cely and their father- all had come to visit their deceased mother, sister, and Isa's late husband and in-laws.
After the cemetery, Mary, Kenny, Lizzy, Aledia and I did some shopping then swung by a local food festival where we took a shot of pisco, the well-known Peruvian liquor. While I had previously tried the mixed drink, a pisco sour, this was my first time tasting the straight alcohol- I admit it was a bit strong for my taste =).
Later on, Kenny, Jimmy, Lizzy and I headed out for a drink and dancing at the same club Lizzy and I had been to the previous weekend. As there was a group of us this time, it was even more fun!
I spent the night with Lizzy and we got up fairly early (despite the late night before) to buy some ground beef so I could prepare Cincinnati chili for the family for lunch. Perhaps the family was just being polite, but the polished plates indicated it was just as much of a hit in Arequipa as it had been in Bogotá!
We took naps in the afternoon then Kenny, Lizzy and I went back to the local food festival to enjoy some more live music, a dessert of yummy honey-soaked “picarones” (similar to funnel cakes, I decided), and another beautiful sunset.
Back at the house later, I taught Kenny and Lizzy how to play Rummy before heading to bed. The next morning, I accompanied Mary, Cely and their father to their home in La Joya, a farm in the country about an hour and a half outside of the city of Arequipa. I'm writing this blog entry from the hammock behind the house.
I've determined this farm is the closest thing to paradise I've found on my trip so far. As I sit here writing, all my senses are completely satisfied. The sky is so blue and the sun is shining bright, the roosters are crowing and the birds chirping, a cool breeze rustles the leaves of the trees around me, a hummingbird is buzzing around the bright array of colorful flowers in the garden, and the smells of something delicious cooking over the grill are wafting my way. Over the past few days here on “La chacra” (the farm), I've witnessed the hatching of baby chicks and the birth of baby rabbits, climbed a tree to pick fresh oranges to squeeze into juice, and ridden a bike several times a half a mile down the road to the local store and to use the (albeit quite slow) Internet (biking or walking is the only way to get around in this area). I met the family's cows who each have the name of one of their friends or family- they even named one Nicole for me!
The cows' milk provides the family's source of income for the farm, and they grow fields of alfalfa to feed the cows, chickens, ducks and rabbits. The food we eat here is all fresh- fruit from the trees, vegetables from the garden and meat from the family's or other local farms. The first afternoon we enjoyed fresh fish brought in from La Curva last week, yesterday we had orange marinated duck (apparently this particular duck brought on his own demise as he was antagonizing the other ducks in the coop), and today I tried “cuy,” the most famous Peruvian delicassie, otherwise known as guinea pig. Despite having had a pet guinea pig myself in my childhood, and even after visiting the neighbor's guinea pig farm yesterday, I agreed to try cuy for myself, provided I didn't have to see the head, legs or tails on the plate! It was so delicious, I actually had two portions!
To most of you, this whole farm thing may seem like something I could have experienced in the country in the US. However, the best part of the farm has actually been the time shared Mary, Cely and their father, some of the kindest and most generous souls I've met on my journey. Later this afternoon, Mary and I will be heading back into Arequipa where, depending on a medical opportunity I might have, I may end up staying for the weekend or just heading back to the farm again in the morning. Not sure I'm ready to leave this paradise…