I have walked foreign cities before, but this one feels different.
On a family trip to Paris I tried walking slowly, savoring every smell and every street vendor. I tried walking fast and with a purpose, relieved to be going somewhere and to have a more local and practical answer to the question: “Touristique! Where are you going?” Travel, exploration, tourism (whatever you want to call it) has always been a challenge, a tight-rope walk between being a “loud american tourist” and a worldly, Hemingway-esque expat. In Paris, taking eager but careful strides, I was always conscious of my posture and my clothing (including my orange hiking backpack, chest strap engaged). I was annoyed by the way my mom said “Par-ee”, as if she was a local (hi mom, sorry love you). Surely there is a balance. Right? When do you truly belong to a city?
As I settle into Urubamba I am starting to discover that your purpose – what you are looking for – as well as who you are with skews the answer to this question. In service learning and in living with a host-family, here in Urubamba, I realize that my home doesn’t have to be just my hometown. I’m committing myself to here. When I walk with my host family in the streets of Urubamba – ever since the first day my host mom picked me up – I almost feel like I’m back in my California walking on the streets on which I was raised. The way I described it in my journal? Strange, but comfortable. Strange because it is still new and foreign: I am still a tourist in some sense. I awkwardly dance around mototaxis and wander the city just to see as much of it as possible. But I am comfortable, because I am welcomed by the knowledge that I am a part of my host family. They live here and so do I. In that way my presence is warmly validated. Not only when I am with them at the dinner table, but when I am far from them on the streets of Urubamba.