Peru

I remember arriving
not knowing
what to expect
but the next moment
there I was
getting a surfing lesson
from a man
who was complaining
that he was too tan

Too dark in Peru
meant that you
were treated differently
a sort of racial
treatment
subconsciously
applied by tourists
and locals alike
trying to decide
to which individual
they would like
to subscribe

And I had only
just arrived
and already
began my first
lesson
on the way
to that surfing
session

And I remember
staying in that
hostel with
all those drunks
and the cocaine
passed around
because it could
be bought for $3
and was pure

And I remember
staying up
with nervous
energy
and walking
through the town
not realizing
that the clubs
were populated
by women
paid by the owner
to dance with
you and take
your money

And I remember
convincing the
man at the counter
to let her in
because I didn’t
know any better

And I remember
taking those
small vans
to the beaches
which most
tourists
never saw
and feeling
that I was a real
traveler

And I remember
how quickly
it went by
blurring through
the window
and the pisco
I drank
like the locals

And that ex-pat
with his monkey
and long hair
and shotgun wedding
more or less
and for whatever
reason taking
those cheap snowboards
and going down the dunes
pretending it made sense
which it did
you had to have been there

And I remember the four wheeler
which almost killed that
small kid
but hit a pole instead
and walking off thinking
what the fuck was that

And the rooster
walking proudly in the street
and the Nazca lines
which I dared not see
because I was too afraid
to get into a small airplane

And the long ride
to Arequipa
where I spent my time
buying alpaca wool
and learning to climb rocks
and waste time.

I remember the mountain bikes
and the clouds lower than the peaks
and the feeling of exhilaration
of being 6,000 feet in the air
and realizing OK this is different
than looking at a painting
in the louvre
and the dogs which barked
on my return
out of jealousy

I remember trying to find
the divine
with my tour guide
through that mountain pass
and almost falling off
that cliff as kids do
and the wisdom I was able
to glimpse

I remember the lambs
and the floating islands
and making my way to Puno
and that girl in my hotel room
that I didn’t know
what to do with
and neither did she

And the boy rowing the boat
made of straw
with those ominous black clouds
overhead
while the couple took pictures
and missed out on the life
right in front of their eyes.

And spending money
to live without electricity
for a while
and noticing the smile
on that hardworking man’s face
as his culture
slowly degenerated

And the girl I could have got with
if only I were better with women
and the Russian man
who was but was too old

And the guy sitting beside the church
thinking what’s it all worth?
as we drove off
with sheeps passing in a blur
and the bus leaving
me practically
on the side of the road
because the thought did not
occur to me that
they were already
ready to leave

And the band of brothers
with their flutes and violins
and guitars singing
to win the affection
and dollars of passing
tourists

And the llama which almost
kicked me in my shins
because I didn’t fully
realize what I was doing
there

And the women with their
babies in multi-colored sacks
sitting next to me on the bus-rides
living completely different lives
trying to ignore the gringo
traveler who supported their
local economy or so they
were told while their own
lives remained the same
though slightly deteriorating.

And I remember in Cusco
missing out on my Ayahuasca kick
because there was a rafting trip
and I remember the perils
of the river and thinking
how safe is this?
Probably not very.

And I remember taking that trip
from Cusco
because there was a mountain
to climb
and there was something
I wanted to find
beneath rain ponchos
and muddy steps
and sidewalk hotels
and deep breaths.

I remember walking along
that steep mountain pass
and thinking
is this safe?
I remember traversing
that raging river
and thinking
this cannot be safe?
But the girls were doing
it so there you go.

And the British guys
who travelled the world
and thought about girls
and got upset at me
because I didn’t know
the proper drinking etiquette.

And those two Argentinian girls
and how everyone wanted
me to get with them
because we were the same age
and I spoke decent Spanish
but I couldn’t pull it off.

And when everyone’s
feet were tired
I demanded to continue
the trek
because I had to prove
to myself that
I could do it.

And meeting those
Canadian mountain men
who picked mushrooms
which sold for a grand
and worked in woodsheds
and made me realize
I couldn’t do anything
with my bare hands.

And the railroad tracks
we clearly shouldn’t
have been walking
on but along the way
found a snail and butterflies
as the train passed by.

And the raging waters
of Aguas Calientes
where I took a moment
to flex and pose
with the water rapids
and majestic peaks
dwarfing my ego.

With those beer-drunk nights
where we wouldn’t get to sleep
til 6 from dancing
and then up at 8
to start the climb straight
to the top of that
lost civilization.

And climbing to those
great heights
while the animals grazed
and looked at me unimpressed
as the stones were slowly
being worn down by
the thousands of travelers
passing by
on a daily basis.

To look down on that
lost civilization
through the cloudy mist
and think whoa
this is not your average day
to stand on top of the world
and try not to fall
to find a moment of clarity
in mind, body and soul

And to rest in the hammock
and chase the donkeys
up the road
and watch Jesus standing still
and realizing
that this was something special
and the dandelion fields
were there not for
you but somehow
you got a chance
to stand in their embrace.

And the snapshot of
the field workers
as I sped by in my rented ATV
taking off with front wheels
thinking how cool I was
I wonder if they were
thinking the same thing?

And flying back over that
mountain pass
to go back to Lima
and catch that flight
home thinking
something special
happened there in Peru
something which doesn’t
happen inside
the classroom.

Something which isn’t
experienced on your
study abroad
but what can only
be witnessed
in the pictures
that aren’t taken
because life is too busy
being lives
so it’s not missed.

Where the trip
finds itself
as you explore
from coast to coast
and don’t wait up
for the girl
who never bothered
to show

And bringing home
souvenirs and trinkets
that will never express
what you experienced
when you allowed
yourself to
let go.