The end has finally arrived. I depart to my homeland this very night forty-five past nine. Although this venture varied greatly from my expectations, all was not in vain, as I must admit I have learned a thing or two. (Aside from the Spanish language, that is).
We need not get angry when we must driving through roadwork. At least we have an efficient transportation system. We need not get angry when the Starbucks employee gives us a Caramel Latte rather than a Low fat skim milk Mochaccino. Some people don’t even have access to water. We need not get annoyed getting up and going to work. At least we are not out on the streets begging. We need not get impatient with sis/bro/mom/dad is hogging the bathroom. At least we have plumbing. And when our house isn’t as big or beautiful as the neighbors, at least we aren’t living in an overcrowded shantytown.
Cultural norms vary greatly.Generosity, charity, and basic human kindness are not universal. Thinking about others before yourself is not common practice at all in some parts. We must welcome our foreign brethren, rather than stare at them or simply ignore them. We should try to make people feel welcome in our country, which for me was not the case in Peru. Now that I have experienced being the outsider, I will be sure to display extensive kindness to foreigners in the US, now knowing all the difficulties involved in being thrown into another country.
This time in Peru has not been “enjoyable” in the traditional, vacation-like sense, but I have seen much that makes me realize how much we have in the US, and how we need to help more others who do not. I am aware how cheesy and cliche this all sounds. My apologies.
I must keep this brief in order to finish business for my departure. I will close my writings with the best moment of Peru. This would be floating on a wooden boat down the Amazon, watching the trees, animals, and other boats pass by. When I return to the stress and struggle of daily US life, I shall recall this glorious moment of peace on a boat in the jungle hidden away from humanity. In another life, I would return to that wild and free jungle and carry out the remainder of my days in blessed solitude and tranquility. Good bye reader, thank you for patience in listening to my past four months of trials and tribulations. And farewell dear jungle habitat, may we meet again.
I never imagined that day would actually arrive for me to type these words “tomorrow begins finals week”. How long this has been in coming. Do not make the mistake, silly reader, into thinking I am excited for the finals themselves, heaven knows on the contrary, but I am eager rather for what the finals week signifies. Finals week heralds the termination of my time in this country. Only five more days until I board that plane for the long and hopefully trouble-free journey home.
I do not possess any new and exciting adventures to tell you of so please dismiss those thoughts. This blog serves more as a closing page on this chapter of my life. I shall now make a list of what I will miss, and will not, about Peru. (I predict the will not miss will be lengthier than the will miss list.
What I Will Miss About Peru
~ Their national bubble-gum flavored soda, Inca Kola
~ Lomo saltado- a meat and potato dish. (Never got sick once from it!)
~The jungle (weather, animals, solitude, Amazon, etc)
What I Will Not Miss About Peru
~ The noise noise noise noise!
~ The traffic and almost getting hit by cars
~ The transportation system (ie. overcrowded, dangerous buses)
~ The majority of the food
~ The price of makeup ($25 for mascara!!?)
~Being stared at because I’m white
~Lima and everything about it
~ The “milk”
It appears my prediction was correct. I have another list:
What I am Most Excited About When I Return.
~Seeing husband and family
~Seeing my dogs, chickens, ducks, etc
~ Steak. Real juicy steak
~ Actual milk from a real cow
~Eating THREE meals a day
~ Toilet paper in public facilities! Oh modern conveniences!
~ Driving my own car and not relying on public transport
~Having a job and not rotting away from boredom
~Being able to cross the street with no fear for my life
~Walmart. Yes. Really.
The list could go on but I shall not bother you longer with the trifles of my desires. My last blog,(do not cry, beloved reader!) which I shall probably write a night or two before my blessed departure, shall be the trite, cliche, but always required “What I have Learned” monologue. So please, make sure you check back soon. I am sure you would not want to miss that mushy-gushy moment of learning, growing, and enlightenment. Until we meet again….
As I again pick up my pen, or keyboard rather, to attempt to transcribe my most recent endeavors, I find myself void of inspiration. Extreme weariness, of the physical, mental, and emotional nature, have rooted themselves in my being more deeply now than ever. It would be my desire to describe to you with great and marvelous detail, my trip to the great Machu Picchu, but please forgive me if my memory falters as all the colorful memories and events of this journey have blended into one hue. The most vivid memory is of being ill, but this is by far the most prominent memory of Peru altogether. I took the highly-acclaimed pill for altitude sickness, however, it only made matters worse as i succumbed to intense stomach pain. A tea, made from coca leaves, helped me more than any chemical pill ever could. However, it became apparent that these blessed natural healers are prohibited in the US, due to the idea that the coca leaves are akin to cocaine. It is much less harmful to ingest unknown manufactured chemicals in the form of pills. Cocaine or not, I found this tea to be my only soothing salvation from my pains. Machu Picchu was exactly what can be seen in the photos. Our time there would have been much more pleasant if it were not for the eight million tourists flocking around like unwanted gnats. We saw several other Inca ruins, the names which are no longer recorded in the annals of my memory. We also saw an old and beautiful cathedral with intricate artwork, which we were prohibited from photographing. The town of Cusco was decent, at least it was green and it rained. How refreshing was the rain! The outskirts of the city were the most beautiful, with snowy mountains obscured by clouds and green rolling hills spotted with cows. We also visited an animal refuge where we met a 60 year old condor. The resemblance was strikingly similar to my dear ol grandpa. One of the very few other items that stand out sharply in my mind was the food. At this point, most of my fellow travelers have had food poisoning. And the food on this trip did not contribute to the healing and recovery of our feeble stomachs. One of my fellow adventurers ordered apple pie, oh with great glee at availability of this American dessert! But alas, all hopes were shattered as mold was discovered in the center of this pie. I have forsaken all hope in the Peruvian “cuisine”. Also, I am weary of going to bed hungry every night. (Peruvians aren’t big supporters of the traditional evening meal). I feel I shall make myself ill devouring everything available when I return to the Land of Plenty. A piece of bread for breakfast, some chicken and rice for lunch, and nothing for dinner is not the way to conduct life in a healthy and fulfilling manner. But I digress, as I could write upon my food insecurity for pages.
Our travels were fun but I must admit I am glad they have come to a close.For now, we can focus on our studies and preparing for finals. I can’t believe April has finally, at long last, arrived. In 17 days with great eagerness I shall board the plane for my homeland. Although Machu Picchu is one of the seven wonders of the world, it all felt a bit too trite and cliche to me. The less-traveled and less-populated (by humans, anyway) jungle is my more preferred destination.
I realize now why Peruvian clothes are so cheap. When I went to wash my new dresses ( by hand, mind you) all the colors ran and ruined some of my outfits. Much despair and sorrow and angst followed this discovery. I guess I’m just never supposed to wash the clothes that I buy in Peru. So buyer beware……
Much to my delight, I finally found regular pasteurized milk. Not the chemically preserved powdered who-knows-what in a cardboard container but milk from the refrigerator. Ah, welcome to modern times! Along with the cardboard milk, eggs are not refrigerated either. You would think this whole refrigeration system was some new-fangled discovery by the scarcity of its use here.
As I was reading the Peruvian news last night, as is my custom, I read that in the Ballestas Islands, where we had visited earlier, was a boat explosion that injured 7 people. Luckily, it was just injuries. I’m sure this recent event was just great for their tourist industry. I’m surprised all of my classmates and I are in relatively good condition at this point. Safety standards just don’t exist. And almost every week in the news I read of a bus crash that generally kills around 20 people. The drivers think that it is okay to drive these rustic vehicles way too fast down windy mountain roads. And then they plummet over the edge. It is tragic that these deaths could have easily been prevented with a couple laws here and there. Lives just simply don’t have meaning.
Nothing else has come to pass for now, I shall write again, my last few writings of this expedition.
After my long absence, I return with much news from the Southern Sphere. We have taken two journeys, about which I shall now scribe.
The first voyage of which I will speak is of Ica, a “desert oasis”, a couple hours outside of Lima. The ride to Ica was most depressing-lonely crusty desert with ran-down shacks sprinkling the drab scenery. Our hotel in Ica was rather lovely, a resort of sorts with a pool and restaurant. We went sand-boarding, which is like snow-boarding, only with sand. The most enjoyable part of this particular venture was taking the sand-buggies up to the dunes. These sand-buggies were odd, triangular shaped vehicles. Our driver would take us to the top of the dune, then suddenly zoom down the dune full speed, leaving us flailing around in the air. It reminded me very much of the rough driving in Nebraska pastures. The next day, we went to the Islas Ballestas. Now the image that comes to one’s mind upon hearing the word “island” is coconut trees, sand, and warm blue water. I was greatly mistaken in this assumption. The “islands” were huge, grey and brown rocks jetting out from a cold misty sea. It was all rather mysterious and eerie. The only sound was the various birds, sea lions, and the waves. In one of the markets on shore, I purchased a bracelet of pearls. Allegedly, these pearls are “real” but at a paltry $7 I have my doubts. The rest of the time in Ica we were free to do what we desired, primarily swimming in the pool. Outside our luxurious resort, however, another Ica existed. Trash littered every street corner. There appeared to be no trash bins or containers, the streets were the trash cans. Furthermore, they burned the trash on the streets. Children and dogs could be seen romping around these burning piles of toxic waste. It then struck me with great force that this sort of activity would NEVER occur in the United States. There would be at least 10 different health and environmental organizations solving the trash problem. I wondered if these types of groups even exist in Peru. Perhaps the people just don’t care, or are not able to gain the power and funding they need to fix these problems. And the government? One would hope it would care about the health and safety of its people, but perhaps not. How tragic it is that people and animals have to live in such horrendous conditions. And it was there in Ica amidst the burning heaps that my health problems began….which I shall later address.
And now for the most enjoyable voyage to date- the Amazon Jungle. Our lodge was a 2 hour boat ride from the jungle town of Iquitos. I was excited, after months in the dry Lima desert, to see green. On the shores one could see little shacks with children, chickens, and dogs. Our lodge was primitive indeed. Electricity was only on 2 hours a day, and no internet. I must admit, this was a bit of a struggle for me. Simple tasks, such as showering or going to the bathroom, become a whole new adventure when all you have is a flashlight. The first morning I woke up with a dead cockroach in my bed. I was none too pleased but at least it was dead. We went on several walks through the jungle, my favorite of which was the night walk. More spiders exist in that jungle than one would prefer to think. We also saw a scorpion,tarantula, a snake, and a small rodent like creature. We also visited a sanctuary of sorts for animals. There were a myriad of monkeys, which I am not overly fond of because of their close resemblance to people, of whom I am not fond of either. The birds however, brought me much mirth, in particular a little green parrot. When you did not lavish him with the proper amount of attention he would start saying “Hola, hola hola” and several lines of gibberish so that you would notice him. I even fed him a banana. I would really enjoy a parrot as a pet. The toucan, however, was extremely irritable and despised both birds and humans alike. There was no way to pet or feed him without risk of his long beak ripping your hand off. So I left him alone to seethe in his anger and misery. The parrots were not fond of the monkeys, and there were several squabbles when the monkeys ventured too close to the parrots. I was very sad to say goodbye to my green parrot friend.
We also went swimming in the Amazon. Lord knows what sort of creatures lurked in that water with us, but we all survived. Additionally, we saw some river dolphins and went piranha fishing, however nobody caught a piranha. The last day we went and visited an Amazon tribe, which I had mixed feelings about. It is odd to me to watch these people and take pictures as though they are in a zoo. It is interesting to learn about other cultures, but to me it is better to live in peace without prying tourist eyes. I know I would not enjoy people coming into my home, taking pictures of me and questioning me about my life style. It is their private lives- they don’t intrude on our homes so why should we on theirs. Although nobody shared this viewpoint with me, the experience was uncomfortable as I felt I was being invasive.
And now…for the downhill spiral. When we tried to return home to Lima, our flight was at first delayed because of problems with the airplane. I don’t know why we couldn’t have taken a different plane, perhaps the city of Iquitos only has one. So there we sat for a good long time waiting for the problem to be solved. It wasn’t. We were all ushered out of the plane back into the airport. Our flight was then canceled. Oh mayhem and rage. After many hours, we finally were able to book a flight for 2 pm the next day. All the while we were attempting to alert our host families to this situation, but the internet connection was atrocious. One never realizes how vital internet service is until it disappears. So off we went to a hotel for the night, which lo and behold, did have internet. When we got on board our 2 o clock flight, it had to land first in another city, delaying us quite a bit. We finally arrived in Lima…during rush hour. We took a taxi, which turned out to be the worst ride of my life. What should have been a short 45 minute trek to Lima turned into 2 hours. This whole time of course, I was in desperate need of the bathroom and my stomach had started to hurt. (not an unusual occurrence here in Peru). We would drive 4 feet, then stop, 4 feet, then stop. We then decided, with much frustration and impatience to get out of the taxi and walk the rest of the way. When walking is faster than car, you know there is a severe problem with the transportation infrastructure.
And now for my declining health. A short while after Ica, I started suffering sinus throat issue- constant cough and voice loss. Its sometimes difficult to breathe and I sound very raspy when I speak. I think, in my heart of hearts, that some of the toxic waste fumes in Ica found their way into my lungs. On top of that, the night when we got home from the jungle I became extremely ill to my stomach, vomiting 4 times and barely being able to struggle to class. Because several of my classmates were ill as well, we decided it was food poisoning. Again, nothing new or shocking here. My host sister took me to the doctor the other night due to my sinus/breathing issues and my stomach problems. ( the food poisoning incident is far from the first time I have had stomach problems here). The doctor prescribed me 4 different pills, for a measly 25 bucks. I am praying they work rapidly, for tomorrow we go to Cusco, where we will visit Machu Picchu. I am extremely weary, however, after this trip I think there will be more time to rest and recover from my varied ailments. 38 days til home…..