While waiting for the taxi to Lima airport this morning, I saw Peter and he told me about how he was robbed at gunpoint yesterday in broad daylight and lost his camera.
I was constantly aware of the risks of traveling here, particularly of traveling alone... And I was cautious (probably overly cautious at points, which Ali can attest to)... But I was also lucky. I am fortunate that my experience was a positive one. My phone was robbed, but it was the most tranquil robbery possible. I was lucky. I heard crazy horror stories. Stories I didn't write about because I didn't want to think about them and because they would have painted a very incomplete and incorrect picture of my experience here. I didn't really run into trouble. I escaped the devil's dust that Sing Sing encountered, the knife stuck into Laura's wrist in the park, and the gun Peter escaped just yesterday. I was lucky.
As I leave, I am grateful that what I will remember will not be these isolated terrors, the events that happen infrequently but are most talked about. Instead, I will look back on my teachers who took me in as though I were family, the kids who let me teach them, even though I couldn't even speak their language, the new traveler friends who I feel like I have known for far longer than a couple weeks, the strangers who helped me find a restaurant, the people on planes or buses who patiently talked to me, waiting for me to find the words in Spanish, and all of the other locals who were kind, generous and helpful. I also can't leave out the memories of terrific food, strong pisco sours, getting way too many massages, seeing spectacular views, the long, but beautiful bus rides through the Andes, and the vibrant colors of the markets. Most importantly, I learned that the only way to be rich is to want little.
All in all, my departure day was standard. I woke up early and shared a cab to the airport with Stephanie and Miriam who both continued on to Cusco. That was the last of the teary goodbyes. I bought some Pisco in duty free, already nostalgic for Cusco. I got my Pisco taken away in San Salvador when I switched planes and had to subject myself to a second bag search. And as I sat on the plane, I reflected on my experience in South America, realizing I took far more than I could have ever given.
And then it was over.