Culture shock? Me? No. I have traveled enough and seen countries of all different types. I won’t experience culture shock in Lima, right? Wrong. Nothing could have prepared me for constantly overcast skies, disorderly bumper-to-bumper traffic, belligerent car horns and car alarms, buses ready to burst from the immense number of bodies within them, or the principally carbohydrate-based diet of the locals. It left me feeling a little helpless for some time, like these tasty tied-up chickens.
Meanwhile, as I fought to overcome barriers and adjust to my new life, I began to learn more about Perú —frankly, about its traumatic history. This country has been taken advantage of and exploited for years: from the Spanish Conquest to the Sendero Luminoso, the military and detrimental reign of various leaders. Their independence from Spain was but a minuscule step toward freedom. Ironic graffiti paints the walls of the city, desperately questioning when this liberation will be secured.
Similar to the confusion expressed in this art, I also felt lost and wondered when things would begin making sense. Why was no one on the street smiling at me? Were they shy? Maybe even rude? After practicing patience, learning, and understanding, the dismantled puzzle of Peruvian culture slowly began falling together, and in the place of a massive heap of disorderly pieces emerged the image of a country of love, resilience and growth. The lack of smiles is likely more associated with mistrust due to past experiences rather than rudeness or unfriendliness. As I explored outside of the commonly trodden path, I formed my own life in this unique country, creating a balance between who I am and where I am now.
There are a few phrases the locals use that have stuck with me during my time here: ‘seguir avanzando’ and ‘salir adelante.’ Literally, the phrases translate to mean ‘continue advancing’ and ‘get ahead.’ Perú is doing so by transforming into an independent and sustainable country, captured perfectly by one small yet meaningful community—rock climbers. Each year, the Asociación de Escalada y Montañismo Huayllay (Association of Climbing and Mountaineering Huayllay) hosts camping festivals that encourage conscious use of climbing areas, promote climbing and mountaineering in Perú, and support local communities, like these little guys!
Through the passionate people of Perú, the diversity of the land and the potential of the country, Perú will ‘seguir avanzando,’ and eventually ‘salir adelante.’ It is a destination that will force you to grow, to learn, and to understand. While my time here has not always been an easy experience, it is certainly worthwhile. In other words—if you’ve got a few months to spare, an empty suitcase and the desire to grow in unimaginable ways, you know where to go.
The world awaits…discover it.