Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Oh, the places you'll go!

I always thought that particular book failed to reflect the creative genius of Dr. Seuss. What with all of its vague predictions about success and failure I simply found it to be both sentimental and cliche. And yet, after the past 3 days, I can't help but think that truer words have never been spoken or, er, written. But, before I say anymore on that, I suppose I should start at the beginning. 

It just so happens that one fateful Tuesday morning last January during an AAP meeting a certain lovely professor of mine stood up and made an announcement that she had been contacted by a professor from the computer science department who was interested in sending a group of Wake Forest theatre students to Peru. The details were vague, but my interest was immediately sparked. I approached said wonderful professor and we, along with a few other students, set up a time to meet and discuss just exactly what this project would entail.

At our initial meeting it was explained to us that in Peru there is a great need to improve literacy amongst the natives---particularly those in more rural areas. We were told that a number of individuals can read but that comprehension skills were incredibly lacking. Thus, the idea behind this project was to go to Peru and put on a play with the some native Peruvian children. The logic being that creating a piece of theatre would, undoubtedly, teach the natives a number of skills on how to analyze and apply a text---basically, we'd do what we, as theatre students, do every day. 

After learning that this adventure would allow me to a) be working with kids, b) be spending my summer doing theatre, and c) traveling to Peru, I knew there was no way I could not sign up for this project. And so, after a lengthy application and waiting period, two research grants were finally approved. One for Ryan and one for myself.

Initially, the plan was for us to go to Amantani (and island on Lake Titicaca) and create a piece with islanders there. However, plans changed and it was finally settled that we would go to Puno, Peru and work with a group of 19 orphan boys there.

Our first six weeks of summer were set aside specifically for making preparations for our trip. Since neither Ryan or myself new a word of Spanish, we enrolled in a Spanish class at a local community college (good life decision). Additionally, we spent countless hours in the library researching Peru and searching for possible texts to analyze and perform with the boys. And then, on July 16th (nervous and excited) we packed up our bags, drove to Raleigh, checked into a hotel and prepared for our 7am departure the following morning.

And that, my dear readers, brings me to the subject of the past three days of my life.

On the morning of July 17th we rose at 4am, caught the 5:30am shuttle to the airport, and at 7am flew to JFK airport in New York and from there we flew to Atlanta where we had a 3 hour layover. And then by 5:30pm we were finally on a non-stop flight from Atlanta to Lima. And, at 11:26 pm, we landed in Peru. At this point we were supposed to meet a shuttle that would take us to our hotel in Miraflores. However, due to the fact that our flight was a running a bit behind schedule and it took as over an hour and a half to get through customs and receive our luggage, our ride was gone by the time we exited the terminal. Upon exiting we realized that our sheet of paper with the Hotel's name on it was missing so we searched out a wifi-hotspot and looked it up online. And then, we did what anyone stranded at an airport in the middle of the night would do, we got a taxi. Taxi Green, to be exact.

As we were exiting the airport with our newfound taxi driver there was a man who tripped over a mat and fell right in front of us. So, naturally, I left my bag (with my jacket and passport) standing right next to Ryan and rushed over to assist the man. A group of people swarmed around to help the man back up and then escorted him away. At this point the taxi driver grabbed my bag and led us to his taxi. I remember picking up my coat and climbing into the taxi, what happened to my passport after this is anyone's guess. For, when we arrived at our hotel (around 2:30am) and were asked to present our passport mine was nowhere to be found. Immediately, my thought went to the moment I had let go of my bag in the airport and then realized that I had probably just left it in the taxi. Point being, regardless of where it was, it most certainly wasn't with me.

The wonderful staff at the hotel were incredibly helpful and phoned the taxi company to try and catch up with our cab. However, as it was nearly 3am and we had no news and a flight the next morning, I went to sleep with a feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach. At one point during the night I woke up screaming (no idea what that was about...) and then around 6 am I was woke up to the sound of our hotel phone ringing. I  jolted awake immediately, hopeful that my passport had been found. However, as soon as I answered the person on the other end realized they had the wrong number and hung up. Now fully awake, waves of panic washed over me as I considered my current predicament of being in a foreign country with a flight in 5 hours and no passport. So I put on a sweater and went down to the hotel lobby to see if, perhaps, good news was waiting for me there.

When I reached the desk there was a lady named Pilan behind the counter. A woman who, in retrospect, I absolutely consider the hero of the day. Pilan called Taxi Green once again to check and see if they had heard anything. They hadn't. So, she then put me in contact with the American Embassy who told me I needed a police report (as well as $135, two passport photos, valid identification, someone who could testify who I was, and copies of my previous passport) in order to receive an Emergency Passport. Then she called the police department who told me I needed a note from the bank. Then she wrote out a note for me to give to the people at the bank, and then called the bell-boy and had him accompany told him to accompany to the bank.

Upon receiving the note from the bank we returned to the hotel where Pilan already had a taxi driver ( "a good man we could trust") waiting outside. She had arranged for him to take us everywhere we needed to go, as well as gotten us a discount and used the money that would have gone to our shuttle to the airport to pay him, herself. She then gave us her card and told her to call her as soon as we could.

So, off we went to the police station. There we were put in the charge of a very kind police woman. After giving a very rough statement in Spanglish, she gave me a blank piece of paper and told me to fill out all my information. Afterwards she then typed up our report (one finger at a time) and sent us on our way to the American Embassy.

Upon arriving at the American Embassy (one of the loveliest and most imposing buildings in Lima) we were approached by a man who said he took passport photos. Running out of options, we followed him down a side street and back into a room with a number of people sitting around a desk and talking. Immediately the set a bench in the corner, and told me to sit and then turned on a florescent light on above my head and took 3 pictures a small digital camera. Unfortunately though the printer was out of ink so it had to be refilled, and then the pictures were printed and cut to size---all of which took about 30 minutes. We then quickly paid and left.

So, finally at the Embassy, we were only permitted entrance after proving ourselves to be American citizens and allowing all of our electronic devices to be confiscated. Once inside I spent a good 2 and a half ours filling out paperwork (during which time we missed our flight to Cusco). I was then told to return by 4 o'clock to pick up my new temporary passport.

After retrieving our belongings we returned to our hotel (where Pilan patted me on the head) and told us where to go eat and then where to go to make flight alterations. Having no luck finding the restaurant Pinaln suggested we finally settled on McDonald's---which, I must say, is a much cleaner, less greasy version of its sisters in the States. And then, directly after dining, we walked 8 blocks to Taca Headquarters where we were told that to make the necessary flight changes we would need to pay yet another $123.90.  However, said arrangements could only be made after I received my new passport.

So, back to the Embassy we went. Back through security. Picked up the passport. Then back to Taca to book our flights. Then back to our hotel to pick up our suitcases to move to another hotel a few blocks away since the one we were staying in was booked up for that night.

And so, at 7 o'clock we sat down for the first time (not including our 4 taxi rides and quick stop at McDonald's). And by 7:02 I was out cold.

The new flight that we successfully booked was scheduled for 10:10 this morning. We were advised by numerous people to arrive at least two hours early to the airport. So, at 7:50 we checked out of our hotel and waited for our taxi. Thirty minutes later, he arrived. Thirty minutes after that, we arrived at the airport. That is to say, it was not a good morning for traffic. With less than an hour til boarding we raced our way through check-in and security and caught our plane just in time.

The flight itself was wonderful.  From my window-seat I was able enjoy my breakfast while viewing the snow-topped Andes mountains peaking through the clouds. And, even from above Ryan and I both could tell we were going to love Cusco.
 After landing we went to baggage claim where Ryan's suitcase came through but mine did not. We met up with our ride (and hostess) who patiently waited for nearly 2 hours while we awaited my bag to arrive on the next flight. This delay was very pleasant, however, because Ryan and I were able to make acquaintances with a lovely Korean-Canadian couple who were also waiting.

After receiving our luggage and exchanging information with our new friends, we then went and purchased our bus tickets to Puno for 10 o'clock this evening and then were taken to the apartment belonging to the Paucas. The apartment itself is lovely, and Cusco truly is just a wonder to see.

Unfortunately, since Cusco is just over 7,000ft above sea level, I suffered a fairly intense bout of altitude sickness this afternoon (nausea, headaches, etc.). I spent nearly an hour laying in the shower trying to clear my nasal passages so they would allow more oxygen flow to my brain, and then climbed in to bed where I slept the rest of it off. After a couple of hot cups of coca tea and a bowl of delicious homemade soup I am now feeling completely restored. However, since our next (and final) destination is Puno (which is nearly 12,500ft.) we decided it would be best for us to rest this evening before continuing onward in order to prevent the return or increase of altitude sickness. And so, I have spent a lovely, leisurely evening in this wonderful apartment, writing this blog for all of those who care to know everything down to the smallest detail of this rather grand adventure.

Before we left America we had this trip outlined down to the tee. Such planning was done, and such high hopes were had that all things would go according to said plans. Hardly a single things has happened as we thought it would. In fact, in many cases it has happened just precisely how we had hoped it wouldn't. And yet,  for all of its setbacks and recalculations it has been already been an experience I wouldn't trade for anything. And we haven't even gotten to the fun part yet!

Oh, the places you'll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all...
Except when the don't.
Because, sometimes, they won't...
(And my own line I would like to add)
So you just have to enjoy them, anyway.

 Smart guy, that Dr. Seuss.

Anyway, that's all for now. The plan for tomorrow is to travel to Puno. Or...who knows? :)


***Fun fact: I'm approximately 5663.460 km from my home in Ashe County, NC.***


  1. You are just amazing. Bring me a piece of timeless history, if you find the... time. I love you!

  2. I'm glad you made it safe and in one piece! Miss you terribly and it will only go up from here!

  3. I am with you both in spirit. You are the best. As I mentioned on Ryan's blog, I am back in the world of the internet. Just let me know if there is ANYTHING you need from me for the next weeks.
    I am so proud of you both.

  4. Holy guacamole! Lost passport, luggage, altitude sickness...you're amazing. Trudge on, fearless one!