Wow, what to say…

I’ve been in Peru now about a month and a half and have had a collection of experiences reflecting every aspect between the poles of ‘what am I doing here?!’ and ‘awe-inspiring beauty’… here are some thoughts I’ve gathered along the way…

Sitting in the idle combi, waiting for it to fill so we can get a move on to Lampa. Been here for about 15 minutes and so far no new passengers; I’m guessing we need at least 4 more until they’ll consider it worth the trip. The señora sits on the street corner, nursing her small child, calling out ‘A Lampa Lampa Lampa’, and at this point I feel compelled to join her in the recruit, growing quickly impatient of the Peruvian methods of transport. I’m tempted to jump out of the overcrowded combi and take a slightly more expensive taxi, but I don’t want to insult my drivers, and the community of fellow travelers gives me a small security the lone ride in the taxi cannot.

It’s Saturday in Juliaca, and I’m taking the day to do some sight seeing after an amazing week of meeting with inspiring entrepreneurs. My face has started to peel from the massive sunburn the Puno region has given me; I had become accustomed to the overcast skies of seaside Lima, and was quickly and oh-so-painfully reminded of the damage a day without sunscreen near the equator can do… however, I’d gladly take the sunburn over the altitude sickness that has greeted me ever so kindly daily at 14,000 feet. My ears are ringing from the constant honking of Juliaca’s motos and taxis; the honking that serves Juliaca as stoplights serve other cities- a good hard honk simply means ‘green light for me, red for you- so hit the breaks or get out of the way!’.

However lacking in simple comforts Juliaca has been, the culture here by far makes up for it, and I’m slow in wanting to leave this place…
House in Juliaca
I’ve spent the week meeting with men and women who have made me rethink my definition of happiness, necessity, generosity, and love. Over and over again I’m reminded of the story of the poor woman who gave two coins to an offering, while the rich around her were putting in great amounts of money- yet she had put in so much more because while the rich had given out of wealth, she, in her poverty, had given everything she had. I have been welcomed into the homes and for a short time the lives of these people, who have shared their stories and hearts, and then have so willingly insisted on sharing their gifts. Whether it be a block of cheese, freshly painted ceramic figurines, breakfast, dinner, her favorite and best pair of earrings, a medicinal fruit said to cure everything up to cancer, or the honor of naming the newborn calf and being appointed his godmother… I have been truly touched by the endless generosity and ability to give so much out of seemingly so little. It would do the world some good to learn from the lives of the so-called impoverished, and possibly make us take a look at our definition of poverty; it might change the map of who the ‘developing world’ really is…

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