My Happy Places

As I sat in the taxi, no collectivos this time, way too many bags, I couldn’t believe the smile that began to creep uncontrollably on my face.  The smile just continued to grow as we flew past the familiar curves in the road.  Briefly, collapsing as we see the remains of a car accident, an overturned taxi and glass everywhere.  Later, I find out that one of the volunteers leaving in two days was in the overturned car.  She is fine, just a couple of stitches. First accident I see in South America and it’s someone I know.  Incredible.
Regardless, soon after my smile is back in full force as the twinkling lights of Urubamba come into view.  The smile almost comically hurting the sides of my face and scrunching up my eyes.  I know that I am only 20 minutes away from my “happy place” now.  Passing quickly through Urubamba we turn into the last blind curve where the driver crosses himself and the cross of Curvas Peligrosa comes into clear view.  It is dark, almost 7p.m. so I can’t see the river but I know the now calmer than I left it, Rio Urubamba is on my left.  Where, hopefully the next day I will be hiking or running beside.
The last cobblestone climb is comfortingly bumpy unlike the uneven roads of Bolivia.
 
In Ollantaytambo I feel strangely like I am home.  It is odd to me that some place I have only been 6 weeks has made me so comfortable.
 
I walk the streets the next day, being greeted by all the familiar faces.  Like an old friend or family coming home.  Who everyone knew would come home soon.
 
My host father sees me and hugs me like a daughter coming home, inviting me for lunch.  It is sweet and familiar to have lunch with them again.  My favourite restaurant and cafe owners and servers greet me with enthusiasm.  The juice ladies remember how I like my juice, with carrots instead of water, honey and beets.
 
Children and adults stop and wave “Professora!  Professora!”  Teaching a couple of English and rhythmic gymnastics classes suddenly earns me this title.  I smile, wave, hug the kids that run to me with open arms.
People all around saying hello like old friends.  I feel a little like Norm on Cheers.
 
I hike the familiar trails.
 
I sit on the stone bench I had claimed weeks ago.  Along the main road, towards the railway.  I sit for hours reading or writing in my netbook or by hand (so ancient) in my notebook.  Listening to the rushing water of the river right behind me, broken only by a local passing by with a cheery, “Hola.” 
Getting up on occasion to buy tea or galletas (cookies) or pan con queso (bread and cheese) from the street vendor ladies. 
 
Looking around on occasion to admire an hummingbird, or watch a dog walk past, or see a butterfly flutter past.  I am at ease here.
 
I stare up the majestic brown and green mountains that impressed me so much my first day and continue to impress me.  These mountains stand with confidence, knowing exactly their place in the world.  They stand so pure and truthful in front of the bluest sky I have ever seen, speckled with random glaring white clouds.
 
Everywhere I turn I see ruins.  The history, not completely known or understood of the Incas surrounds me, begging to be explored or simply appreciated.  The energy, is palatable.
 
I know these words can not do justice to the feeling I have for this place.  The best I can say is it is strangely truthful, real and just needs to be felt and appreciated.
 
I may even cry when I leave.  The way I did decades ago when I left Slovakia (Cernik), after being there for the first time on my own.  I cried, uncontrollably convulsing, clutching a dishtowel to my face for hours as we drove to Budapest.  Until my uncles abruptly stoped the car before the border telling me to stop crying or the guards would think I was being kidnapped.  I laughed and the crying was over.  But my connection to Cernik remains forever, much like my connection to Ollantaytambo will remain forever.
 
My heart severed in quarters, residing now in Canada, Slovakia, Nepal and Peru.
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