St Catalina Convent – Arequipa

I know what you’re thinking, another convent, another bible bashing building, preaching to the end of your tether that you should follow the light. How wrong could I be. Convinced that my time here would be like all other convents I have visited across Europe, I bit my tongue back not to look bored or sound furious at the ridiculousness of it all only to be shocked and surprised by my misjudgement.

St Catalina Convent in Arequipa really is a must in your travel time in Peru let me tell you. Firstly it is architecturally beautiful. Built around a church of the same name, the convent feels almost like a city within walls that has been built for a small community. It boasts the best of Colonial influence, from bright colours, high ceilings and sufficient space for families to live comfortably. The facilities are clean and their irrigation system genius. They bring water from the mountains through a series of canals to the convent and re-direct it back to the river, guaranteeing that their crops flourished and homes had plenty of water for consumption.

The convent has divided its facilities so that young members, refugees and sisters all have separate quarters. This in itself is an innovative concept as most are of shared facilities. However, this is not the only thing it is renowned for. St Catalina offered women of the 16th century and onwards an opportunity to truly control their finances, household and lives.

Women of wealth would move here and bring their great dowaries which would fund their home and life. They could then care for a family under their household or their slaves, giving them prosperous lives. They were allowed to build businesses which helped them control their finances without the opinion or meddling of any man. Finally the convent educated woman to be autonomous, and those who were raised here had the chance to leave but would be welcome open heartedly should they choose to return. The convent was seen as a major economical advantage to the city and contributed greatly to the growth of Arequipa.

The convent really was a haven and community which gave many women the chance for independence.

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Anne Frank -The Diary of a Young Girl (book review)

I have been delving into my reading whilst abroad, and recently finished the WWII famous Diary of a Young Girl, which chronicles the story of Anne Frank and her family as they attempt to hide themselves and other Jews from the war.

The story begins with 13 year old Anne receiving a diary for her birthday from her family, and she decides how she will be going about maintaining the diary up to date. She names her diary Kitty and writes all her entries as letters to her dear friend Kitty. The diary has two years of entries that see Anne grow from a child to a young lady, developing her writing style and going through the ups and downs of a normal teenager, paired with the added pressure of war.

Throughout we see Anne discuss issues with her family, with sharing a home with another family and detail at length the political situation that she finds herself in. We get the impression that this young girl has had to grow very fast, and this is reflected in her many musings and ponderings of her life and her beliefs. Anne is faced with having to deal with a huge hormonal development and change from a child to an adult, as well as surviving a war that has doomed her people. We see the protagonist question her beliefs and re-consider how she would like to live her life should she ever leave.

The ‘Secret Annexe’ as she calls it, is a small apartment in which she finds herself locked in and secluded from the world, alongside her family and the Van Daans. The tension between the two families fluctuates tremendously in the 2 years that they cohabitate in the small space. All with the aid of a few German friends who disagree with the conflict, the family go on, counting their lucky stars that they do not have to suffer the same fate as other Jewish people. In the midst of radio updates, a never ending wait for the war to start and endless weeks of consumin potatoes and spinach, Anne is able to find the happy and uplifting moments in her situation. We see the girl begin to develop feelings for a boy and find her first love, in spite of her denying it to the ground.

Overall, the book gives a perfect picture of the war from the perspective of a child in hiding, but also demonstrates just how mundane lives continued whilst waiting for the worst. The book was given to publishing by Pim Frank – Anne’s father – two years after he survived the war.

I loved every second of it. From being moved, to feeling as if I were actually there, there is no denying that young Anne had a gift for words and description. She was at times extremely poignant but also had such comedic relief in her writing. My only sadness is that I would urge Pim to have written a final entry or two, explaining maybe his feelings or how Anne’s hopeful life sadly ended after being taken to Auschwitz. It is truly a tragedy and her final diary entry is incredibly touching as the reader knows what happened next. Regardless, it is easy to understand why he perhaps would not feel brave enough to finish or add to her already mesmerising and relevant work.

Young Anne, so full of hope and ambition in a time where all dreams were shot dead, makes this tail of her life a must read for all. Lest we forget.

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Bienvenidos a Lima

I cannot believe I am nearly 20 days into my 80 day trip. What a trek it has been already. I have so much I want to share with you guys about Costa Rica in the future, and I am keeping a journal so I can keep all the memories alive for blogging. It’s not easy to write on the go I find, especially as I only have my trusted mobile phone to update you all with. It’s strange how a paragraph does not seem like a paragraph on a phone. Anyway, I digress, I am finally in Peru!

After a long day of travel between San Jose and Lima, I got here and pretty much passed out. Yesterday I went off on a Peruvian venture to discover the downtown of the city, where most historical buildings are located. With a warm welcome to Lima, I was even luckier because the city had celebrated just the night before its 482nd anniversary! So as I walked the Plaza de Armas, a government official stepped out of the Palacio Municipal de Lima (City Hall) to deliver a speech which touched the many that were present. I have no idea if it was a man of importance but the fact of the matter was that the city was bustling with a feel of celebration, peace and joy. It was great! What an amazing welcome to the country for me. 

I have discovered that I am actually enamored with colonial architecture. How sweet are the colours, so calming and inviting. And the space inside these buildings is beyond ridiculous! I’d love a little house like this in England, it would be a success, standing out from the built in blocs houses that are all a carbon copy of each other. Plus wooden floors and copious amounts of space for everything, even if I don’t necessarily want lots of stuff I like there to be empty space.

This is only a brief post as I saw so much yesterday, but let me just tell you that I purchased a bottle of Pisco for my man and I to get merry together and also I saw lamas! I mean only in Lima can you be walking downtown and find yourself in the same street as two lamas. How cool! Also I was wandering around and started to feel peckish so was able to buy two huge slices of pineapple for 50 pence, I mean how incredible, I love fruit. Tropical, sweet and juicy fruit. Speaking of food, I want you wall to appreciate my dinner last night that I couldn’t even finish, which cost me less than £4 with the drink included. God I love Peru already. 

I am sure I will have so much more to say and it is beginning to dawn on me that travel really does encourage self discovery. Well tonight I will also discover who I will be sharing this 35 day venture with! How exciting.

To finalise,  I have one question, how do you fellow backpackers go about souvenir shopping and lugging it around? Happy travel, writing and reading.

The Cursed Child (review)

I had been anticipating this play for a VERY long time and this script was a godsend. Having only been able to book tickets for March 2017 and still counting down until I get to see it live, this play was exactly the wizarding world fix I needed. I know I have pottermore and the movie Fantastic Beasts and where to find them. However, sometimes, many times, patience is not my virtue, and with lots of spoiler trolling the world wide web I was in dire need to find out who the cursed child is. So I did what any fan would do and I bought a copy of the play script the day it landed on shelves world wide.

* SPOILER ALERT *

Harry Potter continues to be the cursed child – we all knew it! This at least is my understanding of the tail. We start on a fastforward of 18 years. Our previous heroes are all happily married, with magical offspring and the jobs they so aspired to get. Albus, Harry{s younger son is about to go to Hogwarts – note remember the end of the last book when we have a flash forward? The play pretty much starts there. – and he too is concerned about becoming a Slytherin. Harry, high in virtue, promises that whatever happens he will not be judged but rather very much accepted and loved. Like all teenage dramas, how wrong could a parent be? Albus does get into Slytherin, befriends none other than Draco Malfoy’s son and becomes the dark sheep of the family. Even Granger’s daughter now despises him.

(I have a theory that Granger’s daughter and Malfoy’s son are going to get hitched in the Potter world future and have beautiful, cunning little babies. Malfoy and Granger will then have to become bff’s and the purist will have to apologise to her for his despicable behaviour as a spoilt teenage brat.)

Now fast forward a bit more, time turners are illegal, blah blah blah, but the point is Albus wants to do something right and ends up messing up big time. – I am trying not to ruin it too much – But he is trying to help this girl who turns out to be Bellatrix and Voldemort’s long lost daughter who is trying to change the past by killing Harry Potter as a baby. Now all of our heroes and their children jump on the time travelling band wagon go back, someone (you will find out who!) pretends to be Voldemort and saves the day. This is a really short and broken summary of the plot but my point is, how can anyone think that ALBUS is the cursed child and not HARRY? It’s obvious isn’t it? They all go back to save the poor kid from death only to become cursed and live out his first 18 years fighting off evil! Tum tum tum! Knew it.

Alternitavely you could say the cursed child is the daughter of Voldemort and Ballatrix LeStrange. I think this would be quite an obvious choice, as she is the most deadly of all and bound to never meet her parents. Regardless of who it is exactly – as it is never fully stated – I am pleased to see it is not Albus or Malfoy’s son, because that would be far too predictable. Plus the introduction of a daughter from He who must not be named and the deadliest death eater of all is brilliant, because it confirms, once more, the love that spawned between the two hideous characters. Even Voldemort needed a bit of love in his life clearly.

Rowling does a fantastic job of it though, I have to say. I loved the premise, if anything just because it was a pleasure to see that our heroes have become normal parents who too make mistakes. Not just some perfect examples of life. They are heroic in the aspect that they portray a totally normal dynamic. I also admire the teenage angst that fills the pages. There is clearly some hidden tension between young Potter and young Malfoy, many fan theories hinting at the first homosexual relationship to be fully played out in the Potterworld – seeing as don’t really have a full record of Dumbledor’s amorous life. We all know that young Malfoy wants a bit of young Granger-Weasley, but it is great that Albus definitely demonstrates hints of homosexuality. I can say that it was an obvious choice to choose him to carry this mantle seeing as he has already been selected into a different house from his family and is quite evidently the odd one out. In this sense I wished that Rowling had used a less obvious choice, for example his older brother James, which would have been refreshing and not overchanged Albus’ character with so many features. Also, is he would be echoing the life of the great magician he was named after and almost completing the circle. We are not yet sure that he is in fact gay, but the hints are there.

Overall, it is never a bad thing to return to the wizarding world, and I am excited to encounter it in this medium. March 2017 cannot come soon enough, and I will be watching magic come to life on stage in London. Share your thoughts on the script with me and anythings you have loved or hated about it.

The lost treasure of keys – Tales of Travel gone wrong

As you know, I am currently traipsing around Costa Rica enjoying the pura vida and the sea turtles. Volunteering here has been an amazing experience, we really get to know the locals, brush up on our Spanish and embrace the culture of the area. Here the concerns are very ltitle as people just want to eat, beach and save turtles.

So a few days ago we were doing hatchery work, which you can read about here, and as I am knee deep into a hole of wet sand a lot of sand flies a lady approaches me. The tide was slowly but surely coming up and the sun setting perfectly in the background, decorating the skies with pink and orange hues, when this lady reveals that the buried her car keys in the sand and can no longer find them… I was baffled to say the least. Many questions sprung to my mind straight away. First of all who buries their car keys in the sand  for safe keeping? This beach only has around 10 punters a day and they only come out when they see the turtles being released. Secondly, if you’re going to bury something in the sand make sure you mark it so that you know where you put it.

So it turns out that as the tide started coming in the woman moved her chair first, which was the marker for the location of keys INSTEAD of the keys. Narurally, with sea water coming in an out at a rapid speed and dragging sand with it, she lost its location. She approached me and asked for some shovels we were using so we decided to be good samaritans and go help. We spent nearly 40 minutes digging hopelessly as the ocean dragged our feet, sand and potentially these disappeared keys to its depths. We did everything humanly possible to find them within the limited time and trying to trace the angle and original position of the chair through a selfie the lady had taken earlier on. The situation was awful but laughable. I honestly did not know whether to cry or laugh as the ocean continued to eat at the beach and the light was disappearing.

By the time we left the beach the whole family was still there, hopelessly searching but also celebrating in glee the hilarity and ridiculousness of the whole scenario. They now plunged into the water aimlessly continuimg their search if anything just to try their best to recover their treasure and head home.

I do not know if they ever found them. I don’t know how they even left the beach that evening, but they suffered, searched, thrived and laughed through it together, never stressing and taking it on their stride. I genuinely think they took it home as a great story to tell the kids.