Saturday, February 6, 2010

Peru Day 1: 25 Hours of Travel and Counting

Oy, what a day. And it's only 9:30 in the morning.

I got an hour or two of relatively comfortable but frequently interrupted sleep in the Lima airport and made my way to the bathrooms to wash up, brush my teeth, etc around 4am. I got to the gate around 4:20 and hung out until they started boarding around 5. As soon as I hit my seat, I was out. I woke up to bright sunlight and a pretty bumpy flight. The brightness started to turn to a wall of clouds though and when we were about 10 minutes away from landing, the pilot came on the air and told us that we would be staying in a holding pattern for about 25 minutes due to the bad weather. Back to sleep.

After about 30 minutes, I awoke to the captain telling us that we were going BACK TO LIMA because the weather was too bad in Cusco to land. So, back to Lima. I befriended an Australian girl who'd been flying for almost 3 days to get to Cusco for a volunteer teaching job and together we made our way BACK to the ticketing counter, BACK through security, and BACK on another flight.

When we finally landed in Cusco, Karem (my Peru contact) and her family met me at the airport and we all took a taxi to my host family's house. Even Karem, a local, had to negotiate for a fair fare at the airport, which is swarming with tour operators and drivers hoping you'll choose them.

We drove about 10 minutes to downtown Cusco to my host family's home. Laura, my host, greeted us and we sat down for a little social visit and some coca tea (good stuff and a must for fending off altitude sickness.) Karem, her husband and Laura talked for a while in slower, slightly more decipherable Spanish and I found myself able to follow along for parts of it. As pathetic as those 4 years of high school Spanish were, it's all I've got and I intend to use it to the fullest!

So by about noon I was shown to my room, simple but spacious and with two beds. No dresser so my unpacked clothes are neatly folded on shelves like I'm living at the Gap (only a little draftier). The outlet I've plugged my adapter into has a curtain covering it and a few holes burned through that suspiciously line up with the outlet (I'm guessing some people don't understand the importance of bringing a grounder with them). I nearly electrocuted myself taking a shower today, but i guess that's part of the fun, no?

Aside from those minor issues, the whole house feels welcoming and warm and I'm looking forward to the next two weeks. Karem said goodbye and promised to pick me up in the morning so we could head off to Plaza de Armas (the main square).I came down for lunch around 1:00 and met Ali, another girl living in the house -- she's been here a month and will be heading back to Atlanta on Sunday. She regailed us with her "trapped in Machu Picchu during the floods" stories while we ate corn kernels the size of my thumb, fresh vegetables, and a dish that seemed to be a cross between quinoa and polenta with bits of potato in it (and a side of rice). Laura also served fresh mango juice and a delicious cheese. Good stuff.

I excused myself around 1:40 and went back upstairs to mentally/spiritually connect with my family in Connecticut, who were having the funeral for my grandmother during this hour. Sitting on my bed (which feels like a very firm air mattress), I closed my eyes and connected to them for about 15 minutes. And then I fell into a dream-filled sleep for the next 3 hours.

When I woke I had more tea and Laura took me to the grocery store. Lots of grains and fruits/veggies. The basics like Milo and Coke were also on the shelves -- it was a crowded little supermercado!

Ali invited me out tonight but I'm still a little too tired to go. I'll join her tomorrow night.

Dinner was yummy and simple. Asparagus soup and some type of fruit on the side. Lunch is the big meal here, which is fine by me.

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