“Wait, you mean to tell me you went to Perú and didn’t go to Machu Picchu? What’s wrong with you?”Ah yes, I can’t even begin to explain how many times I’ve heard this reaction from people. I never went to Perú in hopes of seeing Machu Picchu, rather I went on an impulse. I applied for a volunteer position in a small town located 24 hours by bus from Lima. I got the position and up and left a week later. I had no time to plan and knew nothing about this exotic South American country other than they eat guinea pig. Of course I was nervous, but I was also beyond excited. I had never left the North American continent, so this was my chance to explore somewhere new.
As I boarded my Copa Airlines flight en route to Lima, Peru, I took a deep breath and knew this was the beginning of something crazy. Well, since I booked my flight last minute, I found myself seated in the Emergency exit. The flight attendant, who looked as if she was trying out for Miss Universe rather than serving angry people drinks, approached me with rapid fire Spanish.
“Ma’am, do you speak Spanish? You are not allowed to sit here if you don’t speak Spanish. Can you help during an unexpected emergency in Spanish while speaking Spanish to our Spanish speaking travelers onboard our Latin American airline that is not bilingual and only speaks Spanish?”
Ok she didn’t say all of that, but that’s what it felt like. I hate when people see someone and assume they don’t speak the necessary language. It drives me up a wall. Remember people, assume makes an ‘ass’ out of ‘me’ and ‘u’.
My reply (in Spanish of course) was simple and right to the point.
“I don’t mean to be rude, but if there is an emergency and the plane is going to crash, it doesn’t matter what language I speak because everyone is going to be screaming and going crazy anyways.”
Her face had the expression of pure shock on it. The dainty little flight attendant did not respond to my answer, she simply walked away defeated. The gentleman next to me patted me on the shoulders and told me he wished more people had my feisty approach to life.
After the long flight I arrived in Lima and started my journey up north to Chachapoyas. About five minutes into the bus ride, I quickly realized I made a huge mistake in telling my seat mate I spoke Spanish. After five hours of him grilling me about my life, I finally decided to ‘sleep’. For the next sixteen hours I had to pretend sleep. If I cracked open my eye even the slightest amount, my little buddy instantly struck up another conversation.
See, I usually enjoy getting to know people, especially when I can practice my Spanish. However, a twelve hour flight followed by a 24 hour bus ride is not the place to test out my second language skills.
After what seemed like a journey across the universe, we finally arrived at the Chachapoyas bus terminal. As I stepped off the bus, I was instantly overcome with a feeling of angst and nervousness. What on Earth had I gotten myself into? I was overcome with the sights, sounds and smells of my surroundings. There were people and animals everywhere.After I used the bathroom ( I will spare you the horrific details), I called the secretary to let her know I had arrived. The next six hours are a blur in my memory. I was dragged around town to find an apartment, showed where to eat, and introduced to my fellow coworkers.
After the longest two days in the history of my life, I finally returned to my hostel room and threw my exhausted body on the bed. No joke, two seconds after I closed my eyes there was a knock at my door and an Hola Julie. At nine o’clock at night I was informed I would be teaching the six year old class the following morning at 9am. Oh wonderful! Not. See, being an English teacher means always having surprises thrown at you. I have learned over the years to have lots of games and activities ready for those unexpected moments. Thank goodness I had brought my own supplies!
Needless to say my experience at this school ( which will remained unnamed) was not one I wish to go into great detail about. My little Peruvian nuggets were as sweet as can be and filled my days with pure happiness. The administration however, could use a good swift punch in the ba…stomach.
The best part of my Chachapoyan adventure was meeting my favourite Aussie, Yolanda. We clicked right off the bat and became instant friends. We shared the same taste in music, clothes and our lust for travel. Yolanda also shared my impulsive nature, which in turn, led to us having some of the best adventures in our young lives. Don’t worry, I’ll get into more detail in the coming posts. The lesson of this story is do what makes you happy. Never let others’ opinions bring you down or change your mind. You live once. Enjoy it!