Tuesday, December 15, 2009


{{Home is where the heart is}}

I have officially been home a week from Peru and still feel quite strange being back in the States. I'm no longer accustomed to life here and getting back into the rhythm of life at home is hard. I feel different, separated from the other people I see around me, people who haven't just gotten back from living in Peru and don't know what it's like to return after immersing yourself so fully in another culture. I felt like a complete stranger, completely disconnected as I walked through the Atlanta airport, back on American soil for the first time in three months. Why did I only hear English around me? Why did everyone seem so rushed, so hurried, talking on their cell phones, running in expensive high heels, lugging their heavy Louis Vuitton suitcases? Why did a cup of coffee cost $5 instead of s/5 (1 sol is equal to about 30¢)? Why did I have to speak English to everyone?

I think about Peru almost constantly. I miss being there, waking up in the morning to look at the mist upon Chicón glacier, walking through the busy market at midday, conversing with my family over soup and a second every lunch while commenting on the antics of Laura on Lima Limón and waiting anxiously to find out who won Miss Cumbia 2009 while disparaging it nonetheless, wandering through the Plaza de Armas with my friends, building stoves in Yucay and then following it up with several big glasses of amazing juice from the juice lady, playing with my hermanita, Killary, at home just to watch her break out in an amazingly lit smile, waiting anxiously in the market around 6 for churro man to appear, making occasional forays into Cusco that left us overly stuffed with American-style food from Jacks and exhausted, dodging motos, walking the pista to Spanish class, laughing around an amazing plate of comotoe chips or guacamole or potato wedges until late at night at the Muse with an amazing mixture of Germans, Peruvians, and Americans, at least two languages always going at once. My experience in Peru was absolutely spectacular and I could have asked for nothing better. The perfect combination of people in a beautiful, interesting, and unique place that I was lucky to call my home for three months.

Some little differences or things that I have noted about being home.
-I still think in Spanish, and sometimes expressions or words I use often come to my mind and/or lips first in Spanish and I really have to think about the English translation
-Everything needs to be more spicy and salty. As I have not yet managed to find ají here, I'm finding cayenne pepper a passable substitute for my soups and any bland dish that seems to need extra help. And if I eat cheese, it's only pepper jack
-When I meet people, I find myself automatically moving towards them to give them the customary kiss-on-the-cheek that Peruvians do. Upon entering a room, Peruvians greet each other this way. By the end of my time in Peru, all us Americans did it to each other upon entering a room without even thinking about it
-I find myself having to turn down the heat on my shower because I am so used to the Urubamba lukewarm showers
-I still hesitate before crossing the street, even if the cars I'm crossing in front of have a red light, for fear they won't obey and will run me over
-I feel strange when cars follow the road signs (especially posted speed limits), there are seatbelts in the back seats, and cars don't just drive on the left side because they feel like it or pass on curves
-I still hesitate about throwing toilet paper down the toilet and look for the little bathroom trash can (Peruvian sewer systems don't take toilet paper)
-I feel hemmed in by too many trees
-I get overwhelmed in supermarkets because they are way too big. And the prices for fruit and vegetables--which often aren't even that amazing--are ridiculous. $6 for 2 avocados?! I could get 3 for like s/5 (about $1.5).
-I am amazed I can eat fruit and vegetables with every meal
-I really miss seeing motos in the street
-Having to drive everywhere seems a sin...everything I could possibly need should be no more than a 15-minute walk from my house
-Doing my own laundry again is strange (almost everyone takes it to a lavandaria or hires someone to wash it in their house. And there are no driers...sometimes there are washing machines).
-In fact, I'm no longer used to doing any household chores (the most my family would do was let me set the table)
-I feel cold almost 24/7. Even if it rains at night, I'm supposed to see the sun during the day!
-Clothing looks much more drab after seeing Quechua women's brightly colored dresses
-I feel like the family should always get back together for lunch

I couldn't have asked for a better first-half-of-bridge-year experience than Peru. It was fun, fulfilling, different, unique, a really special chance to engage myself in another culture and live like them. Not just to experience a country as a tourist (though I did some of that, making sure I saw Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca, along with the other Inca ruins in the Sacred Valley), but to really get to know the place and understand the people. I am proud now to call myself an Urubambina and a Cusqueña...to feel pride in my heart when I see the baby blue flag of Urubamba or the rainbow flag of Cusco province. They say that home is where the heart is, and now Peru and Urubamba have taken some of my heart and I am proud to call it my home. ¡Hasta pronto, Urubamba! Cuídate, eres buenazo, un lugar muy chévere.

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