04 June 2011

Home sweet home

The arrows point to my front door and living room windows
I’m enjoying life in my new abode, a one-bedroom apartment here in Cusco. It’s in a small complex of 5 apartments, intended for tourist accommodation, so is a little more expensive than the local apartments. But it’s in a really handy location for me, only 5 minutes’ walk from the hotel where the volunteers stay, only 10 minutes’ walk into the centre of town, and 20 minutes’ walk to the bus stop for Oropesa. There are lots of good restaurants in easy walking distance, plus my local laundry is just around the corner (about $4 for a weekly load of washing), and there’s a great bakery, a chemist’s shop and a couple of small grocery shops just down the road.

The owners live here too; Mama and Papa in one apartment, and Javier, who runs the apartments and an eco-tour business, in another. There also seems to be another branch of the family downstairs, maybe another son and his wife. They are obviously prosperous – Javier drives a 4-wheel drive and the guy downstairs rides a Harley Davidson. I often bump into Mama as I leave in the morning, and we exchange greetings – well, I say "Hello", and "How are you?”, and “I’m fine”, but when she continues on in rapid Spanish, I just nod my head and smile a lot.


The rooms of my place have brightly painted walls in green, orange, red and cream, which are cheery. The block is divided into two parts, with a gap between, and the section slopes steeply downwards so, although my front wall is partly below street level, my living – dining room has lots of windows to let in the light.

The views out the side and the back
Peruvians are big on security (for good reason – I’ve had a phone stolen and someone took two old shovels from work yesterday), so most houses have bars on the windows, or are surrounded by tall walls with only one doorway to the street. Here we have a steel fence along the street front, with a gate that is triple-locked, my front door also has a triple-locking system, and there are bars on the road-side windows in my living room.

The place is cold – there is no heating. This is typical of Peruvian houses, as is the lack of running hot water. I have hot water for the shower, of course – it’s heated by some kind of electrical system, which sounds dangerous but doesn’t seem to be. Cooking is by gas, though I haven’t actually cooked anything yet, just heated water for the endless cups of tea I’m drinking. Eating out is so cheap that it would actually be more expensive to buy groceries and cook. I usually have a bread roll, a couple of slices of the delicious local cheese and tomatoes for breakfast, then eat out for lunch and dinner.

It’s good to be sleeping in a double bed again after three weeks in a very narrow single at the hotel. I kept waking up in the night – I think I was afraid to turn over in case I fell out! My bed is hard, but I like that, and it’s extremely cosy, with two thick duvets – necessary for the cold night-time temperatures. The last couple of nights it’s been down to 1° and next week’s forecast to be even colder.

The apartment has wi-fi, so my internet connection here is actually better than it was with my old dial-up system at home, and there’s cable TV, so I’m watching the same programmes as I did at home: the CSIs and House, plus lots of new ones. The programmes in English have sub-titles, which help with my slow attempts to learn Spanish, and many are either dubbed with Spanish voices or are made in Spanish.

The only thing I miss about my Auckland apartment is the sea view – but that’s not something I can fix in landlocked Cusco. And the high snow-covered peak at the end of the Cusco valley makes up for the lack of ocean – I love mountains, too!