Successfully organized a workshop with a group of art therapists fromLima. Got the boss to agree to a taxi. The taxista calls me to say he’ll be in Huaycan soon and to meet him on the corner of the main street where he will drop them off.
– Perfect! Okay, what color is your taxi? I’m in a blue shirt and a red…
– …and you’ll be the gringa, yes?
-..er, well yes….
– Right, so no need to describe your shirt color, then. I’ll find you.
I will never complain about a job again after this experience. To think about what a huge complainiac I was about the stuff I was required to do at my previous jobs is completely laughable to me now. Like now I wish my biggest issue all day was that that the subway to work takes 40 minutes. Or that I have to work late, so my company pays for me to take a pretty luxurious Mercedes Benz cab home directly to the front door, of my own personal house, that I only live in with one other person, instead of 10. I wish the copy machine was jamming and that we were running out of tabs. I wish that I needed to make a few more binders for a presentation and it looks like I’ll have to pull an all-nighter. I wish some jerkface boss would hand me a stack of documents that he’d helpfully organized “in reverse alphabetical order based on feeling” and asked me re-order it and turn it into a pdf. God do I wish.
Instead, my work day stresses run the gamut from being chased down the road by a pack of ferocious stray dogs, trying to find a moto-taxista who will not rob or kill me to take me up to Zone Z after being pushed out of four separate Combis because there is no room for me and my huge gringo backpack, taking children to play in an abandoned building for “gym” class when the “court” isn’t free for us to use and hoping to hell that no one falls through the floor and dies. Those are just the standard worries. Then there are the things you can’t even plan for. You think the day is going in one direction, you think you’ve prepped for all possible contingencies, but you haven’t. You’re wrong.
Today I wait an hour for a Combi to take me up to Zone Z. Four pass by, and there’s absolutely no room for me. For Peruvians to actually tell you that a Combi is too full for you to get on is a pretty serious situation. I’ve been on Combis so crowded you’re literally covered in other people’s sweat. These people have no qualms about maintaining personal space. So if the cobrador says it’s full, it’s full. Okay so eventually I get on one that is full by all normal human standards, but not full as far as Peruvians are concerned. There are no seats so I have to stand and hang on. This Combi is actually the smallest of any I’ve been on, and even I can’t stand up straight. I also can’t wear my backpack, nor is there any room for it on the floor, so I hang the strap around my neck and it dangles in front of me.
Eventually we get to another stop, and, amazingly, more people get on. Now there’s a woman crouching next to me and as soon as we start moving she is literally being repeatedly whacked in the back of the head by my dangling backpack, and there is nothing I can do to stop it. I don’t have a free hand to hold it (you can’t Combi surf with any less than both hands, and I wish I had a third in most instances) and she can’t move. I keep telling her I’m sorry but I also can’t stop laughing, so it probably sounds a little bit insincere. We ride this way for the better part of 25 minutes. Thwack. Thwack. I crack up. She turns to looks angry and possibly yell at me. The bag whacks her directly in the face. I apologize. Thwack. I laugh. I apologize. Thwack. I laugh. This is awful.
I get off the Combi and go about my business. Today I have to go from house to house to pick up the various items the women in our artisan program have made for us. I run into one of the women I am looking for on the road on the way back from the market. She and her five year old son are carrying huge bags and I offer to help them and follow them up to her house….except…we don’t seem to be going the way I’d normally go to get there. She lives pretty far uphill away from the main strip. “It’s a shortcut,” she tells me. Oh well, good. Who doesn’t like a shortcut?
What she doesn’t explain is that this shortcut involves a death defying ascent up a path just a little bit wider than my foot, with sheer cliffs on either side….oh, and did I mention I’m in flip flops…and now I’m lugging her huge grocery bags and my huge backpack, and I’m clumsy and not a fan of heights to begin with, and the rocks are sliding out from under my feet. I slip and fall, and lose a few platanos out of her bag into the ravine.
– Sorry! I’ll pay for those.
– No, I’m sorry. Maybe this is too dangerous for you. And those shoes…
– Those shoes are no good for this.
– Right, well, I didn’t plan on mountain climbing so… I’m okay. I can make it.
She and her son, who are in sneakers and are clearly experts from doing this every day, hop around the path from rock to rock like a couple of mountain goats, and here’s the big, clumsy, stupid, gringa teetering behind them and dropping their groceries everywhere. At one point, she directs the five year old to come back over to where I’ve stopped and take the bag back from me. Low point. I need to be rescued by a five year old. I bet he doesn’t understand what the word disdain means, but he sure looks at me like he’s feeling it. Can these damn gringas do anything?
I will never complain about my job again. I will never complain about my job again. Just let me live through this hike. Just let me make it to this woman’s house. We get there. I’ve managed to live which is pretty awesome. She hands over the sweaters she’s made and tells me that she’s one short, but that I can come pick it up tomorrow. She looks at me and then back at the path we’ve just walked.
– I’ll come down there and meet you this time.