On the last leg of our flight, from Miami to
Raleigh, there was a group of rather large people with bright blue
T-shirts proclaiming the details of their “Mission Trip Summer
2009”. I cringed. In a row ahead of me, I saw a woman reading
a book with the Wake County Libraries symbol on it. It’s
always so weird to see something so familiar and region-specific
after traveling so far. Our row mate was a man in business attire
with a file folder. We didn’t strike up a conversation with
him until we were beginning our decent and we were trying to figure
out what lake we were seeing. It turned out he was a Wake
County employee who moonlighted as a diplimat helping Ecuador
decentralize its government.
We got back Saturday night and I went back to
school Monday. As I was driving through downtown Raleigh, I
was, as I always am after returning from abroad, astounded by the
lack of people outside on the sidewalks. There were no street
vendors, no lively markets, no taxis, no combis yelling for
passengers, nowhere to buy pie or queso helado. Only a
few people carrying brief cases walking from the parking garage to
And, as always, the transition back was too
quick. It made sense for David Sedaris to go to Tokyo to quit
smoking. Once you’re away from home and everything familiar,
it’s as if home never existed. I would completely forget about
my cats and my job for days on end. Unfortunately, the reverse
is also true. Once I got back into the routine of things here,
it seemed impossible that we’d been in Peru just a few days ago.
At the faculty pool party on Friday, I met the
wife of the new history teacher. She had a slight accent, and
eventually someone ventured to ask her where she was from.
“Peru” she said, probably expecting bland statements like “That’s
nice” or “Oh! Machu Picchu.” But I immediately chimed
in, “Really? I was just there--” I paused to
remember,”--Saturday!” It had been less than a week. I
was thrilled. I confessed to her my deep love of chicha morada,
Inca Kola, and queso helado. She told me there was a
grocery store in Durham that sold some Peruvian food. It turns
out she is from Arequipa. She said there used to be three palm
Today was the first (informal) day of school
where the students go around to all their classes visiting their new
teachers. One of my freshman students had seen the picture I
put up of Machu Picchu on my class website and she said she is from
Lima, Peru. Peru seems to be like a new vocabulary word.
Once you learn it, your start to see it everywhere. It was
there the whole time of course, you just didn’t notice it.
PS—I stopped at Food Lion this afternoon and
happened to pass the “Spanish Foods” aisle. I found a bottle
of Inca Cola.