Am Israeli, Will Travel
Sketchiest taxi ride of my life.
Wandering around the Lima airport at midnight (cuz my taxi reservation with the Israeli owner of my hostel falls through. Surprise.) I find the reputable cab company I TripAdvisored just in case and, after some serious AP Spanish bargaining that would make my entire extended Spanish-Morrocan family shep muchas nachas, am led by the driver to a black car outside- no taxi light adorning the hood.
You want me to get into that? OH HECK NO.
I’m Israeli now, so when it comes to life and taxis I’m not a frier. But let’s be real- what other options do I have?
Other options that I have:
1) Extremely dodgy bus/kidnapper van from the highway nearby that my huge backpack and touristy self would most probably get stuff stolen on.
2) That’s it. Those are all the options I have.
A double check of the driver’s Taxi Green ID badge and my Spanglish interrogation of his credentials do little to assuage my uneasiness.
“No te preocupes,” chuckles the driver.
WELL MAYBE IF YOUR CAR FULFILLED THE MINIMUM TAXI REQUIREMENT OF HAVING “TAXI” ON IT THEN NO ESTARÍA PREOCUPADO!
(Proper conditional progressive tense usage brought to you by Ale K. and Sara L.)
If life customized your answering machine, those 30 minutes/de facto GTA 5 simulation mighta sounded something like this:
HI!!! YOU’VE REACHED MEIR’S PERUVIAN CELL PHONE!!! NOW’S NOT A GOOD TIME BECAUSE I’M CURRENTLY IN AN UNMARKED CAB WEAVING THROUGH DECREPIT CITY BLOCKS, SQUEEZING THROUGH TRAFFIC AND KINDA SORTA ALMOST BASICALLY RUNNING OVER PEDESTRIANS BUT IF I MAKE IT OUT OF THIS ALIVE I’LL BE SURE TO CALL YOU BACK AT MY EARLIEST CONVENIENCE!!! PRAY FOR ME!!!
Night number one and this is already a trip I’ll always remember.
Addressing perhaps the biggest first world problem ever (there are so many places to travel to… I don’t know which one to choose) in classic post-Israeli-army fashion I’m bound for South America faster than you can say inverted question marks, accented vowels, and upside down exclamation points. For most IDF expats it’s usually there or southeast Asia (“ad matai-land, kama hodu”). But as someone of Spanish descent and after taking it for four years of high school? C’mon, amigo. My Abuela would not approve if her nieto were chowing pad thai instead of arroz con pollo.
Israelis travel the world after military service because after being in a system in which ambitions of independence and freedom exist only as dreams with a countdown, they’d love nothing more than to get far away from it. While us Americans rehearse our pickup lines hoping to pick up that cutie at the Hillel Formal/on the YU-Stern shidduch shuttle, our 18 year old Israeli counterparts rehearse the “I like your hair, mami. Want to see an instoosh of my car?” speech hoping to pick up that kusit at the shekem, the knowledge that one day they’ll make it to Tomorrowland instead of sneaking You Tube clips of it during kitchen duty- their beacon of eizeh-dubstep-chazak-achi light at the end of the shvizut yom aleph tunnel.
It’s my first time doing the backpacking another country thing and I decide to do it alone because I’m adventurous like that… aaaaaand because the prospect that Shaked from the Israeli Gringo board is possibly the “Mi Scusi” guy from Eurotrip is a chance I’d rather take in person.
It’s also my first time doing the hostel thing and I already feel at home when a girl named Timor helps me bang the broken lock frame under my bed back into place (the reception guy gave up and handed us the hammer) while chatting about the glow in the dark race in Shoham we both apparently were part of and the nearest place we can find chili matok ASAP.
But Timor is just the first savior in a place of many.
Like Gloria, who happily guides me through the process of boarding and paying for the sketchy-but-way-cheaper public trans “combio” bus aka Peruvian hippie van (do I pay the driver or the guy jumping on and off the bus shouting things?) and fields all my preguntas about walking around Plazas de Armas and San Martin, even giving me a handmade pen as a souvenir.
Or some dude whose name I can’t remember but is an architect whom I meet on the wayyy-less-sketchy-yet-only-slightly-more-expensive municipal bus, who makes sense of the map in my Lonely Planet guide book- even walking me part of the way to ensure I don’t get lost. And of course Alvaro, the Argentine consultant/programmer with an MBA from NYU stern whom I meet at Chabad, who maps out my itinerary and whose sensational english and insider knowledge of Cusco trek bookings (book it in person and the price goes way down) cellular options (Claro has micro-sims, not Movistar) and hostel availability (what’s unavailable online is most likely still available the day of if you call) are of immeasurable help.
My new hostel comrades and I take an awesome surfing lesson- and I even stand up a few times! (strong emphasis on the word few)- from some dude with a tent with surfing equipment on the grey-skied Miraflores beach where slippery stones substitute for sand; And I explore the streets and markets of downtown Lima where during a royal guard musical performance at the presidential palace I’m greeted with wonderful nostalgic military support.
I’m starting to get a feel for this place and can even start rationing my Clif Bar supply cuz there’s a supermarket nearby where I can get OU products! It’s the start of week one and there’s five and a half more to go. Next stop: sand boards, dune buggies, and Israeli drug deals. Oh you’ll understand.