Three weeks ago I landed in Lima. The boring things to say about time are true, that first day both feels like yesterday and a lifetime ago. I expected to write more on this trip, but the boring things to say about expectations are also true for this trip: it has been both a glorious fulfillment of expectations and completely different than what I expected. And, for hopefully my final cliche, I am not exactly sure where to start.
Lima is a large city, not unlike New York or Los Angeles. I am living in Miraflores, a neighborhood equivalent to West Hollywood or the West Village. The ocean in four blocks from my flat, and in the mornings I walk pass people cross fit training in the park just like home. The restaurants are considered some of the best in the world. And the traffic is a nightmare (yes, I would say the 405 can’t even compete with this town).
But even in this posh, safe neighborhood, I have to wrestle with American culture shock: a lengthy hot shower can be hard to come by, protecting myself from petty theft needs to be a constant concern, and my usually very stable digestive tract has already take a few big hits. For as much as I morally struggle with American consumerism, the other night when I woke up with a strangely throbbing thumb all I wanted was a 24-hour Target to buy all the first aid supplies available. (I had to settle with boiling water and soaking it, which seems to have worked too.)
These moments are hard, and a little scary, but I am thankful for what they are showing me. I sought out this experience to develop new skills as a social worker. Learning to speak Spanish so I can work with Spanish speaking communities in the US is important to me. But these lessons in my own reactions in a foreign environment may be even more informing to my work. I am a stranger in a strange land who has money and the luxury to know I will eventually find an English speaking person if I need to. It makes me wonder all the more what my Russian immigrant neighbors in WeHo feel every time they call an ambulance to our street and large non-Russian speaking men strap them onto a gurney.
It also gives me great appreciation for the extreme hospitality I have experienced from the Peruvian people. They have been helpful, kind and delightful. They graciously put up with my terrible Spanish and offer assistance and/or local recommendations. It has been so fun to share all of this with Jill, who has a sharp eye for humor even in the most uncomfortable situations.
On Thursday after a few days of a mild flu, we went to a bookstore and bought some gorgeous children’s books to practice our vocab comprehension. We took them to the craft beer bar we have claimed as our local spot and read the books over beers. I’ve always experienced true joy as an emotion capable of growing through tension. And it was one of many moments on this trip I have been full of it, or in spanish GOZOSO.