City Girl, Meet the World
Though I’ve been out of the country before, I guess I don’t really count driving across the border into Mexico with my girlfriends in a periwinkle-colored minivan as a true international adventure. The trip to South America was my first big, real, super-awesome, international trip. As most people say, it’s interesting to see how you react to new things when you are far from your comfort zone.
Don’t Worry- I Took Two Years of Spanish in Junior High
In Mexico City I was slightly frantic trying to find security and get to my gate. The gentleman at security started speaking to me in Spanish and I told him, “No hablas ingles.” Which means, “You don’t speak English.” I didn’t realized I had said that until a few minutes after. I then started sweating uncontrollably, nervous and embarrassed. I approached him, probably shimmering with perspiration, and corrected myself to possibly salvage any sort of dignity I had left. He didn’t really seem to care.
Another moment of thorough miscommunication was at our second hostel in Cusco. I was in the common area where the wi-fi was available when a sweet old woman came out of her room holding up a digital camera in one hand and a battery in the other. She began speaking to me in Spanish. So again, I start sweating and getting nervous. At this point, all I can do is read body language and facial expressions. So I think, “hmmm she looks like an honest person, I bet she found that camera and is trying to find the owner!” So, I shrug my shoulders, give a sad smirk and say, “Not mine!” She then approaches the guy next to me and gives her “Help me find the owner of this camera!” speech. He grabs the battery, puts it in the camera, and turns it on for her. Whomp.
It’s tough not to feel like you owe this beautiful country your full attention at all times. This is especially true at Machu Picchu. The first 20 or 30 minutes there you’re mostly in awe, snapping photos at everything down to the snails on the rocks. No? Just me? At some point, you just get…bored. Maybe bored isn’t the right word when explaining such an incredible piece of history, how about satisfied? You can only snap so many pictures before you just clock out. Even now, I’m writing this on the bus from Cusco to Puno surrounded by the Andes. I am engulfed in lush green hills grazed with sheep and alpacas. Those hills transform into giant, snow-capped mountains that disappear into low-hanging clouds. Sprinkled at the base of these clouds, and mountains, and hills, are small houses that you’d never look twice at if it weren’t for their backdrop. This gorgeous scenery still can’t keep me from pulling out my laptop and typing away like a nerdy American with A.D.D. I almost feel guilty for not having my nose pressed up against the window.
Germaphobic Girly Tomboy
I’ve always been a little weary of germy places, like most people, but with a little extra kick of worry. But I think since working at a bar I’ve gotten worse. Don’t ask me how that would make it worse. Maybe it’s the lipstick stains I sometimes find on our wine glasses after they’ve been washed. Regardless, it’s bad. So I prepared myself to be extra germaphobic on this trip. I didn’t realize how bad I’d get. I would peek under blankets before I climbed into bed to make sure no critters were lounging. I avoided TBT’s UV light water purifier (which is totally legit) and strictly drank bottled water. I brought my own pillowcase and made sure to replace every pillowcase with it. I would slightly, I mean slightly, graze the wall or shower curtain in the shower and actually say out loud, “Ew!” I am definitely not the tomboy I thought I was. As soon as I leave the U.S., I become as girly as Safari Barbie.
While we’re on the topic of germs, here’s a short story about three toothpastes. Right before my overnight flight into Lima I realized I forgot some pretty incredbile toothpaste in Arizona. Seriously though, arm & hammer. This stuff is gold. Does not leave a toothpastey taste in your mouth at all. You can drink all the OJ you want after you use it! I will buy this toothpaste til the end of time. Anyway, enter (and exit) toothpaste #1. So I bought a new one in Mexico City, toothpaste #2. For whatever reason, this particular tube of toothpaste was pretty much human-proof. It had some super secure, meant for C.I.A. use, piece of indestructible plastic over the hole where the toothpaste comes out. I battled that thing for a good while until I finally gave up and asked the lady cleaning the bathroom if she knew how to open it. Looking back, maybe that wasn’t the best idea considering she had just finished cleaning a toilet. Being the naive person I am, I seriously thought this was something common in Mexico and she’d just be able to tell me how to remove it. False. She removed her poop gloves, took the toothpaste, and began prying at it just like I was. Finally, she got impatient. The tube then moved slowly up to her mouth, where she proceeded to BITE OFF the C.I.A.-grade plastic. She looked up at me, smiled with her 12 or 13 yellowed teeth, and handed it back to me. I smiled, said “thank you,” and walked straight to the garbage and threw it away (out of her sight of course). Enter toothpaste #3. It wasn’t arm & hammer, but it also wasn’t previously in someone’s mouth.
I have gathered the following thoughts upon completion of my Peruvian journey:
I need to learn Spanish. It is long overdue.
I think I’m addicted to traveling now, which was expected.
Wi-fi is a major luxury…as are many other things I overlook on a daily basis. Like toilet seats.
Lastly: Not everyone thinks like you. It’s always been very difficult to travel with my family. As much as I love the crap out of them, they are the most accommodating, indecisive people I’ve ever encountered. So I learned to literally take a few steps back, and let them debate in private whether or not we should eat at the touristy-looking pizza place. Patience when traveling is a must. Whether it’s for your family, the locals, or for the language you don’t understand when you just want to order a gin and tonic.