After more than a couple of years away, I finally got back to my former home for two years, Peru. The excuse was a wedding between two lovely folk that met each other (and me) in that country, Ryan and Yaeko, but I made sure and pack in as much other nostalgic activity in the week I was there as I could. Unfortunately, that didn’t include a trip way down south to my former department, Arequipa, or site, Madrigal, but that just means I have an excuse to go back… someday.
I’m not sure there are a lot more flights on God’s green earth longer than the one I took to get to Peru from South Korea, which featured a grueling 23 hours in the air and 35 hours in total, via Seoul and Dallas. Time and jetlag pretty much ceased to be a problem around when I lost all concept of ‘time’ itself, and just decided to sleep through as much of it as I could. I arrived in Lima after midnight, and made the trek over to my Peace Corps buddy Sal’s place, before heading out in the morning to a familiar spot- Yanacoto.
Yanacoto was where I spent the first two plus months of my Peace Corps experience in training and living with a host family. I have been staying in touch with them ever since I left for Arequipa, always making sure to stop by for a visit when in transit through Lima, and afterwards, via the modern marvel that is Skype. It was great to see everyone again, and to see how little really had changed. Sure, there were new second and third floors on many of the houses there, evidence of the relentless entrepreneurial spirit that has Peruvians always planning on building that next story or taking on one more side business, an instinct I haven’t seen operate and such a level anywhere else in my travels. It certainly hasn’t hurt the country’s status as Latin America’s fastest-growing economy.
My little-used Spanish thankfully slipped back on like an old glove (albeit one with loose, haphazard stitching… a poor allegory for my bad grammar) and I spent much of the first two days chatting it up with Carlitos, Raul, Agapito, and Mama, of course, and eating her delicious Peruvian food (since I’m long-winded as usual, I’ll talk about all the glorious Peruvian food I ate next week). I also got to meet the two newest additions to the family- Raul’s beautiful daughter and their new Peruvian Hairless Dog, Polly.
During that time I made sure to pop into the Peace Corps Office in Surco and say hello to as many old staff members as I could, before heading over to my favorite Lima destination- Polvos Azules, the massive black market full of 10 dollar knockoff soccer jerseys complete with fake Nike pricetags and all of the more or less decent DVD copies you can shake a stick at. This place also hadn’t changed much, outside of the gaudy 3-D flatscreen TVs on display, and I made sure to buy some alpaca goods for the girlfriend, a new trekking backpack for me, and more jerseys than I should of for a variety of folks (mostly also me).
After my visit with my old host family, I headed back to Lima proper to hang out with Sal, meet up with another Peace Corps pal, Emma for some quality Peruvian cuisine, and take part in all of Ryan and Yaeko’s wedding festivities. The Bachelor’s Party was certainly memorable, and I’ll leave it at that, and the reception dinner at Pancita helped me check several Peruvian dishes I was hoping to make time for over the weekend off of my To Eat list. The wedding itself was a gorgeous affair, held at the beautiful Virgen de Pilar Cathedral in San Isidro, and the reception was a great time, full of great food, very nearly enough drink (there’s never quite enough non-Pisco drink), interesting friends (not many I knew beforehand, but unsurprisingly the people Ryan and Yaeko think are good people are, well, good people) and an elegant location with a classical Spanish look, the Casa Garcia-Alvarado (or Casa Larco) in Miraflores.
Overall, it was a great trip, and a blast seeing so many folks from my Peace Corps days face to face that I’d only been able to keep in touch with via Skype or Facebook for the last few years. I never thought I’d say this, but it was also nice to wedge into a combi with thirty other people, listen to the Spanish conversation and loud cumbia music, and watch the patchwork, many-colored, and always interesting view of Peru pass by…