The Eleventh Hour

My last day in Ollantay was rainy. Felt like the whole town was mourning my departure. At least I like to think so. I went to my favorite places, said bye to all the friendly locals, passing the plaza over and over. Greeted by Wanda, Shakira or You are delicious, the mark I left from the festival. Haggled with a taxi driver and had a final lunch with my homestay.

Last drive towards Cuzco. As sad as it was. I just know I will be back so no tears came just acceptance.

At the airport however, joy was replaced with fear and annoyance as the security guard went through all my bags. I was afraid because against my better judgement I packed a Pisco (alcohol) bottle into one of my checked luggage. Miraculously he didn’t find it. Now at the counter with my boarding pass in hand a man behind the counter flashes a police badge and says he must check my luggage. Now, I’m screwed for sure I shudder. I told him I was already checked. He said this is different. I asked if everyone is being checked. He said no, just 4 people. “So I’m one of the lucky ones?” I retorted sarcastically. “Yes.” He replied as he sniffed my quinoa flour. Unbelievably, they too did not find the bottle or chose not to say anything about it.

All clear and on the plane. The flight to Lima was just over an hour, so as soon as we were up we were heading down. I had to pick up all my luggage, which for once was one of the first bags out and as I approached the exit a Peruvian man was waving widely in what looked like my direction. I turned to look behind me. No one. I turned back. He waved again. It was definitely for me. I looked closer, by heart skipped a bit and my throat constricted slightly it was the photograph guy, A. I couldn’t believe it. I hadn’t expected him to be there. I mean, yeah I gave him my email and I responded with dinner and seeing Lima would be nice give me your number so I can call from the airport. Allowing me some time to decide. But the decision was made for me. He standing right there smiling like an old boyfriend. He tried to give me a big hug. What the heck, I hardly know you I thought as I maneuvered away, ducking behind my cart. He took charge right away though, taking my cart and putting my luggage into storage after we tried to check me in, but the Air Canada desk wasn’t open yet. He too had luggage, as we was heading to Brazil and couple of hours after me. So that went into storage too.

So before I knew it I had no luggage and was walking out of the airport with this guy.

I could go on and tell you his name and his background so you can google him as I have and find out if what he told me was true. I could give you all those details as well as all the details of our evening together. The way too long traffic jammed taxi ride. The fancy dinner. The spur of the moment jewellery purchase. The walk through lovers park. Which made me laugh. Can you tell I’m not one for romance. Take out the garbage and cook me dinner and I’m yours. But none of those details really matters. I am alive. I survived. I wasn’t attacked or made to do anything against my principals. I still have all my money, valuables and luggage. Even if at one point I thought he stole my luggage. I guess that requires some explanation. Well, after we got back to airport he took my bags out of storage and began to wheel them to the check-in counter. I stopped on the way shocked when I saw posted on the board that all the flights, including mine were delayed by 2 hours. I found out later, this was due to volcanic ash from an eruption in Ecuador. Anyway, when I stopped I lost A, and the first thing that came to my mind was that this was an elaborate ruse to steal my luggage. Since I had my passport, money, ticket and netbook on me I wasn’t concerned. I just started to laugh, when A showed up, saying he was in line.

But I digress. I don’t need to go into the details. Like that he begged me to allow him to change my flight for one day so I could meet his family and friends. Because according to him if I get to know the people he loves, I will know him. I don’t need or want to go into those details and my responses to them as everyone will all have there own judgements on the situation and that is not why I share this experience. I share it for two reasons.

The first is what I learnt about feelings. The strength of feels and their individuality. In this case A, clearly had strong feelings. Many may say negative things like he was a stalker, obsessed, infatuated. But let’s not think of it as negative. Let us just think about the plain fact that A has strong feels and a real belief in this heart, soul, gut, loins whatever that he had to pursue this “girl in the mask and the pants”. I love that he went for it. I think everyone should do that. Don’t get me wrong, you shouldn’t go with these feelings if they do harm to someone, or yourself for that matter. As we know I am fine. I wasn’t harmed in the least an had an interesting experience. What I am trying to say is that the feelings he had had nothing to do with the feelings I had, but that didn’t matter. The difference is not personal, but individual.

The second thing is based on many things A shared with me as well as similar things I saw, heard and observed in Peru. In a nutshell, you can not be truly happy until you find your partner. Much like the condor, which always flies in pairs and mates for life. Peruvians have a strong belief in pairings. That’s not to say there isn’t divorce or even cheating. Because heck, there is that and I could share some stories. But I won’t. However, they are always shocked when someone is “sola” or “solo”. It’s unnatural to them, at least that is the impression I got. Unlike in India, where as a solo female traveller they are intrigued and envious, because they know their women can not do that. In Peru, they just feel sorry for you. It is very interesting to me and I wonder if other experienced that and if there is some anthropological explanation for it?

Another funny parallel of art and life besides the book was the music that played when we got into the cab to return to airport after I said I wasn’t interested and didn’t want my flight changed; ‘Man Eater’, followed by ‘I got to go home’.

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