Thursday, March 15, 2012

Peru: The Arrival

Backseat vantage point in a taxi in Peru.
I'm a long way from home, thousands of miles in fact, but seemingly not that far: "Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster the People is on the radio. I'm in the back seat of a rickety taxi, which is driving me through the dark streets of Lima, Peru. The warm night air is thick with body odor and diesel exhaust. I was a bit apprehensive when I saw the vehicle: it looked as though it doubles as a bumper car. I'm in this car because once I came through customs at the airport, this man had a sign with my name and the name of the organization I'm working with. Therefore, I trusted him with my life and all of my belongings.

On second thought, the sign was drawn with a Sharpie. I hope I haven't made a grave mistake.

I don't know much about Peru and it seems, sadly, that my grasp of the Spanish language is about the same. The driver tries to speak with me, something about my first time in Peru. I manage a 'Si,' and I think he senses that's about the extent of my conversational skills, so he goes silent. I watch the buildings pass by, looking for those little things that set one country apart from another: architecture, color schemes, refrigeration. I try to read some of the billboards, understanding little. I take further comfort in the fact that I, at least, know the music on the radio.

If there is one universal lesson I've learned in my travels it's that transportation is always a wildcard. Riding in a taxi teaches you about the culture, the people. Are they patient? Are they protective of one another? In both China and now Peru, the goal just seems to be "get there, and get there fast." It's like riding in a New York taxi, with zero attention paid to whatever laws may exist. Or maybe that's the problem: I didn't see anything resembling a police officer who gave a damn about reckless driving in either country. The similarity between the drivers in the two countries were liberal use of the horn. It's used for announcing you're passing someone on the shoulder, announcing that you're not stopping at an intersection, scaring tourists, greeting other drivers, and for adding to the already unpleasant experience of sitting in traffic and for whatever reason believing it will provide a solution to said traffic (this one applies in the US of A).

In the end, it all works out. I arrive at my destination in one piece, having passed the Atlantic City Hotel-Casino and lots of other buildings draped in bright sparkling lights. Casinos are a big part of the economy in Lima, I learn. This ruins my excitement about the city a bit. Not that it will much matter. I didn't come to Lima to gamble, I came to work and to eat ceviche.

Part of the drawback of my role as a Media Manager for the International Surfing Association is the long hours of work once an event is on. We're in Peru for the inaugural ISA World StandUp Paddle and Paddleboard Championship. Mostly I write press releases, write most every script needed for web announcers, beach announcers and everyone else, and make sure that media around the world who may be covering the event has what it needs. It's mostly thankless work, but it pays and it gets me around the world.

The work and the hours keeps this from being a vacation and keeps me from having time to be a tourist.

In China, the location was so remote and the buffet-style food so palette-numbing, that I didn't get to experience the Chinese culture as much as I would have liked. I make it this trips focus not to let anything similar transpire. I will be a tourist.

To be continued...

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