I was worried about literally drinking the stuff. I had read all sorts of accounts about the foulness of the thick brown liquid boiled out of the crushed aya roots and various jungle leaves. I was terrible at drinking shots, what if I could not get it down my gullet due to the horrible taste? I imagined an elaborate slapstick worst case scenario where I did a spit- take all over the Shaman who would immediately curse me and my entire family.
Do shaman's curse people? I made a mental note to look that up as soon as I had internet access.
I was also worried about the puking. I am not a good puker. I will do nearly anything to avoid it and have harbored a rather specific phobia about puking in front of other people. I wasn't sure exactly what I thought would happen if I started vomiting in front of others. It is possible I had assigned an extra layer of revulsion and humiliation to it since I would be under the influence of one of the most powerful hallucinogens in the world.
What if I got caught in some extra-dimensional upchucking event plane that eked on forever altering time and space?
Maybe Carl Sagan would show up the moment my esophagus throws itself into reverse and a lifetime of pain and fear comes shooting out through my nose with a burning acridity.
My third concern was really the most unlikely and yet the most terrifying, what if I came back a dirty hippie? It is odd, I have friends who would fall under this description whom I adore and while they do not irritate me in the least, I was afraid of coming back to the US and boring the shit out of people talking about my chakras or the dark negative energy that emanates from the back corner of my local K-Mart. I finally decided that getting bent about any and all of these things would not help me.
I caught the liquor cart on the way back from the front of the plane and asked for a martini. The woman bent over and whispered that she was out of gin, but could make me one with Vodka. I thanked her but told her no with an unnecessary haughtiness. Immediately I was wracked with guilt, I asked if I could please have a coke instead and apologized for my attitude. She seemed confused by my apology and handed me the cup. I pondered my elitism concerning martinis, I don't know how I got so stuck up about it but for sure it was the Commodore's fault.
Landing was a white-knuckle affair as it usually is for me, but once we hit ground my brain switched gears to wrestle with a language that I spent weeks prior trying to pick up and was by most accounts failing. Even though it was around midnight when the plane doors opened, I became overly excited with the prospect of stepping onto foreign soil for the first time. I guess I had it built the moment up in my head close to something like stepping onto the the surface of the moon. A mild disappointment washed over me being greeted by a giant billboard in perfect English trying to convince me to buy a fifth of Johnnie Walker Black from the duty free shop. Whatever disappointment I harbored immediately off the plane was wiped away by the customs man with a Village People mustache stamping my passport for the very first time. I nearly wept.
We accidentally got an executive taxi instead of a regular one which cost twice as much, but it was so late I didn't really care. We were headed to Mira Flores and the city whipped past me an unfamiliar smear of crowded buildings and mysterious figures roaming the city streets past midnight. While we waited at a stop light a young man stepped in front of the cab holding a giant stick. Before I had time to formulate a thought, he lit both ends of the stick and started fire baton twirling right there in the middle of the intersection. A couple of people rolled down their windows and gave him coins. Our cab driver honked for him to get out of the way which I was a little sad about.
We turned down a two lane road that ran along side the ocean. I could hear the water crashing against the rocks and I rolled down the window just a bit so I could smell the sea air. It occurred to me then that in Atlanta if you want to see the ocean, you can get in a car and drive 4 hours east to Savannah to stare out into the Atlantic. I was in Peru and we had never once left the time zone but I was looking at the Pacific.
I decided to work the mechanics of that out the next day.
We checked into the hotel, our room was impossibly small as was the bed but we were glad to have it. The room had two large windows that weirdly faced the hallway and instead of glass, there were large panes of translucent white plastic that allowed light from the hallway into the room. I wouldn't have minded it so much except there were drunk tourists being rowdy and casting looming shadows. It was like a weird shadow theater narrated by a creepy drunk Swedish girl whose giggling was muffled by the walls. Whenever Paul and I are lost in the car and we are forced to take an unfamiliar path I always say the same thing in an attempt to relieve the tension.
In the dark of the tiny hotel room I whispered, "It's like a little adventure!"
I don't think it worked.
to be continued...