Peru does most things on a grander scale than Ecuador — the country is bigger, its Amazon region is vaster, and the mountains are more imposing. Whereas Ecuador has several gorgeous peaks, they all stand alone, towering in their snow-capped solitude above the rest of the terrain. Peru, on the other hand, boasts multiple massifs and entire mountain chains. We both developed a love for the Andes in Ecuador; in Peru, that love blossomed.
Despite plenty of practice over Munchkin’s first year of life, S dreaded our current trip stateside. With the possible exception of her first trip overseas with Munchkin when he was just 7 weeks old, she had not experienced this acute a level of pre-departure stress. Munchkin had just started taking his first independent steps when we last took him on an airplane, and we had a rough time on the flights. That trip was to Lisbon — a four-and-a-half-hour non-stop flight for vacation. This time, not only did we intend to take Munchkin on a much longer flight, but we also took advantage of the trip home to bring our dog back to the United States, which added several layers of travel anxiety to the mix.
Unlike Ecuador, which tends to be overshadowed by its larger southern neighbor, Peru needs no introduction. Since the discovery of the Inca ruins at Machu Picchu a century ago, tourists have been flocking to Peru in ever greater numbers. In fact, tourism-related development has been so rampant that there is legitimate concern about its impact on the ancient Inca city and several other sites. While Machu Picchu is certainly worth visiting, there are also plenty of other stunning locations around the country that beckon to the adventurous traveler. Amazingly, some of these hardly see a foreign soul despite the fact that Peru hosts several million international visitors annually.
Nearly 15 months into our first foray into parenthood, what’s surprised us most is how each time Munchkin enters a new phase it always seems better than the previous one. And by that we don’t mean that parenting has become easier. In fact, in many ways taking care of a toddler is much more demanding and exhausting work than caring for an infant. It’s just that with each developmental milestone, Munchkin finds new ways to bring us an indescribable amount of joy.
It all started in Ecuador. For S, Quito was the launching point of her eight-month-long trek through South America. D, meanwhile, called this small Andean nation home for three and a half years. When he finally embarked on his own South American travels, the joy and excitement of the road ahead was tempered by the melancholy of leaving a country that had captured his heart forever.
We got married mere weeks before packing out for our first Foreign Service tour. Knowing that we had been posted to Africa, where innumerable safari trips awaited, we made a wedding present to ourselves and invested in a quality SLR camera and complement of lenses. Long before we could afford nice photographic gear, we had been bitten by the travel bug and the love of travel photography that insatiable wanderlust spawns.
Much to our delight, Munchkin continues to be an avid young reader. After many months of mostly incoherent baby babble, he is also finally beginning to show signs of grasping the basics of language, and his board books deserve a lot of the credit for this development.
While D was away in Tbilisi, taking advantage of his work trip to see the Georgian countryside, S did a bit of traveling of her own, albeit closer to home. A good friend from our Kenya days whom S has known since grad school was flying from Nairobi to Chicago and asked if she could visit for a couple of days, instantly doubling the number of friends who have made it out to Chisinau to see us.