Certain countries possess an undeniable mystique, holding sway over one’s imagination long before one has the opportunity to visit. For D, Nepal was high on this list, though his fascination had more to do with the country’s landscape than its reputed spirituality (as one travel guide puts it, “Nepal is a one-stop spiritual destination: every activity here revolves around finding yourself, seeking your roots…”). Ever since D got into mountain climbing during his Peace Corps days in Ecuador – and especially after reading a handful of mountaineering books – he had longed to see the Himalayas.
Posts tagged ‘Peace Corps’
This summer marked the twentieth anniversary of D’s first concert, a one-day festival featuring the likes of Green Day and the Offspring. In the intervening two decades, D’s musical tastes changed and expanded, but his passion for (obsession with?) live music has remained constant. Of the 430 shows he’s seen over the last twenty years, 17 have been in just the last couple of months since we’ve returned to the United States, and these concerts have been literally all over the map – D has managed to catch shows in seven states plus the District of Columbia this summer.
When Munchkin saw D packing his bags for a return trip to South Africa not three weeks after we had returned home, his first instinct was to plead with D to be taken along. Once he realized that he could neither hide out in D’s luggage nor guilt him into purchasing an extra ticket, Munchkin handed D his recently acquired Pinocchio plush toy so that D wouldn’t have to travel alone.
“Why is it that every time we visit you something crazy happens?” mused D’s mom with a touch of fatalism. In Ecuador, where D served in the Peace Corps, protesters shut down the country’s major highway during D’s parents’ visit. Violent clashes between protesters and the police took place in a small town in the Amazonia quite literally minutes after D had turned the rental car around to head back to Quito. In Kenya, we also were forced into changing our travel plans on the fly during D’s parents’ visit when we came upon a roadblock and, predictably, angry protesters about to clash with the police. In Rwanda, on the other hand, our misadventures were entirely self-inflicted.
Growing up in New York City, it took D a long time to develop a love for the great outdoors. It wasn’t until he spent several years living in a tiny village high up in the Andes mountains during his Peace Corps service that he came to appreciate just how soothing life can be when one is surrounded by nature. Ever since, he has craved nature like a drug, which it turns out has a perfectly reasonable scientific explanation. Ensconced once more in the concrete jungle of a big city, which can feel downright depressing in foul weather, our minds frequently oscillate between reliving our recent hikes and planning our next outdoor adventure.
Arriving in America a couple of months shy of his tenth birthday left D in a cultural no man’s land. Had he reached adolescence in Russia before immigrating, he likely would have felt a strong urge to hold onto his Russian heritage. On the other hand, had his family made the move a few years earlier, he happily would have shed the vestiges of his brief Slavic upbringing in favor of a thorough Americanization. As it happened, he felt both instincts tugging him in opposite directions, though not always with equal force.
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.
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.