I celebrated New Year´s Eve with my boss and his friends in Tortugas, a little beach town surrounded by sand hills and dunes. If you come there by an off road car – like we did, it is easy to go to a different beach every day, driving over the sand hills to places where black pebbles give way to dark sand and also to golden sand. The landscape is, I must admit, quite spectacular.
Even though the time at Tortugas eventually turned out to be great, our arrival to a small family home stay was not a lucky one, as we found out immediately after coming (on the 30th of January) that there was no water in the taps. Many hostels and households in the area of Tortugas get their water from a cistern; they have to pay for it and thus, of course, try to limit the amount of water used by turning the taps off for the nights (i.e. around 8 p.m.). If you are an early riser, you might also struggle with the water supply in the morning, as the taps are only turned on at around 8 a.m.
No need to emphasize there was no Wi-Fi available in our homestay and the six of us had to share two mini rooms – each for three people (with one bunk bed and one normal bed) – with no other furniture present except for the beds, with one socket merely, and no towels or toiletries. There was also no kitchen we could use as the only kitchen in the house was to serve merely the purposes of the home stay restaurant. Too bad for me if I did not want to have fish or seafood for every breakfast, lunch and dinner – which I did not want to, especially with my stomach getting bad… But, as my mum always says: “No porridge is ever eaten as hot as you cook it.”
When you accept things just for what they are and find your own system within, almost anything can work out just fine. We found some beautiful bistros along the promenade where they made delicious eggs and even anise tea in the mornings, and my favourite Tortugas restaurant Marchella (in Balinese style) served the best ever rose tea. Honestly, in the quaint, beautifully decorated glasses, the tea tasted like mana to me.
Also, after having my morning yoga practice every day, concluding with a short meditation and a moment of appreciation and thankfulness, I kept reminding myself how awesome it is to come to a country and immediately gain friends there just because you know one person – Juan Carlos, my boss. Gonzalo, Tommy, Marie, Rudy – one of the four brothers of my boss – Juan Carlos and me turned out to be a well-functioning, easy going group.
All the guys acted most of the time with a lot of care and consideration, as real gentlemen. And Marie constantly kept putting my writer´s observance to activity as she truly is rather intriguing… a twenty-two-year-old French Canadian fluent not only in her native language, but also in English and Spanish, she has been living in Cuzco now for almost a year. As Juan Carlos invited her over for the holidays as a very good friend (they know each other from Cuzco) she first refused saying she does not currently have the money to fly over. Juan Carlos made sure a friend of his covered for the flight ticket expenses so that Marie could come over and share some good time by the sea with us! Indeed, it’s amazing to see how open these young adults of the West are nowadays to the world and life anywhere, feel so naturally about accepting things and believe it their right to experience the best they can. This easy, light approach to life, not worrying about what is coming next, not thinking about the need of getting a proper job and opening up a pension account, this lightness and inner peace pays just right back to them. Marie has not been sick in Peru even once, she can eat anything, drink anything, the bacteria and viruses seem to be weak when it comes to the power of her immune system. She has been dating several locals whose hearts honestly burn for gringa girls, always staying with whomever she is dating, paying almost for nothing, and if she needs money, she takes a paid part-time job somewhere in a café for a while. She can party all night long and then sleep like a Sleeping Beauty for twelve or thirteen hours with no scrupulosity. She does not mind missing out on a half of the day, there is yet another one to come, right? No sound shall wake her up from her peaceful sleep – and she does not use earplugs.
She enjoys life as much as she can, not even thinking that there could possibly be some problems coming. When her visa runs out, she leaves the country for a few days to travel to Bolivia, Colombia, etc. and then comes back. To make sure she can stay in Peru and leave it whenever she wants to she is now thinking about marrying a local (which would give her immediately two years of residency and then a guarantee of a permanent stay). If you ask her if she can date more guys at once, she will respond: “Of course.” If you ask her what her life plans or dreams are, she will laugh and say: “I live now. Here.” What we yogis teach in our yoga lessons, she lives, without knowing what the hell is Uttanasana. She will eat as many biscuits followed by chips as she wants to in a day and the fact that it affects her body does not worry her at all. She is simply in peace, come what may. She came here as a vegetarian and understanding how tough it would be with the local culture she simply adapted her ideals and eats meat now, mostly chicken and other poultry. She always dresses up in style like a Western lady and takes her gringa look merely as an advantage, without worrying that someone could mug her. She always has her phone in hand, texting someone, and her beautiful handbag just shouts out: “Steal me!” Yet, Marie is safe, even at nights, when she goes clubbing. The few days with Marie, when my stomach was unwell (though I am usually really fine with eating almost anything anywhere too, including South East Asia), when I was going (again) through the acclimatization process of arriving to South America from Central Europe, taught me so much and made me ponder over so many details in our yogi lives… honestly, most of the yogis I know are beautiful people, but also people whose lives are pretty tough, people who have to fight for their place in the sun, people who think a lot, feel a lot, struggle a lot. Maybe it´s a part of the uneasy spiritual journey, but funny enough, what we are trying to reach – yogas chitta vritti nirodha (stopping the fluctuations of the mind) – I then see in this young lady whose ego is a masterpiece and who by no means tries to bereave herself of it! And my goodness, she is just fine! She is perfectly fine in this world – body, mind and soul. I am so grateful I get to meet people such as Marie, they reflect some splendid pictures in the mirror… and, in a way, rather superficially, help us be more grounded.
Our little group spent most of the times during the days chilling out, swimming, going to different beaches and Juan Carlos and I also hiking – even on the sand dunes which was a little silly of me to do with almost no sunscreen on and without a hat on. I did get burned but then I am in a country where aloe vera – sábila – is available for one sole a huge mega leaf, so I have been treating my skin uniquely with the amazing plant to a very good result. And funny enough – what in Europe would be considered anaesthetic (my peeling skin – including my face) is in here considered cool: the locals tell me I look like a surfer from Miami!
At nights we had barbeques while listening to salsa music and dancing on the beach and later some people went dancing to clubs. The New Year´s Eve had some cool fireworks going on while people in the streets were wishing one another “Buen Año Nuevo” which was always followed by a cheek on a cheek – only one is usual here.
I had a very special experience on the morning of the 1/1/2020. As my stomach demanded a chicken soup, Juan Carlos and I were walking from one restaurant to another to find out if they had one there. We were not lucky at all; none of the places served even the famous Peruvian hen soup – caldo de gallina; only fish soup was available on that day. As I was getting tired, my flip flops slid down on a curb and I scratched my ankle which started bleeding a little. I went to sit by a table outside the nearest restaurant while Juan Carlos went to ask if the particular place had my desired soup. When he came back with a no, I got up, very unhappily, and as I noticed my ankle was bleeding even more, I fished for a napkin on the nearest table where a Peruvian young man happened to be eating his breakfast – fried seafood. Not knowing what I am up to, his hand flung up with a piece of food and a smile appeared on his face. Yes, he was about to share his meal with me! Maybe he thought I wanted to try out the food in the restaurant before I ordered my own meal. I don’t know. But it was so thoughtful, generous and amazingly kind of him! His reaction was immediate and unconditional. I smiled apologetically, picked a napkin to swipe away the blood from the ankle and walked away feeling humbled by the altruism I witnessed.
We concluded the evening of the 1st of January by eating lentil soup I made as in my country we believe that it ensures financial abundance in the year coming. We drew motivation cards and shared some cool stories before the day drifted into night and another spin of the earth brought to my loved ones in the Czech Republic another day and to me, here in Peru, another late late night…