One of the most important things I have learned about travel was reinforced when I arrived in Cuzco. That is the need to be flexible and relaxed. I learned this last summer when I went to Argentina. The volcanic eruptions wreaked havoc in South America a few months prior to my flight to Buenos Aires. By July, we were sure all was clear, but the hand of fate dictated otherwise. The ash cloud from the Volcano had circumnavigated the globe, much like I would like to do one day, and stopped directly over the International Airport in B.A. At the very same time my American Airlines flight was over Venezuela. With terrible conditions for visibility the plane was forced, not to land early and wait it out, but to turn around. Therefore my first ever international flight was a roundtrip hover over Venezuela. Dallas isn’t my favorite place to be on the best of days, but to wake up with Argentina in mind and discover you are back in Dallas is the closest thing to an in flight tragedy I have ever experienced. Our Flight the next day went smooth and I was glad to finally lay my head down for a nap in B.A. This “ordeal” taught me to relax my expectations and go with the flow, while traveling. It is a good ideal to apply to daily life as well. In the wise words of another, “Make detailed plans for the big stuff, but be open to where your intuition leads you.” In this way you can ensure both reliability and freedom in travel and life.
My experience in Argentina aided me when I landed in Cusco on Sunday October 7th. I called my language school and soon found out that my host family had forgotten me and that one of the people in the program was going to pick me up and take me to a new family. I dodged incredibly insistent taxi drivers badgering me for 45 minutes until my contact was able to arrive. She negotiated a 5 soles taxi fare to the house and we were off. I was impressed by her negotiations, because in Lima I overpaid for my taxi from the airport to the hostel. I realized yet again that I have a lot to learn. Then I applied my relaxed attitude and breathed a huge sigh of relief to be on my way to my temporary home.
It was actually a couple of breaths, the altitude is 3,400 meters, that is 11,200 feet for those of you in the U.S. That’s right almost twice as high as Denver. My mile high born body still took a few days to get used to it. I never got sick like some of the others I met, but I was very very tired for the first week. After ten days, I am accusotmed to it. I even went for a run yesterday. Though it was a short run and my pulse was higher than its been in years. See even my lungs are being flexible.
The place I am staying is very close to Avenida el Sol and the Artisanal market. My host family is great and they make delicious food for lunch and dinner and always have it ready at meal time. I find that I am really hungry here and really cold. They also provide plenty of clean drinking water, hot water and tea.
I have four roommates, two from Holland, one from England, and one from South Africa. It is nice to have a break from Spanish every once in a while. And we do speak English quite a bit when we are together. It is interesting also to note the many types of English that we speak at the table and when out for drinks or during dinner at the house. The first day I arrived three of them invited me to breakfast and we went to a place just off the Plaza De Armas. La Bondiet was the name. I had some disappointing empanadas, the argentine version is definitely superior, and a monstrous bowl of fruit. Papaya, watermelon, strawberries…well see for yourself. It is something I ended up enjoying two more times that week.
The Plaza de Armas is striking and beautiful. The juxtaposition of the monstrous cathedrals surrounding the plaza is drastic. Almost as drastic, is the juxtaposition of the hundreds of tourists and the locals that flock to the area daily. Cusco’s lifeblood is no doubt tourism. Sangria Vida. And then there is the fact that many of the buildings around the town are built on the foundations of Ancient Incan Ruins. This is the most drastic Juxtaposition.
Monday October 8th was a national holiday for Peru, so the language school as well as many other businesses were closed, including the Yoga studio I visited. It is one of the many reasons learning to be flexible is a huge advantage when traveling. Allowing yourself to be immersed in the culture includes letting go of the very American 24/7 access ideal. This is Peru I need to be a gringo tranquilo.
Coming Soon Parts 2 and 3- Spanish Classes, City tour, and Late night Salsa clubs.