go/off we go……….
been home on memorial day in many years. last year, no longer solo… kuala
lumpur: the gleaming petronas towers, looming brilliantly in the nefarious night
sky, islamic capitalistic icons, the year after osama bin ladin became the feared
and worshipped international warrior/terrorist. the year before, 2001, had me
somewhere chasing the midnight sun in lapland/finland or sweden, not too far
from alfred nobel's peace prize, given to the hard-working but somehow-failed
likes of jimmy carter, yasser arafat, kofi anan, and shimon peres. the millennium,
2000, probably found me touring the ho chi minh trail in hue, vietnam, 20 years
after agent orange, tricky dick, and the greatest loss of american life in recent
memory. 1999 - i was chillin' on red sea with bedouins - when israel and egypt
still had open borders, when ehud barak was just promising peace, before the
intifada, the suicide bombers, & "the occupation" became our daily
headlines again in the one-time reliable new york times. and now this year -
home again - married! after our bush-wacked “success” in operation
iraqi freedom. with its concomitant cheering of our invincible and immaculate,
techno-military “victory”. once again having routed "the enemy";
having found no promised or lethal weapons of mass destruction; delivering misery,
disorder, and daily chaos to the everyday citizens of our new democratic/imperialist
order in the mideast. memorial day again. and still no peace in site.
here i am once again, setting off on another privileged travel adventure. to
peru and ecua-dor. south ameri-ca. writing - not only to capture and annotate
the amazing people and places in the world i come across - but also to try to
figure out the nature of travel itself. feeling amazingly - frightened. going
into the third world again. not like i haven't done it before.
southeast asia, the arabic middle east, me-hee-co - lots of poverty, lots of
hussle and touts. but south ameri-ca? both times i've been there before - 1981,
caracas, venezuela, and 1991, rio de janeiro, brazil, i was robbed. only my
camera, but it easily could have been more if i didn't catch the very slick
pickpockets with their hands down my pants. and now peru - with the "shining
path" still designated by our department of state as a "foreign terrorist
organization". with a newly announced "national emergency". with
every guide book and internet listing warning of crime against gringo tourists
in lima, cusco, quito, all the big heffe cities. telling you to not carry credit
cards, ATMs, to strap down and lock up your passports, plane tickets, to not
travel alone, to stick with the tours, don't take busses or trains, to basically
stay in your locked hotel room until the tour guide shuttles you back and forth
to the machu pichu express. forget the local food, music, people, jungles, drugs,
atmosphere, except at your own peril. not to mention the malaria, yellow fever,
dengue, hep A, B, & C, rabies, polio, and good old fashioned inca's revenge
ie. traveler's diarrhea.
why am i still going? frightened and challenged at the same time? lying awake
at 4 a.m. worrying about insurance for my repatriated remains, about not having
an itinerary beyond our first 2 days' arrival in lima, about bringing an adequate
supply of cipro for a particularly virulent strain of peruvian bacterial infection,
about a last minute prescription of diamox
for altitude sickness that most travelers get in the heights of the andes. about
not having taken my cholesterol lowering medication for the last year and having
a stroke or heart attack on lake titicaca, the highest lake in the world. about
not having sublet my house yet. about having el bueno pero, clay, run
away again, making me feel, and offering me proof of, being the lousy and selfish
dog owner i am. about not bringing the right clothes, the right bags, the right
- stuff. about having no right to go on this trip to this unsafe place with
an entirely inadequate amount of funds. about losing my passport, my plane tickets,
my money, my bags, my marriage, my life.
i figure... the answer lies in the fact that i'm just too worried about -- control.
about knowing about what's going to happen. before it happens. about losing
control. and that's just it. if you travel, you're consciously choosing to leave
your safe, known, and comfortable routine. for - what? for something new. something
different. for stimulation, adventure, experience. to learn, let go, and open
up. to realize that you're not the center of the universe, and there is a history,
a people, a culture - other than your own. of course, we americans are notorious
for our myopia. seeing, and wanting to see, what we already know. bringing our
ideas, our capital, and our comforts to the rest of the planet. expecting -
and getting if we want - our marriots, mcdonalds, our comforts and kentucky
frieds. no wonder i'm almost petrified of getting on that plane sunday night.
of leaving my comforts and routines of assistant professor bourgeois bohemia
for the third world threats, beauties, and challenges of the unknown.
yes, i admit, your notorious e-traveler is also a chicken-shit middle class
jewish boy from westbury, lon-gisland whose parents, neighbors, and current
friends & colleagues would NEVER go on such an adventure. but…. I
usedtabe an ahtist. i used thrive on adventure, risk, challenge, the unknown.
thrive on living by my wits, on having no money, on being here
now. hell, i teach improvisation & i'm supposed to practice what i preach.
so what if i'm not an edgy artist adolescent any more? so what if i have a young
indonesian wife who is brave and stupid enough to follow me into the ayahuasca-induced
magical realism of the amazon jungle? so what if 49% of my terrified instincts
tell me to cancel the trip altogether, absorb the loss, and just chill back
here in echo park? so what? so what?
g-g-g-g-oing. we're g-g-g-g-oing…
says, "relax. take it easy." i say, "okay."
you hear from me again.
me from you. remember, these cyber communications are two way streets. let me
know the domestic news…
remember john lennon on memorial day:
love, not war..."
gringo in distress,
enrique de peru