Monday, October 8, 2007

Life in Arequipa, Peru

Good afternoon.

So here comes the first of many sad tales of life in the Andes. This one involves great timing and a national run monopoly.

We invited a couple friends over the house to watch some good old Sunday Ticket, specifically the Patriots vs Browns game. They were a little late, but it was no problem with the DirectTV DVR+ (starting late lets me skip commercials later anyhow). So I set everything up and then helped in the kitchen for a bit. 5 minutes before our friends showed up and about 30 minutes into the game... POOF! Power outage!

After calling the nationally run electric company (the only one in town), they alerted us that something had broken in Los Portales, Cayma and there was no ETA on a fix, but they had already sent emergency crews to look into it. So when our friends arrive, we welcome them into our dark power-less house. On the positive side, we were using Gas for the cooking so we were able to finish most of that without any problems. On the negative side, the ice we were making didn't get done when we needed it and the Sprite and Coke Zero weren't quite cold either.

Just before the power went out, a friend called me from the Pats game. He said to look for them in the Pats end zone (first quarter). We never did find them and weren't able to answer their later calls to celebrate Pats TDs. The first 30 minutes of the game that I was recording was all lost when the power finally did come back up.

We tossed the football around some in the park near our house and still the power remained out... We hung out for about 2-2.5 hours waiting for the power to come back on. Finally it did return and we were able to watch about 5 minutes of the 3rd quarter and the rest of the game, but at that point it was already 20-3 and things never did really get exciting. Overall I'd say this week (5) was the most predictable (boring) week of NFL football this year.

Anyhow, back to the lovely power company here in Arequipa. I think the name is Luz del Sur. This is just another in a long string is annoyances and failures from this company. From August 2006 - April 2007, it seemed like we had 4-6 hour power outages here in Cayma every 2 weeks. These always had to occur during primary business hours (7am - 1pm). During that time we also had about 4-5 emergency failures. One in particular occurred at around 5pm and without bucket trucks or decent lighting, they weren't able to fix the problem until the next morning. It ended up lasting around 11 hours. My wife was in the middle of exams and had to study all night by candle and flashlight.

Also the scheduled outages are not available on the companies web site. They don't send mail to their customers to inform them. The only way to find out about outages is to frequently buy the local paper or listen to some of the local news stations at the right time of day. In our busy lives, neither of these is something we have much time for.

I'd love to change to another electric company, but it is unfortunately impossible. Also complaints don't seem to have any effect on this company as it is not private and they have no need to provide quality service. They all have guaranteed government jobs and money, so providing decent modern electric service doesn't seem to be a priority.

I see them working outside of our house and their main tools are their hands, feet, and some old ladders. No bucket trucks, ladder trucks, no good spot lights at night (just small flashlights). The workers have to scale the poles like monkeys a lot of the time and I see them hanging by their legs and one hand while using the other hand to try and make repairs. Other times they move/fix things by hitting/pushing them with long sticks (because no one can reach them). It feels like going back in time 50 years and forgetting everything you ever learned about workers rights and labor laws.

Viva Peru!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Checked out a new restaurant tonight, SonJazz

Hello there,

I decided to start up a blog today. I mostly want to focus it on experiences and reviews of various venues and activities. Also it should make a perfect place for bitching and moaning.

Anyhow, we visited a new restaurant in Arequipa tonight. It's called SonJazz and is located in Cayma near the intersection of Ejercito and Cayma (on the Leon XIII side). It just opened up a month ago. The decor is top notch for Arequipa and the environment reminded us of some of the better restaurants/lounges in Lima.

The food itself was a bit lacking. The causa lacked spice, though the trout tiradito pieces on top of it were great. Too bad there is no trout tiradito in the menu. The empanaditas of cheese and mushroom actually had some cheese, but no mushroom. Instead they had lapas inside, which was a bit surprising. The overall flavor wasn't too bad, but the chirimoya cream sauce on them was much too sweet for me. Though I'm not a fan of many sweet empanadas.

It was supposed to come with pulpo al olivo, but when we got was something completely different. The closest thing I've had to it in the past was in France. The flavor was light and while slightly bland, it was enjoyable. Apparently this was based on a Greek dish.

The final part of our piqueo was pork ribs in a semi-sweet sauce. Their flavor was quite enjoyable, but there was a bit of lack of meat. The sauco sauce was very good.

The bar selection was quite good. There was a good variety of vodka, whiskey, bourbon, rum, and various specialty liquors. I had a Jack Daniels and the pour was quite pleasing. My wife had a Cosmopolitan which missed the mark a bit (and was a special order, not on the menu). It was too sweet and did not have and cranberry juice. Our second round was better. I had a Gran Cruz Mosto Verde. It was tasty and powerful. She had a nice Cabernet. All of the glassware was top notch for Arequipa.

The prices were extremely surprising for Arequipa. The best restaurant in town, the Trattoria del Monisterio, has prices significantly lower and food much more refined. Our 2 person piqueo was 70 soles. If the meal had been exquisite the price may have been worthwhile, but the meal was a far cry from perfection. For further comparison, 70 soles would get a 2 person parillada with beef, lamb, chorizo, chicken, pork, and more which would be sure to fill any 2 people. Our meal left us wanting for more, but a bit frightened by both the price and food quality. We decided to pass on another course and dessert.

Quality: 6
Flavor: 4
Presentation: 8
Selection: 6
Value: 0
Environment: 10
Overall: 4

Since the restaurant was new and local, we decided to talk to the Chef. She is a Greek woman, whose name I could not grasp after 2 attempts. She explained a good deal about the restaurant and that the assistant chefs were all new. It was their first night handling the kitchen without her. She told us that she encourages creativity and adventure in the kitchen. This explained a bit about our food. We didn't read the intro in the menu, but hopefully it was some sort of disclaimer. She explained to us that the local Chef schools did not provide enough raw materials for the students to really experiment and learn on. They generally graduate with little real experience. So she was working with them and allowing them some freedom to learn (though sometimes at the customer's expense, more so in the pocket book than the pallet). It sounds like this place could really develop into a quality restaurant with time, but it's a bit of a risk at the moment. I wish them luck in their endeavors.