Oh, The People You’ll Meet!
The group bonds with Abraham our Sacred Valley tour guide and José our wonderfully patient bus driver.
By Talia C. Harris – Emzingo Fellow (Perú)
When I graduated from high school, it was incredibly popular to give newly-minted graduates the children’s book Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss. I think they may have even read it out loud at our graduation ceremony—that’s how important it was deemed for us as we took our first steps out into the adult world.
Eleven years later, I sit in my Lima apartment reflecting on all the places I’ve travelled in the world and in Perú, and I’ve come to a very important conclusion: It’s the people you meet that are really important.
That is not to say that the places are not important… of course they are. Machu Picchu stands out as the most transformative place I’ve visited in my life. But mostly it’s the people who have made my time in Perú so memorable: they have made the country come alive for me through a series of relationships, and it seems fit as I enter my last week in Perú to reflect on these relationships.
Jesús: I find it strangely appropriate that the man who’s teaching me to surf—a form of walking on water—is named Jesús. But really his name is inconsequential. What is meaningful is that he is patient and cheerful. He doesn’t baby me because my Spanish is less than perfect and sometimes flat out incomprehensible. Instead he treats me as if I am more than capable of understanding the rapid-fire explanations he shouts at me over the waves. And surprisingly I AM capable of that, or of going out to the big waves with the experienced surfers. Like any true teacher, he has a talent for seeing the potential in people, and his acceptance has been like a stamp of approval with all the surfers in the group. They follow his example and speak with me in Spanish even if they also speak English and always help share in my triumph of getting up on my board for a good wave. ¡Buena ola, Talía! ¡Buena ola!
The Bread Guy: Today I made a connection that was simple and fleeting but nonetheless fulfilling with the guy who weighs and prices the bread at the local supermarket. Normally, the clerk will take my bag, look inside, print the price sticker, and hand it back. But today, I got my bags back with a smile and a question about whether I was buying for breakfast, lunch, or both. It was a short interaction, but it made feel that I belonged and that I wasn’t somehow lost in the fabric of a foreign country. I doubt the clerk will ever know the magic he was able to work for me just by smiling and asking a question that I knew how to answer easily. I realize now that I have missed being able to chat and make ephemeral connections with strangers… so thanks to the bread guy for helping me do it even in Spanish!