meeting evil in Peru
My personal mission for this Latin America trip was to try to judge people less harshly and be more accepting. This is especially true for people around my age or younger who are into all the tourist bullcrap, have parents who pay for their trips or have not yet worked a day in their life although they are 24.

Because of my personal circumstances, I have been feeling a mixture of superiority and jealousy towards them - I was never this free, and will never be. I'm not sad about it, but it makes for awkward conversations ("So, are you a student, too?"-"No, I'm self-employed."-"Um... aha, so your parents must be really rich."-"Naw, quite the opposite."-"But why are you not a student?" is a classic example, one of the nicer ones). Especially as I can't sum up my life in the neat way people expect you in hostels. I've been thinking I should invent an easy version (we did this when travelling in Cambodia and Vietnam, but I'm not sure I can pull this off alone) - "Yeah I finished school when I was 20, and now live in a medium-sized German town with my equally average flatmates and study business management." - convinced?
Anyhow, I've been doing quite well on accepting instead of challenging people on this trip, as a recent encounter with a 20 year old Canadian student backpacker showed. Our life circumstances couldn't have been more different, but he was open to anything and had learned some amazing Spanish.

My bus trip to Cusco, tourism capital of Peru, showed my what really is the issue. Even before getting on the bus, a group of Germans, around my age, made a massive fuss about where to put there backpacks. Then, although the bus company lady kept telling them "Abajo!", they insisted on sitting upstairs. I was already on the bus and realised they didn't have a single word of Spanish. This was a first for me on this trip - if people travel to South America without Spanish, they usually bother to learn at least a few basic phrases, and are experienced and culturally sensitive enough to deal with locals smoothly. So, I was nice and told them in German that their seats are downstairs, as all the luxury-class seats always are, in every bus of this kind in the world. The alpha male of the group looked at me in a mixture of awe and disgust for discrediting him (he was 100% sure they had to sit upstairs) said "Oh, you must have been on the road for a long time". I shrugged it off and pretended to sleep -  a wise decision.

In the next seven hours, they mainly kept talking about how crap Peru is. How the hot water runs out after only 10 minutes of a shower, how yesterday, there was a power-cut for 5 minutes, how they cannot get a decent German beer here. Then they started calling the bus attendant, who went out of her way and even had a little English (a first for a bus company in Latin America) a "pre-Inca" and "primitive woman" in German. This seemed to be their general opinion of Peruvians.

This is where I exploded. Let's not get into details of what I said, but it wasn't pretty. It shut them up for the remainder of the trip.

I have found Peruvians to be one of the friendliest, most genuine and helpful people in the world. And even if they were the French of Latin America, they still wouldn't deserve this racist treatment.

This is where I realised my problem is not with people who have a different lifestyle, or are inexperienced, or love to take guided tours and buy a lot of shit on them.

The problem are people who use their home country as the status quo which is above everything else, and talk down other cultures although they have very little knowledge of life outside their hometown bubble. My issue is racism, ignorance and arrogance - and I won't try to accept or overlook any of this anytime soon.


2 Comments

  1. that's exactly it. i've pondered aspects of this question as well and you've really nailed it on the head. i would've probably lost it with that group as well and i'm glad you let them have it. maybe someone in that group will get it... eventually.

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  2. "Can't get a decent German beer here" ... this kind of attitude makes me insane!! I always remember hearing an American girl in Krakow complaining about how the breakfasts at McDonald's weren't the same as home. I wanted to shake her very hard and tell her to try any old Polish cafe she'd passed by on her way there and have amazing pancakes etc ... but I don't think she would have listened to me.

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