My first trip to South America had a rather inauspicious beginning. My plane was supposed to leave at 11:00 in the morning of Tuesday, May 13th; however, I got an email notification that morning saying that it had been delayed until 12:30. Ok, no biggie, I’ll just get there a bit later. Michael, Elizabeth and Matt all saw me to the airport – I felt very loved. But then after we arrived, as I was checking in around 10:07, I looked at the departure board and saw that my plane had been moved back to its original time. Yikes! I spent the next 50 minutes in a panicked rush through the Atlanta airport, getting there just before 11:00. All that hustle and stress, and then the plane didn’t actually leave until almost 1:00. Apparently the crew got lost – that was why we left so late, cuz they just hadn’t shown up earlier :p.
But no worries, I still had a layover of several hours in Fort Lauderdale, even despite the delay in Atlanta. I met a fascinating man named Joseph while I was waiting. He is Haitian, but grew up in the States, and is now back in Haiti working in an agricultural organization that he started to help the people of Haiti. He was a very inspiring man. I wish I could have spoken with him longer.
But anyway, my second flight was fairly uneventful. I met two girls, Adriana and Laura, who were doing a similar thing as I – winging it for the whole trip. Except their trip was only for 2 weeks, and not only had Laura never left the country before, but she didn’t speak a word of Spanish. I thought that was a pretty gutsy trip for your first time out of the country :-).
I arrived in Lima around 10:00 pm. Mario, my pastor from South Korea who, conveniently enough for me, happens to be Peruvian, picked me up from the airport. I stayed with him for the 2 nights that I was in Lima. I was glad for his company and advice. Peru is a completely different world. Nothing is done the same way as it is in the states. The first thing that I saw as we were leaving the airport was a mass of taxi drivers. There was basically an auction for our business once we got there – Mario told the “auctioneer” how much we were willing to spend on a taxi, and he found a taxi driver willing to drive us for that price. Forget metered taxis – everything is bartering in Peru :-). It’s a blessing and a curse – they can’t run up the meter by driving around in circles, but if you don’t know where you’re going they can still take advantage of you. I quickly learned to ask nearby pedestrians how much a ride should cost, and then flag down a taxi driver. That way I knew if he was charging me a fair price or not.
Anyway, the day after I arrive Mario took me on a city tour of Lima. We had ice cream made from lúcuma, a fruit which is only found in Peru. We also went all the way across town to eat lunch at a great Peruvian buffet. It was so far away that we actually had to take 2 taxis, because no 1 taxi would take us that far, but Mario was determined to not expose me to “Peruvian germs,” to use his terminology. It was great food, but probably unnecessary to go to such lengths to protect me from germs. I wasn’t going to take that much care in my diet for the rest of the trip – might as well get exposed early on! 😉
My favorite part of the day, though, was definitely a 2-hour bus tour of Lima that we went on. We saw lovely parks, and beautiful old churches, and even a monk jump off a cliff into the frigid water far below (apparently a monk from that order does that several times every day; the restaurant located on the same cliff they jump off of is even named “The Friar’s Jump.”) I had to really focus on the Spanish explanations rattling through the tinny speakers, though. My Spanish is no longer good enough that I can understand without actively listening :-(. Oh well, hopefully it’ll improve in the next month :-). Here’s to a grand 5 weeks!!