One of the most beautiful and yet as equally challenging aspects of travel to me is the communication piece. I am constantly amazed by my ever-expanding talents with charades and my ability, and often inability, to read facial expressions. I do wonder about their opinions of this goofy white girl rapidly flapping her arms and tossing out random gang symbol-esque hand gestures..how can you not understand I am asking for directions to the nearest coffee shop?? We did learn from a few Peace Corp buddies we met along the way, that the preferred signal to hail a taxi in some locations is not with an out-turned hand, but with an outstretched floppy, flexed wrist (affectionately called the limp fish). Apparently, this is the less suggestive approach and veers away from any semblance of the "come hither" signal. Not sure if this is true, but I do know we have thus far escaped without any long lines of eager men behind us as we have traipsed across the country side. And let's take a minute to pay acknowledgement to the moment I found myself typing the sentence "Do we take off all our clothes?" into my translation app..haha, no worries, it was for our multiple one hour $9 massages we have discovered in Cuzco. Just keepin our Mamas' hearts at rest is all:) Yep, with the help of our handy Jibbigo app, we are making do with the basic commentary and I'm learning to keep my hands at my side, rolls those r's with minimal spitting and enunciate a little more each day.
The underlying beauty manifests in those moments when all translation is completely lost across cultures and languages and yet the universal language of love and kindness prevails and a connection is made. Early on in our trip I found myself walking alongside a woman named Gladys, from the small village of Huaraz, Peru who spoke absolutely no English. We were nearing the end of our day trek to see the glacier and the backdrop of our conversation was a panoramic view of the Andes mountains. In 20 minutes I learned about several key pieces of her life story and shared a bit of mine with her, with both of us laughing at each other's attempts to decipher through our broken snippets of language. At the end of the trail, we hugged and exchanged a kiss on the cheek and I was immediately overwhelmed with the power of the human heart and an openness to connect with the world surrounding it. Just after this, I hopped aboard the bus to find Laura with her head in her lap still reeling from the effects of altitude sickness and several very concerned on-looking Peruvians. Our bus travel mates also spoke only Spanish but through eye contact, a few gestures and several smiles they each offered up their own personal remedies for the sickness they knew was present and we were gifted with some crackers, hard lemon candy, and a bottle of rubbing alcohol to soothe her symptoms as we began our trip home. There were some beautiful hearts on board that bus that day. After our trek to Machu Picchu (more on that later) we found ourselves grabbing a late night ride in a van packed with around 20 people to take us from the village of Olanta back to Cuzco. Laura bopped along in the very back of the van and I rode shotgun, both of us comfortably smooshed between locals from surrounding towns with babies and luggage in tow. Only a few of them spoke the tiniest bit of English but within the first 20 minutes of the ride we had persuaded them to teach us Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Happy Birthday in Spanish, each of us shouting our newly acquired tunes at each other from our respective spots in the bouncing van.
I think every traveler would agree that this lifestyle is one that constantly pushes you outside of your comfort zone and asks you to challenge yourself in multiple creative ways almost daily. But it is in these moments that I feel I am growing..and learning..and living. It is in these moments, the ones where I am literally at a loss for words, that I am forced to rely on my intuition and to place trust in myself and another human being to tend to my soul and my experience. Memories formed from kindness, these are the memories that last...a hug from Gladys, a selfless gift from a passenger on a bus, and a sing-along with smiling families as we travel across a foreign land. There are many languages in this vast world, but the one I choose to keep close to my heart, is love.