CLawrence's Travel Journals

CLawrence Caitlin Lawrence

What is the one place every traveler should visit?


  • 29 years old
  • From New York, United States
  • Currently in Urubamba, Peru

Head Strong In Peru

Part 1 of my day in Cusco

Transportation- and being a Gringa in a distant land

Peru Urubamba, Peru  |  Jun 27, 2011
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 Without saying a word the expression on her face was priceless. I could see that she was so proud of me 

Buenos Dias,

So today is Monday and after a very long four day weekend- I feel more exhausted then usual. This is very odd considering I have not worked in 4 days. Which I wasn't expecting. This weekend was very eventful for Peru. There were two holidays celebrated this weekend one called "Corpus Christi" and the other is "Inti Raymi" which is the festival of the sun, which has been celebrated for hundreds of years by the Incas. Even today, thousands of people come to Cusco from all around the world to experience the fiesta. With Processions, Music, Dancing, and a crazy amount of food. Most of the Volunteers opted to go to Cusco on thursday morning and stayed overnight in a Hostal for two nights. Feeling a little bit fiesta'd out, I chose to hang back in Urubamba for a more "tranquilla" (relaxed) weekend. Wanting to experience some of the fiesta I suggested to my Homestay father that maybe it would be possible for the family to go in for the day and do a little shopping. Knowing the relationship that we have together and just the nature of Peruvians he couldn't say no to me- as I seem to never be able to say no to him. So with that said he arranged for my homestay mother and Sister Sonya, and Beckita to travel to Cusco on Saturday morning. I woke up bright and early the next day- had a HOT shower and was feeling great. At about 10:00 Am Sonya, Beckita, and I flagged down a Moto Taxi and prepared to head down to the bus station. Taxis in Urubamba are much different from those in New York City, naturally. Half way threw your ride you pay the driver as apposed to after you arrive at your destination- most likely to avoid people from getting free rides. As I scavenged threw my bag in search of soles I said to Sonya 2 soles right? With a second of apprehension I realized something was wrong- I looked up at her, as her forehead rose, and her eyes opened wide, her smile dropped- I knew something was wrong. For Sonya a smile is a permenant expression. Feeling a little nervous I wondered the cause. When communication is difficult you become an expert at reading body language, mannerisms, and expressions. You usually have about 5 seconds to dechiper what the problem is- did I not fully unterstand what you said in spanish? Was my reply incorrect? Was there some kind of cultural difference that I was unaware of? In the midst of many thoughts flowing threw my mind she said "Por que to es una Gringa" "always uno sole for a moto" being charged double for being a gringa in Peru is now something that is completely normal to me. I assumed that she knew this. Perhaps things are different now that I am no longer a guest in there house, I am no longer a visitor, I am considered family. She seemed really upset, that the entire time I have been here I have been paying double the usualy price for motos. She then instructed me to NEVER pay dos soles again for a ride. As we arrived at the bus station I noticed that I forgot my water bottle back at the house. This is a tragic situation in Peru- due to the fact that tap water is unsafe to drink unless it is filtered or bottled water. I scanned the bus station and saw a small round Quechua woman, most likely who travels from the Andes mountains to Urubamba to sell products, snacks, drinks and so on. I found the smallest size bottle of water and asked her "Cuantos Cuesta?" (how much) she repplied "dos soles" Knowing that the usual price is uno sole- I took a deep breath and said " No dos soles, Uno sol, conzco una gringa" Most likely surprised that I could speak spanish, she smiled and sighned and said "si" she then flattened the palm of her hand and stuck it out in front of me waiting for her compensation. I glady handed her uno sole, and then proceeded to walk threw the big open doors with Sonya, and beckita glued to her hip. We found a few inches of shade underneath an awning- which in itself is a beautiful thing. I glanced over at Sonya and what I saw made my heart smile. Without even exchanging words- I saw the pronouncement on her face- that she was proud of me. Perhaps because she realized that the more time she spends with me the more I learn about how to survive safely, and happily here in Peru. A few weeks ago I would have thought that this situation would have been about paying more money then was necessary. Now I understand that it is about self respect. That just because one person, thinks something is a certain way, does not mean that it is correct. That it is okay to challenge someone if you think that they are inccorect. Not for the purpose of arguing, or for pointing out right and wrong, but for learning how to be strong. Demanding people to respect one another. And learning that respecting your own wishes and needs is not a bad thing- but rather a very important aspect to life. Perhaps Sonya realized that I am learning, and that she really is making an impact on my time here. As we waited for approximately 20 minutes to find the best car to take to Cusco- I felt content for the moment. And that this was a perfect way to start my day. Finally a car arrived and we loaded in. With multiple bags- beckitas diapers, whipes, and other random things, my small backpack full with the most necesary items for living happily in Peru- Sunblock, Sunglasses, water, and of course my camera- my small wallet weighing a ton only to be filled with soles- our leg room was clearly minimalized. Extremly hot, cramped, and full with people- we attempted to settle in for our two hour drive. It's funny how being completely uncomfortable- turns into comfort. It almost feels like an oxymoron. For you get used to feeling a slight weight on one of your shoulders, or sometimes both, of the person next to you nodding in and out of sleep. For most this may annoy them. However for me, i find it to be a small antidote for feeling uncomfortable sitting inches away from strangers who you have never met before. It feels like an automatic friendship. You lean on me, I'll lean on you- and we will make it there together. Perhaps a few months ago, this would have been a nightmare of a ride. Being that Americans really like there personal space. Something that Americans feel very strongly about. But living in another country means letting go of what you know. Living how others live. For if you don't, you won't really know how they live. I know this story may seem lengthy and a little silly- but I took out quite about of knowledge from it. Rushing to finish to return to the Ice cream shop for lunch, I will continue part two of my experience to Cusco as soon as possible.

Until then-Learn from others.

Ciao Ciao

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  • Transportation- and being a Gringa in a distant land

    June 27, 2011
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