I´m writing the Peruvian portion of we move to canada exactly as if it were my travel journal: I´m writing it for myself, for the things I want to remember. So before I forget, I must immortalize the kind Peru Rail employee who tended to my injured finger.
As we were running around our hotel room in Cuzco, throwing clothes in our suitcases and dashing around like maniacs, I reached into our bathroom-toiletry organizer bag and, thinking I was grabbing my eyeglass cleaner, I grabbed Allan´s razor. Pinched it hard between two fingers. It wasn´t especially painful, but it was deep and bloody.
I then discovered we had neglected to bring Band-Aids. (We forgot several things on this trip. We usually pack much more carefully.) I wrapped my finger in toilet paper and consulted my phrase book for "Do you have a Band-Aid?" While we were hustling into the taxi - holding up traffic on the narrow one-way street - a hotel employee got me una curitas, which was soaked through with blood by the time we boarded the train.
I had to ask a Peru Rail person if she had a Band-Aid, thinking there might be a first-aid kit on the train. Band-aid? She turned into a nurse. This woman, in her official blue uniform, dabbed the cut with alcohol as tenderly as my mother might have, gently applied stypic powder, wrapped my finger in gauze, and told me to come back in a little while so she could change the bandage. It was so much more than I asked for or expected, and I was so touched by her kindness.
That´s all. I like to remember these moments that happen when you travel, either of great kindness or its opposite, wherever I find them.
* * * *
Some other random thoughts and observations.
How do the locals here feel about the tourists? Do they have mixed feelings, the way New Yorkers do (like N´Orleansians used to), liking the money they bring in but hating the crowds? Do they only appreciate the business - as tourism is the economy here? Do they secretly hate us? I´m just wondering. There´s no way to know.
The tourists here in Aguas Calientes (also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo) seem polite and well-behaved. We have seen no evidence of the Ugly American, or the Ugly Japanese or German, for that matter. We hear many languages spoken, but everyone seems to be treading lightly and politely. Is it because it´s not yet high season and the Uglies haven´t arrived yet? Is it the nature of the place itself? Is it just a coincidence, too small a sample size for a generalization?
The serious begging and street-selling that became so annoying (although understandable) in Cuzco is not present here. We don´t know if the town prohibits it, or if the local economy is so much better that begging isn´t necessary. I will say the children here look clean, well fed and happy, running around screaming like kids are supposed to do, and their mothers, rounding them up for the evening, look like working women everywhere.
These kids are so beautiful. It´s their hair - blacker-than-black, thick, perfectly straight, and as shiny as satin. The girls wear it in long braids down their backs, or pulled back in loose ponytails. I´m sure they don´t know how gorgeous they are, and many of them (the ones with TV, anyway) probably wish they were blonde.
On the walk to our hotel, we pass through a tiny alley, lined with women and big sacks of produce. They aren´t selling anything. They appear to be doing food prep, maybe for the many restaurants in town - peeling potatoes, husking corn, cleaning peppers. They sit on boxes or crates, shoehorned in this narrow lane. It doesn´t look easy, and they work all day long with chapped hands, but I think, at least they have this community, doing this work together, rather than standing in hot restaurant kitchens.
This makes me think of all the jobs tourism provides here, some of them obvious, like the men who drive buses to Machu Picchu, but many of them hidden, like the hotel cooks and laundries. A man like our guide, Armando, is more employable because he speaks English and has learned his history. In this town, old women are not begging to have their pictures taken. I hope it´s because no one needs to do that here. Maybe?