viva el peru!
before you start saying things like “what a good person you are” and “how wonderful that you’re helping people”, let’s get one thing straight- this was not a mission trip. i know, i know. i’m a bad person… but i'm a bad person with one bucket list item crossed off! once i was accepted as a missionary to nepal, i realized that my ability to just jet around the world on fabulous vacations was about to come to an end. i also realized that if i want to get to some of my bucket list items, i need to do it now. i have saved up some money just for this purpose, and this week #1 is officially completed.
what an experience. this was my first foray into the continent of south america and what a foray it was. peru is absolutely beautiful- not as “undeveloped” as some of the places i’ve been, but still rough enough to be up my alley. funny, but the older i get the less i want the luxury experience and the more i want to immerse myself into the true local culture and local way of life. i even feel a little “jipped” when the hotel is too fancy. not a problem on this trip. the hotels were clean and had all the amenities (well, except hot water in the second one) but still simple and unassuming.
the first place we stayed was below the town of cusco, in urubamba, or the “sacred valley” (in the incan language of quechua). it touted spa services and we were exhausted after 2 days of travel, so brian and i decided to book massages to relax and unwind, and prepare ourselves for hiking machu picchu. really- you need loose muscles to make that hike. we considered it a medical necessity and not an indulgence. :0) we needed to be done early enough to get ready for our tour group dinner, so the front desk arranged for 2 massage therapists to do them- his at 4:30p and mine at 5p. when i arrived for mine, the girl met me at the door to the massage room, cracked it open, and ushered me inside, whispering, “okay, senorita. okay.” and pointing me to the table. right next to brian’s. here we were, in a tiny room that resembled a potting shed in the back of the hotel, and evidently we were getting a couple’s massage. now, for those of you that don’t know this, brian is one of my best friends. has been for 18 years. we have never, ever (nor do we plan to) seen each other naked. ewwwwwww (sorry brian- but i’m sure you will join me in that sentiment!). it would be like seeing your brother/sister naked. it’s just not necessary. so the girl backs out of the room, the guy keeps doing brian’s massage, and i am left to disrobe and crawl onto the other bed. to his credit, he kept his head turned the other way, but that didn’t muffle the snickering. the rest of the massage was pretty ridiculous. he was laying on what looked like a wood pallet with a pillow on it, and my bed was about 4 feet long. they were no more than 4 inches apart, max, and my massage therapist had to keep pushing my bed side to side to get around me during the massage. at one point she got stuck in a eucalyptus tree in the corner near the head of my bed and the rustling and sounds of a struggle nearly drowned out our laughing. it was not the most relaxing massage i've ever had, but it was certainly the most random!
interesting little fun fact: peru grows over 3,000 varieties of potatoes. (see? i listened during the tour).
there was so much more to this trip that i don’t have time or space to get into, in detail… there was shopping at a market where the locals shop, eating alpaca (tastes like lamb) and guinea pig (i liked mouse better), touring ruins in cusco, visiting the “white Christ” which is a replica of the one in rio, brazil, watching shows featuring traditional dances and music, having dinner in a local family’s home, visiting a shop where they taught us how to distinguish clothing made from “baby alpaca” vs. adult alpaca or “maybe alpaca” (the baby is much softer and cool to the touch), participating in a cooking demonstration and then getting to eat the results (called causa), going to a local cemetery, witnessing a blessing by a kichwa shaman, touring the catholic cathedral, losing my credit card (ugh), doing a city wide tour in lima- all amazing (except losing my credit card). peru has a rich culture and warm, friendly people.