I don’t tend to consider myself an adrenaline junkie, however, I can be pretty fearless and willing to try things that I have never considered before. Caving was one of those things. Definitely not an… More
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.
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.
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.