Saturday, December 3, 2011

My Six Month Review

December 3, 2011 – Six Month Review

It’s hard to believe I’ve been in Peru for six months. The time has sifted away, quickly and without heed to feelings, like the red sands in the Wicked Witch of the West’s hourglass. I’m astounded and yet, I'm not. Life is a full throttle ride to the end of time, right? Unexpected, adventurous, and enjoyed. At least that’s the way I want it to be. Monday morning, I’ll be heading home to Dallas to visit my family and friends, and as I pack up my things I reflect and evaluate.
What did I want when I came to Peru?

In reality, I wanted freedom. I’d gotten stuck in drudgery. I was doing things every day that I hated. I couldn’t stand to live that way anymore; working a job I didn’t like, living paycheck to paycheck to pay for things I had little concern for, dreaming about some future--sometime, somewhere, someplace other than where I was--and of being the someone I’d always dreamed of being. I wanted to fly from the cage I was confined to. I wanted to escape forever the prison of corporate American life. I wanted to shed the shackles of the nine to five.
“What’s a nine to five?” my sister’s friend asked when he passed through the room while she and I were talking on the phone.

“A job,” she said.
“Oh god,” he replied.

Which just about summed it up for me. I wanted to test out the possibilities implied in the question, “Is this all there is?” I would have gone just about anywhere. Just about.

But I got lucky and through a series of fortunate events I touched down in South America. What a touchdown it’s been. At the risk of turning this into some random State of the Union styled speech I’m going to try and list some of the things I’ve learned and then maybe even go as far as to say what I’d like to see for my future.

So, what have I learned from being in Peru?

I was fortunate growing up, in that my parents taught me and my siblings to live with our eyes wide open, to accept differences, to embrace other cultures and languages, to sing, to laugh, to cry, and to love people. Even with that upbringing I’ve learned that there’s so much more to life than I could have ever imagined, yeah it’s a cliché, but it’s true. Here in Peru, as all over the world, there’s pain that breaks my heart to tiny, smashed up pieces. Poverty that can’t just be fixed with that American “Work Hard, Pull Yourself up by the Bootstraps and Succeed” mentality. Beauty that swells me so full I nearly explode. Joy that bites like ginger and smells like cinnamon. Hurt that can only be cured by my mother’s hugs. And peace where I thought only chaos existed. There are things I’ve seen in Peru that I never saw--wouldn’t have believed--while wearing my North American Middle Class Blinders. There are more songs, there are more differences, there are more tears to cry, more laughs to share than I can sing, experience, shed or guffaw out in six months’ time, or in my entire lifetime. But by golly, I want to try. And then I want to write about it all.

I’ve learned that I never want to go back to a life that feels like settling. I want to truly live. To be. To have. To give.
I’ve learned that humanity is a strange and complex jumble of consciousness and illogicality. That Latino men pity me when I tell them I have no children. That Latina women will stare me down if I smile at them. That South American children gaze unabashedly at me and pull at their guardians’ arms as if to say, “Do you see that strange creature too?”

I’ve learned that everyone loves a good story.
I’ve learned that I take me with me wherever I go, that I can live in the now, and that I need my own space--even if it’s an ironing board desk in the spare room--to think and work and live.

And I’ve learned that we all need someone to talk to sometimes. Like the lady who scooted close to me on the bus bench seat and then told me her life story because she recognized that we were both outsiders. She felt more akin to me, a foreigner, than she did to the Limeñan Peruvians. She was from a far off pueblo, away from home, away from her family just like I was; as much a foreigner to these city folk by fact of her accent as I most definitely was by fact of my coloring.  
As I gear up to head across the Equator to experience my third winter of this year, I’ll be interested to see what it feels like being back. Will the United States of America feel like home to me, or will it just be the place I’m from? How will I view the city of Dallas after having been in the city of Lima for this time? How will they sound in contrast to each other?

“It has been said that every city makes its own unique music, though that “music” is more like a discordant jumble of various urban noises.”  

Will I be able to see these loud cities as musical pieces or will I always crave the quietness of the mountains and the solitude of the open sky?

I don’t quite know what to expect. But I hope to find stories wherever I go. I hope to be able to see with fresh eyes what was once familiar, what once was all I knew. As I count down the hours until I leave, and think about finally satisfying the cravings I’ve had for over three months for vegetarian spring rolls, for carrots and hummus, for kale salads, I don’t forget to appreciate the time this afternoon that I sat out on my balcony soaking up the summering sun while listening to the delighted play of the children below me, the time I have right now alone in the apartment with both the Screaming Kid and the New Oft-Lonely Puppy silent and the words shifting from my brain to the keyboard to the page. I don’t forget to be amazed by this life I’m living.

I am amazed.
Then, in January, when I come back to Peru to live out another six months on this southern soil, quien sabe (who knows) what adventures will await me then.