Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas letter 2013

Colca Canyon, May 2013
What an interesting year it’s been! Another busy one for the Arizona Arequipa Gelfis.

January: We enjoyed a wonderful couple of weeks in Australia, spending time with family and friends. Nathan played cricket for the first time and had a lot of fun.
 February: On our way back to Arizona we made a short visit to Arequipa in southern Peru to check out what is now our new home. There had been some very heavy rain just before we arrived which caused a lot of damage in the city. It was our first visit to South America as a family. Nathan turned 9! He celebrated with a small party with friends at home.

March: House-packing madness. Actually, most of March and April are a blur because there was so much going on. Paul made a trip to Bagdad (AZ) and Vancouver for work so was gone half the month.  

April: Paul travelled to Arequipa to start his new job (Concentrator Manager) and get our new home ready. He also got another year older and celebrated his birthday with dinner at a local Arequipa restaurant with friends from work. Meanwhile, I continued packing and finished my job at Sierrita in late April.

May: Nathan did a wonderful job in his end-of-year dance recital. He finished his year at Great Expectations Academy with great results. We left Arizona behind and officially made our big move to Peru.  After a couple of weeks of settling in, Nathan started school and I started my new job (Chief of Mine Technology and Systems). At the end of the month we visited Colca Canyon (one of the deepest canyons in the world) for a long weekend with friends.

June: Adjustment to our new life continues. After much searching and unsuccessful interviewing we were very lucky to find a wonderful housekeeper (Cleo) who helps to make our new life easier and more comfortable. She is a lovely lady who looks after us and we are very grateful to have her in our lives.
July: We attended a big 4th July party that was put on for the (mostly US) ex-pats in Arequipa. There was more celebrating when our moving boxes arrived from the US. Annette caught a nasty stomach bug that knocked her around for more than a week. It is just one of the things that are a constant threat living here. Although we take precautions we can still get sick sometimes. We visited Lake Titicaca and surrounding area in late July, coinciding with the Peruvian Independence Day holiday (actually, it’s two days). We visited the uros (floating man-made “islands” made of thick stacks of reeds) and Taquile Island, which was all very interesting and beautiful.

August: Learning Spanish continues. We have a lot of learning resources available and plenty of opportunity to practice. Gradually we are getting the hang of it.

September: Earthquakes are common here and we don’t usually worry too much about the small ones. In September we experienced our biggest earthquake so far: a 7.0. Being reasonably far away and fairly deep, there was fortunately no damage but it was definitely a very strange experience.

October: We realized a long-held wish and during Nathan’s school holidays we finally visited New York City. We spent a wonderful week there to celebrate both my birthday and our 10th wedding anniversary. On the way back to Peru I spent most of a week in Tucson for work. It was also a chance to stock up on a few “supplies” to take back to Peru.

November: Annette travelled to Santiago (Chile) for work and while there celebrated her 4-Uh-Oh birthday.  

December: School is wrapping up for the year and we will soon make our last trip for the year, to Tucson then to New Zealand for Christmas.

Plans for the New Year:

2014 is going to be a busy year for us. Work will get busier but we also have some fun travels planned. We wish for continued health, happiness and employment in 2014.

Best wishes for the New Year!
The Arequipa Gelfis (Paul, Annette and Nathan)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Happy Miner's Day (we (move) rock(s)!)

P and I got a very special treat today: a day off work while N had to go to school. The occasion was El Dia de Mineria (Miner's Day), which is an official, government-sanctioned holiday for all people who work in mining. At last, a special day just for us!
We were invited to go for a walk with friends at Carmen Alta, in the Cayma district of Arequipa, not too far from home. Carmen Alta is an area near the river, where lots of different crops are grown and there is a nice road to walk on plus trails that lead down to the water's edge. When we go for walks here, what usually happens (especially when we go with friends; they have their security agent and we have ours with us) is that one car (with an agent) goes in front of us and one follows behind. We walk along and they keep pace with us, giving us enough space to feel comfortable but close enough that if we need them, they are there for us.
It was a beautiful day and great weather for walking. At Carmen Alta there are crops grown in the usual Peruvian way, which is using traditional agricultural methods. The fields are terraced and irrigation channels are built to direct water to the fields for periodic flood irrigation. Almost every available space is ploughed and planted. The soil is rich in volcanic minerals so with the plentiful water supply, the plants grow healthy and strong (but although this is traditional agriculture, there are some modern touches such as fertilizer and pesticide - these aren't organic gardens).

These farmers are using yoked bulls instead of a tractor to pull their plough.
These women are working their crops by hand, which is how most crops are cultivated here.

It's nice to go on walks like this and remember that there are such beautiful, peaceful places in the world where life seems to go at a slower pace and things seem much simpler than they sometimes do in more modern places. It's also a reminder that most of the world does not actually live in the same way that folks do in (for example) the US, Australia, New Zealand or Canada.

Unfortunately, dumping of rubbish like this is very common. It's so sad to see such a nice place being spoiled by folks dumping their garbage.

At the top of Carmen Alta is a mirador (lookout) from where you can get a really nice view of the whole valley.
The view from the Carmen Alta mirador.

This is El Ekeko, a character from traditional Peruvian folk tales. He carries a variety of items which are considered to be lucky charms.