It has been a teary last few days! Leaving my students and the girls I shared a room with, was really hard. I am now in Cusco for a few days before heading home on Wednesday. I will tell you all about Cusco soon! But first, a funny story.
On Monday, I had to go to the bank to pay for my ticket into Machu Picchu because I don’t have a Visa to pay online. The other girls went into Chiclayo, so I was on my own. I took my spot in the line up of thirty people, a little nervous to try and explain what I needed in Spanish. Immediately, the woman in front of me introduced herself and asked where I was from. She was the nicest, bubbliest lady, and almost immediately she began insisting that I should come visit her house. She told me she even lived close to a girl from Florida named Julianne who I could speak English with. She wrote down the address and told me it was in a different town 5 km down the road. I laughed and tried to explain that I was only here for a few more days, but she was persistent. Eventually I got called in to figure out my business, but she hugged me and made sure I had all of her information.
Walking home from the bank, I heard my name squealed, and there she was – Irene! She ushered me over to her sister’s shop and told her sister that I was coming to her house. There was a boy there who could speak some English, so I had him explain that I was only in the area for another few days. She responded by telling him it was no problem and that I should come the next day. I was to come to her sister’s shop and she would put me on a moto taxi that would take me to the combies and she would wait for me in the park in her town.
So, I recruited Shula, who was up for the adventure. The following day, we did as Irene had said, and we ended up in Pitipo – her little town down the road. We sat and waited in the park, and eventually Irene came bounding over. She was SO excited that we had come that she held my hand the whole walk to her house and rubbed arm, singing “Kai-leeeee, oh Kai-leeee.” When we were just about at her house, she remembered Julianne (there are few foreigners in the area, so I was really confused about why this person was in Pitipo). We walked down to Irene’s friend, Marguarite’s house, and carried on half English half Spanish conversations. I am really good at pretending to speak Spanish, and Shula can speak Portuguese, so together we made a solid effort!
Eventually, a blonde woman emerged – the famous Julianne! Turns out that she is a Peace Corps worker in the area! She has spent the last 8 months in Peru and has spent 6 in Pitipo living with Marguarite’s family. She is fluent in Spanish, so she was a great asset to our visit! Irene told her and she told us that her sister had called her before we came, saying, “that white girl I thought you’d never see again is on the moto to your house, so you better get ready!”
After visiting for an hour at Marguarite’s, Irene said we must go for coffee at her house. We walked back to her house, where she commanded Julianne to entertain us while she prepared a snack. She then left the house to go to the market to buy the snack. I swear, this woman is the funniest lady I have ever met. She eventually returned and we all ate cheese and crackers and coffee! After, she went into the back of the house. Julianne whispered, “I think she’s getting you a gift, she always wants to give her guests gifts.” And when she emerged, she placed 2 folded tea towels in front of Shula and I. Shula kissed her face repeatedly and we expressed heartfelt thanks: “Muchas Gracias, Irene. You shouldn’t have! I am so grateful.” Shula put hers in her purse, and we headed to the backyard to see her turkeys (which, she told us, she is saving for her birthday party in February.)
As we were walking back inside, Julianne whispered, “I’m just trying to figure out if those were supposed to be gifts, or just to wipe your hands with….I’ll just ask her.” Shula’s eyes went big. I burst out laughing. Yes, Julianne told us, they were just for our hands. This is after we have made a scene of showing our gratitude and Shula has the tea towel in her purse. It was hilarious. Shula sneaked the tea towel back onto the table, and instead, Irene gave us some of her daughter’s dolls as gifts.
When we left, she begged Shula to come back again during her stay in Peru. She asked me repeatedly when I was returning to Peru, and “I don’t know yet” was not an acceptable answer. It was such a random meeting at the bank between strangers, and strangers of another language entirely, but it turned out to be one of my favorite days I had in Peru. I will always remember Irene and her kindness. And Shula kissing her face off for the tea towel to wipe our hands with….
XO – kb