The worst

I was sitting in the lobby of my language school eating a croissant filled with manjar blanco. I was sitting there waiting on my taxi driver to pick me up and drop me off at the apartment of a lady from church. I never carry my iPod around Lima, in fact, yesterday was the first day I had brought it out of my apartment. The directions to this woman’s apartment were quite complicated and before I left I made the conscious decision to bring my iPod to read her directions from an email rather than take two minutes to write them down.

My iPod was on top on my folder which was sitting on the table.

A young man walked in holding a letter and a bag of candy. He placed the letter on top of my notebook and held out the bag of candy, asking me to buy some. I repeated the word “no” what must have been two dozen times. In the fifteen seconds that he stood there I remember thinking, “Why is he being so insistent?” After five more seconds of my repetitive “no,” he left. At that moment my taxi driver arrived and I hurried to gather my belongings. I was no more than fifteen feet outside of Berlitz when I thought, “I don’t remember putting my iPod in my bag.” And like, right under my nose, my iPod had been stolen.

It’s a thirty minute drive from the school and I cried the entire way. My mind was racing with thoughts of giving up and going home: How long is the lease on my apartment? Good thing I didn’t pay for my work visa yet. Surely I could get my job back at Banana Republic. I could live with mom and dad for a few months. I still have a return flight to use. What about Alvaro? Could we do it?

After getting back to my apartment I scrambled to figure out what to do with my life. I wasn’t ready to go back to retail full time, therefore grad school seemed like a solid option. I researched both the Art History and German programs at Vanderbilt. I felt a huge sigh of relief when I realized I had not missed the application deadlines. “I know a few professors there,” I thought, “hopefully this is when those connections become important.”

After getting off work, Alvaro came over to my apartment. In those moments I let out my greatest confession. I started to censor myself, after all, it is his country, but he told me to be honest. What followed was a twenty minute monologue of everything I find strange, uncomfortable, ugly, illogical and outright ridiculous about Peru. I have a handful of friends who have traveled to Peru and they all said that they simply, “fell in love with the people.” I recounted those stories to him and said, “The truth is, I simply haven’t.”

We left to indulge in my new bad day food: drinks and appetizers at Chili’s. The familiar menu and decor makes me feel like I’m at least a little bit closer to the United States. On our way out, his mom called and asked if we could stop by his grandfather’s house. We arrived and were greeted by his mom, three aunts and a tray full of Bailey’s and cookies. A welcoming sight after a day like that.

His Aunt Carmen picked up a small gift and held it in her hands and started to say something to me. Alvaro translated and it went something like this:

“I know that this will not replace what you had because your parents gave it to you and it was really special. But we want you to have this anyway. Hopefully it will make up for the bad that happened to you in our country.”

I opened the gift and it was a new iPod.

My iPod was stolen at 1:30pm and I opened their gift at 8:30pm. In just those seven short hours, they replaced my iPod. I was speechless, in Spanish or in English and all I could do was cry.

It wasn’t about the iPod, truthfully, it never was. iPods get lost and stolen and they can be easily replaced. Since I have arrived in Lima, I have struggled with finding my place and feeling secure within this huge, strange city. I was sitting inside the lobby of Berlitz when this happened. Berlitz, along with my home, is supposed to be one of the few places where I feel safe and in those few moments, my security was stolen from me. Just the day before this happened I had promised Alvaro that I would be braver. How am I supposed to be brave when I don’t feel safe in the place where I should feel most secure?