Tuesday morning early I get on a bus to go to the airport. Oswaldo, one of my Lima friends, had told me it’d only cost one or two soles to take the bus whereas it could cost up to twenty soles for a taxi. I’m all about thrift so I head out first thing. When I hand over my money I ask the Cobrador to please tell me when we get to the stop. I don’t want to miss it. At each bus stop more people pile on. I’ve got my bags on my shoulder and my hands up on the overhead rail to keep my balance as the bus weaves through traffic. I almost don’t even need the support when more people board and the space between us closes. About a block before, the Cobrador tells me we’re almost there. I spend the remainder of the ride trying to squeeze my way out, between the non-existent spaces, between the humans that stand crammed in together tighter than hate. With my bags over my shoulder this is no easy feat. Finally, I pop out of the bus door like a baby being birthed and take a breath, that first scream of fresh air. I head over the pedestrian bridge, across the parking lot and then into the airport’s departure lounge.
After checking in I go through security. I didn’t pack nearly as obsessively as I’ve had to when traveling in the States. Have I become so blasé in such a short amount of time? It must be a South American unconcern I’ve adopted. I manage to take a bottle of water (which costs me more than my long bus ride in did) through the X-Ray machine. However, I do get pulled aside. Lima’s equivalent to TSA takes everything out of my bag. At first I’m a little self-conscious, but heck, I figure he’s seen it all and what I’ve got with me is pretty tame, so I lean back on my heels and watch him turn my possessions, my clothes, my toiletries, my underwear, my books over in his latex blue gloved hands. I don’t get out totally free and clean. He confiscates a metal nail file that’s part of a fingernail care kit. I guess I won’t be breaking anyone out of jail with that baked into a cake. Too bad. In some fit of insanity I’d brought along a corkscrew and as I watch I’m sure he’ll take that too, but he doesn’t, he looks at it, unhinges the screw and then puts it back in the bag. He throws the file into the rejected bin and tells me I’m good to go. He starts to repack my bag and I assure him I’m okay doing it myself and take over from there.My flight to Cusco is delayed for an hour or two. I sit and wait in the terminal thinking I’ll never get there. Sometimes I’m such a fatalist. Winter will last forever, I’ll be waiting for eternity, the sun will never come out again, this fog--this eternal cloud cover over Lima will never dissipate. I know this isn’t really true so I people watch and dream and write notes.
A girl who reminds me of my oldest sister with her shaved head and modelesque features and figure sits down next to me. We both hold our passports in our hands. “Papers, papers please,” I think to myself. She’s from Hong Kong and speaks English with an Australian accent. She’s going to spend several months in Cusco doing volunteer work and learning more Spanish. I love talking to people who are doing crazy things like I’m doing, stretching out past comfort zones and living a strange and exotic life. She feels like a kindred spirit to me and I wonder what it is about some people who just make you feel you’ve known them for ages. Is it the familiarity we attach to a face? Is it some crazy cosmic connection? Is it just the energy of a smile? I don’t know. We exchange contact information and when it’s time to board we go our separate ways.
I shove my repacked carryon bag under the seat, pull a book out from my personal bag and click my seatbelt on. Despite my fatalism we’re on our way. I’m on my way.
That first moment of flight is so frightening. A sudden tightening of the stomach. An adrenaline filled thrill. Will this work? How does metal float through the air? Can the law of aerodynamics really overcome the law of gravity? We cut through the clouds, through the winter hanging over Lima.
Clouds, brilliant, snowy white make mountains in the atmosphere. The Andes show their tips and the sun – ah, the blessed sun blinds me.
I can’t take my eyes off the view out the window. Mountains. Sky. Flight. Adventure. Sun. How I love it all. When we land the passengers cheer. They clap upon landing and the sound resonates with the joy in my own heart.
Arriving in Cusco feels like coming home.