01 June 2011

farewell to cusco

"We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face. . . we must do that which we think we cannot."
-Eleanor Roosevelt

There were a few surprises in store for me when I returned to Cusco. I had new coworkers to replace Chris and Uly, which meant new roommates in the staff dorm. Some of them were cool, and some of them were not so cool. Assaf was one of the good ones. My first day back, I went with him and another Israeli boy to try and see the ancient site of Sacsayhuaman and the modern sculpture called the Cristo Blanco.

We trekked up cobbled streets, to winding paved roads, until we got a little sick of walking and hailed a taxi driver. When we arrived at the entrance to Sacsayhuaman, we found out it cost far more than we'd budgeted for, and so we decided to cut our losses and just head up to the White Christ.

Of course, in typical Cusco fashion, the skies darkened almost immediately, and it began to sprinkle just as we were getting out of our taxing at the top of the hill. We shelled out a few soles for cheap ponchos, got in a few pics, and waited twenty minutes for a bus to stop for us. Then we took that bus back to town, took another bus to our side of town, and ducked into an Israeli restaurant for a hearty lunch of creamy soups, pastas in rich sauces, pita bread in hummus and green dip, falafel, french fries, and refreshing mint lemonade.

When we returned to the hostel, I began to limber up for my final drinking games night. I had never been defeated at the cereal box game, and my reputation as some kind of legwarmer-wearing, limboing goddess was growing at the hostel. Because my life is basically a movie, my last time participating in the cereal box game was of course the most dramatic, and I found myself facing the stiffest competition yet. (I blame this on Mitch and his habits of a) tearing off nearly two inches of the box at a time, giving participants fewer opportunities to fall over, and b) allowing cute drunk girls three or four attempts to pick the cereal box up, hoping that they'll be grateful for it later when he invites them back to his room.)

Finally it was just me, some midget chick, and a tall guy who was basically a freak of nature. Mitch brought out the broom to serve as a limbo pole. We ducked under it time after time, until the girl was out, and I saw that my final opponent was actually a mutant who possessed the ability to walk on the insides of his legs. I think I put up a pretty tough fight, if I do say so myself, but I am sorry to say that I did not take home a seventh trophy shirt that fateful night.

Thursday was my final night at Loki, and it was also karaoke night. As usual, Mitch and I started off the night with 'Airplanes,' Jamie rocked a little U2, and there was some Tom Jones, Britney Spears, Queen, and all the other karaoke night classics. I was feeling such a rush because it was my last night, and my coworkers let me know that they would miss me: Assaf would not stop hugging me, Mitch threw in a few last minute compliments, and at one point I happened to glance to my right and found Jamie staring at me, looking forlorn and holding up a napkin upon which he'd written 'Don't go!' with a sad face.

Jeremie, of course, couldn't have cared less that I was about to leave, but took advantage of the occasion to get drunk anyways. At one point I found myself having to show him how to properly mix Angel Piss.

But the most magical moment of the evening had to have been when I ran out to use the bathroom (keep reading please). As I was washing my hands, I heard the beginning of 'Don't Stop Believing,' and rushed back into the bar. I came through the door and found Jamie looking right at me, singing, "Just a small-town girl. . ." It was perfect.

We went out to Africa for one last night, and Jeremie did not disappoint, wearing only his tired jeans and a pair of suspenders. Friday was devoted to picking up some last-minute gifts at the market and packing up a storm. Then I said my goodbyes to my friends and the place where I'd spent six of the best weeks of my life.

It was pure chance that brought me to Loki. I was at a low point in my life when I arrived, feeling alone and afraid and forgotten. But the six weeks I spent there changed me in so many ways.

I mean, who would ever have thought that the quiet girl in high school and college would become a karaoke fiend? Who could have guessed that I'd gain the confidence to go out to the clubs every night with no makeup on? How does a shy kid end up as a bartender? Where did I gain the audacity necessary to trek to Machu Picchu on my own? Somehow I overcame my apprehension, challenged my own perception of myself, and came out on top. I met the greatest people, saw the coolest things, and enjoyed once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Loki--and Cusco--definitely changed me for the better.

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