Coming back stateside, no matter how often we do it or how long we stay, never fails to unleash a small storm of conflicting emotions.
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.
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.