Vignettes on Adjusting

It’s hard to believe I’ve been here for a little over a month. It feels like much longer, while at the same time I am still adjusting and experiencing new things everyday. One thing that has come as a relief with the shock of new experiences is that homesickness has almost completely abated. I’m truly enjoying my time here and despite difficulties that made me want to take the next plane home a few weeks ago, I like Peru more every day. I intend to write more on that, but in the meantime this post has been sitting in my draft box. The following are some interesting things that I’ve had to or am still getting used to.

Sunset in Urubamba

Sunset in Urubamba

Trash pickup: Elsewhere it might be unremarkable. Here, on my first morning living in town I was mystified by the blaring music that came closer and closer at 6am. I thought for certain I was in for a parade passing under my window. So of course it was a “WTF” moment when the garbage truck pulled up, blasting music out loudspeakers. It turns out that trash is not something you can put out the night before because of the dogs that roam the town – they tear it apart in search of an evening meal, strewing trash all over (I have seen it, and to my utter embarrassment it turned out to be housemates who put the trash out….). The garbage truck plays music to wake people up so they can put the trash out before its arrival. This seems laughable to me, as the three times I pondered rushing to the door to get my garbage out for the truck I decided hell would freeze over before I made it and rolled over to go back to sleep. I’m sure there was some heavy bias clouding those decisions. I really like the song they play too. It might be a shame that I’ll always think of it as “the garbage truck music.”


People in the U.S. carve silly stuff into trees. People in Peru carve them into... aloe plants? I admit it, I was charmed. (Translations: I love you Luzero and You know that I love you.)

It’s 6AM, and I really have to pee: I totter downstairs to the shared bathroom, barely awake when I notice something relatively large on the ceiling just before the bathroom door. I think I should probably pay attention just for a moment only to realize I’m getting my first real life glimpse of a scorpion in the “wild.” I grab a broom and think to sweep it off the ceiling so I can bash it on the ground but this plan seems rather fraught with possible things gone wrong. I opt to wake up the Colombian housemate, who rather smartly crushes it on the ceiling from ten feet away with the broom handle…. Gringa moment #296.

Peruvian Girls

Yes, I got a bad, blurry picture of the scorpion. I present a picture of cute little Peruvian girls instead.

Comfort food: If french fries were a rarity in Peru I might be pining for them now. But given the pounds of lettuce I must consume on a yearly basis and its penchant for being extra microbial, it has become the holy grail. It was a moment of personal triumph when I found balsamic vinegar in a Cuzco supermarket. I’d been daydreaming about salad, which is a serious culinary affair back home. So, upon deciding with sheer stubborn will that I would purchase the ingredients and make myself a salad, ingredients I threw together back home in 20 minutes became part of a paranoid fixation in an elaborate hour long process of washing and rewashing to insure I wouldn’t get sick. Luckily, it worked – I had a really good salad and I didn’t get sick. On the other hand, I don’t appreciate the sudden intense fear of (extra) foreign bodies and their potential ill effects.


A salad from the vegetarian place on the top floor of the market - they make some of the best salads I've ever had, and I must have been too intent on eating it to choose a proper focus point....

More on pee: I went to a local restaurant the other day and there was a dog wandering around under the tables foraging for scraps. I have to say, I was somewhat delighted and when he came by sniffing my bag I reached down to pet him. Then I realized he was poised to pee, which was a big “oh crap” moment but if he was angling for the bag he missed. Instead, there was a neat little puddle of pee left on the cement floor of the restaurant. Half shocked, I continued to eat and reflected on how hilarious it was as the more astonished part of my brain jabbered on about health standards and this and that and blahcleanlinessblahbacteriablah.

Meat Market

Meat Market: The corner of the market in Urubamba that is dedicated to meat stalls.