It’s my sixteenth full day in Peru. To be quite frank, I’ve been feeling bouts of homesickness. It’s not all glamorous and adventure. Geez there’s been a lot of it, but it has also felt like everyday life where you have good days, better days, and some not-so-good. Some of you have heard and I’ll probably dissect it a bit more sometime. This is the first trip I’ve been on where I actually felt , “Okay, ready. I could go home now.” It’s not a bad thing. I think it’s because I never felt like I had something so worth missing terribly back home or something to look forward to upon return. Take it as a compliment, OC / LA.
I took a 5:00 am flight from Lima to Arequipa today. I also was up way too late in order to properly feel excited for the journey. The only thing I consumed during the national census yesterday was plantain chips, a few well-spaced out eucalyptus Pisco sours courtesy of the hostel, a very basic pizza courtesy of the pizza man who cooks on the hostel roof, and lots of screen time trying to edit photos. Also hung out with some colorful characters. There was not time to stock up for the apocalypse the previous day. I threw in another tallarin con lomo for dinner (finally, some carne) when things finally opened up again. So yep, not my finest diet. I don’t really remember the last time my body has felt relatively normal. Whether it be a sunburn, bug bites, or a stomach / throat / nose / head thing, there’s been a lot of altitude switches, walking, hiking, and food; rightfully so, you press on. I’m making it sound worse than it is, Mom. I know you worry when you think I’m overexerting myself or eating weird foods, but no worries, using the bathroom constantly is probably better than the inability to, or shyness rather. JK. Not I’m not.
So I woke up for my 2:45 am taxi to the airport, boarded at 4:15am, found my seat in-between two men; one whose physique spilled over into my seat a bit, and involuntarily dozed off while trying to figure out why it was so dang hot on the plane. I only took a backpack for this trip so I was carrying quite a lot of layers that I couldn’t squeeze in and I had to take my sweater off, but it only made its way around my neck until I dozed off again. The flight was only 1.5 hours and I only woke up for a cup of water. I always feel so helpless when I’m that tired on a plane. I can’t even look the attendant in the eye. I wonder what I look like.
We landed around 6:30 am and I decided to wait at the airport a bit, try and eat something, and do an aerial scope of possible taxi driver options because I didn’t want to make any rash decisions. After eating some papas rellenas that I lost my appetite to, I descended the stairs and made a beeline for a decent looking taxi driver who I think still overcharged me. You tend not to care too much in Peru though because prices beat OC Uber prices by a landslide.
As soon as I hopped in that taxi and began to seeing the mountains, volcanoes, countryside, and quaint little buildings, I knew that I made the right choice in coming here: even just for a day, being so tired, a little homesick, and all by my lonesome. I got to my hostel to drop off some bags and started wandering around the city until check-in. It’s quiet, the stone streets are a little rough on the feet, and every building made of volcanic rock is just asking for a photo. I was going to check out the talk-of-the-town monastery, but I got hungry again and found my way into a cafe before being ready to commit. Oh, this is my favorite thing. I’m the only one here and I’m currently sitting by the window writing this because so many thoughts came to mind.
Maybe I’ve been sharing too much, or maybe there’s this invisible pressure to “seize the day” and be more “present” and “detached.” After talking with a few friends and knowing that family and friends do like seeing updates and photos, I realize that I can be present in any way that I want to be. One good friend told me once, “Taking photos for you doesn’t pull you out of the experience, but it’s your version of worship.” What an encouragement. So today, this trip, the future, whether that’s making over-exaggerated rant videos, sending people-watching adventures to my mom, taking pictures and uploading as I go, I realize that it helps me remember and savor the moment as I get to reflect on every thought I have. Yesterday (census day) was the first time in a couple weeks that I had zero agenda for the day. It was nice to be forced to slow down. Here I am again. Sitting down at a cafe, writing about a day that hasn’t even begun yet, but just being able to reflect on my surroundings, wonder why the heck I’m eating papaya and kiwi right now ( I never would ever willingly eat kiwi and papaya, gross), and enjoy the current playlist (Simple Plan, James Blunt, Oasis (Don’t Look Back In Anger), Savage Garden lol, etc) is special and something worth remembering. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on a cultural experience right now. I like watching people walk by the wrought iron bars of this window and if this cafe is part of the ciudad of Arequipa, I’m enjoying Arequipa. I’m getting super excited and also setting up myself for disappointment because I know the gastronomy here is to die for and there’s no way I can do it all: tummy and budget wise. And that my friends is why photos are my favorite souvenir.