Back to City Life... Protecting the Aura

Trip Start Feb 15, 2005
Trip End Apr 02, 2006

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Flag of Peru  ,
Thursday, November 10, 2005

"Uno nunca elige esas cosas que adora, sino que por estar abierto a recibir y dar, son ellas las que lo eligen a uno."
"One never chooses those things that they adore, but rather by being open to receiving and giving, it is those things that inevitably choose the individual."

Well, interval time in between travelogues sure keeps getting longer and longer as the year goes by! It is certainly not due to the fact that I have less to share nor that I don't want to share, but rather the contrary... an overwhelming amount of life's little experiences that surely deserve exposure but in due time...
And now I suppose the time is due. Upon nearing my return home, I have felt compelled to compile some sort of closure to everything... Perhaps my rational, perfectionist self wouldn't let me complete mi "gran viaje" without a few final travelogues to round off the edges. Nevertheless... pack your bags... we're gonna take a whirlwind tinker-toy sized tour through Peru, Argentina and Venezuela until the moment when I can chill on a grassy park in San Diego with a cup of mate (ha), some good friends, and get into the (what could be dangerously never-ending) story-telling groove....

.......It was only a hop, skip and a jump away from the magical Amazon and back into civilized life. A one hour plane ride and I went from swinging lazily on my hammock eating fresh Paiche to a Pearl Harbor bomb-like invasion of 9000 buses (that obviously hadn't been smog checked since since the 1800s), all honking at each other (and at the old lady crossing the street), pollution and trash on every corner, (Bueno, depending on the area of town), an evident division of the richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor, hustle and bustle, technology buzzing in my ears, bright billboards with Latina chicks in G-Strings artistically expressing their deep affinity for the national beer "Pilsener", huge department stores and malls, restaurants, nightclubs, and the oh so gratefully forgotten Starbucks and McDonalds! EEEEEEEEEK! What do I do? What do I do? Chai latte? Whats that? Jeez, I hardly even knew how to use a fork let alone wait for a little green man to start flashing before I crossed the street! Good God, help me. Welcome back Tiff. Back? Back to where? I didn't even know my reality anymore.
Truly, my only savior as I entered into Lima, Peru, was that I got to see, taste and feel the Pacific Ocean for the first time in 7 months. I scooped an handful of salt water and washed my face in a sea of emotions... thoughts of my family and friends back home flushed through my heart... knowing that they too were swimming, surfing, playing in the same ocean that I was. I softened in the comfort of proximity to my loved ones as I sat in complete silence at the end of the jetty, breathing in the salty mist, watching the sun set over the Peruvian Coast.
As the initial shock of modern-day life began to settle in, I started getting used to wearing sneakers and eating at restaurants, and I was able to appreciate my surroundings a bit more. And thanks to the amazing hospitality of mi querida "Familia Peruana", the Aliaga's, my two month stay in Peru turned out to be more wonderful than I had ever anticipated. For the first time in my trip, I had found a place where I felt like I belonged, where I felt comfortable communicating, where I felt surrounded by an intense love and embrace. Not that I hadn't found that with the Quintero's in Venezuela nor with my friends in Ecuador but for some reason, at this point in my trip, 9 months after leaving the states, I felt (for lack of better a better word) CAPABLE. Whether it was "capable" of communicating my desires and expressing my feelings in another language or "capable" (on a much deeper level perhaps) of who I was, what I believed in, and what I wanted. All I knew in that moment was that I felt "at home".
It amazes me how the world unfolds before my very eyes if I just let it take its course. The only reason I ended up in the Aliaga's house was because I shared one of the most phenomenal experiences of my trip (climbing Cotopaxi in Ecuador), with Alexei while he was visiting his sister in Quito. De repente, I end up staying at his house for nearly two months while getting to know the beauty of Peru... suerte? Fortuna? You tell me.
I covered some sufficient Peruvian ground in those two months... in the Cordillera Blanca AKA "The Swiss Alps of South America" where I trekked four days to a fine tune of altitude sickness... yeah, going from being at sea level Amazon for 2 months straight up to 14,000 feet within a night probably wasn't the most fabulous idea I've ever had. Lets just say I have never felt so close to wanting to die in my life... My sister (Nurse Kim) would have killed me had she known about my utter stupidity... lets just say I could have easily been diagnosed with pulmonary edema and cerebral edema with all of the phlegm, vomiting, splitting headaches like someone had taken a hammer to my skull (it even hurt to put a beanie on my head), 104 degree fever, chills and 16 hour naps. Quite a humbling experience I must say... being the absolute s l o w e s t of the group (literally a kilometer behind everyone else) among 2 girls who were prancing up the mountain with flying colors, in their cotton sweatshirts, jean shorts and converse shoes! Okay Senor Universo, I surrender! You are totally in control!!!
Other places included Ayacucho, a pueblito where we delivered Paneton (Christmas bread), Chocolatada and gifts to all the poor children, Pisco (yep the origin of Pisco Sours), where I visited Las Islas Ballestas AKA Poor Mans Galapagos!, Ica, the location of Alexei's parents farm , from which we drank the first ever batch of wine... from grapes which his mother stomped with her own two feet! And Huacachina, where we filled our underwear, ears, noses, and eyeballs with sand as we hiked up 200 meters to the top of numerous white, vast, infinite dunes to sandboard down!
Among all the traveling, sightseeing and activity, I must say that the most memorable moments took place inside the home with the Aliagas.
...Late nite chats with Alexei in Spanish, English, Spanglish (whatever flowed out of our mouths!), about life and traveling and the energy of the Universe.

...Flaquito Alvarito coming home from his long 12 hour days to snarf down a huge plate of rice and chicken gumbo, meanwhile laughing in his jovial and carefree style.

...Studious Stephani with her Organic Chemistry sitting quietly in the corner as the song "Youre Beautiful" plays in the back ground una y otra vez, with a smile whose brilliance would cause even the hardest of hearts to melt in love.

...Artistic Aksana and her magnificent fruit postre creations of mango, banana, papaya and strawberries smothered in yogurrrrr... standing in the kitchen with her passionate and fearless desire to practice her English and communicate with everyone and anyone.
...Yolked Yolanda and I battling it out in the Tae Bo championships in the living room. Her sensitive, motherly compassion and desire to protect me and provide the most comfortable stay possible

...Dancing with Senor Ruben to la musica de MMMMMMMMMMMM and teaching him and his amigos the Electric Slide at his birthday party. His contagious smile and eyes that claimed a certain wisdom and vigor that I had never seen before.

...Precious Abuelo Panchito and his love for laughter and food, music and interaction!

...Maria, la "empleada" who arrived at 6am every morning to make fresh orange juice and oatmeal, meanwhile washing, ironing, cleaning and preparing almuerzo too! Works all day only to return home at 7pm to cook for her family, wash her own family's clothes, perhaps eat for herself and off to bed only to do it all over again the next day.

...Cooking my first-ever Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner... In Peru! Ha! Turkey with all the side dishes and Grammies Cheesecake... went over smooth like butta!

...Running on the beach and baking tortas with Aksana, going to concerts, working out, drinking Inca Cola (hee) with Alexei, dancing the "Arequipa" and correcting essays with Alvaro, listening to music and teasing Stephani about her new enamorado, deep conversations about life and love with Yolanda, endless jokes with Ruben, playing True Colors on the guitar for the family, spending time on "la finca" drinking fresh wine and eating figs straight off the trees like they were M&M's, going to eat Pollo a la Brasa at 11pm to...

I just cant say enough. There wasn't one moment that passed by that wouldn't go down in the book of Precious Memories.

The time came in December when it was time for me to continue south... venture on, leave the comfort and set out into the land of unknown once again. My plans to head to Argentina by bus were interfered by my intense desire to be in Buenos Aires promptly... to be in a city where I felt a little safer than I had during the length of my trip in various countries, a little more secure, where I didn't feel like a minority.

Don't know what it was, but I was in Pisco, Ica, and Nazca on my way to Machu Picchu, through Bolivia to do the whole trekky trek that "every traveler does" and suddenly, I just decided that I didn't want to do the small-town-travel-by-foot anymore. Most people would probably shoot me in the head upon hearing that I was within an ear shot of southern Peru and didn't visit Machu Picchu. But even with all those little "logical" voices screaming in my head, it didn't matter to me. Instead of following "the plan"... I followed my heart, my instincts, my passion... and within one night, I had bought a plane ticket, caught a bus back to Lima and was on my way to Buenos Aires right before Christmas...

And so goes it, the life of a spontaneous traveler!

Meetcha in the Big Smoke.
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