There was an important figure in my life who always told me that I would never amount to much. One particular example, was that I wasn’t strong enough to ever climb Machu Picchu. Ever. This was all about to be tested. I have never been so excited before, in my life.
After an incredibly scary plane ride from Newark to Lima, I arrived safe and sound in Cuzco.
During my flight to Lima, I was comforted by a Pastor from Upstate New York, who was on his way to Ica to deliver medical supplies and bibles. It was his 7th time coming down to Peru, and what started in his life as a vacation, turned into a humanitarian mission for the rest of his life.
Whether it was the altitude, the 3 hour spout of turbulence, the xanax, the diamox… I didn’t care that he was a radical born-again, I was moved by his stories. We landed, we exchanged emails, he wished me the best of luck, and we parted ways.
At sunrise, my plane departed for Cuzco. Flying above the clouds underneath the rising sun, overlooking snow-covered mountain tops, green pastures, green so plump and lush I could smell the freshness from the plane. Clearly all the drugs I had taken over the past 7 hours were kicked in full force.
I was picked up at the airport, and taken to the Ninos Hotel. Founded in 1996 by Jolanda van den Berg, all the proceeds of the hotel go directly towards helping Peruvian street children go to school. The foundation is a place where on a daily basis the children can learn Spanish, get medical and dental attention, take a hot shower, eat fresh hot meals, play sports and get help with their homework . Jolanda is now responsible for feeding over 600 children in Cuzco and the surrounding areas.
What started off as a vacation turned into this remarkable mission to spend the rest of ones life making a difference.Many of the children have grown up and are now employed with health insurance by Jolanda, and you can see it in their eyes how happy they are to have been given this chance at life. What was even cooler, was that she didn’t want any recognition or praise for it. So humble, modest, and real.
Maybe it was the combination of the altitude, xanax and diamox, but I was filled with emotion. There was not one thing that made me cry. I needed to chill out, so I went to the bar. Knowing that I wasn’t meant to drink liquor because of the meds I was on, I ordered a local Cusqueña. Within two sips, I was drunk.
At the bar I met some incredible people. The Dutch couple, the Canadian, and the Californian. The Dutch Couple had both taken a 6 month sabbatical and were travelling the world. The Canadian was finishing the last of her research for her PHD and the Californian was travelling with her family. Each person served their own silver plate of inspiration, and I felt completely blessed to have had the pleasure of such good company.
Totally grateful I survived my first day sick free, completely drunk and starting a trip off diamox, I went to bed filled with hope that each passing day be more beautiful than the next.
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