I made it back?!

My first thought on touching down in Lima was a curious blend of excitement and disbelief. I love to travel; it’s the first thing that I write under the ‘hobbies’ section on applications, and what I spend most of my time thinking about doing. I’ve been to a fair share of countries, but I’ve never actually returned to any of them. Until now.

Walking through the airport, I’m struck by a certain duality. On one hand, I’m 100% aware of being in a different country: the food stands are selling empanadas and causa, there are pictures of couples in traditional dress dancing the marinera norteña on the wall, and I’m surrounded by Spanish—on the signs, over the speakers, spoken by the people in line with me. On the other, it feels so familiar, like a routine that I wasn’t aware I still knew. Trying to push past a group of businessmen blocking the luggage carousel, I mumble “permiso” before I even think of saying “excuse me”. I check the stalls in the bathroom for toilet paper (there wasn’t any) before I even think of closing the door.

And it goes on.

I leave the airport, gratefully bypassing the cluster of middle-aged men shouting “Taxi?”, and get into the car, as Camila reminds me to put my purse on the floor between my feet. On the whole ride back to her house, little things come back so quickly that I’m surprised I’d ever forgotten them: the car alarms that all sound the same, the rickety mototaxis that swerve precariously around the luridly painted combis, even the way that the street signs are written. I lose track of where we’re driving, and then suddenly I see the Hotel Orquídea, and think oh, are we there already? But we’re still thirty minutes away. I used to live two blocks from here, and used it as an easy landmark when taking a taxi.

The duality strikes again. Here I am, in a city that feels so familiar to me, while I’m starting an adventure in Lima that will be radically different from my last one. I’m sitting next to one of my best friends, thinking of the places (mostly restaurants) that I’ve missed which I can visit in minutes, and in my bag is an immigration form which now lists ‘profesora‘ instead of ‘estudiante‘ under the ‘Ocupación‘ section.

I know that my expectations about my experience here are going to change, just like my job title, but I also find comfort in those things (good and bad) that have stayed the same. Those details that seem so trivial, but collectively form a base from which I can start a new adventure. One that, if I’m lucky, will be even grander than before.


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