Coming Home to Cusco

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Just over a week ago, Larkin and I returned from our two months of vacation, which we used to travel. To get home to Cusco from Medellín, Colombia, it took two days of 6 a.m. flights, plus a night sleeping next to the pay phones in the Lima airport. By the time our plane touched down in Cusco, I was pretty delirious and possessed by the singular desire to get into my bed and stay there. Upon stepping out of the airport and into the morning sunlight, Larkin and I were immediately assaulted by men shouting, “Taxi! Taxi!,” trying to charge us, the “gringas” three to five times the actual cost of a ride to our apartment…and just like that, I knew we were home.

Returning home is always an interesting experience. When I used to fly back home to Rhode Island from college in Southern California, I always made a point to stop immediately at Dunkin Donuts and order iced coffee and a donut. It was my way of reconnecting with my East Coast identity, regardless of the fact that I have spent more time in the last five years living in Southern California, Buenos Aires, and Cusco than I have on the East Coast. Go figure.

I do really love Dunkin Donuts, and it brings me a lot of joy knowing that I can find it in the Lima airport, the mall in Cusco, the airport in Santiago, Chile, the mall in Viña del Mar, Chile…the list goes on (and, believe me, I have done my research). But what’s funny about my love for Dunkin Donuts is that it doesn’t really characterize “home” for me anymore—I really despise Starbucks, and I really love Dunkin Donuts. Both of them are fairly well distributed across the world at this point, and to me they aren’t symbolic of anything other than the pervasive cultural power of the United States.

When it comes down to it, home is a pretty relative concept for me. What I find to be universal about coming home is the slightly disappointing feeling that nothing has really changed except me. It’s only natural to feel that your departure and/or arrival actually mean something, and it’s difficult for anyone to be objective enough to realize that this is not the case. For me that transitory bit of ennui is how I know I’ve “come home” and over the years it has become a comfort in itself.

So, other than the fact that Cusco is now remarkably verdant (the El Niño weather pattern brought a lot of rain in the last two months), Cusco hasn’t really changed, and ultimately that is pretty ok with me.

Until next time,

Caroline

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