Back to the States

Trip Start Feb 16, 2005
Trip End Jan 2006

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Flag of United States  , Texas
Wednesday, April 13, 2005

I had to take some time before I wrote my final entry on South America. I have been back in the States for 2 weeks now, a short visit before I head off for the remaining 8 months. South America definitely affected me, anyone would probably have guessed before I went that it would. But yet to me, some of the effects were surprising.
We finished up our last day in South America with a marathon travelling day. It was only fitting that our final bus ride came with several "interesting" moments that would only be found in such locations. The bus showed up 20 minutes early, but fortunately I was downstairs. After almost 2 months in South America, my broken Spanish was at least enough to communicate that we needed a few more moments to wait for Dane. The driver wanted to leave and pick up other passengers and then come back for us, but after all our shady experiences on buses here, I didn't trust them to not sell our seats. Plus this was the only flight from Lake Titicaca to Lima, and our flight back to the States left that night. After picking up all the passengers we headed toward the airport, which was a mere 45 minutes...blink of an eye compared to the rest of our bus rides! Of coarse it came equipped with views of several pigs eating off the shoulder of the highway, many windowless mud-huts, llamas ever 10 feet, almost hitting a cow that was standing in the middle of the highway, and 213,586 beeps of the horn (people do not know how to drive in South America without beeping their horn every 6 feet, honestly!)
We had 14 hours to burn in Lima since our flight did not leave until 2 AM, so we headed to the beaches in Miraflores...the half safe area of Lima. The day ended up passing fast and I was able to soak up my last few memories of South America....most notably 3 more near-death experiences in a taxi.
My first few days back in western civilization past in somewhat of a haze. On my drive from the airport, after noticing 2 new high-rises that had appeared in the prosperous Dallas skyline since I had been gone, my initial thought was what if Gloria (the Quechua lady from the island on Lake Titicaca who hosted us at her mud-hut)was suddenly dropped in Dallas. It would be similar to dropping someone from 1870's into the 21st Century. Of coarse the extreme poverty that I witnessed will stay with me always, but in some ways I envy it. Everything since I returned from South America seems simpler...I guess because you realize that you don't need much to be happy. All of the death-defying rides that I took has made me ironically slow down and become more relaxed. Nothing seems worth getting in a stressed-state about. On one of the bus rides I took, these 2 little brothers about 9 and 7 jumped on the bus to sing for tips. One of the boys was playing a tin can with a hair pic. They were hopping on buses, riding from town to town, making sure to catch the right bus home at night, all to make money for their family. Working and helping their parents make money for their supper has probably been all they have ever known, but the irony was they were enjoying themselves. While most 9 year olds in the western world are whining about what expensive new toy they don't have, these kids had found some way to make tips for the family and have fun at the same time. The philosophy in Patagonia is: the poor man is the rich man; and the rich man is the poor man. I witnessed this in many of the faces that touched me throughout my travels in South America.
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