That’s all we wanted, really. And we wanted it to include more than one room besides the bathroom, so after three weeks of hotel living, we are ready to head out into the real world of Arequipa! We have hunted for apartments for the last week or so, and it’s been quite a ride. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, so thank you for your prayers!
First, you probably remember us saying that we would be living with a Peruvian family for up to six months once we got here. We had discussed this with the director of the language school when we visited a few years ago, and he was working to that end for us. However, when we arrived, we found that he had not been able to find any families with two bedrooms to spare, plus he really felt we would fare better by heading a different direction. After some consideration and other advice, we decided to look for apartments in the city where we would be able to interact with Peruvians, shop in the markets, and generally learn everything we can. So we began looking at options in proximity to the school.
Now, allow me to describe the process that is necessary to see an apartment listed for rent in Arequipa. First, you must buy a paper and scour the classificos for ads that seem to fit your requirements as best you can tell. Everything for rent is called a departamento, so you can’t really tell if it is a separate living space or just an extra room in someone’s home. Then, since the address is not normally listed, you must call the number given to find out the location to further ascertain that it is, in fact, where you are willing to live…assuming anyone answers the phone, of course. If everything is acceptable so far, you set an appointment to stop by and continue with your calls. You attend your appointment, hoping the taxi driver can help you find it and the owner answers the door when you arrive. We looked at about 8, and they ranged from too large (complete with maid’s quarters) and unfurnished to a tiny rooftop shack that had enough junk piled around to warrant the advertisement of “partially furnished”, not to mention the two story spiral staircase that wound up the front of the house to said shack on the roof. People called a room with a sink “the kitchen” and the larger outdoor sink the lavanderia or laundry room. Needless to say, not everything translates into “I could live here” for us.
We each had our basic requirements. Greg and Megan really wanted two bedrooms. Kyle and I really wanted an actual kitchen with stove/oven, fridge, and counterspace...and at least the option to put in a washing machine, if one wasn’t there already. We all wanted to be in proximity with each other so that we wouldn’t spend all of our time in taxis back and forth to school and the other family’s home. We wanted furnished apartments, if possible, to save ourselves the trouble of hunting down all that stuff just yet. And a few of the places we viewed fit these requirements, so we just had to decide.
In the end, we will all be living in a district called Yanahuara, close enough to get together easily but far enough to have to find our own way on a daily basis. I’m not sure if we will be walking or taxiing to school, but we are decently close. Kyle and I have chosen to rent a furnished, one-bedroom apartment with an open living room/dining room/kitchen layout. There is an actual tub in the bathroom (yes, this is unusual) and the half bath off the living room is another bonus. Kyle signed the contract Thursday afternoon and we meet the owner there Saturday morning to do a walk-through and take possession. Greg and Megan have chosen an unfurnished, newly built two bedroom with two and a half bathrooms, a fairly large kitchen and a combo living/dining room. Since it still needs some flooring and paint, they will be staying in the hotel for another week or two until it is deemed ready.
This is a temporary stop for us. We plan on being in full language training for our first six months or so, and these homes are for this time period. Once we begin distancing ourselves from school and taking a more hands-on approach to familiarity, we will relocate to our target neighborhood and find longer-term housing.
We are excited to step out of the sheltered compound that has held us just comfortably enough not to go nuts, but not so large that we aren’t glad to move on up. We’ll be back here for school every day but will live our lives much more in the flow of Arequipa herself. We’ve been anxious to get to know her and it’s about time. Please continue to pray for us in this process, as we’ve only just begun to learn how to live in Peru and have plenty of whitewater left to navigate.