Reflections on Peru Trip

Now that we’re back from Peru, and I’ve finally finished telling the stories of our two weeks there, there are a few things about our trip that I’ve been reflecting on.

One thing that was interesting about our visit to Peru was the fact that we experienced different worlds while we were there. While in Lima, we mostly moved in the world of the upper middle class – where we ate, where we shopped, the sights we saw, and who we spent time with. We enjoyed it and felt very comfortable there. However, our experience of Lima was not necessarily typical of all foreigners who visit Lima (many of whom are there to do missions work or to provide services to the disadvantaged). Our experience is certainly not representative of millions of people who live in Lima at a much lower standard of living than the one we experienced.

While in Cusco, and for the most part on the trek as well, we lived in the tourist world. A good many of the tourists in Peru (Dave and myself included) are people who would likely prefer to refer to themselves as “travelers”. It’s a group of people who want to experience different aspects of this world that we all share, in as genuine a way as possible. (In contrast with staying at resorts, laying on beaches, and/or shopping at malls that could be in any country anywhere in the world.) Despite the desire for authenticity, it’s hard for outsiders to truly experience another culture the same way the natives experience it, especially when most travelers have a minimum standard of comfort and sanitation that is often above that which the people of that country can regularly achieve. Although we have a real enough experience to come away with an understanding and appreciation of a people, their surroundings, and their history, we don’t really get a chance to live through their daily struggles nor their daily joys.

This is the world we got a chance to glimpse but not really experience: the lives of everyday lower and working class Peruvians. Our guides, Leo and Jose, told me a lot about their lives, and it seemed very different from the lives of those of us who were able to pay US$345 each to be there. Interesting also were the bits of information we learned about our porters, the women selling snacks and soft drinks out of baskets along the trail, and the families living and farming near or along the Inca Trail. Those who are working – even jobs that are very difficult – are thankful to have those jobs, because everyone knows someone who can’t find work. Even having a job doesn’t guarantee that the bills will all get paid, and having an occupation doesn’t guarantee full time work. It’s difficult, but they continue on – and, as we learned on the weekend of the Inti Raymi festival, they even take time to celebrate.
Continue reading

Flying North for the Summer

Exiting Lima AirportIt never fails – I woke up at 6:30 am, when I really didn’t need to get up until 7:30 am. Actually Ana Maria didn’t get us up until 7:45 – she was running a bit late.

I took a nice warm shower and then got Dave up. We had everything just about ready and I was thinking about what we might do for breakfast. Mariana had just gotten up and was telling us all about the date she had the night before with the boy she just started dating, when the doorbell buzzed. The taxi was a bit early – 8:40 am. Ricky helped us load our backpacks and luggage into the car, and we said goodbye to him and to Mariana, and then we were off to begin our long day of traveling.

The taxi took us to the airport, trying as well as possible to take backroads to avoid traffic. It wasn’t too bad, and we got to the airport probably not much later than 9 am. We checked in, got rid of our luggage and backpacks, and then headed upstairs. We finally found a place to mail the postcards we had written on Saturday. We poked around a bit in the shops, and then realized we needed to make breakfast our first priority.

The only place to get breakfast food in the airport was, of course, Dunkin’ Donuts. We had some donuts and I had a latte, and we sat in aluminum chairs in the airport food court being very amused.
Continue reading

Adventures in Cusco and Lima… and a Side Trip to Arequipa

Fountain - Plaza de ArmasAfter getting up insanely early every day of the trek, I was looking forward to sleeping in, in real beds, at our hostel in Cusco. Unfortunately, after getting up insanely early every day of the trek, my body decided at 6:30 am that this might be a good time to wake up. I tried for about an hour to go back to sleep, but finally gave up and got up and showered around 7:30 am.

We completely packed our things, because Javier had told me when we arrived Friday night that they had someone else coming at 10 am to check into our room. This was no problem because it gave us added incentive to get up at a decent time to finish our errands in Cusco.
Continue reading