UnVarnished Essays – Peruvian Travel Communique’

UnVarnished Essays – Peruvian Travel Communique’

I press the GO button. We’ve been to numerous Caribbean Islands and we’ve been to the middle Americas.   The chance to go to Peru has loomed large the past few years and at long last we’ve determined that it is time to go.

Our friend Marcy has family in Peru and they own a silver factory in Lima.   We handle their products in our store.  Her father has stopped by many times when he is visiting South Western Minnesota and seems to be intrigued with our buffalo leather goods shop, Buffalo Billfold Company.   We neither speak each others language, yet through interpretation we enjoy each others company.  He came to visit this summer and told me “I am turning seventy and soon I will sell the summer home on the beach in Lima, come and visit me before it is  to late!”

We both share something in common, we both have earned our living in the smithy trades, by that I mean the trades of artisanship, silversmithing & leathersmithing.  I have a strong an abiding respect for anyone that dares to earn a living working with their hands, no matter where on earth they reside.   My Peruvian friend has a factory in Lima and employs nearly ten times as many artisans as myself.  I have no illusions that it will be anything like my humble workshop.

Their generosity of spirit is overwhelming.  His daughter tells me we will celebrate New Years like no other New Years.  It will not start until ten P.M. & we will party all night.

When the sun comes up over the Andes, we will lie like beached whales on the Pacific sands.  The past few years I’ve stayed up until midnight only because we were entertaining others,  an all night party seems a bit out of character for this fellow.

For a good part of my life I have been on stage playing the music, & watching other people dance.  Now it is time for me to learn to salsa and other latin moves! I ponder all of this and I realize that travel is somewhat about “getting out of character.”  I am a late bloomer when it comes to international travel.   It has only been the last five or 6 years that I’ve intentionally left the continent each October and spent three weeks out and about.  Never once upon my return did a have a whit of regret and if I did, it was only that I should have stayed longer!

I have fond memories of late night street theatre in inter city London, Gypsy Fairs in the Cotswolds. Arriving in York  late at night, in dense fog, knowing the map I had memorized would guide us to that unknown doorstep. We hike  with our back packs for a mile  or two to our bed and breakfast. The dim light thirty yards in the distance would signal our home for the coming week. We hiked cross country through fields and pastures,  finding a dry stone mason that shared his trade/craft with us. He was building a stone fence that went off over the hillside in the distance. Three meters per day was his progress. The industrial port of Genova found us hanging out dockside with deck hands of luxury ocean going yachts, as they readying the ships to embark on the ocean crossings. They were rowdy and nearly drunken, yet rubbing shoulders with the working class was precisely why we set foot.

We’ve visited and created friendships with common merchants like ourselves. They  struggle to earn a living in the small cities and crevasses of the Cinque’ Terra region of Italy.

In most travel there has always been an aire of trepidation and anticipation. Never once has there been regret.

Today we blink! and we are in the central plaza in downtown Lima we realized a inordinate amount of policeman are organizing, certainly hundreds.

There were forty to fifty on the plaza and many more strategically placed in alleyways in all directions of this beautiful area. They were hanging out of sight in case they were needed. There was a scheduled protest having to do with young adults and workers wages and it was planned to be a big national event. We also notice a tank a block in the distance.

The officers neatly fit the exact same demographic as the protesters. They were in the twenty to thirty year old age category.

As we wend our way through the city plaza our cell phone rang and our hosts tell us to leave the Plaza immediately.  It was a beautiful sunny day in downtown Lima and the atmosphere was upbeat and friendly. I spied a republican balcony that had been turned into a second floor restaurant and thought we might have a birds eye view of the event as it unfolded. Our friend and analytical traveling companion pondered whether tear gas rises? It was a wake up call for me to take my instructions seriously.

We heeded their advise and left the Plaza but not before getting a photo opportunity. I was left with an impression that the police were exceedingly friendly professionals. They were not jack booted enforcers, but peace officers doing their job. We watched the protest on television that evening and the plaza was filled with tens of thousands of protesters. The tension was assuaged by the calm shown by the officers. Both police and protesters had a role to play and nobody got out of hand. I can’t help but think the police demeanor played a crucial role in creating an atmosphere of considerate behavior by both sides. The event was considered a success by both parties. Our first forty eight hours in Peru……amazing!

I invite you to come along on this four part series of Road Notes/UnVarnished Essays.

Andiamo!
Bill Keitel

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