Wednesday, July 9, 2008

poverty and positivity

Safe and sound in Peru people.

First impressions? It’s dilapidated, dirty and ugly yet, strangely beautiful.

The flight here with Aerolineas Argentinas, or Aerolineas ArgenCRAP, was painful for many reasons. Firstly, my flight was delayed five hours. Then my connection in NZ was delayed a couple more. Given the delays, I was going to miss my connection to Lima from Buenos Aires but, what do you know, that plane was delayed too and I caught it by about 30 minutes. Winner by default.

In fear of sounding precious, the worst thing about the airline was the entertainment. Mostly because there was none. None! There was one mini television at the front of each aisle which showed the time at point of origin and destination but that’s not going to keep anyone occupied for 19 hours.

Far more annoying though, and hardly the fault of the airline, was the guy I spent 11 hours next to from Auckland to BA. Firstly, he was a hocker. You know, sniffing the excess snot from nose to throat with gusto. Ewww, get away. But then, it got worse. Far, far worse. He took off his shoes. Oh, the smell. That foul, wretched smell. I was gagging and spent the entire trip with my cardy across my nose. Is it just me or does it feel worse to breathe bad smells in through the mouth. I feel as if I’m eating it. Ugh.

Anyway, Lima was the first port of call. I arrived at my hotel at about 1am which is 6pm Australian time. I couldn’t sleep. I watched The Wonder Years in Spanish but it’s only funny for so long.

The next day, I arose at about 11am. I’m blaming the jet lag but we all know I can sleep in that long on any given day. I braved the outside world solo for a few hours before I joined three fellow Peru’s Challenge volunteers at the meeting point for the City of Lima tour.

One was Tricia. A 29-year-old American who loves ice cream. Instant friends. The tour was interesting-ish. Worthwhile-ish. Glad to have done it but not running back to Lima any time soon.

Signs Lima won't go down as a must see destination: most memorable sight was a clothesline

Off to Cusco, or Cuzco depending on where you’re from, and I was immediately more impressed by the southeastern city upon landing. Flying through the Andes will do that to you, I suppose.

Like Lima, Cusco boasts the stark contrast of poverty and beauty. Rundown homes are set among spectacular mountains, ramshackle roofs shelter bright, colourful walls and deprived people sport broad, genuine smiles.

For the next month, the Peru’s Challenge volunteer house in Larapa will be my home. I am sharing a small room, showers are luke warm if you’re lucky and you cannot flush toilet paper – but we live in luxury compared to the locals.

It took less than 24 hours to turn “how am I going to live in this city for one month” into “one month isn’t going to be nearly enough time here”.

The reason for the change of heart? Pumamarca.

Watch this space.

2 comments:

Plucka said...

I love the way you write Jacka, and I wait impatiently for the next installment. And I agree with you on the bad smell thing; I cover my nose and breathe through my mouth only to think "ew, now I'm eating that smell."

Mike said...

It's funny when us 'Westerners' are confronted with a situation such as that. A place so visually unappealling and seemingly crying out for help, most of us find the ensuing time very confusing. We want to help them see how they could be living better lives and enjoying more of it. The funny part is, most of the people are probably completely happy and find pleasure and peace in a world we, initially anyway, would see as uninviting and dirty.

Sometimes because of this acceptance of other cultures, ways of living and living standards, we start to look for the simpler joys in life; the smiles of children as they have their photo taken or as they see a similarity in us such as the enjoyment of laughing together.

I feel for you on your flight with the foul-feet hocker. I reckon that falls under the responsibility of the steward or stewardess to tell the bloke to put them back on or strap on a chute and prepare for an early departure.

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