August 2, 2008
For the first time in my life it feels weird to be American. As a kid, I’ve always
‘thought of South America as a vast continent scattered with small towns comprised of tents and longhouses, and the cities would be much less than what we have in the states. Why the heck did I think that? Is it because I’m tired after a ten-hour flight, or is it because I’m American, and that’s what we’re supposed to think. I’d guess it’s both. So here I am in the capital of Peru’s airport during a 30-minute refueling break for a plane bound for Santiago, Chile. It’s a strange sensation; I can’t read or understand a word that’s spoken or written, and I’m fascinated by it. This is the first place I have ever been where I am the lone American, surrounded by South American people who don’t give a tomato that I speak English and walk around like a tropical parrot in the North Pole. In fact, everyone around me seems kind of disgusted. They’ve probably been through this drill before, and I can relate to that. Heck, whenever I’m trotting around the Los Angeles Airport, which is my home for the weekends, I’m disgusted to see foreigners speaking other languages and getting completely lost. I just want to shout: “Can’t you see the signs!” Gee, I’m so American.
So here I am, sitting in a Spanish smoking bar, music blaring all around me, my lungs half full with second-hand smoke, sitting in front of a computer that has free internet, but because I forgot almost all my Spanish from second grade, I can’t read a thing on the screen. I knew that was going to come back and haunt me. I’m in somewhere totally foreign to me, thousands of miles away from home, and – as an intense traveler — my worst dream has come true: I, the local, has become the tourist. I have lost the battle with myself to overcome being in such a different place and act like I live here. The only thing I am familiar with here is a Hannah Montana backpack worn by a 10 year old Disney fan sitting to my left. God, Disney’s marketing is genius. So, here I am, surrounded by Peruvian people, in a smoking bar in a South American airport. And it feels tiring, enraging, and good at the same time. I’ve only spent 10 minutes here, and Peru is unique.
Note: Since I ended up being too stupid to even try to get internet, I typed this in Peru, but it will probably be published whenever I get internet, so don’t get freaked out because of the different times. And don’t tell me I’ve overlooked Peru, because I have…I’ve only visited the airport for a refueling stop. If you want a full review of a South American city, try to read my first impressions of Montevideo, Uruguay, which I’ll write when I arrive there later today.