Arequipa

We arrived in Arequipa around noon today and it’s a really charming city. Arequipa has a population of 900,000, though it feels like something in between a ski town like Breckenridge and a European city. They call Arequipa the “White City” and there are two prevailing theories why. The first is because many of the buildings are made of white volcanic stone, and the other, more popular theory is because it became a major Spanish stronghold after they invaded and the Spaniards were white compared to the Inkas.

After a short break to settle into our rooms, get acclimated (Arequipa sits at 7,500 feet above sea level) and have lunch, we broke into two groups for an afternoon walking tour of the city.

Just two block from our hotel is the Monastery of San Francisco.

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From there, we worked our way to the center of town to the Plaza de Armas. This is a large public square in the center of town with a park and fountain in the center, a huge cathedral on one full block and lots of restaurants and shopping lining the other three sides. The park was also filled with hundreds of pigeons.

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We moved on to see some alpaca shops and the to the Jesuit Cathedral. The cathedrals here are just stunning. This particular cathedral had three massive altars all intricately carved out of cedar.

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The end of our tour took us to the Monastery of Santa Catalina. This is a massive convent and was basically a city within the city of Arequipa. We toured the old Monastery, and there are still nuns who live and pray in the new portion. It was also raining a good bit by this time, so you can see we all look a bit wet.

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For dinner, several of us went to a place called Zig Zag, which was recommended by our tour guide, Augusto, who hasn’t steered us wrong yet. We had a reservation and they had a table waiting for us in a private room. Austin was one of the adventurous ones and ordered a drink called the Machu Picchu. It looks like it should have an umbrella in it. He said it was quite tasty.

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Cody was also adventurous and ordered a sampler trio of Pisco Sours, all very nice.

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Dinner was served and all of the boys had meat – Andean mountain meat to be precise. Austin dove into an alpaca steak and the rest all had meat trios consisting of beef, alpaca and either lamb or pork. Tim was just a bit different and went with a trio of fish. All of the dishes were served on a heated stone and came out sizzling, hence the bibs that were provided before the meal was served.

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Last day in Lima

Today is our last day in Lima and also the last class day. Our field trip took us to the PrestaClub, which is a microcredit institution focused on lending people money based on the value of their property. PrestaClub is not a bank though, but more of a fund comprising private investors who collectively lend money to individual property owners.

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After the presentation, we had about half an hour to wander around a park-like courtyard just across the street.

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We will be packing our bags tonight and we’ll head to the airport in the morning for our trip to the highlands. I’m not sure if we’ll have Internet access where we’re staying, so if I don’t post for a while, please be patient and know that we are continuing to have a great time.

Our upcoming week will take us to Arequipa on Friday, Puno and Lake Titicaca on Saturday, Cusco Sunday through Tuesday, we’ll be hiking the Inka Trail on Wednesday, exploring Machu Picchu on Thursday, and returning to Lima and then homeward bound on Friday. We have a very jam-packed week, so there’ll be lots to blog about if and when we have Internet access.

Backus Brewery field trip & dinner at La Rosa Nautica

Wednesday morning found us touring the largest brewery in Peru and one of the most modern brewing facilities in the world. Backus Brewery makes 14 different beers along with several soft drinks and bottled water products. And with a hold of 93% of the beer market in Peru, we were in for a treat, both figuratively and literally.

We were forbidden from taking pictures, so description will have to suffice. [edited: just got the photo on January 30]

We started with a video presentation of the company, which is part of the global SAB Miller group. We were then fitted with hard hats and taken on a complete tour of the facility and the brewing process. I don’t know exactly how much beer they produce annually, but they have six bottling lines. The line we saw produces about 850,500 bottles per day, and their fastest time produces one million cases per week. That’s a LOT of beer!

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After the tour, we were taken to the tasting tent where we were treated with a large sample of two of their brews – Cusquena and Cusquena Malta. Cusquena is the premium brand and the only brand that is exported to the United States.

For dinner, almost everyone indulged in one last fancy dinner at the La Rosa Nautica. This restaurant sits at the end of a pier with the ocean waves becoming the soundtrack of the experience.

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As with all of our meals, lots of sharing occurred because everything was delicious.

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I ordered a traditional ceviche and Cody ordered a Ceviche Tiradito, which is basically sans the red onions. His was served with a very nice ají pepper sauce. Both were exceptional.

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Another popular dish that many of the students shared was asparagus spears wrapped in a crispy cheese with an exquisite sauce.

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Finally, for dessert, we had homemade Alfajores (a tasty Peruvian cookie) layered with Dulce de Leche a la mode. Sublime. Another dessert that a couple of students tried was the lucuma tart on a chocolate mirror. Beautiful and delicious.

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Astrid y Gaston

Tuesday night, Professor McGee, his wife, Cody and myself went out for dinner at one of the best restaurants in all of South America, and the world, Astrid y Gaston.

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It was quite an experience. Gaston Acurio is a celebrity chef who is credited with making Lima the gastronomic capital of South America. He now owns many restaurants throughout the world, but this is his flagship.

The meal starts with a basket a various homemade breads and a small amuse bouche (bite-sized appetizers). There were three on the platter and all were amazingly delicious.

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Next came the main course. I didn’t ale pictures of the menus, so I don’t remember all of the names of our dishes, but everything was amazing. I had a dish with butterfish, Cody had a different kind of fish, Prof. McGee had seared tuna dish topped with coconut foam, and his wife had the summer saltado, a seafood take on the traditional Peruvian lomo saltado.

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As you can see from the plating, it was almost like being served on Iron Chef. Everything was beautiful.

Next came dessert. Once again, I can’t remember the names, but hopefully the pictures can speak for themselves. We had a dessert of cannelloni filled with Peruvian peanut mousse on top of an apple lasagna (top picture). The little orange dots are an “orange and pepper roe” and was served with an aji pepper ice cream. Prof. McGee had a dessert with bananas (second picture) served with goat cheese ice cream.

The only name I remember is Barb’s dessert – The Sensitive Sphere, composed of chocolate and raspberry. The presentation of this dish required a video, which you can see here.

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Yobel SCM field trip

Tuesday morning we boarded the bus at 6am for a ride to the Yobel SCM Company.

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We weren’t allowed to take any photos while we we there, but it was a very interesting presentation and tour. We were first shown a video about the company, which I think is here.

We were then split into three groups and were taken on tours of three areas of their business. We saw how they make costume jewelry, their logistics area, which included their major individual order packing of cosmetics and toiletries (Avon-style orders), and finally their cosmetics and toiletries area where they both make and package these items. They were making lipstick on this day and they were packaging shampoo and perfume.

The costume jewelry and the shampoo/perfume packaging were particularly fascinating to me as it’s all done individually. Each piece of costume jewelery is worked on by several people, and all of the labeling and boxing of the shampoo/perfume is done by hand. For example, the line working on the perfume had someone operating a machine to put the spray caps on, another person wiping the bottom of the bottle, the next putting the sticker on the bottom, a couple of others hand placing the large front labels on, someone opening and forming the boxes, someone putting the caps on and someone else placing the bottle in the box. And it’s all done very, very quickly. I personally thought this kind of thing was all mechanized by now.

The tour took longer than planned, so we only had a short time for lunch before class started, which was on Peruvian natural resources today. Since I don’t have pictures from the field trip, here’s a shot of the students hanging out in the courtyard before class.

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Monday’s class – Poverty and Villa El Salvador

Monday morning, January 16, 2012, we boarded the bus and set out to see Villa El Salvador. Villa El Salvador was established in 1971 and has since become a model for how self-management and popular participation can transform a shantytown in the desert into a habitable place, with levels of sanitation and education that are the envy of other Latin American towns and cities.

We were first taken to the city municipal building where we had a brief audience with the mayor (who happens to be just 27 years old!). Afterward, we were provided a police escort for our bus (not sure why, but they were very excited we were there) to their industrial area, comprised primarily of high-end furniture and leather goods stores.

Our class was in the afternoon and was about poverty in Peru, which was fitting with the field trip.

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For dinner, a few of us went to a place called Alfresco. This was a recommendation from our travel coordinator, and it did not disappoint. I had the tuna and salmon ceviche. Cody had the black rice (squid ink) with octopus, Greg had a different ceviche and Tim had a flounder dish. Everything was excellent.

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A few extra photos

Just a few extra photos I wanted to share.

In our effort to make it back to Lima to watch the Packer game (#fail), we just stopped at a grocery store to buy snacks to eat on the bus. Liz and Tony decided to split a very large cinamon bundt cake. It only cost about $2!

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Dessert!

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