Peru, Vol. 1: Travel diaries, hammocks, and lewd language

Peru, Vol. 1: Travel diaries, hammocks, and lewd language

Part one of a series – my trip to Peru and some crazy things I learned there!

I haven’t written much about my experiences in Peru till now, nearly three months after I returned.

Wait, that’s not entirely true.

During the sixteen days I was in Peru I wrote about it a lot. Nearly every day, in fact.

Why?

In part, to notate the details of what, I knew at the time, would be a life-changing trip.

And partially as a friendly, unspoken competition: to keep up with Chris, my travel companion and close friend, who has made a lifelong habit of cataloguing his many international adventures in great detail.

He’s the kind of guy who, at the southern tip of Texas years ago, mailed his cell phone to his mom and spent six months riding trains, buses, and hitchhiking his way to the southern tip of South America. Along the way he kept daily accounts of his adventures in written diaries.

His scribe-like diligence is one of those propensities I wish I held (among many others), and so I rode his diarial coattails (thankfully not diarrheal – we somehow avoided getting stomach bugs) and exercised my pen, daily.

Here’s an excerpt from my entry the night we arrived to the AquAmazon Lodge on the Tamshiyacu – Tahuayo Communal Reserve:

“Well, this is what I asked for. Deep in the jungle. Spiders everywhere, including in our lodge rooms. But hey, the jungle guides don’t seem especially scared, so perhaps we don’t need to be either.
 
Night hike: saw huge fishing spider, tree tarantula, monkeys, fist-sized snail which we took back to cook and eat.
 
Night cruise for cayman: Saw eight, caught zero. A fish jumped in the boat on the way back to lodge. I threw it back.
 
Dinner: rice, chicken, mashed potatoes, lots of sex jokes.”

I’m proud to say, I wrote a lot – more than I have for any other trip.

Upon my return to Reno, however, my pen was quickly repurposed for endless box-checking. My daily entries were discarded for to-do lists, long and complicated because of a big life decision I’d made.

Here are some of the boxes I checked:

  1. Give my two-week notice to a company I’d been part of for the last four and a half years: Check.
  2.  

  3. Rent my house out to a fantastic couple (who are also close friends). However, based on necessity, I’d have to move them in prior to my own moving away, forcing us to combine two-households in one house for about a month: Check.
  4.  

  5. Sell/give away/throw away as much of my own stuff of my own as possible. In doing so, kill my inner packrat: Big bloody check.
  6.  

  7. Release my first-ever studio album with my band, The Pretty Unknown. This meant finalizing art, audio mastering, coordinating manufacturing, etc. Check. Check. Check.
  8.  

  9. Find a place to live in Nashville, Tennessee, and move there. Check.

Write blog for Peru? This box remained woefully unchecked.

Memory grows…

 
Now, the experience of Peru, and the jungle, seems far away. But even as I write this I’m reminded I have little to fear – thanks to a universal truth of being human. The beauty of memory, is that it rebuilds upon itself even in the present moment. Try it with me.

Just sit with a favorite moment you remember, letting your mind slip into the scrap of memory you do have, and soon more memories bloom forth like frost growing upon a winter window. To be completely honest, those little daily journal entries help. A lot.

In fact, a quick look through my daily scribbles reminds me of two things:

And on the seventh day, God created hammocks

 
Firstly, the hammocks. I spent hours in hammocks. Reading books, getting lost in thoughts, drifting into vacation sleep… all while suspended, slowly rocking back and forth, next to lakes, high in tree houses, or just feet above the ground with the jungle alive around me. Cracking my eyes open to see a rooster, from a nearby village, slowly approaching to inspect this swinging human (me), hoping he may find a bit of food. The sounds of the rainforest pushing themselves into my awareness between the bouts of day-sleep that came more easily than they ever had before.

If you take anything from this, choose to spend more time in hammocks. There’s something about the slow swing with eyes pointed into leaves above that reminds a person to just look and listen to the world around us. Not sure there’s a more effective therapy for my troubles than a few minutes of looking and listening. Don’t worry, like you it’s been a while since I’ve done that too.

New languages make life a game

 
Secondly, the giddiness I feel of being confined to another language. My journal is covered with phrases, some basic, some complicated. Some useful, some just lewd. But that’s the benefit of using a language in daily life.

I mean, how else would you get useful phrases like “estoy nivelando” – literally, “I’m leveling” – which can be used when asking someone to forgive your lack of mental acuity while just waking up.

Or “no huele bien” – literally “it doesn’t smell good” – can also mean it’s suspicious, or fishy. Or maybe it’s literal because you haven’t brushed your teeth yet while you’re still “leveling”.

And then we’ve all heard the word “pendejo” – a common curse for Spanish speakers, like our word “fucker.” Know what it really means? A pubic hair! In Peru it can even be used in an almost complimentary way for someone who is quite clever and without scruples!

I can’t help but get excited when I’m thrust into another language with only a dictionary and the people around me to help. Because it’s in those moments I’m forced to take this new set of tools (clunky, limited, and unpolished) and piece them together to communicate. Daily interactions are more complicated, and thus my desires must become simpler. Little breakthroughs (“so that’s what pendejo means!”) can feel like big wins, especially when they mean I finally locate a toilet or a much-needed Cuzquena beer.

Who could wish for more than having little moments in life feel more like a game?

After two weeks in Peru, I came away with a real affection for Spanish, one that I’ve never had before, because it was the first time I’d had to use it to really get by.

In conclusion

 
There you go – two insights I had while I played in Peru a couple months ago.

So stay tuned; there are more stories to come. Not necessarily a chronological account, but more likely an artistic one. Not just the Indiana Jones-esque adventures that Chris and I had, but the subtle ones too.

Because we can’t all go everywhere – life just doesn’t work that way. Instead we use these tools (words) to bring each other into our lives, or to bring ourselves back-in-time into our own heads and memories, if only just for a few moments.

PS. I just moved to Nashville to pursue songwriting professionally, and my band’s self-titled debut album, “The Pretty Unknown” was just released!

What kind of music is it?

It’s like if Taylor Swift was the surrogate mother for Michael Bublé and Sarah McLachlan’s love child. Then they raised the child listening The Beach Boys and The Beatles. That’s a technical critique.

So if you’ve found the above article at all entertaining, please considering listening to some of our songs. If you enjoy, we’d be eternally obliged if you supported our music by sharing with your friends or, better yet, buying an album. Take a listen!

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4 Comments

  1. You are quite the gifted writer. It sound like you are one of the jet setters now. Along with all of your other adventures this one sounds wonderful and I’m glad you had the opportunity to take this trip.

  2. Good stuff. I’m sure you don’t remember me, but we met once, and you and G were helping me with my VERY limited French for an upcoming trip to Europe. I’m not insightful at all about trips or life in general, but when I read about others’ thoughts and experiences, I go, ‘yeah, I get that!’ Your blog was one of those. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Thanks Alma! Those years at the NSBDC were some of my best. I’m glad to hear from you and hope your trip to France was enjoyable! Very happy you reached out!

  4. Thanks Auntie! Loved seeing you over Christmas 🙂 Have fun in Israel!

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