After unboarding the plane in Lima I could hardly believe I was in Peru. I had always dreamed of traveling to a foreign country, particularly because I wanted an opportunity to practice Spanish, and that dream finally became reality. Winning a scholarship to Peru with thirty strangers from around the country was exciting!
Lima was not what I expected it to be. The sky was misty, swirling in gloomy grayness. It was cold too, as I was experiencing a 50° F temperature drop from a sweltering Texas summer. After taking a bus to Plaza San MartÃ n, we entered Gran Hotel BolÃ var. Built in 1924, this hotel was more luxurious than I had expected, yet we still lacked hot water. Roaming the shops between plazas was interesting, especially at night when our group was still shopping and we got closed in! Thankfully, the bars in the front of the store contained a tiny door about three feet tall, which we all squeezed through before stumbling into the street. Walking in the streets felt strange; a white tourist group of thirty-four sticks out like a sore thumb!
After two days in Lima, we flew to Cusco. At 3:00 a.m. the flight attendant wouldn’t let me bring my soccer ball and I, being an avid futbolista, began getting frustrated. I finally settled with her and used a paper clip to deflate it slightly and she let me on board. On the way, the beautiful Andes sunrise bade me good morning, making up for all the previous trouble. Also, my ball re-inflated due to the high altitude. We were later bussed to Hotel Mabey, where we were instructed to drink mate de coca in order to prevent altitude sickness. After a nap we were off to visit Convento Santo Domingo which Spaniards built on top of a destroyed Incan temple, creating a fusion of architecture. We also visited other archeological sites in Cusco; yet, despite how interesting these places were (especially Saqsayhuaman, pronounced sex-ay-wom-an), the random experiences were more memorable. For instance, six of us wanted to go play soccer in the Plaza de Armas. While juggling, a little girl chased the ball around cutely sighing, “Amigo!” after each pass. It wasn’t too long though before the police made us stop (apparently no sports were allowed in the plaza) and our group split up. Three people wanted to run back, which I refused to do because of the high altitude. Therefore, the rest of us had a relaxing time ambling back. On the way, Cole wanted to buy a whistle, but the police misunderstood our hand signals and we ended up in a smoke shop, which we quickly left. Eventually, we ended up getting lost, but since Cole hadn’t spent his three soles on a whistle, we used that (the only money we had) to take a cab back. Later that night we went clubbing, learning how to salsa with the natives. Fortunately, I left early to return to the hotel because while reggaeton was playing , a girl from our group received an unwanted chest lick.
Machu Picchu was definitely the highlight of the trip. Watching the mist rise from the ancient city in the morning was so incredible that I can’t even describe it. The vastness is so humbling and whoever visits there will feel the culture permeating his or her soul. Experiencing Peru firsthand taught me more than I could ever learn in books. Peru became part of me, and I became part of Peru… so much that I accidentally kept speaking Spanish when I returned to the U.S.
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