Today I’m starting a three-part series on Peru. The facts I provide are from the book pictured above, Presenting Peru & Machupicchu by Saydi Maria Negron Romero or from the knowledgeable guides on my Go Ahead tour.
As long as I can remember I’ve wanted to go to Machu Picchu. Little did I know, by following this dream, I would discover how wonderful Peru and the Peruvian people are.
As with most travelers, I visited a little part of a large country. I traveled to the city of Lima, the Machu Picchu area and Iquitos in the Amazon. There’s so much of the country I didn’t see. I want to make this clear because I would hate someone to visit New York City or Los Angeles and think they understood the diverse, multi-cultured United States of America. I’m sure all regions of Peru are varied and unique. It would take years to learn all there is to know about Peru.
Before I speak of the people, I want to start with a small overview of the country.
FACTS I SHOULD HAVE RESEARCHED BEFORE MY TRIP BUT…..I DIDN’T
- Peru is the third largest country in South America and the sixth largest country of the Americas. It’s 5.3 times larger than the U.K.
- Lima is the capital (yes, I knew this) and has over 11 million inhabitants (no, didn’t know this). That’s about 30% of the people who live in Peru. The jungle makes up about 60% of the total surface of Peru but only 14% of the people live here. Maybe this has to do with the 28 species of venomous snakes in the jungle or the non-venomous boa constrictor that can grow to 8 meters. Do the conversion-that’s around 26 feet. Also the jungle is teeming with ever-present, malaria-carrying mosquitos the size of hummingbirds. Okay, maybe they’re not that large but when one buzzes by your ear, you appreciate how big they are.
- The government is a Constitutional Democratic Republic with a president elected every five years. After his term, the president cannot be immediately re-elected. Hmm…
- Incans spell Inca with a “k” instead of the “c”. This is because, along with Spanish, many people use the Quechua language.
- You will see lots of llamas and alpacas in Peru. One guide said the best way to tell the difference is by the length of the neck. Llamas have longer necks. Of course, if you want a scarf to warm your long or short neck, buy one made from the wool of the shorter-necked baby alpaca. That’s the best fiber.
- My last fun fact I want to share is people in Peru eat guinea pig. So do many tourist visiting the country, but not this girl. I didn’t think this experience would be life changing so I skipped nibbling on rodent. I didn’t hesitate trying the National drink of Peru, the pisco sour. A properly prepared pisco sour can be life changing. Yummy!
There are lots of interesting facts about Peru but I better get to the subject of this post.
The People of Peru
We landed in Lima and spent our first few days in the city. Even on a guided tour, I always try to sneak off to get a feel for the culture of the countries I visit. My husband and I did this on our first morning in Lima. As we walked the streets we listened to the melody of foreign (to us) words rolling off tongues of dark-skinned people whose faces were lined with the history of a proud community. Their smiles seemed to convey that they remember secrets we’ve forgotten.
One beautiful evening I was strolling with friends. We entered a park to look at an art display but we were drawn to the sounds of flute music. As we followed the music, we saw a crowd gathered in a circle. The people surrounded a small sunken arena filled with dancing couples. Happy, care-free children weaved in and out of the crowd.
No one was on a phone or arguing over politics. Everyone seemed to enjoy the chance to be with neighbors on a beautiful night.
When is the last time your neighbors did this?
At this point, I began to understand the secret in the smiles of the enigmatic people. They are content with the simple joy of living in the moment. They know how to leave their troubles behind. I’m sure many of those assembled in the park had less than perfect lives with worries, maybe about children or money. Who knows? But on this evening they enjoyed each other.
Life should be about being grateful for what we have and I don’t mean materially. It’s the ‘free’ stuff we should be most grateful for. Everyone I talked to in Peru was proud of their heritage and their culture.
The people were patient when I slaughtered their beautiful language with my Texas accent (someday that high school Spanish and Duolingo will kick in). If we couldn’t communicate with words, we moved to hand gestures. No one appeared to get angry with me. Instead I found a peacefulness in these exchanges. Yes, sometimes money changed hands, but not every time. The people were genuinely kind. I want that “peace that passes understanding” in my life.
I hope my eyes conveyed to the Peruvians how grateful I was to be in their country. Maybe, through meeting them, I can remember to enjoy a pretty day, a bird outside my window or even a funny joke. Of course, I hope to appreciate my neighbors, like the people of Peru, because in a world where we’re all connected, we are all neighbors.