Lessons Learned

June 26, 2008

Lessons Learned

Well, I woke up today sick, sick. And depressed, frustrated and upset.  I
couldn’t sleep last night because of my coughing and I woke up thinking I should
just go home. There are only three days left, and the next two are on a boat and
island, so if I go, I am stuck. I had kind of decided to find a ride to the nearest
airport, (one hour away), when Arturo and the girls insisted that they call a doctor.
Thirty minutes later and I have been seen by a doctor, (a house call for 25.00,
no less!), given an un-named orange pill, and told that I have bronchitis. Two
prescriptions later and I was on my way to the boat.
All I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and cry. I can’t hike, or do anything
strenuous. That stinks when you are on a trip like this.
So, we boat across Lake Titicaca for three hours and everyone leaves the boat
for a hike. I climb up on the roof of the boat and stretch out for a nice little
bout of self-pity and journaling. After a while though, I notice that the self-pity
is not helping near as much as I thought it would. I was journaling about the different
things I have learned on this trip, and when I looked up between thoughts, it hit
me hard….. I am on a boat, laying under a blue sky and a warm sun. I am in Peru,
on a beautiful lake with friends that I adore and that adore me back. It sure would
be a shame to waste all that by feeling sorry for myself! I get to choose….I can
feel awful or I can feel happy and blessed. I choose happy and blessed! 
After everyone returned to the boat, Julia and I rode alone on the roof to our
next island. We laughed and joked as we got closer to our home for the night.
This is an island where the locals offer up room in their homes for the night. We
are met by about 30 women in traditional clothes, and by some mysterious process
of selection, a woman named Mama Elsa stands up out of the group and takes the four
of us to her home.
The walk to her home is long and uphill and I cannot breathe. To my horror,
one of the guides insists that Mama Elsa carry my way-to-heavy backpack! After lots
of protesting, I give it to her and she easily carries it home. We are at the highest
point of our trip, about 14,000 feet, and I can barely breathe, but she isn’t
even panting. I tell her she is very strong in Spanish, and she just smiles at me.

When we arrive at her home, we meet her husband and two children. I pull out
the frisbee I have been carrying for three weeks, and before you know it, Deborah
and I and three young boys are throwing like crazy to each other. There are many
cries of, “Aqui, aqui!” and “Ahhh muy mal!”. Every now and then,
the dad joins in and we all have a blast.
Their home is made of mud bricks, and they have little plots of bean plants
surrounding it. There is an outhouse, and a small separate room that is the families
kitchen. Deb offers our help for dinner and before we know it, we are sitting on
logs, shelling beans as Mama Elsa stokes up the cooking fire in the corner of the
kitchen. The room is dark and cozy, and the smoke from the fire gives everything
a softness.
There is no electricity on the island, and the sun goes down shortly
after 5 pm. Julia and Sharon come back from their hike, and we all congregate in
the tiny bedroom that Deb and I are sharing. It is simple and clean, with walls
painted different pastels. There are two twin beds and a table with a single candle
on it. We discuss the fact that our bedrooms are much nicer than the rest of the
house. Having tourists stay with them is obviously a major part of their income,
an they have done everything they could to make it nice for us.
At 7:00, we went into the kitchen for dinner. The family gives us the table,
while they eat by the fire. We have brought toys and gifts from the US, as well
as bags of groceries for the family, and we take this opportunity to give them out.
I think they were a big hit, but the toys were definitey the most popular! Eight
year-old Ronnie was in heaven!
Dinner was a fantastic potato soup, followed by rice and beans, (which Deb and
I proudly announced that we helped prepare). Afterwards, we had fresh Muna tea,
which had been picked off of a bush in the yard. It was pungent and warming and
left us all ready to face the rest of the night.
Tonight there is a fiesta, and Mama Elsa comes into our room with an arm load
of traditional clothing. After layering us in vibrant skirts, blouses, belts and
scarves, she leads us down the hill to the community center. There is a Peruian
band in the corner, and a vibrant mixture of locals and tourists twirling around
the room. The music was contagious, and I couldn’t help but throw myself into
the dancing throngs. Unfortuately, one song was all I could last before uncontrollale
coughing forced me to the sidelines. But I enjoyed being a bystander just as much!

After several traditional dances, we finally made our way back up the hill to
our cozy little room. On the way, Deb said, “Look up.”. Above was the
greatest display of stars I have ever seen. The deserts of New Mexico, the steppes
of Tanzania, and the vastness of the Artic Circle…… all of these had what I
thought was the greatest display of stars on the planet. But now I know, if you
want to see the most stars ever, come to Lake Titicaca, in Peru. I guarantee that
it is worth the cost of the plane ticket.
I am laying in bed with the sounds of the music and dancing calling out from
the community center. I am really grateful for this life I have and for the lessons
I learned today. Can you imagine how differently today would have turned out if
I was still in my self-pitying funk?  
Only two days left of my Peruvian adventure!
Love, Anna aka Mud Butt

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