Everyone left has a name for the day when the world as we knew it ended and never would be the same. Some call it the change, others refer to it as z day or even zero day. Me? I simply call it the day. Not many people throughout history can say they saw the clear demarcated line of when such a drastic transformation of society occurred, regardless of the country or continent you were on. Us survivors can though. Been there, done that and it’s nothing to brag about.
The thing is though, where I was when it all went down. Somehow I ended up in Lima, Peru when they took over, a very foreign place compared to my small town Oklahoma upbringing. How did I end up here? Chasing a girl that’s how. Anna Maria was in Tulsa on a temporary work visa when I met her. She was beautiful and fun and exotic and I convinced myself that I was in love with her. So when her time was up and she returned to Peru I decided that she was the one and the only thing I could do was to follow her.
There I was, fresh off the airplane in a foreign country where I barely spoke the language and the culture was so incredibly different from the one I was raised in. I was out of my depth, my element, but none of that mattered. I was here for love and nothing else mattered dammit. Once Anna Maria saw me the rest of the details would fall into place. I mean, she’d have to be flattered right? A gringo like me following her all these miles, sorry, kilometers. would break through any doubts she could have. Or so I thought.
The thing is I had blinded myself to reality. Anna Maria did not return my feelings which clearly weren’t love no matter how much I tried to believe it to be true. When I showed up at her house she was shocked but not in a good way. She admitted that while she had fun with me in the States she didn’t have any feelings for me at all. As a matter of fact she had a fiancé that she intended to marry and he was inside the house right then. For my personal safety she advised me to vaminos before he caught wind to my presence.
Heartbroken I retreated to the hostel I had spent the night in and there several fellow travelers helped console me by giving me large and copious amounts of alcohol, not that it was a good thing. I paid for it dearly later both physically and emotionally. When I had left home I had sold my car and pretty much everything else I owned and had left the lease on my house early incurring the loss of my deposit and the wrath of my landlord. She blessed me with many interesting curses as well as threats of a lawsuit. Who could care though? I was leaving the country for good.
None of that stuff mattered. I was in love. Except that I really wasn’t. I just thought I was. Now that my foolishness had been painfully shattered I was at a complete loss about what to do with my life. With my leaving as quickly as I did and not thinking things through I realized that I had no plan for how to make a living or how get things done in this foreign land. Like I said, I barely spoke the damn language. Could I even go back home to the shame and ridicule I would surely be showered with from friends, family and enemies alike?
I’m far too stubborn for that so leaving was not an option. I’d just have to make the best of the situation. Surely there was some way I could earn some money regularly so that I could feed and house myself. It couldn’t be that hard could it? Well, yes it could as it turned out. The next two weeks were a constant struggle for me. The food was like nothing I was used to. Anytime somebody spoke English I latched onto them like a drowning man to a life jacket. In short, I was rather pathetic. At least until I met Carsten, a fellow expat, albeit one from a different country. He was from Denmark but spoke excellent English.
Carsten took pity on me and decided to show me the ropes of Peru. I met him one day in Barranco as I stumbled around trying to find a restaurant I could feel comfortable eating in. Over the next few days we would meet up for lunch and he would inform me about things that were important to see like Pachacamac. We talked of local customs and how not to offend Peruvians through either negligence or accident. Carsten even helped me find a room to rent for an affordable price and then gave me some leads on where I could teach English.
Things were definitely looking up for me though I was heartbroken and overwhelmed. Well, at least they were until the day happened that is. After that nothing was looking up for anybody least of all me. I’d best stop for now. Soon night will fall and though we still have electricity we don’t dare use it. Noise and light will only draw them to us and that is something no survivor wants to happen. I’ll continue when I have a chance. There’s a lot of work to be done during the daylight hours. We have to scavenge food, water, medical supplies and anything else we think can be used. I think it’s necessary to document our days though. Perhaps in the future it could help someone. At least I can dream of that.
Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.