October 29, 2011
Saturday morning we finally got to sleep in, thanks Alicia! We had two places we really wanted to see, the museum for Juanita, and the monastery.
We started with Juanita. Essentially, it was a museum of artifacts discovered when the ice cap melted on a nearby mountain. There have been about 14 bodies found completely frozen after ice caps partially melted in South America. This exhibit had items from four found in Peru. There was a volcanic eruption in the early nineties that created enough warmth to partially melt the caps so the bodies could be discovered. The grand finale was the actual frozen body of a young girl sacrificed to the mountain during the Incan reign, named Juanita.
We began by watching a video; it bounced back and forth between two stories. One was a depiction of what the life and sacrificial ritual probably looked like for the young girl. The other was actual footage from a second expedition that went looking for more artifacts. She was found during the first expedition, and the second one revealed three more frozen bodies and a trove of artifacts. Interestingly, the German subtitles didn’t always match the English being said. Sometimes the numbers (elevations, dates, etc) were quite different!!
Next we got a tour through the artifact rooms. Wow. I was really impressed. They had the actual robes, little statues, pottery, shoes, pins, everything from the sites. They were in great condition, except the sandals wore by the boy who was found in the second trip. For his sacrifice, he was covered in metal and struck by lightning. The sandals were burnt to a crisp. Finally, we reached the end to see Juanita. It was fascinating to see her body inside that ice chamber preserving her final moments.
That experience really made me think about what these apparently willing children had to forfeit for their people. I thought about their lives, thoughts, and the culture that demanded the ultimate sacrifice. I am often times frustrated by certain parts of religious beliefs and this was no exception. But maybe she was proud to do this for her people. I don’t know. It was a totally different part of the Incan experience that I had not thought about until then.
Our next stop was a lunch of salteñas. On the way to the monastery we bought a bunch more sweaters to sell in the States for the project. Then, it was admission into the famous monastery of Arequipa.
We didn’t really know what to expect, so in the first room when our guide mentioned the nuns, we were a little surprised. It turns out it is still a convent, and it was all along. The name monastery is deceiving. Half is a museum and the other half still has women living and studying there. There are about 16 women, 6 of them are only 16 years old and came willingly.
Let me try to give you the short version. Throughout the Spanish reign, it was a place for wealthy women to go to escape or avoid marriage. Becoming a nun was preferable to some arranged marriages. Also, wealthy families could save money by sending their daughters there instead of paying massive dowries. The nuns had slaves, their own quarters, and pretty nice living conditions. The exception were the novices, they had to live in a tiny room for a year and could almost never leave the room.
Our guide, Vanissa was awesome. She is incredibly knowledgeable and we had so much fun! She even let me jump the rope and play a 200 year old piano. We cracked jokes, asked serious and fun questions, and were amazed by the history and architecture of the place. In addition, there was a famous nun there called Sister Ana. She is so famous they are making a movie about her life and were filming it there during our tour! (I guess they finished a week later.) I kind of want to watch it now that I have been there. She was one of the few women who actually wanted to be a nun. When she was the Mother Superior she tried to enact changes to take away all the luxuries the other nuns had. They tried to kill her three times using poison and fire.
We were so impressed with Vanissa that we asked her out for dinner that night with the five of us. She accepted.
So that night we headed to a popular restaurant and had an absolutely incredible dinner. We had so much fun sharing stories and getting to know more about each other. I ordered the rack of lamb. Ever since I became friends with the famous Andy Norman I have had an affinity for lamb. And it was good. Kate and I also ordered a drink for two served in an ostrich egg. Yup, it was definitely tasty. And this evening Kate treated us to dinner. Thank you so much Kate. I have mentioned several times in this blog, but it is worth another shot. The kindness of friends and strangers alike is really helping me not only stay within my budget, but is giving me more and more hope in humankind. There are a lot of nice people out there. (Just wait for the next few blogs as well…)
Unfortunately, we did not get to karaoke. My stomach started giving me massive pains. It was so bad I couldn’t even stand up straight. Arg, Peru’ed again. So we headed home and I went straight to bed (with a few visits to the bathroom during the night).