18-Wheelers, Airplanes, Singing, and Surfing

Trip Start Jun 06, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Monday, June 11, 2007

The first days of summer have been a trip.  Driving 18-Wheelers in North Dakota, flying to and exploring Lima, partying with the Peruvian people, and surfing on the beach in Mancora have been some of the best stops along the way thus far.  Here is my account:

Roll on 18-Wheeler, Roll on!  (First, a story from the states)

1.  I remember listening to the Alabama country music hit, ¨18-Wheeler¨, on our tape player in the van on the way up north with my family.  I would look out the window, see a semi driving by, and furiously pump my elbow up and down until the driver honked the horn.  It was always something to celebrate when they honked, but how much cooler it would be if I was the driver who blew the horn, I could only imagine.  Until now...
     My dear friend Jake´s father (Jon, the owner of Diamond T Ranch in North Dakota where I was cattle branding in late May) turned around in the semi we had taken to the granary and asked, ¨Ok, who´s driving?¨  I politely (and preventatively) hesitated to give my other friends a chance to volunteer.  When nothing came of that I rose to the occasion and declared that I would do it.  I thought it was a generous offer of Jon to give us a chance to drive the big rig and didn´t want to deny the generosity.  It´s like being out hunting with your dad and at the end of the day, even though you´re not old enough to shoot, he hands the shotgun to you and teases, ¨Hey son, I bet you can´t hit that post... Why don´t you give it a try.¨ The correct response is not, ¨Oh... you´re right dad, I can´t hit the post.¨ Absolutely not, you overcome your timidity, pull the trigger, and see what happens.  So I pulled up my briches, got in the driver´s seat, pulled the trigger, and we were rollin´on the highway.
     I can´t describe the degree to which my man-o-meter rose the day I drove a semi.  I was responsible for moving a rig weighing thousands of pounds more than any car, boasting an engine with more than 400 horse power, and I was almost 10 feet higher than the timid and tiny drivers who passed me below on the road (though they may have been timid because of my poor driving skills...). 
     It was a good day for the man-o-meter.  Later that day I rode horse, branded cattle, tagged cattle, and even castrated one.  If I were a cow the branding would hurt me, and so would the tagging, but after driving a semi that day the castrater would have been frivilous to do any damage to me. 

2.  Spanish Lessons: Set the wine free!

I have no program, no school, no homework.  I only have millions and millions of people around me who speak Spanish and listen patiently and amusingly as I try to speak to them.  I´m finding it very easy to be funny here in Peru.  It´s not on account of my wit as much as it is my apparently charming lack of knowledge.  For example, on the plane ride from Panama city to Lima I saw that the flight attendant was serving wine.  I wanted to know if I needed money to buy it and asked the lady next to me, ¨Esta el vino libre?¨  Little did I know that this question basically relayed my concern that the wine was being held captive and I wanted to know if it had been granted freedom.  Now I have learned the word, ¨gratis¨, meaning free, as in not costing anything.  The lady was tired and forgiving and simply sad, ¨Si.¨  
     That´s learning a language.  I´ve had many other blunders: pointing up and saying down, wanting to compliment someone on their hair and actually complimenting them on their non-existant horse, and finally telling a man I hardly knew that I loved him in a way that I should only say to a lover.  The lessons continue to set me gratis... I mean libre.

3.  My first day in Lima:

    I had a wonderful first couple days in Lima, and I credit it almost entirely to my great new Peruvian friend, Silvana (only a few days before she returned to Peru we met in St. Paul where she was teaching for a couple years).  I spent much of my time while wandering around thinking, ¨Tomas, what would you be doing right now without Silvana?¨  It has been a blessed beginning, and I pray it continues in this way.  As we went from one part of the city to the other I was treated to meals, sights of the city, a little Dance Dance Revolution, walking Spanish lessons, and best of all, I was welcomed in to stay with her family in Lima.  One part of being welcomed into the family was meeting Alberto, Silvana´s older brother.  Alberto is 29 and is working as a computer engineer for a company.  He invited Silvana and me to a party for a dear friend and co-worker of his.  It was my first party in Peru, and it would be a perfect one.
      The Perfect Party:  Partying in this part of the world is incredible.  It makes me wonder why God did not have me grow up here...  At a party in Peru the three things that people do are singing, drinking, and dancing, and they do it all night long!  Though, it kind of makes me wish I was sexy.  The latin beats would start blasting, the feet kicking, and arms waving, and I could only contribute to the entertainment by showing my own clumsy moves.  I´m not sure what will be more of a challenge- learning the language or learning how to be sexy...Don´t answer that.
     At around midnight, everything stopped abruptly.  The lights dimmed, everyone gathered, and we sang happy birthday to Tito, the host of the party.  Afterwards we all shared a homecooked meal, contributed a few soles, and continued to dance and joke until almost 4 in the morning.  
     To dance and sing is the life for me.  I hope I have a similar birthday sometime in the future.  
4.  Surfer Girls in Mancora and a Boy with a Surfboard:

     I am mesmorized by the surfer girls.  I have never seen one before.  With bright smiles, charming eyes, and impressive command of the board, I find them beautiful.  I figured the only way to the heart of a surfer girl was to become a surfer boy.  So I rented a board and headed for the waves. 
     I watched the other surfter boys for awhile, trying to see what it takes to really be one.  It starts with the board.  No problem, they gave that to me.  Then I noticed they all had wet-suits on.  I did not.  Their exposed skin was an impressive bronze; mine was a pasty white.  Then I noticed something very interesting.  They seemed to stand on their boards and ride the water; I was mostly on my belly bobbing on my board and drinking the water. 
     Needless to say I didn´t spend the evening hanging with surfer girls.  In the end I wasn´t a surfer boy at all.  I was just a boy with a surfboard.  I think I got a few amused smiles from the girls, but other than that I only had a jellyfish bite, a rash on my belly, and a terrible sunburn, which brings me here, under an umbrella on the beach, watching the real surfer boys and girls and writing this entry to you. 

5.  Next stop, Canchaque:

Canchaque, the village city where my friend Cheridyn is serving as a Peace Corps. volunteer.  In Canchaque, nobody speaks English, but everyone wants to speak with you.  Just what I need for my second week of Spanish lessons.
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tabijim on

Tarzan Thomas

I'm honored to be on your travel blog list. So good to hear from you. The entries are hilarious, especially 'Surfer Girls'. I can see so many positive cultural experiences happening to you. Enjoy them all!!
I'll relay the good news to Wordsmiths.
Be well,

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