I did not think that I was going to like Arequipa. I had visions of it just being another big city with little to differentiate it from any other. But upon arrival, I realized that it is hard to compete with a rooftop terrace. It was like a different world up there. We might leave to try new foods or see new sights, but we always returned for impromptu dance parties and interesting conversations with the other travelers passing through the white city. They were always so nice and so excited to hear about our experiences. I will never forget those nights up on the roof.
Another cool place that stands out from our time in Arequipa is the public market. Many of our food forays occurred there. A few of my favorites include rocoto relleno, a local specialty in which a spicy pepper is filled with beef, onions, and cheese and served along with a heaping pile of cheesy potatoes and adobo, a stew with a base similar to Mexican mole. I loved the market because it is so different from anything else that I had previously experienced. The hustle and bustle of the people moving like ants through the stalls, people greeting each other in several different languages, a random dog meandering through and falling asleep in the aisles. It was definitely a solid dose of culture shock to think that this is everyday life for so many Arequipans.
But our time in Arequipa was more than rooftop hangouts and seeing who could find the tastiest dish, we also had many educational components. We went to a museum and saw a mummified girl nicknamed Juanita who had basically been freeze dried after being sacrificed atop one of the nearby volcanoes. It was certainly a creepy experience seeing her preserved along with her 500-year-old clothing that still looked new and the collection of toys that she had brought with her on the voyage. We also went to a monastery that had remained isolated from the town for almost 400 years before being opened to visitors in the 70s. There was so much amazing architecture and fantastic colors. I felt like I was stepping back into time and looking into the lives of nuns as they lived a cloistered existence. There was an eerie but peaceful silence that seemed to haunt the narrow, flower-lined streets.
More than anything, Arequipa started to feel like home. We had our favorite ice cream vendors, the friendly fruit lady would toss in an unknown piece of fruit into each order, and we could all map out the tangle of streets surrounding the cathedral that was just a few blocks from our hostel.
Arequipa is a city that I will never forget. Whether it be getting ice cream, relaxing at the hostel, or celebrating Henry’s birthday, it is a place filled with wonderful memories.
~Sevilla, High School Student