Monday, December 26, 2011

Toady I traveled back to Peru after a 6 week leave in the States, encompassing a wedding, reunions and tomfoolery with loved ones, gift-giving and receiving, story-telling and listening. During my morning goodbyes and finally hug to my dad at the airport, I wasn´t sure how I felt—sadness at saying goodbye, with no sense of urgency or finality, but most strangely, a sheer lack of excitement. This dullness continued through my airport time wasting (I tried to tell myself to stock up on American candy bars and magazines, to no avail) and both flights. I didn´t feel scared, nor doubtful, nor worried, but I also didn´t feel the urgency and nervousness I had imagined. It was like going on a business trip to Ohio or to the grocery store to buy eggs- simple, thoughtless and uninspiring. This in itself began to panic me and I tried to analyze but was distracted by Game of Thrones, until I finally arrived in Lima, and was standing in the customs line, behind two confused German women and in front of a blustering American.

It was there that I saw it: in the duty-free store, just ahead, there were four attendants, all unoccupied, all wearing hideous orange matching vests and skirts. There it was—a stunning example of Peruvian inefficiency (any store worth it´s salt will take at least 15 minutes to ring up your purchase, require fashion sacrifices out of its employees, and consider an employee pow-wow more important than customer service).

From then on, I was hooked once more. Through haggling my taxi price, forgetting my ATM card, realizing I had booked at the not-so-nice hostel, crossing my fingers to find my cellphone, and most of all, the wonderful, chaotic ride from the Callao airport to Miraflores, I smiled and giggled like a fat kid with a pocket full of fudge. Even the dirty streets and traffic are like the fart of a loved one—unpleasant, but it´s nice to recognize and remind you who you´re dealing with. Between swerves and near misses in the taxi, I saw graffiti, over-crowded buses and terrible junk cars, stray dogs and cats, tacky billboards, crowded slums and sleeks malls. We passed chifa, pollo a la brasa, tacos, Italian, food carts, tiendas, street vendors and drove through miasmas of frying potatoes and sautéing garlic, of gasoline and sea salt. It was a marvelous gauntlet of reintroduction.

Thank you, Lima, for continually baffling, frustrating and confounding me. It´s good to be back in Peru.