Back to Texas

Trip Start Mar 08, 2005
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19
Trip End Mar 29, 2005


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Flag of United States  , Texas
Tuesday, March 29, 2005

So that's all of the adventure. The plane ride home was pretty uneventful. Bev and I parted ways in Dallas. No tears were shed, but I can only assume that Beverley cried the entire cab ride home. Now it's back to real life, or as real as my life ever gets.

Beverley has two weeks in the states and then is off to Europe, then Asia, New Zealand, Australia. She's traveling until January of next year. Lucky girl.

I'm here until this summer. Then I'll be in Mexico getting some Spanish credits out of the way so I can graduate. After graduation? No idea. I was supposed to go to Japan and teach English, but that doesn't really sound appealing anymore. Maybe I'll go hang out with my friend Ed in Australia and work there for a while. We'll see. And whatever I do, I'll keep everyone posted.

I've put up some pictures that I hadn't included elsewhere, or I just felt like posting again. And here are some general thoughts on Peru and Bolivia that may not have made it into my travel pod elsewhere:

I assumed South America would be a lot like Central America, just in another hemisphere. But it's not. It's a different world entirely. Honduras and Guatemala were poor, but very quaint. The people seemed to live meager lives, but still very happy ones. South America has some of that too. But they seem much more infiltrated by western cultures and customs. In this sense they're like Belize. They try to live lives much like Western society, but they don't have the resources to do so. This only serves to make them seem more impoverished. But that's what tourism does. It shows them this entirely different lifestyle and they aspire to it. But this is probably just in the bigger towns and the tourist hotspots. We didn't see enough of rural Peru and Bolivia to say whether this is true everywhere.

Peru and Bolivia have more internet cafes than I've ever seen in my life. Even small towns have a dozen of them. And they're about 30 cents a minute. DSL. I don't get it. And no matter what a store's main function is, it will also offer photocopies. A given town will have 100 stores that offer copies. I don't know what they copy, but they don't have to look far for a place to do it.

I don't know how an empanada can cost 12 cents. But it's the best 12 cents I've spent in quite some time. And a pizza and a beer for less than a dollar is phenomenal. That's what every society should strive for. Pizza+Beer=$1 = Success.

If you're ever 16,000 feet above sea level, try not to drown your body in alcohol. Your body will not like you.

The night we went out in Puno a 10-year-old little girl tried to sell us finger puppets made of alpaca fur. We said no, she said maybe later, we agreed. She waited for us outside of the first bar until 10:30 or so. She reminded us of our promise. We said later. When we stumbled out of the last bar at 3:30 a.m., she was asleep on the steps leading into the street. She woke up and reminded us once again of our promise. Our hearts broke, and we handed over what money we had left. We talked to her for quite some time. She was babysitting her 5-year-old brother. He didn't speak. When we asked where her mother was, she told us she was in the plaza selling chocolate. At 4 a.m.? Yes, at 4 a.m. When we walked the two children over to meet their mother, we found her holding and infant and sitting by a fountain in the plaza. We told her how adorable her daughter was. She smiled and agreed. We walked them to the edge of town and hailed them a cab so they could return to their house outside of the city. The reason the girl waited for us is because she had been selling puppets all day and had less than $3 to show for it. Bev and I had just $2 left which we used to buy a single puppet for my niece. Giles gave her $7. Others handed over money, but I don't know how much. She waited for us because we had the ability to give her 5 times more money than she had made in the preceding 20 hours. And not one of us will miss that money. If most of us lost $10 it wouldn't even ruin our day. But for this girl and her family, that kind of money can work magic. When she saw us the next day she just smiled and sat by us all afternoon. She didn't say a word. And we didn't buy anymore puppets. We just sat and enjoyed the afternoon sun. And now I'm home, sitting in my air conditioned room, typing on a $2,000 computer, with thousands of dollars worth of electronics and trinkets scattered around me. And she's still on the street somewhere selling puppets. There's no real moral here. It just makes me think. And it's heart breaking. But what is there to do?

A lot of that happened on this trip. More questions than answers. But the great thing about travel is that you at least ask yourself questions you normally wouldn't. Even if the answers don't come, there is some benefit and reward in simply mulling them over. The simple knowledge of "The rest of the world is different than my world" is a powerful thought. And most of us know this instinctively. We see it on TV. We know that poverty and war and famine exist. But to see any of these things first hand is to let them touch you in a way that television or news never can. Reading about a death is not the same as watching one. When seeing a starving child's eyes on TV, we are still shielded from the pain by the screen. And believe it or not, poverty and suffering have a smell. And once it finds its way into your nostrils, you will have a much tougher time ignoring it.

Sorry to end on a downer. But life isn't all laughter and photo opportunities. This trip made me think. Plus my buddy Ed sent me this note:

"You are extraordinarily funny when you are pissed off about
something Dane but when you are happy and enjoying the
scenery you couldn't be more of a p****."

So I decided to end this with some serious thought. But I hope this doesn't dissuade anyone from traveling or seeing the world. I know a lot of you have traveled more than me and have probably seen much worse. And you've definitely seen some amazing things as well. Traveling really is a good time. And honestly, it makes us much more interesting to talk to. It's helped me out immensely. Because whenever I'm lacking personality, or content, or intelligent conversation, I can simply say, "Well one time, when I was in Peru..."
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