Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Legend in the Making

While I wait for my water to boil let me share a little story:

This afternoon I went to Huaraz, the capitol of Ancash, to buy some groceries. To get to Huaraz, I needed to walk down the mountain for about forty minutes. Now, I’m going to try to not exaggerate this story, but this was a seriously steep downhill walk. Definitely okay to walk (I’m planning on doing it again tomorrow) but I remember thinking, “I do not want to have to walk back up this mountain.”

(You could call that foreshadowing.)

So I did my shopping in Huaraz, bought approximately twenty pounds of fruits and vegetables, and went searching for the combi my host dad had told me about. I didn’t have very specific directions, just “look for the blue combi outside of the market”. Well, I looked. For an hour. Finally I got on a combi that was going to a city near mine and that I knew would pass the road that would take me to my town.

I assumed that a taxi or combi would go up the hill. My host family had made it sound like there were cars all of the time. I didn’t think it would be a problem. So I started walking. Back up the hill that I did not want to walk up.

After about fifteen minutes of walking straight uphill, I was ready to give up. It had been a long day (I can’t even go into the craziness that was the morning but let’s just say it involved a party, a Catholic mass, and a lot of people laughing when I misunderstood their Spanish and accidentally agreed that I wanted a Peruvian husband). I stood at the edge of the dirt road, started crying, and thought “I don’t want to go up this mountain. I want to walk back down to the main road, get a taxi to Huaraz, get on a bus to Lima, and fly home.”

And then “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye came up on my iPod and I simultaneously realized two things. First, that I did not want to leave in Peru Bobby Bear and a number of embarrassing photos of my friends. And secondly, that Peace Corps volunteers in the 60s dealt with way worse stuff then this. They went months without English, electricity, or chocolate. This hike, with my twenty pounds of vegetables, would have just been a morning stroll. I’m in the Peace Corps now… time to toughen up.

By the time the song came to an end, I had come to my senses. I am not a Peace Corps volunteer in the 60s. I’m a Peace Corps volunteer in 2010. And I have a cell phone and a friend that lives close by. I called John William and explained my situation.

Let me recap. I had been walking for 45 minutes and was maybe a quarter of the way home. I had twenty pounds of vegetables and fruit. It was going to be dark soon. And it was raining.

John William asked if it was a safety threat, stating that if I felt at danger he would drop everything and get a taxi to come pick me up. I wasn’t feeling too worried yet, but was keeping an eye on the setting sun, it goes from light to dark very quickly here. I was feeling pretty silly for getting myself into this situation in the first place and told JW that I would call him if it got to dark and he said he would call back when he finished his business.

I lumbered on.

Suddenly, I saw some bright lights coming up the road behind me. The famous combi had finally arrived! I flagged it down, praying that there would be room for one more person. Thankfully there was one, small seat at the very back. As I squeezed my way through with my overflowing bag, I knocked my head on the ceiling as I heard someone say “It’s Ellie!” I was the only topic of conversation for the rest of the combi ride. Unfortunately, I have no idea what was said since it was all spoken in Quechua.

I can only imagine how I looked: Cold. Wet. Red-face. Huge Trader Joe's bag of food. In the middle of nowhere. In the dark.

This is the kind of story that will spread like wild-fire in a small community. Between this new adventure and the fact that someone in the community has been telling all of the kids that I know magic (because, yeah, that’s been happening…), I am a legend in the making.

You can see new pictures here:


Aunt Mary said...

Beth, Again you are a great writer. You had me laughing and crying at the same time. I do have one question: why did you have "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" on your IPOD? I didn't know that was a popular one for your generation...We miss you and love you- you're a legend to us back in the states too.
Aunt Mary

CarynD said...

Legend, wait for it........dary! Nice

Anna said...

A magician, huh? How funny.

Also, I just realized that the list of Books Finished in the Peace Corps are books that you have READ, not that the people who wrote them were in the Peace Corp. I don't know how I missed that connection, but I was rather impressed by how many people had done the Peace Corps.

And by the way, I also love "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." :)