Well folks, I apologize once again for the long span between posts. It’s an interesting thing: The moments in which you are having lots of experiences are the moments in which you should most be writing but you are so busy experiencing them that you don’t have enough time to write about them. And such was the case with April and May. I have now had two vacations, one town party and lots of classes since the last time I wrote. I have visited the jungle twice, Machu Picchu once, attempted to run a marathon, taught lots of kids about birds, English, and decision-making, learned what it’s like to be a translator, showed my parents around my new hometown, cleaned an irrigation canal and played in said irrigation canal.
Just a week and a half ago, I wished my parents a good trip home after spending a whirlwind two weeks with them in this country that has become a home for me. So rather than write out the details of everything (because I’m sure half of you are getting the stories from my parents as well) let’s go to a classic favorite: the top 10 list!
1. Picking up the parents at the airport. My friend, Miguel, and his father drove me there and for the first time ever, I was one of those people waiting at the exit with a welcome sign! Then we chatted as we drove through the midnight Lima streets and I enjoyed watching them take in their first glimpse of Peru. Even if it was super late at night and they were exhausted. It was that excited exhaustion that comes from being incredibly tired but not wanting to miss a thing.
2. Stopping in Huancayo and staying in la Casa de la Abuela. This is place is “our place” as Peace Corps volunteers staying in Huancayo. The small staff has become like family to us and the hostel is a home away from home away from home. I think they enjoyed seeing the place in real life rather than through the computer on Skype.
3. Soup breakfast! Their first morning in Laraos, I knocked on the hotel door with two pots of soup that I had collected that morning from the town party hosts. A little surprised about breakfast being soup, but glad for the hot meal, mom and dad enjoyed their “desayuno Larahuino.” This was the first of many new and interesting foods for them.
4. English class. While we were in Laraos, I still had a few responsibilities and one of those was teaching my English class. Luckily, mom and dad were all for visiting the class and talking with the kids. The kids loved meeting my parents and measuring their height against dad’s. And asking about his shoe size. Ha! And conveniently for my parents, my English class for the kids served as Spanish class for the parents.
5. Canal cleaning: For the first half of the day, mom and dad helped out cleaning the irrigation canals of the town and we all (meaning the whole town) enjoyed a lunch break on a sunny hill overlooking the town. Then, finding out that the second half would get messy, mom and dad took off and we went out to play. We arrived soaking wet and pretty muddy to the plaza where we danced a couple of times and hurried off to shower and change because the cold night was setting in.
6. Pachamanca: I think Pachamanca has made it on a top ten list before but it’s because it is SO good. And this time, mom and dad were there to enjoy it! From the ground to the table, they witnessed the grandeur that is pachamanca. We were invited to sit on the benches which is a nice honor. Unfortunately, dad’s legs were too long and he feared stepping on the food. So he stood while a very insistent tía worried that we weren’t eating enough. But we assured her, we were stuffed.
7. Transportation: I’m going to make this one point even though it could be several. So here’s the list the modes of transportation we utilized over the two weeks: airplane, taxi, private car, colectivo (shared car), minivan, bus, boat, train and our own two feet. I think my parents came to understand the difficulty that it is to travel to and from where I live despite being “close” to the city and the good luck that is sometimes required to get to where we want to go.
8. Saturday church in Lima: We were able to attend at the Adventist church with Miguel and his family. And true to church-day tradition, we went out to lunch afterwards altogether. It was a wonderful morning for me because my parents were able to spend more time with this family who has come to support me like their own daughter beyond anything I could have ever wished from an assigned host family. The challenge was translating the conversation during lunch. There came a point where I said that I would have to stop translating or I wouldn’t eat anything! It was a beautiful day.
9. Marathon: So, if you’ve already found out, I didn’t finish the marathon. And now that everyone knows, you might be asking, why would this make the top ten list? Well, true; the whole, not finishing part was definitely the low for me this month. But the marathon is more than those hours you spend running the day of the race. Preparing for the marathon got me through a whole lot of hard times this rainy season and makes it on my top 10 list for those months. The day and the moments before the race there was such a contagious air of excitement and camaraderie that was definitely a positive experience. And even running (up until the point where I didn’t finish), I felt great and came to know a completely different side of Lima. Even after it didn’t end as planned, I felt such support from the friends and family who were there. So overall, “marathon” belongs on the top ten list.
10. The jungle: Is there anything more I can say about the jungle? Well, yes. I could make a top 10 list just for the jungle. I love the jungle. Sure, it’s full of bugs that make you sleep in a mosquito net and hot and humid but it’s…the jungle! Along with coral reefs, it is among the most diverse ecosystems in the world and therefore a biologist’s dream. Being here in Peru, with the jungle so close, I am taking advantage of my travel here to go whenever I can (time and money allowing). So, I convinced my semi-reluctant parents to jump in a plane to Puerto Maldonado and on a boat to our jungle lodge in the Tambopata National Reserve. Although I was recovering from the marathon, I was determined to participate in everything our jungle tour had to offer: night walk, early morning walk to and vigil of a clay lick, kayaking on the river, ziplining through the trees, fishing with a cane pole and a night boat ride to spot caimans. We also saw capuchin and squirrel monkeys, jaguar tracks, capybaras and lots of big creepy crawlies! I knew I would like the jungle but I was a little anxious for my parents’ enjoyment of it. But Dad was in his element sitting in the ground blind. So what if he was looking at scarlet macaws instead of scanning for deer? And the American Fisherman found a cane pole and became the “South American Fisherman.” Mom was a good sport with the adventuring but I have a feeling that her favorite part was waking up in our bungalow with the relaxing sound of the rain on the thatched roof before we had to pack up to leave.
11. Sacred Valley: Going to Cuzco for the second time, I was excited at the possibility to see the sites of Cuzco that I wasn’t able to when I was there four years ago. And my parents were on board for a tour of the Sacred Valley. This is the valley below the city of Cuzco that is littered with Incan ruins. Although it was a bummer to be herded around this valley on a bus tour, I can’t deny that the sites to be seen were pretty impressive. Although the focus was to visit Incan ruins, I think I enjoyed the colonial church at Chinchero most…but that might be because it was sunset and beautiful.
12. Aguas Calientes: This town is the train stop for all those tourists who want to see Machu Picchu and don’t want to hike there to do it. Its name also means “hot waters” and is home to a lovely hot spring. Wanting to get to Machu Picchu early, we went to Aguas Calientes to stay the night and get up early the next day. This meant we had some time to enjoy the city with some hiking and some shopping. Cuzco had been a little too hectic and in-you-face for us but Aguas Calientes was relaxed enough that we could enjoy the cloud forest we were visiting. The parents were exhausted but I took the evening to enjoy the hot springs. And it was glorious.
13. Machu Picchu: How could this not make the list, right? I mean, it’s Machu Picchu! To be honest, I was seeing it for the second time and I was sadly aware that I wasn’t struck with the same jaw-dropping awe that I had felt upon my first sighting of this world wonder. Instead, upon seeing it again, I felt peacefully nostalgic. Luckily for me, I was there with two Machu Picchu first-timers and their excitement was more than enough for me.
14. Lima layover: My parents last day in Peru we flew from Cuzco to Lima early in the morning and then had all day to spend in Lima before their flight home at midnight:thirty that night. It was such a wonderful day. We took a silly bus tour of the city which, although informative, was made sillier by wearing headsets that told us more information about the sites we were seeing. One last gourmet Peruvian meal at Chef Gaston’s restaurant, Tanta, and soon it was time to go back to the airport. We laughed a lot that day and it was a perfect end to such a wonderful vacation.
We said our “see ya laters,” knowing that later wouldn’t be until December. They went home to Chicago and I went home to Laraos. I think it was the first time I had ever been the one to be left behind at the airport when wishing someone a safe trip. I told this to my mom and she said, “Yeah, how does it feel?” I responded with: “I don’t like it.” So here’s to a sharing of perspectives. I am so glad that my parents were able to visit me where I live, to see and experience firsthand the things that I write about on this blog. But I gained some perspective from their visit too. They’re reactions to some of the “normalcies” of my town reminded me of just how special it is to be living here. And although many people have applauded my “brave” decision to leave, I learned at the airport that sometimes it is harder to be the one who stays.