A fire crackles in the corner, the sweet aroma of eucalyptus spreads through the room, mingling with the jazzy coffee house music, which fills the otherwise quiet room. A candle flickers on my table, making shadows dance across the walls, and I can feel my eyes growing heavy. It has been a busy last week in Peru, with a lot of transitions from place to place. Today was the first day I could take a deep breath of the rich mountain air and pause for a moment to enjoy it before rushing off for the next evolution. It’s only been about seven hours, but the Urubamba Valley, Machu Picchu, and all things Sacred Valley feel far behind.
We are back in Cusco this evening, our final resting place before starting the journey home, and I can already feel myself beginning to miss this place. Taxis roll by outside, one driver shouting angrily for a faceless person to listen! Shadows pass by in the narrow street, and I wonder who they are and where they might be going. Maybe to the café down the street with the rowdy crowd watching football, or perhaps to the discoteca on the main square, or maybe it’s a grandma on her way home after a long day of work, or lovers strolling by and enjoying the night air. I will never know, but I wonder all the same.
Students sit around me reading their Spiritual Lit. books or working on their Spanish homework. The Oyer twins’ hair falls over their notebooks in great frizzy mops, the humidity not helping with the out of control curls. Suzannah reads by candlelight in one corner, her feet propped up on a chair, brow furrowed. The music continues its steady thrum from the speakers and my heart hurts a little knowing that the peace of this place is about to come to an end for us.
There is something about traveling that makes one grateful for the comforts of home, the familiarity of one’s own bed and favorite cereal… but traveling can do a lot more than make one grateful for the things we already have. It can also make one reflective and think carefully about what is missing in our lives or what we wish to strengthen. I can’t help but think that there is much to learn from the sturdy, solitary, and rugged people of Peru.
I watch the Quechuan women walk by, hunchbacked and proud, and wonder where their strength comes from. I watch barefoot children splash in puddles on the street, calling happily to older siblings watching from doorways, and wonder when and why we ever lose our sense of childlike joy. I watch men buried underneath red ponchos, mouths bulging with cocoa leaves, eyes full of solitude and wisdom, and wonder how one obtains such humility. I wonder these things knowing that I may never know the answer but feeling in my heart that I ought to seek it nonetheless.