Our last night in Cuzco was a lot of fun. Carlos and I wandered around the downtown area for a couple hours, discovering how big the city really is. After a while we went to my favorite Starbucks in the world, the one with the view of the cathedral, and used the free Internet to answer emails, post blogs, download pictures. We spent a lot of time looking through the photos of Machu Picchu, reliving our day there.
Later that night we met up with Celeste, a friend of Christen's that lives in Cuzco. Celeste founded the first school for people with disability in the municipality of Cuzco. She took us to one of her favorite places for dinner, and shared with us about what exactly she does, the challenges she faces, both with work and as a single Christian woman in a foreign country. After dinner she showed us around the real Cuzco, taking us to a neighborhood near the Plaza where she used to live.
It was good to get out of the main square, to see life away from tourism. Once we were a few blocks away, we could see that things were changing. The darkness, the heaviness I had sensed in the square was lifting. She explained that while many of the urban poor relied on the generosity or the excess of tourists, Cuzco also was home to universities and hospitals and banks and other jobs that don't rely directly on tourism. She explained that through her work at the school for the disabled she was able to see the economic situation of the city more clearly, as disability does not discriminate between the haves and the have-nots. She explained that at times the community is very strong, and that she has often felt supported and loved by her neighbors. We saw the community as Celeste was greeted several times on the street by old friends. She took us into her favorite bar just to see what local band was playing. It turned out to be a blues trio. She knew the bassist from living in Cuzco, and the guitarist from when she first moved to Peru and lived in Uruambu.
It helped to gain some clarity about life in Cuzco. But I still can't deny the sense of darkness that surrounds the urban poor and the people of the countryside that are so dependent on tourism. For instance, on days like today, when all the trains are canceled because of heavy rain, business halts. And these five months of rain are unpredictable. And I still can't imagine the emotional impact tourism has on those who do not have the luxury, the ability to travel themselves.
This was our last early morning for a while. We were up at 5:00 to catch our 7:30 flight. The pastor and his family had arranged for a friend of theirs to drive us to the airport in his taxi. The whole family, came downstairs to say goodbye. I was sorry to have to go. That had been so generous towards us. Such an incredible family.
At the airport, Carlos and I boarded the plane and found our seats next to the emergency exits over the wings. I had the window seat. As we pulled out onto the runway, I found myself running through the take off procedure my dad had taught me as a kid, back when we used to fly the blue pick up to school.
Ease the throttle forward.
Pull back on the yoke.
Right now, Carlos and I are flying about the clouds over the Andes, hoping that they'll appear through clear patches. Every now and then we see a snowy peak, but mostly white below and blue above. We're on our way back to Lima, hoping for a day of rest, looking through pictures, sharing with friends. Luckily, we haven't had any adventures today. We just hope it stays that way.