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The morning I wrote about My Biggest Day Ever, (which is what I’m going to call Day Three in Peru for the rest of my life) was Day Four. I didn’t have to wake up hours before dawn and travel anywhere. I climbed out of my comfy bed around 8AM (a shockingly late hour for me until I realized it was only 5AM back home) after being woken up by the sounds of military drills outside my hotel. Though the language was Spanish, it was the unmistakable noises of a squadron of men in big, heavy boots running and shouting in unison. This is not the sound I usually wake up to. I know this is what I was hearing though because I've been to the movies and seen Good Morning Vietnam and M*A*S*H: not because I have any military experience. I laid in bed for a while trying to figure out if I needed to worry about this and decided, "No, they sound pretty orderly and organized. If all hell was breaking loose or there was some sort of political upheaval going on, they probably wouldn't sound so tight."
I hit the shower, which was scalding hot, and remembered the hotel's Internet site mentioned warm water 24 hours per day. "Warm" must have been in some other room. There was no communication between the cold and hot spigots so my choices were ice bath or scorching hot lava. I was not deterred. My previous day's adventure in "El Bano" AKA "The Hole in The Ground" had left me feeling funky and I smelled like the open trenches running down the village streets. I did a funny shower dance where I alternated between freezing and sizzling water. Despite having to wash my hair with bar soap (where had my shampoo gone?), I managed to get somewhat presentable.
I made an effort to look more like a "Norte Americano Periodista" (I was being introduced to everyone as a North American journalist) and less like a mess. I slicked on a little mascara before heading down to the café for some of the best coffee I've ever had. Sarah, my translator, had the morning to herself so I did my best to communicate on my own. Actually, I did very well. But then, some stories need very little translating.
A woman was hanging around the lobby, stealing the occasional glance my way. I wondered if maybe I should have gone the distance with the rest of my makeup kit or if I had toilet paper on my shoe. Younger than me by probably 10 years, dressed in Western attire she looked like she was on her way to work nearby.
After a while, she found her way to my table. "Con Permiso, senora," she said in an almost inaudibly quiet voice. She asked in Spanish if I was American. I said I was. Then she said something that brought tears to my eyes. (Yes, I'm a big crybaby.) "Senora, do you know anyone in America who needs some help? My daughter is 17-years-old and I need to get her away from here. There's a man. He's no good. I think he hurts her. He won't leave her alone. I just got separated and am trying to find a new way without my husband. I don't want her to go the way I went. I don't want her to be beaten too."
My tears came from my inability to help her. I explained that I couldn't take her daughter with me. I had my own children and no way to afford help or smuggle her daughter out of the country. She said she understood and thanked me for listening. She left the hotel and I didn't see her again. I thought of my own daughters, college girls, and what life would have to be like before I sought out the help of a stranger in a café.
I spent day four struggling with my technology as I downloaded pictures from my camera and attempted to document all the sights and sounds I'd experienced so far in Peru. Sarah and I had lunch together and did a little sightseeing. Late in the evening we went to the plaza for dessert and shopping. A young man came up to us with some stapled bunches of poems and asked if we wanted to buy them. He was a student of literature at the university in Ayacucho. He'd written the poems and was trying to earn money for tuition. I bought two collections and scanned through a dozen stanzas all about love, parents, and the same kinds of things my own college kids dream about.
I went to bed that night filled with gratitude for all the gifts our lives present us. I was able to Skype home and talk to my family and know that they're all safe, well cared for and doing fine despite their Mama being thousands of miles away. Thursday, Day Five, was going to be another early, bumpy ride in the mini-plane back to Lima. Ayacucho was gorgeous and rich with history, culture and beautiful, dedicated people but it was time for me to head back to Lima, meet the people at CARE and learn more.
Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org and it may be answered in a future blog post.
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