Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Cómo Comunicar

I'm sitting in Santiago de Surco, south of downtown Lima, at a reasonable distance from an open window.

I say this because, long story short (a story which is both agitating and funny in equal parts) my phone is without a functioning LCD screen at the moment. And if you want to know, I can rehash the story of that event, and Juanita's patio, and my unbelievable lack of reflexes. Just ask.

At the moment, I'm trying to ignore the fact that I probably won't see the southern night sky down here. I knew it was a possibility, but now I know that it's quite a substantial probability. It is soggy here on the magnetic equator, and dusty up in Jicamarca, and Lima demands to be lit. Everything here is golden brown, like a ripening carambola; or hazy and conglomerate, like the pictures being sent back from the Curiosity rover on Mars. 

It's surreal. Beautiful in its resilience, its day to day trudging on.

Every morning, I and the others from the south of Lima ride to Jicamarca in a 15 passenger van. On the ride up, Lima is bustling with people going to work and sitting in roadside cafes; hijitos on their way to school dressed in immaculate uniforms to please the immaculate Santa Maria, no matter how much dust is stirred by the busses and taxis.

However in the evening on our return that almost takes twice as long as the ascent, Lima is everything. Lights from the auto district brighten the darkening haze, fireworks explode for whatever reason, excited stray dogs and people like sardines crammed onto walkways and into vehicles at a standstill on the road (a word which here is used very loosely), pointing in every direction, having reached that inevitable impasse. 

Here is where my perspective changed, permanently. See, I thought that I was a pretty good driver. I thought that it took an expert level of skill to drive 18 hours out of the day by oneself. Now, I won't discredit myself; that's pretty good; but that's driving endurance. Here in Lima? This is driving agility.

The champion who drives our 15 passenger van operates that boat like it's a motocross bike. Weaving in and out of three-lane highways sometimes with five cars side by side, dodging motorcycles and annoying taxi drivers, and then there's me. Me in the very back, finding my face mere feet away from the front corner of a semi truck at times, not ever needing to feel unsafe. Lima bumper to bumper, with vehicles still in pristine shape; people holding onto each other so that nobody falls out of the busses, people looking out, people taking care. Things here are handled with such enormous care, and it's reassuring to me that this whole world hasn't gone straight to hell just yet.

Yet.

Before I left, I was thinking about human connection and how deeply it runs. Something that I've noticed over the past few weeks of mayhem is my ability to find serenity in feeling the essence of a person surrounding me, even if he or she isn't physically near. And now I'm laying on my bed in South America, thick golden Lima air rushing over me, and feeling pretty much at home. My first day here, I realized that there was a huge communication barrier between myself and my host family, as my Spanish is awful. However, I'm learning so many different ways by which we otherwise communicate as humans. One of the first things my host mom did was to braid my hair as we were sitting outside in the garden. She dances, she animates, she fixes the most remarkably delicious food, and she ties a scarf around my neck when it's cold outside. And we recognize each other as humans.

My Spanish is still terrible, but my Human is growing a little more every day.


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