How ’bout a little Culture Shock for Breakfast?

Apologies – I’m posting this immediately before I leave for Caldera, Guatemala where I will most likely not have internet. This is the story of my brush with the US between South and Central America, and I have not uploaded the proper photos yet – those will come later.

Sunday afternoon, my last day in South America, turned out to be perfect. I spent it relaxing around Lima with some new-but-old friends (coincidentally all from Calgary), and a friend I had made from Lima. We at delicious ceviche (the almejas are the best) at El Bigote, followed by a leisurely walk around Parque Kennedy, ate some top-notch ice cream (think white chocolate with passionfruit and little chunks of chocolate), and eventually went to walk the Malecon in search of the paragliders. Unfortunately the wind was insufficient for jumping off cliffs with parachutes, so Lea and I agreed we would meet in Lima another day to paraglide.

Speaking of that girl, if anyone is looking for inspiration on how to live life a little happier, more fulfilled, and maintain good humor, Léa is it. She is the same who said, “Oh no, I feel surrounded by love. I love it. My cheeks hurt from smiling,” while squeezed in the middle back seat of a car for hours, but also popped into hockey conversation with “Matt Cook. I could stab his eyes out with a knife… And I would do it no other way.” I would not have spent my last two days on the continent with anyone besides the serendipitous group that found me in Lima. They put up with my split personality – one part mellow, happy traveler, one part anxious, blubbering fool – and together we wandered the streets of Miraflores guided by our stomachs. A perfect blend of the best food and the best company, and ultimately a poetic summation of the magic of this voyage.

8PM rolls around and I made a typically rushed exit, eased thanks to the EasyTaxi App and a good driver (use it if you are in Lima! It really takes the guessing out of selecting a cab that won’t bankrupt you). At the airport, I wandered around looking for my gate that was behind doors marked “Emergency Exit,” prepared to both mourn the end of an era, give thanks, and welcome a new one, but I didn’t even have time for that. In the midst of my laps around the international terminal, I saw girl who I instantly recognized, and miraculously knew her name.

“Um, excuse me,” I said, my voice dripping with awkwardness, “But, I think I know you. Is your name Alex?”

She looked shocked, like she was considering running away, and then stepped in to save me: “Um. Yeah, it is… did you go to SU?”

…. What a small, small world. 2 years apart in school, merely acquaintances, and here we were on the same Spirit Airlines flight from Lima to Ft. Lauderdale from our many-month voyages across South America. We had so much to talk about that we nearly missed our flight even though we sat in front of the gate. And just like that, I flew away from South America, sped by good conversation and a surprising familiar face.

 

So lets recap: Lunch and dinner in Lima, a girl I knew from college, a flight sitting next to a highly confrontational, absolutely mentally-unsound man (3 tabs of Xanax and he still got into such a fight with the flight attendants that they almost involved the captain), which meant 5 hours of constant disruption, talk of how negative the US was, talk of how he was headed to Jamaica to sell his boat, and of course calling the flight attendants Nazis and threatening to sue for… Something. My bottled water cost $3, you are no longer allowed to carry your own, and I arrived in Ft. Lauderdale, thoroughly dazed, just in time for breakfast with a side of culture shock.

 

After clearing customs with an automated machine, a printed a selfie- receipt, and a surprisingly friendly customs agent, I proceeded upstairs to the Spirit Airlines counter, aka Hell, where I waited for an hour surrounded by angry, cursing, hostel, impatient, gossiping Americans. Many of them had missed various flights, largely due to a lack of organization on Spirit’s part. Thankfully, I parted the counter after a pleasant interaction with a airline employee and a sweet, sweet woman who accepted she had missed her flight by her own accord. I admired her emotional steadiness; she seemed not to notice the frothing pit of medusas around her, and carried on to solve her own problems.

 

Crossing through security: Cue clean, shiny things, million-dollar marketing and product placement, bright lights, and loud top-40 music. If I didn’t know I was in the USA already, my terminal confirmed it. Where was my fresh papaya juice, buzzing flies, cartons of room-temperature milk, and sharp, smiling Latina? If I was there, I was indulging: a fresh egg and bacon sandwich hit the spot and helped me pass the time before my next flight. As did the free wi-fi.

 

 

It occurs to me that in some ways I wish I had had the time to contemplate what the end of that chapter meant, to ruminate and process, but in some ways perhaps it is better. It struck me that one of the things I have to come to terms with, is that this ethereal “thing,” this concept and goal and my driving motivator and life-force for nearly 3 years, had sailed by with grace and passion and laughter, and I will now have to live and work for something else… No problem, this life is still so good.

In 15 minutes, my new chapter officially begins as I make my way to Pollo Campero (Country Chicken) in Antigua, Guatemala, to meet and live with Doña Eulalia, Midwife and healer of her community of Calderas… I could not be more excited (or nervous). Chau for now! More to come in a week. Y le agredezco port todo!!

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