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Published: December 13th 2010
I am writing from a small bed in the Sucro neighborhood of Lima Peru. Outside, machines work to repair the sidewalk and cars hiss by my window while I lay face up on my back typing with the computer balancing on my chest. Ironically, a violin is trembling a concerto in the background. Gino, Stephanie´s brother, is practicing for his first symphony and helping me feel even more tragic and helpless.
I get sick every trip. Every. One. It is probably something about blatantly ignoring all the advice on how to avoid illness and eagerly hiking the first day in high altitudes or drinking that glass of chicha I bought from a woman on the street poured from a large, dusty vat. If you manage to escape this fate, I applaud you because eventually on any trip I will do something forcing my body to reconcile its differences with its new environment, and I will endure the perils of adapting.
My father and I take a trip every year around Thanksgiving, meeting up somewhere in the world for a week or two. This year, we decided on Peru.
I had come to love South America
from my visits to family in Buenos Aires, Argentina and what was shared with me through meeting Latin Americans from various parts of the continent over the years. Their vibrancy, their passion is contagious.
Specifically however, prior to this trip, I had only known Peru through the words of Pablo Neruda and Mario Vargas Llosa. I had only experienced the culture at the after hours salsa parties hosted Dirty Dancing style at the employee housing of a hotel I used to work at in 2006 where a handful of Peruvians were on a work exchange. Embarassingly enough, I was able to recognize Machu Picchu by photograph and by name without knowing any historical background or cultural significance.
Although my exposure was limited, it was all I needed to fall in love with the beats of energy with which Peruvians live. The exaggerated gestures and how they speak in a stream of rhythms is as moving and expressive of who they are as the singing, clapping, and dancing. How every moment and experience is lived as a poem that defines them. Despite such a violent past, it is the unwavering pride in their country that often brings
them to tears and the strong hold of tradition, that I have come to admire the most.
I asked a good friend who played host to me for a week about this prideful but timid, humble attitude and what in her opinion is the biggest influence on bringing Peru together. Stephanie answered ¨Peruvians have a complex. Before, no body knew us as a country, so we didn´t act like one. They thought we were uncivilized, underdeveloped people. But now, with global recognition for our literature, our monuments, Machu Picchu, our food, we also can see the value in our culture and use it to build ourselves...¨
¨Peru develops in front of the eyes of other people.¨
Upon spending just under three weeks here, my only conclusion echoes that of Neil Edward Schlect, authur of Frommer´s Peru.
A traveler´s experience of this country is severely understated. Peru deserves to be seen by many, many more people.
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