We’ve only been on the road for 25 days and traveling has already taught me some valuable lessons: patience, flexibility, and surrender. Life in most of the world, moves at a much slower pace than we’re used to in America, especially Los Angeles; I couldn’t even imagine how I’d feel if I were a New Yorker! Things just take more time while traveling. Transportation is rarely on schedule (outside of Japan), and dining in these countries is a taste of near stillness, pun intended. If you’re hungry and you’re just now deciding to go get something to eat, fugetabouit! In all realness though, you probably won’t be eating for at least an hour and a half. Even walking on the streets here in Peru is exercising my patience, though that’s one exercise I won’t bow down to. Most people doddle, maybe even a slight waddle down the sidewalk. Oftentimes in a random pattern making getting around them like a puzzle. I can’t stand it, if I’m being completely honest. So I resort to the dodge and weave or walk-around. Maybe it’s just me, maybe it’s our culture, but I’m a get from A to B in the most efficient time possible kinda gal. That’s just not how people roll in these parts of the world. They don’t mind making 9 stops on the way to the beach when you only have two days there and it takes 4.5 hours to drive to the beach without stopping in the first place. Getting from point A to point B is an “eventually” kind of attitude.
Flexibility - many friends and family advised us to “stay flexible.” This really is great advice when traveling. Here’s an example: Andre and I were planning to catch a 1pm bus from Uvita to San Jose, our second to last day in Costa Rica. We scheduled our whole morning around this plan. We called an information center and asked them to arrange for a taxi to pick us up at 12:30pm. The woman at the center told us there was a more direct bus at 2pm and suggested we take that one instead. We agreed and arranged for a taxi at 1:30pm. 1:30 came, and went. At 1:45 we realized no taxi was coming, so we threw our packs on and started hoofing it. Meanwhile Andre was calling everyone we could think of that might be able to get us a taxi pronto. We got to the main road, and I saw a van coming, so I just stuck my thumb out in the air. He pulled over and it seemed like he was some kind of non-legitimate taxi driver. Andre made a price deal for a ride to the bus station and we crawled in to his beater van. Just the day before we were on a walk and I joked about how in order to be considered a Costa Rican, you have to carry a machete. Andre joked that when you’re born, they put a machete in your hand. This flashed through my mind, along with other not so wholesome imaginative machinations when I noticed a machete sitting behind the driver of this “taxi.” I urged Andre to make sure he knew exactly where to take us and to follow on GPS. Ok, I was a little paranoid. Fortunately, we arrived, each of us in one piece, safely at the bus station just 2 minutes before 2, whew! Andre went to go purchase our tickets and came back with a discouraged look on his face. As it turned out, there was never a 2:00pm bus. There’s a 3 and a 4. The 3:00 bus cost twice as much as the 4:00, an equivalent of $20. Demasiado. (way too much) So our only option was to wait the 2 hours for the 4:00 bus. Staying flexible… I noticed that the 3:00 bus arrived at 3, but then everyone got off the bus, including the driver, and stopped to have a sit down meal, maybe even a beer. They didn’t reload until 3:30. I knew this would be our fate as well, and like clockwork, the 4:00 bus arrived, and like clockwork, we didn’t leave until 4:30ish. Another thing I’ve found that you need to remain flexible with is food. Anyone who knows me knows that I prefer organic, healthful “hippie” food. Well, that preference has kind of had to slide while traveling. You just can’t get the same kinds of foods, or products for that matter, as you can in the states. It’s frustrating, but also a good stretch (that was my pun on staying flexible).
Surrender - We left San Jose, Costa Rica and arrived in Lima, Peru around 8pm on Tuesday night. We had a 9 hour layover in the Lima airport before our 5am flight the next day to Cusco. Though our final destination was Cusco, we had to pick up our checked bags in Lima, and re-check them to Cusco. Why? This was the first of many unanswerable whys. We went straight from baggage claim to the check in counter and waited in line. It seemed as though something was awry with the computers because people and bags were piling up, but no one was getting anywhere. Finally a ticket agent came over to us and asked us where were were headed. He said it was too early to check in our bags and we’d have to return to the ticket counter when they reopen at 12 midnight. Why #2. So we looked up online suggestions for what to do when stuck in the Lima airport. A popular recommendation was to hang out in Starbucks for access to wifi. We found the Starbucks, but so did everyone else so there were no empty seats. We hung around on either side waiting for a table to open up. I thought I secured one, but quickly got swiped by a family of 5. Finally I pounced on a clearing table like a hyena waiting for lions to finish their meal. There we worked on our volunteering teaser compilation video, [you can see it here: Costa Rica Volunteering ] while killing time before checking our bags in at midnight. By 10:30pm we decided to start looking for where to eat dinner. There were really only 2 options, a semi-fine dining restaurant, or hardcore fast food. Um, I’ll take the former please thank you. We walked into Tanta with our giant backpacks looking for an unobtrusive spot to sit down. LOUD, CHAOTIC, NEVER ENDING Spanish music, and freezing cold AC blasted us from all angles. It’s 11pm, I’m tired, hungry, uncomfortable, and sleep is not in our forecast. We put up with it all in exchange for a halfway decent meal. Another thing to note, we ordered water to drink. The waiters brought us bottles, but we returned them for tap water so save some money. After we drank them of course, I said to Andre, “Are you sure the tap water is safe to drink in Peru?” He googled it, and sure enough, nope! Even the locals drink bottled water here. Uhhh oh. The music gnawed on our nerves until we couldn’t take it anymore.
Here we were, thinking we were being so smart by checking in our bags right when they open at midnight. Yeah, well so did everyone else. We got in line by 11:55pm and came in about 150th place. Womp. We stood in line, inching our way toward the front for about half an hour. 12:30am. Finally, free from the heavy burden of our bags, we made our way toward the gate. But wait, we were stopped by Peruvian TSA saying we can’t go through, it’s too early. We have to come back at 2:30am. Why #3. Our options were to either stay up or find a place to attempt to sleep. Another google recommendation was to catch some z’s in the cafeteria. It did not look like a sleeping zone to me and so we wandered the halls looking for anything else. All the shops and cafes are open 24hrs in this airport and they all play terrible music, extra loud, all the time. We tried sitting down in a hallway, but the cold stone floors weren’t cutting it. We surrendered to the cafeteria. This was an experience. It was at least 1am by this point; the custodians were cleaning the cafeteria, so they were stacking and swinging around metal tables and metal chairs, people were talking and laughing, fluorescent lights were glaring, it was cold, and all we wanted was a little shut eye. Andre set an alarm for 2:30am so we could at least get to the gate and try to sleep there. The alarm went off, I reluctantly removed my eye mask and ear plugs, and we drudgingly made our way to security. I seriously felt like I was in the twilight zone. My eyes were glazed over, and my hearing was muffled. I couldn’t tell if anything was really happening or not. Once we made it past security, we were struck by how quiet this side of the airport was, and how empty too! WHY #4 do they not let people over here more than 2 hours before their flight?!?! Almost every bench of seats was taken up by a horizontal body. We found a row long enough for us to lie head to head, and we again made another attempt at sleeping. “[extremely loud, illegible Spanish announcement] Flight 839 Cusco ahora embarque!” Ugh, time to get back up and stand in line. 4:35am, I surrender.
...to be continued.