Sunday, May 6, 2018

Peru in review

On 4/21/18 I landed in Peru for the first time for five days at the American School of Lima (AKA Colegio Franklin Delano Roosevelt) and one whirlwind day at Machu Picchu.

The welcome banner a K-pop singer received the night I arrived:

The welcome banner I received:

Though the singer had more people waiting for him at the airport than I did, I like my banner better.

It almost never rains in Peru but I was showered by good fortune. My kind host Barbara Bowman is Indiana Jones—an educator who leads a double life as an adventurer.

She's spotted a jaguar in the wild (so rare that not even her Peruvian guide who grew up in the jungle had) and slept in Antarctica without a tent.

 Yes, Barbara took this photo.

We first connected in 2015, when she was in Vietnam; I ended up visiting that school, but after she left. I'm so thrilled she made it possible for me to see Peru and join an illustrious group.

The students, largely Peruvian, were equally welcoming and eager to learn more about the writing process, a focus of the school.

According to a fifth grader who toured me around the school my first morning, the most dangerous thing there is not robbers or earthquakes but the sun. Apparently the ozone layer there (and along the equator in general) is particularly thin, meaning our bodies are exposed to higher levels of ultraviolet radiation than elsewhere. 

Wish I knew that the day after I arrived, which was the day before I started work at the school. That afternoon, I walked about 15 minutes from my hotel to tour a striking site, Huaca Pucllana. Alas, the hourlong tour I took was out in the open and I'd worn no sunscreen. 

Huaca Pucllana is the ruins of a sizable pre-Incan religious site in the middle of the city, which in its day was in the middle of a desert. Yes, Peru in its natural state is a coastal desert. As breathtaking as the sheer vastness of the site is the fact that it remained unearthed until 1981! Prior to that, people used the huge dirt mound that hid it for motocross.

Weeks before I came to Peru, Barbara asked if I would send a short video to help pump up the kids about the visit. In it, I said a) I would probably bring the shirt I was wearing and b) the word "doozy." When I got to the school, multiple kids asked me if I did indeed bring that shirt (I didn't know) and I learned that "doozy" had become a bit of a buzzword at the school. It is a fun word.

The kids bought a lot of books:

Thanks to Barbara's initiative, the school screened Batman & Bill for families one afternoon:

My hotel was a 10-minute walk from the coast—a cliff overlooking a highway running along the ocean. Every night, crowds gather to watch sunsets that are consistently awesome. One night I strolled down to see for myself. It was not the most vivid I've seen, but certainly lovely.

Bizarrely, it turns out that my hotel was also a one-minute walk from the travel agency with whom I'd been emailing for more than a month to arrange my madcap two-night trip to Machu Picchu and Cusco (the city that serves as MP's "base camp 1"). I had not planned to meet my travel agency contact in person, but when I discovered the proximity, I did go in the night before my weekend trip because I was still unclear on certain details. As for my Machu Picchu experience, see maƱana.

Thank you again to Barbara and her team for their golden hospitality all week long.

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