One night I had mentioned to Steve that I had never been out of the country, though I had once, while on the border, taken an opportunity to spit on Canada. Steve was incensed, and our pipe dream planning session ensued. At length we decided that we would go to Cairo, Egypt; Angkor Wat, Cambodia; or Machu Picchu, Peru. Each locale had a satisfactory combination of hikes, strange cultures, and historic venues. We spent hours that night learning about them and planning our activities.
The next day Steve called me, "Dude! I just found round trip tickets to Lima, Peru for $400!"
"Seriously? Man, I think we should get them."
"I just did. You owe me $400."
Thus was our pipe dream thrust into the realm of reality.
Almost a year later, we were in Astete Internacional Aeropuerto the small airport at Cusco, Peru, wondering what to do next. Our plane had been delayed a few hours, and so the cab our hostel had sent to fetch us had long since left. We had no idea where our hostel was, or even how to ask. Perhaps it was the backpacks, our white skin, or the dazed, blank look on our faces that clued him in, but a man named Angel immediately deduced where we were headed. “You go to Loki, yes? You come, you come, I take you.”
With a nose for bargains, Steve had booked us into a hostel with a somewhat seedy reputation, which wasn’t unfounded. Hostel Loki was known for its drinking, wild parties, and somewhat lewd activities. But hey, at $4 a night, we (and by we, I mean Steve) were willing to put up with a lot!
On the way to Loki, Angel, who became a regular contact and friend throughout the trip, asked us what we were going to be doing. We told him about the hike, but said we had nothing to do that day.
“You want to see sexy woman,” he asked in his stilted English. Obviously Angel knew about Loki’s reputation, and assumed we shared its promiscuous disposition.
“No thanks,” Alex said with a chuckle.
Angel again said again later, “You see sexy woman. You need sexy woman.”
Alex spoke Japanese. Steve spoke Mandarin Chinese. I was the only one of the three with any experience whatsoever in speaking Spanish. My Spanish experience had been a three-month period of my mission where I had learned to say things like “Yo se que el Libro de Mormon es verdadero,” or “Somos missionaros de la Iglesia de Jesucristo de los Santos de los Ultimos Dias.” Knowing neither phrase was going to be at all useful on the trip, I generally kept my mouth shut. Luckily I understood a trace amount more than I could speak, and so was able to have rudimentary communication with Angel, who’s English was about the direct inverse of my experience in Spanish.
“You go to sexy woman. You see sexy woman,” he insisted.
“Sachsaywaman”, as it turns out, is the ruin of a massive Incan temple just outside Cusco. The complex, that covers a number of acres of highland that overlooks Cusco, was the site of the last stand between Incan warriors and their European invaders in the 15th Century.
I’ve had communication problems in my life, but never have any come to such a happy conclusion as did that one.
"Every improvement in communication makes the bore more terrible."
-Frank Moore Colby