The flight I had reserved while crocked with Chilean beer departed Buenos Aires at 7am. This too was a judgment tumble I fault on inebriation. While my cerebrum considered my 7am almost $700 flight as logical as Spencer and Heidi's fame (8pm or 10pm departure would have been far more rational), my intoxicated self was as satisfied with the purchase as the Lion King's Simba.
My last night in Argentina, one of the Aussies strategized a shoe search, as determined to locate a pair of suitable shoes as Star Jones was to lose weight. The other two Aussies and I ordered a bottle of wine. In a mall (picture). The bottle was properly presented, fitting, as far as I’m concerned, for Sir Elton John. We three clinked glasses in cheers, drank our mall wine, and thus commenced the alcohol consumption. Four bottles and a steak dinner later, I clambered to bed at 4:15am and arose at 4:50am to pack and depart for the airport, a forty-minute drive away. In a half-coma from exhaustion and intoxication, I sank in to a siesta in the back seat of the taxi, my head on my bag. My brain was apparently under the impression that I was Frank the Tank. My life did not appreciate this. I sleep-stumbled in to the airport to encounter a scene from the show ER. 97.9% of the multitudes milling about wore surgical masks. I wasn’t sure if this was the O.R. or the airport. I oscillated my head back and forth - as if observing a tennis match - contemplating that I might have guzzled seventeen drinks too many and my mind was ambushing me. This would not be the first time. In high school I had awoken convinced one of my friends was pregnant. I called her to inquire if I could be the God Mother (I’ve always felt I would make a champion God Mother) should she keep the kid, when she reminded me she was still a virgin and I must have been dreaming.
I queried a masked airport employee why everyone looked like medics. He had the approachability of Jack the Ripper and yelped at me that it was because of N1H1. He then convulsed and speed-walked away. I wondered if he was training for a speed-walk race, or if he considered me contaminated because I was inhaling more than my own alcohol exhalations. I scrutinized what he had said. I hadn't read the news in a few days and didn't know what N1H1 was, but was relatively certain it didn't pertain to food or alcohol, as I have fraternized with most of those vocabularies. I inferred N1H1 must be an airborne disease. I have long been confident of my virtually impregnable personage. I incur a disease every three to four years, in the forms of Whooping Cough, Walking Pneumonia, or Viral Bronchitis, but otherwise am as healthy as Popeye. My last contagion was two years ago. Thus, I deduced I was safe from whatever N1H1 was and would not anguish over apprehension. I embarked on the airplane as perplexed as a turkey on Thanksgiving, margined by masked people. I made a mental note to Google N1H1.
Englishwoman, Swiss Chef, and I shared a glorious dinner and drinks with Ansel Adams and German Chef in San Pedro, Chile the night before we departed on our twenty-hour bus ride to Argentina. Drinks encompassed Chilean wine and Rum. Our first Rum bottle fled faster than Saddam Hussein. Thus, when ten English lads entered the hostel, we entreated them to procure another bottle for us. A while later I boozily bore in to bed sans coherency.
Three hours later I awoke with a headache that was a greater nuisance than Monica Lewinsky. Englishwoman, Swiss Chef, and I labored with our lives and transported ourselves to the bus stop more slowly than my brain deciphers long division. In college I lived across the street from Trader Joe’s. When we were seniors, one of my roommates applied to the grocery store. The application included simple division that you were supposed to do by hand. Not even long division. She calculated the problems on a calculator and then strove to parallel the correct answer with her work. Between three college seniors, we could not acquire the accurate answer by hand. I’m an English major, not a math major. However, one would think I would be competent enough to perform 4th grade math. Our Exercise Sport Science major roommate eventually returned home and enlightened us as to our idiocies. My roommate got the job, referred to her employers as Trader Slaves, and quit after two weeks. She didn’t appreciate stocking lettuce for eight hours a day.
I toiled to board the bus and descended in to my seat, the hard cushions caressing me like my ex-boyfriend used to spoon me. I closed my eyes. Before I could sigh, the woman in the seat next to me slanted forward and introduced herself as Nellie. I slit one eye open, savoring the one shut eye’s exhilaration. Nellie’s thirty-four-year-old (I know this because she later showed me her passport) face, clad in glasses and a schoolgirl smile, was five inches from mine. I reluctantly lugged my other eye open, smiled, and introduced myself. We exchanged pleasantries, and then the questioning commenced with the rapidity of a stereotypical California teenage girl’s idioms. After covering where I was from, how old I was, whether I had a husband, how many children I had, how many siblings I had, their names, ages, and what they did for a living, why I no longer lived with my parents, what Swiss Chef and Englishwoman’s careers were, and what my full name was, the following questions ensued.
“What you doing?” she asked me.
“Oh, I’m just traveling.”
“No, what, what you do-ing? What you do?”
“Oh, I guess I’m technically in real estate,” I said with a smile. I then closed my eyes.
“What real estate?” she inquired.
I explained real estate, informed her I was very sorry, but felt like I was dying because I was so tired, and relinquished my eyes to their natural and satisfied state: closed. Had I felt like a normal human being, I might have been physically capable of ecstatically participating in conversation. However, since my twenty-first birthday, my body has countered my callous alcohol abuse with massive hangovers. Today, I felt as alive as a flamingo without legs or wings. After my dying statement Nellie subsequently sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, the alphabet, and some clapping song that I vaguely recollected from my distant childhood. I couldn’t wholly recall the song because with each crashing clap my brain threatened to collapse in on itself.
“I a English teacher in Peru. I teach English!” she explained with continued applause. How anyone who couldn’t construct a simple sentence properly was an English teacher made as much sense to me as OJ Simpson being declared “Not guilty.” However, I do not judge, I just question. By this time my Spanish knowledge had swelled to three sentences and twenty-three words. I wasn’t attempting to teach Spanish, of course. But I do live in California, with a more populous Latin contingent than Caucasian. Thus, one would think I would have picked up on a few words in my life. Nellie demanded I teach her a song, and then interrupted her own explanation of desiring to teach it to her class by telling me she had friends all over the world. I endeavored to appeal to my brain for a song but the best I could engineer was the alphabet, which she clearly already knew. With all this thinking, my cranium threatened to detonate and I could sense the commencement of a coma. She misinterpreted my sunken head in hands as encouragement, conjured photos of she and her class like Merlin the wizard, and then sang Madonna’s Material Girl. “I love Madonna!” Nellie exclaimed excitedly. I handed her my iPod, scrolled to Madonna, and pressed play. Nellie persisted singing, but as she was not directly addressing me, I felt at ease to attempt sleep and bowed back my head, i.e. anvil.
Englishwoman and Swiss Chef, sitting on my other side, conveyed their regret for the situation, followed by their relief that neither of them were sitting next to the unstable Peruvian. I could scarcely ascertain what they were saying over Nellie’s deafening Madonna impersonation. Madonna songs only survived for one and a half precious hours before we struck the border and exited the bus. Swiss Chef withdrew to revisit us bearing Cocoa Tea and though I customarily have no lesbian tendencies, I felt that kissing her on the lips was the obvious appropriate demonstration of my gratitude. This was followed by the thought that I really needed to discontinue my alcohol absorption. My next contemplation was that I, and a large majority of my friends, announce this every time we are hung over. I was mentally contentedly replaying college drinking scenes when I heard my name in a now-familiar accent. Before I could finish the word, “what?” Swiss chef was clutching my Cocoa Tea and Nellie was towing me away to take a photo with her. One photo became seventeen as we assembled in varying poses. This had to resemble a marriage photo shoot, or at least an engagement photo shoot. As I envisioned the six Peruvian children we would surely adopt, I thought I would never have predicted I would end up with someone named Nellie, man or woman.
Back on the bus Nellie requested my e-mail address. Sure, of course. She handed me a paper she had written out with lines for my first and last name, e-mail, telephone number, address, birthday, and parent’s address. I filled this out and handed it back, at which point she presented me with a paper with her identifying information. She studied my responses, clarified and re-wrote some, and then proclaimed she would call me on my birthday and visit me in California within the following year. “Ok, great,” I replied with enthusiasm paralleling that of the Simpson’s Mr. Burns. I just wanted sleep. Or a lobotomy. I wasn’t demanding. She sang Happy Birthday to me. This woman was evidently under the impression that she was Mariah Carey.
“See, I have friends over the world!” she broadcast at the conclusion of Happy Birthday with such enthusiasm nine passengers spun to stare at us. She then presented me with a bracelet. The bracelet consisted of lime green bulky beads and resembled something my cousin’s six-year-old would construct. I felt indebted and gazed at my own wrists. Aside from the newly acquired Peruvian present, I was wearing two black hair things. I removed one, put it around her wrist, and then was as lost as George W. Bush at a spelling bee, so I kissed her on the cheek and smiled. At this time the movie 2 Fast 2 Furious sparkled across the televisions. I submerged in to my chair and revolved my eyes to the screens. Nellie produced a book entitled How to Teach English. This book was fifty pages long, and, with size sixteen font complete with pictures, was identical in style to something a seven-year-old would read. The opening scene of the movie corresponded to Nellie’s questioning. As she labored over the English words, she asked me questions. “How you say ‘educate’ in Spanish?” “How you say ‘they’ in Spanish?” “What it mean?” “What the Spanish word for ‘students’?” This word I knew: estudiante. This woman was clearly delusional in her estimation of my Spanish abilities. As mentioned, I have the language skills of a mentally handicapped walrus. I did enunciate the correct way to say ‘the’ to her nineteen times, but aside from that, am afraid I was not much assistance. She composed pronunciation notes in her booklet/pamphlet. A bus attendant distributed chicken and Mayonnaise sandwiches to all the passengers. Swiss Chef was prepared. She had avocado and seasoning. After the chef altered Englishwoman’s, her own, and my sandwiches in to edible creations, Nellie handed me her sandwich and impatiently motioned for me to pass it to Swiss Chef so she too could benefit from the accoutrements. Nellie evidently comprehended the American marriage adage ‘What’s mine is yours.’ This was further evidenced when she embezzled my water and thrust a quarter of the bottle down her trachea.
Hours later I was in a satisfying sleep reverie when Charging Bull breathing beat my ears. A hand/clamp then affixed to my forearm. I grudgingly opened my eyes expecting to see Grendel from Beowolf. Nellie profoundly respired, said, “I sick,” and then faintly gestured her arm through the air toward the front of the bus. “I’m sorry, but... what? Que?” I asked. “I sick!” she shrieked. I hurdled in to the atmosphere. This outburst was unexpected. What happened to singing? “Ok...” I replied. “Get help!” my commander ordered. I looked over to Englishwoman, who helpfully shrugged. After a unanimous negative response to my inquiry for any doctors on board the bus, I returned to my seat. “Lo siento, pero no doctors” comprised my Spanish struggle. Nellie rewarded my efforts with a despised look. “Get driver!” she commanded and then relocated her sweatshirt directly over her head. I didn’t think this very feasible, but a death stare met my appeal and I retreated to the front of the bus feeling like a verbally abused wife and questioning my dad’s assertion that I would be a good lawyer. I returned with a bus attendant, because the driver was driving and unavailable, and determined I would do all I could to make Nellie content in her ailments, but our relationship would have to terminate with the bus ride. I also reconsidered the six children. Maybe five. Or four.
The chefs, an English photographer (he didn´t identify himself as such, though he carried a camera the size of a midget and operated it with an ease paralleling me inhaling Rum), an Englishwoman, and I acquiesced to a fifty-year-old Chilean tour guide´s entreaties to partake in a two-hour downhill bikeride. He assured us that, ¨You might die. Only my friends, not a tour. Only for friends.¨ The Englishwoman and Swiss chef had known the guide for four days, I for one. A truck would drive us to warm springs, we would expend hours there, and then return via bike. Us five travellers, the driver, and Pablo the tour guide departed in the truck, the bikes and two people in the truck´s bed. Twenty-five minutes in to the forty-minute drive, the car emitted sounds reminiscent of a pig scream. Ansel Adams ascertained the truck was missing a cylinder. This made about as much sense to me as people deeming Paris Hilton attractive, but I assumed it was possible. We evacuated the truck and continued the journey, half of us on bike, half on foot pushing bikes. The Englishwoman declared that even a three degree incline was still an incline and unless the road was utterly flat or downhill, she disagreed with it and would walk. She had arrived in South America for a wedding a year ago and had simply stayed past what was originally intended as a five-day trip.
We eventually disembarked, abandoned our bikes, and descended a hillside/mountain. Strategically situated rocks persuaded a river in to a pool. Pablo notified us that this was the warm spring, and lava below cooked the water. Visions of Rumplestiltskin beneath the river directing lava assaulted my brain, and I slid in to feel the water´s sparse warmth.
Pablo posed next to a rock and exhibited some drawings, declaring they were from the Incas. Upon inspection, they could have been from the Incas. Or he could have drawn them last week. It was as difficult to determine as Pink´s natural hair color.
Pablo then proclaimed, with gusto rivaling that of Martin Luther King, that the Incas used mud from the water to bathe themselves. ¨Smells bad, but very very good. Good for the skin, good for the hair,¨ he assured us as he pounced in to the water like Flipper. He emerged minutes later, hands dripping with mud that very much resembled my dog´s excrement when she was on drugs for consuming too much bark and grass. He snatched Swiss Chef and smeared the mud in to her hair and on her face. Englishwoman was next, and then he manhandled me, forcing us to reside on his lap while he accosted our backs. We three forced Ansel Adams to document the mud delight and I believe there are pictures of us somewhere on the Internet, faces and hair tarnished with mud and smiles. Upon rinsing it from us fifteen minutes later under Pablo´s strict instructions, our faces and hair were much more supple. I felt like my nine-year-old pre-acne self again.
Pablo introduced us to a water game where one person is ¨IT.¨ IT floats around the water like a crocodile on attack, and thumps someone on the head. The target can submerge themselves in water, but should IT connect with your head, you then have to assume being IT. Amid near-drowning, an almost lost eye contact, and laughter, we played until Pablo had pulled me and the other two girls on his lap fourteen times too many.
As we dried ourselves, Pablo vanished. He materialized minutes later, brandishing about feathered stalks. He positioned himself as proudly as Terrell Owens celebrating a touchdown, the stalks in hand. And then he hauled his towel from his waist and stood, naked. I had never before witnessed an uncircumcised penis, much less one the size of my finger on a fifty-year-old Chilean tour guide. It resembled an aardvark and it was all I could do to not pitch head-first in to the water. Pablo smiled and then approached us, offering the stems to us as if they were condoms and he was the condom fairy. I saw his Tiny Turtle swinging at me, screeched, ¨Noooo!¨ and thumped my head on my arms, swinging in laughter.
In later conversations, the two girls and I established that in drawing us on to his lap throughout the water-epoch, he had had an angle to his dangle multiple times.
Therefore, I accept it was only a matter of time until I stepped on one.
I had a day before my tour through the Parque Nacional Lauca, in Chile. Thus, I deemed it erudite to explore as much as possible. Exploring as much as possible equated seeing how far I could climb a mountain. I leashed my dusty hiking boots to my permanently dusty feet and marched towards the highest mountain in the distance. The mountain had a flag at the top of it. I surmised this was to give people like me hope.
My excitement resembled that of the first time I got my bikini line waxed: I was stimulated and skeptical. I anticipated pain. I prayed to My Alcohol God that the affliction of climbing a mountain was not as acute as my fuzzy taco being plucked. Three hours, a slew of scratches, and two topples later, I exerted the last of my labors to reach the peak. The peak of the original hill I had descended, that is. I never achieved the flag-mountain summit. With my failure a new speculation transpired: the flag was not to provide potential climbers hope, but rather to broadcast that one herculean man had ascended the mountain and publicized his abilities through a flag. I envisioned the flag mocking me as I stalked through the first steps of overgrown flat land. I was hungry, tired, and as disappointed as the time I played Glenda the Good Witch in a 6th grade play, forgot my lines, my voice cracked while singing, and I tumbled down the stairs on my major stage exit.
I trampled through the brake and brush, hurrying the hair from my eyes, when I treaded on what I deemed a pulpous rock. Except the rock yelped and then yowled. I yelled and in my consternation, leapt back, lost my footing and crashed to the ground, making about as much noise as I imagine the Eiffel Tower would make, should it ever fall.
A small Chilean girl curled in the fetal position next to me, crying as if her teddy bear´s head had just been brutally detached. I reached out, picked her up, and rocked her back and forth in my arms, repeating ¨Hola,¨ because of my newly acquired Español, I figured this was the only word we both knew.
I leered up as My First Chilean Friend´s face loomed through the reeds we were in. He had raven hair tinged with grey and smile lines creasing his face. He looked like an Inca warrior to me, coming to save his child from a Gringo. He swiftly spoke a Spanish sequence and extended his arms to his daughter. She buried her screaming head in my shoulder and I stood to return his screaming shrieking stripling to him. As the language barrier between us was apparent to me, I imitated climbing up the hill and stepping on his daughter. I did this by retreating a few steps, wiping my forehead, gasping for breath, walking forward, tripping and falling. By my flawless performance I´m convinced I could be the next Susan Sarandon. He nodded and said, ¨So you were tired and tripped over my daughter?¨ in flawless English. ¨Ya, I´m really sorry. I love kids!¨ I informed him. We talked for the next twenty minutes, me relaying to him my life story, and he revealing his pride that he was the only one living in the town with trees on his property. I hadn´t previously noticed the lack of trees in the outlying area. We concluded our friendship with cups of Cocoa Tea. I felt it rude to decline, though the tea as well as the outside temperature were scalding, and my true desire was to fall in to an ice cream lake. Sadly, while he had trees, he did not have an ice cream lake. I asked.
This was more curious than the time I awoke on the living room couch and removed the blanket to find one of my friends draped across my legs. At least that time my last memory of the night before involved Tequila. Tequila and I are not friends.
I removed my hand from the bed's balmy insulation and attempted to open my eyelid. My sole accomplishment: dislocating four eyelashes. I abandoned attempts to pry my eye open and envisaged the Southeast Asian excursions ten months prior.
During the extravaganza that was last summer, my body hated me. Justifiably. I saturated it with Thai Whiskey and rum buckets at every opportunity and spent twelve too many mornings feeling like an elephant had trampled me the night before.
That trip I also managed to slice my foot open in the Mekong River. Consequence: infection. And a doctor-order to not insert my foot in water. We were on an island.
The foot fatality, however, was a consummation of rum buckets and bad decisions.
This South American journey, my body doesn´t hate me. My body hates South America. At the ridiculously high altitude that is Lake Titicaca, the sun demolished my skin like Donatella Versache annihilated any semblance of normal human being. The consensus: my skin was diseased. With skin cancer. A week later, my back was referred to as a map, due to the massive color alterations on my skin. I looked like a diseased toad.
Then, too, the sun attacked my bottom lip like David attacked Goliath. The sun won. My lip blistered. It also enlarged to seventeen times its normal size. While it did resemble Angelina Jolie´s in size, the twin blisters (named King and Kong) made me about as attractve as the mom in What´s Eating Gilbert Grape. With that thought, I closed my one eye and retreated to sleep.
Two hours later I one-eye dragged myself to the bathroom and viewed my left eye. It was a red and pussing volcanoe. I forced my eye open with my fingers, thoughtfully sanitized by Chilean tap water. It was half the size of my right eye and completely bloodshot. Just the one. I couldn´t help but think that if the other was identical, at least I would appear massively high off the Ganja. But no. I appeared to have taken a shot of steriods directly in to my eye.
If the definition of gratifying constituted my seven-year-old elation when my best friend pushed me down a hill while I was wearing my new Roller Blades for the first time.
Bank: ¨Good morning, this is Lisa. How may I help you?¨
Me: ¨Hi Bank. I have a problem. I´m in Peru and my purse got stolen Saturday night on an overnight bus that was hell. I´ve never smelled such smells. Anyway, in my purse was all my money and my ATM card. That ATM card was the only access to money I had. So now I have no money. And I need money.¨
Bank: ¨You had all your money together?¨
Me: ¨Yes, I know. I´m an idiot. You´d think I hadn´t traveled before, right? Well, I have. My passport wasn´t in there, so that´s good. But my sunglasses were. And my friend´s camera. But, ya, money. I need money.¨
Bank: ¨And the bus smelled bad?¨
Me: ¨Yep. Vomit and explosive diarrhea.¨
Bank: ¨That´s disgusting.¨
Me: ¨I know, right? So gross. Okay, wait, this is costing me a dollar a minute. So. Money. How do I get my money?¨
Bank: ¨All I can do is cancel your card.¨
Me: ¨Well, that´s nice. I´m thinking more along the lines of wiring me my money, though.¨
Bank: ¨We can´t do that.¨
Me: ¨What? Why not? It´s my money! I have no money, I need money, and you have it.¨
Bank: ¨Actually, because you´re in another country, we can´t verify your identification.¨
Me: ¨What? You know me though! Please put Mabel on the phone.¨
Mabel: ¨Hi Kara. I hear you´re in Peru and in trouble.¨
Me: ¨Yes, trouble. I need money.¨
Mabel: ¨Ya, your mom was in here the other day telling me how worried she is about you. You´re traveling alone?¨
Me: ¨Well, I was with a friend. Then he left. So I was traveling alone for a few weeks, but right now I´m traveling with another friend, so that´s good. His nickname is Rojo Gringo.¨
Mabel: ¨Oh, good! I´m glad you´re with someone. Your mom won´t have to worry so much.¨
Me: ¨Right. Well, the thing is, this phone call is costing me a fortune. And I have no money to pay for it. So can you wire me some of my money please? So I can pay to talk to you?¨
Mabel: ¨Actually, I can´t. I´m sorry. We aren´t authorized to wire money unless the person who has the account goes in to a bank branch in person.¨
Me: ¨That makes no sense. Why would I need to have money wired to me if I was in a bank branch?¨
Mabel: ¨For example, if you wanted to wire money to your sister if she was overseas and in a similar situation.¨
Me: ¨Ok, whatever. So, fine, can my mom go in, withdraw money from my account, and then wire it to me?¨
Mabel: ¨Is your mom on your account?¨
Me: ¨What? No. You know she´s not. She has her own account.¨
Mabel: ¨Then she can´t take money out of your account because we don´t have your authorization.¨
Me: ¨Well, I´m giving you my authorization right now. What do you need? My fingerprint? I´ll fax that to you right now with a statement giving my mom permission to withdraw money from my account.¨
Mabel: ¨Actually, Kara, because you´re not here in person, we can´t verify it´s you.¨
Me: ¨Ask me anything. You want to know what kind of car my mom drives? My social security number? Should I call me mom and have her bring you in a sandwich for lunch? Or a steak? Would that verify who I am?¨
Mabel: ¨I´m very sorry. but unless you´re actually here in person we can´t authorize any kind of transaction.¨
Me: ¨But I´m not there. I´m in Peru. And I need money. My money. How do I do that?¨
Mabel: ¨The best we can do is cancel your card and send you a new one. The new card will take 8-10 business days to arrive and will be sent to the address you have listed with your bank account.¨
Me: ¨Ok. Number 1. I´M IN PERU. Without money. I don´t even have money to pay for this phone call. Number 2. If I was to get my card sent anywhere it would have to be sent to me here. In Peru. Today, preferally.¨
Mabel: ¨We actually go through another company for the cards. It will take 8-10 business days to be sent to your address in California. Let me see if I can get it sent to South America instead.¨
Me: ¨What? No. I need money today. Not eight to ten days from now. I don´t even know where I´ll be in three days. I might be back in Bolivia. Say hi to those border guards I paid off last time I was there. I don´t know.¨
Mabel: ¨You paid off border guards?¨
Me: ¨Ya. Long story. Anyway, this phone call is currently at $15. Which I don´t have. Because you won´t let me access my own money. What can I do about that?¨
Mabel: ¨I can cancel your card and send you a new one. Without you here that´s the best I can do.¨
Me: ¨Goddamnit. Can I speak to your manager? ¨
Mabel: ¨I am the manager.¨
Me: ¨Right. I knew that. Goddamnit.¨
Me: ¨Mom! The bank is a bastard. You´re going to have to get one of my checks and forge it. Make it out to yourself for $2,000. Cash it and then wire me the money.¨
As I am now 5´8¨ and an elephantine beast in 96% of countries worldwide, I consider myself a fairly impervious force. I praise my mother´s sagacity in gorging my life with Whole Milk for the eighteen years I resided in her house.
My narcissism towards my immunity manifested itself in procuring a ¨mas economico¨ fourteen-hour overnight bus ticket from Nazca to Cuzco, Peru. I miss-calculated my and my companion´s traveling durability as lateral to that of Superman.
A friend had flown in to Lima a few days prior from the U.S. and met me in Nazca. Forthwith he will be referred to as Rojo Gringo. This name was bequeathed to him by Peruvian girls he met in Lima after a day´s beach sojourn and his normally pale (Albino) skin acquired a red tone. Rojo Gringo and I invested in the mas economico bus ticket, cocksure and eminent of our industriousness.
We arrived laden with bags at the bus station at 9:30pm for a 10:00pm ride. We presented our tickets with the pomp of a Miss America pageant. The Peruvian woman innundated us with strings of Spanish through which prattle I was able to decipher that our bus had departed without us five minutes earlier. She rustled from the room as fast as a Barry Bonds sprint and accosted a cab. We bunted ourselves and our bags in to the seats and chased the bus to another station where we subsequently waited for thirty-five minutes before departure.
Upon bus infiltration, Rojo Gringo and I located a local woman and her bags in our seats. She did not comprehend my Mexican Spanglish attempts (an appendage of living in California). We installed ourselves in the only available seats: ones in the bus´s rear. Instantly upon sitting, excrement essence enclosed us, blitzkrieging our nostrils, eyes, and skin more swiftly than it takes my favorite Peruvian-Touretts bartender to scream profanities at me. The stench was a nauseating combination of excrement and vomit emanating from behind the bathroom stall´s closed door. It seeped through the back of the bus, reeking more than a human flatulating a dead rat after two weeks.
Our eyes streaming in ventures to not gag-reflex on each other, Rojo Gringo fastened a shirt below his eyes cowboy-style, and we prepared for fourteen hours in Gringo hell. As the hours compiled, the night pierced glaciers. We fastened the windows shut only to feel regurgitation recapitulate in our stomachs. This was worse than my five-year-old self slipping and falling in a massive lake of elephant shit at the circus. Rojo Gringo and I concluded breeding icicles from our skin was preferential to the fetid festering flavor. We opened the windows and my body consequently propagated paralyzation.
Hours later I cleft my comatose self with the revolting realization I was going to pee. I sat, my arms clamped around my knees and unable to maneuver my muscles. I debated whether peeing on myself or in Satan´s Closet was the more desirable option. The urine might heat my lower body. Unless, of course, my urine coagulated as frost, which I considered an .85 probability. I opted for Satan´s Closet. Inside was rigorously reminiscent of my reckoning. It appeared an array of people had explosive diarrhea after consuming guinea pig, alpaca, and rat. The effusive excrement spated over half of the toilet bowl sides. In the sink reposed what appeared to be another array of people´s vomit after having consumed guinea pig, alpaca, and rat. One assumed this was in reaction to the excrement. I opened the window next to the toilet and hung my head out like a dog in a car ride, convulsing in revulsion and amusement.
I exited Satan´s Closet like an alcoholic escaping from AA. And returned to my seat to find my purse missing. I awoke Rojo Gringo and we inspected the surrounding seats to discover the two men who had been sitting in the seats in front of us gone, as well as my purse.
I had purchased the purse earlier that day. Inside the purse was every American dollar and Peruvian sole I had, my ATM card (only access to money), my license, my sunglasses, and Rojo Gringo´s camera and postcards. My camera had been left on some rocks the previous week while in a canyon hawking condors. He had entrusted me with his.
This realization manifested itself forty-five minutes before the bus broke down. Still hours from Cuzco, we evacuated Satan´s Bus at five-something in the morning to await another bus. Rojo Gringo and I reclined in the chill morning air, surrounded by Andes Mountains, on our way to the Sacred Valley. We determined that was the last time we asked for a mas economico bus. And the last time he should delegate me with responsibility.
I shed my Savior (backpacker bag), skated on to the bus bench, and observed my first Peruvian love: a two-year-old lamb with bronzed skin who riveted his dark chocolate eyes to me. Looking at that tiny Peruvian boy my true maternal instincts consumed me: I desired nothing more in life than to kidnap him, spirit him home with me for a day, costume him in Inca Warrior attire, and return him the subsequent day.
His mother noticed my ogle, commanded me to watch her bags and her son, informed me the bus was leaving at 6:30pm, not 6pm, and retreated out the door. She was my first Peruvian friend.
At three of the four stops throughout the following six-hour busride she slapped my foot awake in the chance I intended to exit the bus at that town. I staggered awake each time, smiled no to her concerned face, and shrunk in to sleep.
At the fortieth minute of my lamb howling, I imitated bitch slapping her son across the face to desist his screaming, she chuckled, leaned across the aisle, and stabbed me in the chest with a two-inch claw of a fingernail. After her son´s sobbing ceased, the claw again attacked me, inquiring if I was frio. Of course I was frio. Muy frio. My bag was in storage beneath the bus and I was in tube top beach dress and sandals.
A bus attendant verbal-volleyed me in Spanish, me no comprendo, and my friend, aka Mom, responded accordingly. I cannot envision what the exchange concerned, but she saved me.
My final indication that she was a genuine friend: at midnight she offered me a sip of the concoction she had been inhaling for the past hour. It was Pisco. Peruvian alcohol.
Having squandered the day in Camana, Peru scrutinizing porn-blocked computers, my bus blared its horn as I strolled up the street to the hostal. I felt as lucky as Michael Jackson with his jail evasions that my hostal was adjacent to the bus departure. I flashed as fast as my pastry-satiated self allowed (Peruvian weakness: Panaterias) to my hostal, hurdled up the twenty-something steep steps feeling as mobile as Rosie O´Donnell, and pealed in to the metal gate at the top. When one of the woman workers gaped open the door to see me with my hands on knees and sweat-sated face, I clattered, ¨Bus! bus!¨ in what I deemed a quasi-coherent Spanish accent, my arms disporting like a fifth-rate magician. I dashed in, grappled with my backpackers pack, slung it over my shoulders, grasped my Nike backpack, and launched myself out the door as my bus uttered a prolonged honk.
In my self-induced-rocket-launch I had disregarded the facts that, 1: the stairs were not only steep, but narrow, and 2: I was attired in beach outfit, aka a short orange tube-top dress and sandals bereaved of traction for the past four years.
I dashed on to the stairs propelled by the bus horn.
My feet summarily slipped and I skid down those twenty-something steps, my monstrous backpackers pack padding my back. I death-gripped the Nike bag to my chest and shrieked like a disabled banshee. The backpacker rapidly whacked every step, jolting my descent and fragmenting my superfluous shrieks.
I toppled amid Peruvian masses mobbing the sidewalk and tossing food from the ground through windows to bus passengers with soles (dinero) swaying from their hands.
I landed sidewalk-sitting, my legs lolling in front of me like Gumby and my Nike backpack straddling two stairs behind me. Both the bottom and top of my dress hugged my waist, my naked tiny titties trotting and my underwear exposed.
I mentally catapulted a thank-you to My Alcohol God for transmitting my drunken dogma to my life´s core: never wear thongs. I inebriatedly declared this when I was seventeen and fell off a counter while clad in dress and thong. I have lived by the doctrine since.
I trucked my dress top up, the bottom down, and twirled around like a turtle on its back until able to maneuver myself to my feet. I flounced to the man by the bus door and produced my ticket with a flourish. He informed me in Español that my bus was late and wouldn´t arrive for another half hour.
Brother. Update! I awoke at 7am in an attempt to board a bus for Nazca only to determine that because my multi-lingual abilities resemble those of a sheep, I could not comprehend the content the Español-sprint-speaking woman screamed at me. Instead of an 8:30am ticket, I was coerced into purchasing a 6pm busride. As German Mountain Man (my traveling companion for the past week), aka my savior and Español translator, left last night for Lima, I determined today I would spend some hours catching up on shotjot.com and my correspondence (as if I have any). This is my third Internet cafe of the day. I have learned some things of the town i am in: 1) For every fifteen shops, only one is open today, though it is Friday. This may be because everyone is celebrating Jesus. 2) As I am in the third and final Internet cafe currently open in the entire town, I feel justified in saying that these Peruvians think porn is in every aspect of my Internet life. Because of porn blockades, I can´t go to my website, my editing site to add a blog, I can´t compose an e-mail, can´t access one of my e-mail addresses, can´t send any messages via Facebook, and cant even visit Wikipedia. What if I wanted to look up the definition of porn block?
And this morning a three-year-old peed on me while his parents congratulated him for having the urination control of a two-month-old. Oh, and I am the only white person in this town. I miss you! lets go to Costa Rica in a month??
Peruvians are really religious or something and think the devil or porn will make its appearance on the Internet and therefore not let you really use it, I guess?
Hey, I learned a fun fact by the way while i was in Hawaii for spring break; I read in the paper there that Hawaii is the per capita #2 state consumer of porn in the US, preceded by....Utah!!! Hahaha I thought it was hilarious.
And you're getting peed on by little children? I assume you did something to provoke him?
In Thailand females pronounce thank you as kawp-kun ka (kowpkoom kha). One can fathom how we would struggle with saying ¨Thank you,¨ along with every other aspect of the language. To verbally communicate with non-English-speaking Thais is as easy as attempting to stand steady in heels and blow below a .08 in a breathalyzer after eleven shots and two beers.
From the moment we arrived in Sukothai, my friend - who will consequently be referred to her as Befuddled - announced ¨Sukothai¨ every time she intended to say thank you. Essentially, she would proclaim the name of the city we were in to local Thais after she purchased something, after a server delivered our food, etc. Our other friend and I gleaned constant amusement from this.
Befuddled declared ¨Sukothai¨ to a woman we rented three bicycles from. We pedaled away pealing in laughter and tremendous temperaments.
Twenty minutes later we identified a Star Jones (before the weight loss) sized sign publicizing ¨Waterfall,¨ complete with arrow down a dirt path. We excitedly turned our bikes down the dirt road.
Three hours later with no indication of a waterfall, Befuddled observed a wild Thai cow by the side of the road. A piece of rope the width of fishing wire restrained Wild Cow to a tree. Wild Cow´s Cappuccino-colored eyes entreated Befuddled for human contact. Befuddled detected that Wild Cow yearned to be petted. She stalled her ride and reached out to caress the cow´s head. As her foreign hand stretched fingertips, Wild Cow reared away and detonated in to the dirt road faster than I hurdled away from my 7th grade boyfriend when my mom walked in on us kissing. The rope snapped, Wild Cow vaulted, snorting and shaking, narrowly avoided plowing over Befuddled, and tore away down the street.
Befuddled: ¨Sukothai a fucking lot you guys, you rode away! You weren´t even going to help me if I had been trampled!¨
Us: ¨What the fuck were you doing trying to pet a wild Thai cow??¨
Befuddled: ¨It´s eyes told me it wanted to be petted.¨
She arose two hours before our scheduled departure to Bolivia.
¨Are you sure you´re going to be ready?¨ She asked anxiously, hovering over me like my mom in elementary school after I had stuck my head over the heater, returned to bed, and pretended to be sick.
¨Yes, I don´t take long to get ready,¨ I replied, making gagging noises in her direction in hopes she´d retreat and leave me alone.
Amid her clatter of clothes and toiletries, I pulled the pillow over my head.
Fifteen minutes later my head reverberated with what sounded like a chorus emitting from a dying horse. Still in bed, I retched in to a nearby plastic bag and then reclined face-down. Screams and shrieks entered what felt like a slaughterhouse in place of my head and I couldnt help but wonder that Crazy Canadian might want to consider a career change, as her lung capacity was equivalent to that of Celine Dion.
¨Agghhhh its fucking cold in here! AGGGHHH it´s freezing!¨ Followed by a choir of vigorous intonations.
Apparently the owner´s claim of aguas caliente was consistent with Al Gore´s affirmation that he invented the Internet.
I eventually straggled from bed, packed my bags, and lay on the bed while Crazy Canadian armed herself with llama beanie, sweater, mittens, scarf, socks, and, to complete the ensemble, legwarmers.
¨Are you ready,¨ she shrieked multiple times across the room like an impatient alcoholic demanding departure to a bar.
I, supine, plucked the pillow back over my head.
We were late to the bus. Luckily Crazy Canadian scared the shit out of the bus company by screaming at them the number of the bus followed by a stream of sounds that I can only describe as Dying Pig.
I collapsed in my seat and put my head down.
Crazy Canadian roused me several times throughout the seven hour bus ride to query if I enjoyed Peruvian food, what my sibling´s names were, and to notice that Lake TIticaca was in view. We had been at Lake Titicaca for three days.
At the Bolivian border a border guard informed me that because I was American, I needed a valid passport, a photocopy of my travel iteinerary, a credit card, certification of the Yellow Fever vaccination, a hotel reservation or an invitation in Spanish, and $135. Only Americans. Everyone else in the world only required a passport. Of the above, I had a passport, a credit card, and my Yellow Fever vaccination. I also flatly refused to spend $135 to cross a border with a Crazy Canadian in to Bolivia, which I hadn´t originally intended to visit anyway.
After much deliberation with the border patrol, I paid them $40. I had no documentation, no exit stamp proving my exit from Peru, no receipt for having paid them off, nothing that reflected I was supposed to be in Bolivia. They issued me strict instructions to stay in Copa Cabana for three days at most. Crazy Canadian responded with a convincing string of appeals to me why I should screw the border orders and travel with her to La Paz. I refused with a vigor reminiscent of my rejection of consuming CB Brandy. It just wasn´t going to happen.
I halted in Copa Cabana and Crazy Canadian continued to La Paz.
As soon as she departed my sickness dissapated and I resided for hours at the beach.
Theory: allergy to llama-clad Crazy Canadian.
Aside from myself, the passengers encompassed a German with Mountain Man hair, a guy from Holland, couples from France, Canada, the United States, and a solo Canadian girl.
Upon introducing herself the Canadian informed me faster than my drunken pee-sprint out of my Spanish test last year that she had recently completed her PhD and promptly decided to break up with her boyfriend and travel around the world for a year with an around-the-world ticket. The wind played with my clothes and my skin absorbed the scalding sun like my alcoholic friend consumes beer.
I was quasi-comfortably clothed in a short dress and sandals. Canadian looked like a cross between a midget and a llama. At 4´11¨ she wore Alpaca (llama) sweatshirt, beanie, gloves, scarf, and socks. These Alpaca clothing items were in varying colors (brown, blue, white, and pink), stitched with white llama patterns. Her jeans, three shirts, and jacket completed the ensemble. Before I could inform her I got laid off and instead of looking for a job, caught a flight to South America, the two of us were traveling on a seven-hour bus ride to Bolivia together the following day and she was solidifying synchronous hostal stays. I had not planned on visiting Bolivia. But now I had a llama-clad midget Canadian companion.
I, armed with Pisco Sours, Rum, and beer, responded to the proddings of a Peruvian.
His name appeared to be Peruvian Arthur. He looked like a Child Molester. With a Molester Van.
Molester Van Man (MVM): ¨You and Scott are married?¨Me: ¨No, we´re just friends.¨
MVM: ¨But you will be married?¨
Me: ¨No, we´re just friends.¨
MVM: ¨But you are together? Boyfriend-Girlfriend?¨
Me: Beer sip. ¨Nope, just friends.¨
MVM: ¨You sleep together?¨
Me: Pisco Sour sip. ¨No, just friends.¨
MVM: ¨No sex?¨Me: Revert to Rum. ¨No.¨
MVM: ¨But you will be together?¨
Me: More Rum. ¨We are just friends.¨
MVM: ¨No sex with him.¨
Me: ¨Nope. Still no sex with him.¨
MVM: ¨You could have sex with me?¨
Me: Rum sip. Rum choking. ¨Yes, I could.¨
Me: Rum chug. ¨No. No sex with you.¨
Me: ¨Where the hell is Drunken Patriot?¨
As I had managed to squander a pequeña Peruvian fortune on a taxi two days prior, I Warren-Buffeted my transportation: I boarded a local bus. This bus comprised a vehicle that must have originated in pre-Christianity times. When I entered the metal contraption that appeared to be a cross between a 1967 Volkswagon bus and a machete, it rocketed back and forth like a ship in a squall. I was the lone shot of tequila among a Rum pyramid. Forty pairs of eyes observed my descent from the front to the back of the bus. OutKast's Rosa Parks song, which has entirely no correlation with the situation, replayed in my head like my best friend´s Alzheimer-affected grandpa repeatedly inquiring who I was and why the hell I was at his house. This man also thunderously announced that day that all you need in a woman's breast is a mouthful.
The machete-bus shuddered to a screeching stop one hour in to the three-hour busride. Among Español torpedos, I surmised that as everyone was exiting the bus faster than a Kenyan footrace, I should too. I poised myself closest to the lone Peruvian baby and smiled, repeating "Hola" (what else does one say to a Peruvian baby?) until it's father rotated and accosted me with smiles and light-speed Spanish. An off-duty Peruvian (one of the forty assembled on the side of the mountain-encompassed road) guide communication-assisted me, insisting that I wait with him for the next bus to arrive. "I love speak Ingles," he informed me, complete with a butterfly-force shoulder-pat. Three and a half hours later, finally arriving at our destination, and after being regaled by statements and questions such as, "You big," and, "Your hair brown or blonde?" my guide announced with a laughter convoy, "You tiny titties."
As if I wasn´t aware of my mosquito-bite boobies.