“I didn’t really grow until I learned how others live.” –Ben Sollee
I'm sure I've commented before about how the slowness of the Peruvian culture is simultaneously frustrating yet fantastic. I’ve had to adapt in a number of ways from my prior fast-paced western-culture ways – Here, several hours late is on time, and many aspects of life are not as efficient as could be – tasks that used to take ten minutes in the US can take hours or even days here, between transportation, procedures, communication mix-ups, detours, lines, etc.
But, there’s a glorious two-hour lunch here – generally everyone comes home in the middle of the day to eat with family, and lunch is the biggest meal of the day. And, at night, we sit around with a lighter fare- usually coffee and something small – and often stay around the dinner table talking for hours.
It’s a nice change from life as I knew it in the US. We get so caught up in rushing from point A to B to C to D throughout our daily lives – and how much of it really matters? Why are we okay with spending hours each day in our cars alone, yet unable to set aside more than 20 minutes for a rushed meal (often not even together)?
I’m still super busy as far as work goes here, but my spare time feels different – full of aimless but very enjoyable moments “doing nothing” with the people I am close to. In the book “Eat, Love, Pray” Gilbert talks about the joy of doing nothing. It’s something I’ve come to really savor about this culture. In fact, I feel like Perú is my own personal secluded island - it transforms me into a place where stress is all relative and I mostly just feel calm contentedness. (Okay, maybe the opposite of secluded, but you know what I mean).
I would even go as far as to say that my Peruvian island is slowly sucking the type A personality out of me. Really, you don’t believe me?! Exhibit A: walking speed. Just ask my sister- it drove her nuts that I was walking so slowly when she came down to visit... I now generally amble about, true to Peruvian style. Another example, I don’t stress out when I don’t have time to exercise as normally as I’d like – I’ve long ago accepted that with long work hours and few places to safely exercise, this one I’ll take for the team for a year. (Exhibit B: rice baby.)
Speaking of eating, I’m starting to panic as I realize that in 3 months I will have to do without my top ten Peruvian foods (to be announced- stay posted). At the top of my list - anyone who’s ever tried Peruvian cooking knows that aji (a concentrated liquid of hot pepper) is a staple to the diet – and it’s delicious. Peruvians take a great deal of (justifiable) pride in their Aji. I’m proud to say that I can now tolerate a moderate to strong blend of aji without batting an eye! (Another step closer in operation: become Peruvian).
Beyond the incredible culinary impact, I hope that this taste of how others live that’s led to so much personal growth will stick with me long after my time in Peru is gone. I think we could all use a little time to “stop and smell the aji”… What do you think?
(PS: visitors still encouraged!)