The locals, I know, exist on even less than I do. I see communities of square concrete blocks, corrugated metal roofs kept on with nothing but some rocks. The empty squares of hole-in-the-wall “windows” gape at me as I drive by. I wonder how the homes do when it rains. Electricity is rare; indoor plumbing unusual, climate control, unheard of — even in most hotels. People walk or take buses. Or don’t travel. The cost of gas for Peruvians is roughly the same as in the states — the price of gas is pegged to an international standard. But income isn’t. To own a car is a tremendous burden. The lines on people’s faces tell of lives much harder than my own. Stray dogs wander the streets; the spare energy to round them up and adopt them out or put them down — or neuter family animals that are cared for — just doesn’t exist.
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The Uros people survived the ravenous Incan Empire, the murderous Spanish Conquistadors, and now face the unquenchable curiosity of global tourism. Somehow, through all of that, they have maintained a largely intact community, with many customs and traditions preserved (though they lost their original language some decades ago). They face the Peruvian government and the hordes of tourists with cautious welcome while striving to improve their security and stability in ways that make sense for their culture and way of life.
I sit by myself in a corner, my faded and stained khaki zip-offs and sneakers contrasting with the cosmopolitan decor. I imagine I’m an international food critic or writer for Lonely Planet as I listen to an audiobook and sip from a glass of Casa Silva. I am a foodie -- one of my few indulgences, other than kink and body work, that highlights my hedonism. I relish my private dinner. I don’t know that I would have enjoyed it more if I had to navigate the social complexities of sharing it with a partner. I would have -- at minimum -- worn different pants, lest I reflect shame on someone better groomed.
My main reservation about travel classes is the carbon footprint we create by our activities when we do these classes, particularly flying. My purpose of this email is not to make you feel guilty but instead to inspire you to make the most out of the footprint that we left behind by doing this trip. We have discussed many of the major anthropogenic impacts on this glorious reef system. In addition, many of you have taken other environmental studies classes from me. We know that there are many environmentally based existential threats to humanity. Based on what I have seen in the scientific literature, we can realistically expect to keep the warming of earth's surface temperature to about 3 degrees centigrade.
In Qorikancha, a temple/museum/cathedral, I learn that the Spanish built the Church of Santo Domingo over-top the Incan Temple. Two earthquakes brought part of the church down. The masonry stone and arches crumbled. In the aftermath of the quake, the foundations of the Incan temple stood prominent and proud among the rubble.
I’m jaded. I’ve moved, on average, once a year for the last ten years. I’ve spent four of the last ten years living abroad. Some of the students have asked me how many countries I’ve been to and it took me more than a minute to figure it out. I’m still not sure if I’ve remembered everywhere I went in Europe. Does flying through connecting airports count?
Our group stumbles around in the dark in the cramped confines of Goliath, stowing our backpacks and shoes in the unlit cabin, debating whether we’re going to wear our rash guards. One by one, students fit on their fins and masks, acquire their torches, and drop into the water in pairs. A handful of students depart with a guide.
Book review on a bunch of futuristic hipster ideas.
Photo courtesy Vita Saver. The Gorge on fire.