The End of Familiar Words


~March 9th, 5pm local time, Toronto~

I'm sitting at an iPad cafe in Toronto airport's international terminal.  No seriously, every seat has an iPad.  Table of four? Four iPads.  You place your order on the iPad and pay via a credit card port at your table.  A waitress silently brings out your food.  Everything here was designed to achieve the least amount of human interaction possible.  

At the moment, this is fine by me.  I still have my mom's frantic "don't talk to strangers!" warning echoing in my thoughts.  That--paired with my irrational fear that some villain is going to wrestle my passport from my ironclad grip, robbing me of both my identity and my dream of Machu Picchu--makes for a fine "leave me alone" stamp on my forehead.

There's a few more things I'm liking about cafe iSolation.  First, the iPads have a departure flight feature, so you can easily check up on the boarding time/stage of your flight.  No need to periodically pack up your things and head over to the larger departure board.

Secondly, every other announcement is in French.  It has been a while and I know that I am embarrassingly rusty, but I find it comforting. I'm just sitting here and getting silent satisfaction that I'm able to understand what the announcements mean. 

"C'est le dernier appel pour le vol vingt-sept quatre-vingts à Frankfort"

"This is the last call for flight 2780 to Frankfort."

It's sinking in that this is the end of familiar words.  Once I land in Lima, the foreign language will no longer be a familiar one.  

I start taking inventory of the Spanish I know, which begins and ends with "lo siento" (I'm sorry).

Well great, I'll just apologize my way through Peru.




~Tuesday, March 10 11:30 am local time, Paddy's Irish Pub, Plaza des Armas, Cusco~

You know those serendipitous days of travel?  The ones where the magic just...happens?  Today is not one of them.  Today is the kind of day that makes people not want to travel because it's "too much trouble".  

I'm upset that the airline lost my luggage.  It was a blast filing a lost luggage report (at least I think I filled it out, the form was in Spanish) at 1 am in the Lima airport.

Speaking of Spanish, what. was. I. thinking?!  People are talking to me, and while I can decipher the meaning (hurray for Latin languages), I can't call up words to respond.  My foreign language mode is "on", but only French words are tumbling out of my mental arsenal.  I am drowning in the wrong translations and am the picture of a complete fool.

On top of that, I'm also upset that when I went to exchange my USD for soles, I was so exhausted that I forgot what exchange rate to expect.  The lady punched 2.10 into a calculator and gave me a searching look as if to ask: "do you accept this rate?"  I knew that the rate was shit.  I knew she was trying to take advantage of me.  But I was blanking on what to punch into the calculator as a way to propose a more fair rate.  Not being able to communicate, I stared blankly at her, shook my head, and walked out of the shop...

...and into an Irish pub.  I'm Stage-5 crabby, so I'm going sit my ass down in the most familiar place I can find, have a cerveza ("beer" is my third Spanish word.  #winning), and gather my thoughts. 

A younger girl is opening up the bar and surprised to see such an early customer.  "English?" I ask.  She nods and and asks what I want to drink.  I point to a Cusqueña, and ask her sheepishly:  can you help remind me what a fair exchange rate is?  She confirms my instincts from earlier - the rate should be 3 soles to 1 USD at the very least, 3.08 - 3.10 is common.  With a kind smile, she suggests a table at the front of the pub, one that overlooks the Plaza des Armas.  With this view, I drop to a Stage-4 crabby.

After my Cusqueña and confirmation of a good exchange rate, I wander a bit.  Exploration calms me down a bit more..I love the colonial style of the buildings and the Spanish influence that is very apparent in this city.

After successfully exchanging money (at 3.08), finding the office of my trekking company and paying the remainder of my trek balance, and shopping for toiletries (curse this lost luggage) in a local supermarket, I feel myself again.

At this point, I've been up for 32 hours, so I make my way back to Bill & Nic's place (my Airbnb choice, more about them in this post!) and sleep for 4 glorious hours.  Upon waking up, I shower and head out to Le Bodega, on Nicole's suggestion.  Le Bodega is one block off of the Plaza des Armas and it's a very trendy place with craft beer and unique pizzas.  I order the leek, mushroom, and bacon pizza and am so hungry by the time it comes, that I inhale half of it.

Full of pizza and anticipation for what's to come, I walk home to Bill and Nic's house and slip once again into a deep and dreamless sleep.