The prediction from the local news casters sounded almost comical as we loaded the car Friday morning, heading to Ohare before the morning rush. Why? The sky was clear. The roads empty. The windchill not very chilly. But by the time we pulled on the expressway? We were in a life-size snow globe. Make that cyclone snow burst, according to Mr. Dopler Radar.
That’s when it hit me. I was really moving to Lima, Peru, a place where I wouldn’t have to put up with idiotic names for snowstorms from weatherman. The circled date on my calendar finally arrived.
As the windshield wipers tried to keep up with Mother Nature, my friend gave me a departing gift.
A peanut butter sandwich.
Yes. the mainstay of my diet, spanning over three continents and six decades, being part of my crunchy breakfast as long as I could remember, something I would soon find out isn’t readily available in LIMA.
“You may want to eat it later,” he advised.
I was sad. I was happy. Too excited to be scared. Too cold to be thinking straight, my emotions no different than that wintery mix of sideways snow that stings you face and freezes your toes.
With every new stamp in my passport comes a skid mark in the pants. But this time, I wasn’t bothered to be scared about the changes that await me, a bit later than I intended thanks to the storm. My flight, like everyone else’s that day, was delayed.
I watched a robotic thing de-ice the plane, spraying stuff that looks like scum on back yard swimming pools, leaving planes a dank green. Bulldozers were creating mini sled hills on the tarmac while cornflake sized flakes were coming down sideways, the sky a miserable gray. Not my favorite crayon colors, that’s for sure.
I clutched the little snuff jar of my mom’s ashes that I carry in my purse for take-off, the flight attendants strapped in their seats. The roar of engines. The smell of jet fuel bleeding into the plane God better be right about this Peru thing.
And twenty minutes later, I got a new perspective of things.
I didn’t know the sky could have potholes but that’s what it felt. Like all new adventures, this trip began with a few bumps and fears. The bumps from the turbulence, the fear stemming from the SKIPPY sandwich still in my pocket, a bit flattened after six hours. Even though it was smooshed, it was still tempting. I opened it with trepidation. What if someone on the plans has peanut allergies? I shoved it in my mouth, trying to eat the evidence, mortified that we’d have to make an emergency stop in Cleveland. No one died, not even the small frail woman sitting next to me, approximately three hundred years old. She started stalking, her off switch broken, and mine out of commission, thanks to the peanut butter.
“You’re a teacher? I was one, too. Here’s some advice for you,” she said, waggling her crooked finger. “Remember each child is like an apple. It’s your job to ignore the blemishes and find that one teachable spot.”
I thought of a favorite student as she rambled about her grandkids, and a painting he gave me. I thought about new students to come.
I arrived in Atlanta with sore ears, only to miss my connection to Lima, making me glad I popped for flight insurance instead of extra-room when booking the flight. First time ever. The seventy-five-dollar food voucher would almost cover the cost of a hotdog, chips and drink I had waiting for the red eye, this quick eleven-hour flight to Lima now almost as long as flying to Kunming.
My luggage missed a connection too, something I didn’t find out until I landed in Peru, making my first official LIMA souvenir will be new undies and a T-shirt. My new boss welcomed me at the airport, ignoring that I looked as bad as I smelled, then drove me to Miraflores, the district in Lima where I’d be staying. But first, we passed the non-touristy side of the city, the shades of poverty along the way deserving their own pantone chart. Abject. Dismal. Struggling. Penurious. Dogs wandering the streets, housing a few notches up from cardboard boxes. The route hugged the shores of the Pacific Ocean, the skies a surfer paradise blue, the waves dotted with longboards and hang-fivers. The cold currents come up from Antartica to Lima, making the water a bit too chilly for sharks, but pleasant for dolphins. Three hours south? There are little penguins dotting the beach. What a panoramic view of life.
I crashed in my Air B&B, my home until I find a real one, the weather perfectly balmy. No cyclone snow blizzard or whatever happening here. Just new energy I want to plug into. I’m sad. I’m happy. I’m shoeless, until today at five when my luggage arrives.
If you come to visit? Be sure to bring a jar of Skippy.