18 May 2016

When I came back from Peru and people asked me how my trip was, there were so many things I could’ve told them. I could’ve told them about how amazing Machu Picchu was in person and how there was a sign that said “No nudity against the sacredness.” The poor application of English is hilarious in and of itself but then you have to wonder just HOW many people got naked on the grounds to warrant having a sign put up.

I could’ve waxed poetic about the amazing food (in Lima especially) and how Peru grows over 4,000 varieties of potatoes (!!!!) and 55 types of corn. Mind. Blown.

I could’ve expressed my awe at the diversity of landscapes in Peru – from urban jungle, to literal (Amazon) jungle, mountainous peaks to an oasis in the middle of a blissfully hot desert.

All these awesome Peruvian tales and what do I say when people ask how my trip was?

“Well….a dog stole my wet shoe.”

It’s such a strange statement to make accompanied by an equally strange visual that elicits a multitude of questions. Whose dog was it? Why was your shoe wet? How did it steal your shoe? Was it on your foot? Why? Why? WHY?

It was the culmination of a series of unfortunate events that led to me learning a valuable life lesson

I always learn things when I travel. For example, if you make friends with an Australian bartender in Frankfurt during a pub crawl on a one day layover, having a "Chuck Norris" shot is always a bad idea (the name gives away it’s potency). Or always wear bathing suit bottoms 2 sizes too small when surfing. Unless you’re an exhibitionist.

The stolen wet shoe was the straw that broke the camel’s back, forcing me accept that shit happens and to let go of the things I can’t control.

That’s a hard thing for anyone to accept let alone someone like me. I’m the kind of OCD that been described as “serial killer organized.” I like knowing my options. I want to feel like I did my part to ensure that I made the best choice possible. While my preparedness helps me in so many ways, it means that when something that I had anticipated still goes wrong despite my precautions, it frustrates me to no end.

Here are the Series of Unfortunate Events that led to my wet shoe being stolen by a dog in Cusco, Peru:

I covered this a bit in this post. When flight attendants handed me a slip of paper, no one explained how important it was (at least not in English). You need it to book accommodations, tours, (for less money) and to eventually leave the country. I must’ve left it behind when I was filling out forms at the airport which drives me CRAZY because I’m not the type of person who loses things! So unless I wanted to make a permanent move to Peru, I had to replace the damn thing.

It was 3pm in Cusco when I discovered that I had to go to the immigration office, that closed at 4pm, to replace my immigration card. Sounds like a lot of time, right? Except the altitude in Cusco makes walking on even ground feel like you’re climbing Mount Everest WITHOUT an oxygen tank. Unless you’re tall and with gazelle-like limbs, it’s torturous. Plus the roads are so twisty and turn-y that it’s easy to get lost in the maze-like set up.

By the time we found the immigration office, it was 30 minutes till closing. Turns out, to get a new immigration card, I had to go to the National Bank, stand in line, pay and then bring back a receipt. Apparently it doesn’t make enough people weep in frustration to pay for an immigration card AT the actual immigration office. I also required a photocopy of my passport to complete the request but of course, the photocopier at the immigration office was broken.

Yes, it [insert expletives] hailed. On a random afternoon in Cusco in May it HAILED. While we searched for the bank and a place with a working photocopier with only 15 minutes till the immigration office closed, it started hailing which turned to a downpour of rain. By the end of the ordeal, I was dripping wet and squishing around in the only footwear appropriate for climbing Machu Picchu. I tried drying them off at our hostel but Cusco is very cold and damp so it only succeeded in grossing out our roommates.

^Pretending I didn't feel sick AF

Before even stepping out of the plane I knew I would suffer the infamous altitude sickness that inflicts visitors of Cusco due to it being located at an altitude of 3,400 metres. Sure enough, on my second day in Cusco, on an all-day Sacred Valley tour, I felt like I had the worst hangover of life – dizzy, nauseous, no appetite, didn’t know where I was. Despite having taken altitude sickness pills the night before, I still felt like an elephant was sitting on my head.

By the time the tour dropped us off at the train station in Ollantaytambo to catch our connection to Aguas Calientes (the town you stay before going to Machu Picchu) I am only just getting over the worst of the altitude sickness, I’m cranky from the illness having prevented me from scaling hills to see sprawling views, and my shoes are squishing with every step. While we rested in a nearby cafe before catching the train I decided to put my running shoes outside to dry. I figured that no one would be crazy enough to steal my wet sneakers that were starting to smell like something died. Several times.

Maybe no ONE would steal them but I didn’t account for no DOG.

A woman came into the cafe holding one of my shoes, asking whose it was because she saw a dog run away with the other one. Ugh.

As I ran out into the darkening streets I had no idea how I was going to find this one of many stray dogs with one of the only pair of shoes that were appropriate for gallivanting around the Incan citadel. I’ve all but resigned myself to scaling Machu Picchu in my sandals.

By this point, I am on my last nerve. I wasn’t only tired physically but I was so exhausted trying to pretend that all those previous incidents didn’t bother me as much as they did. I had to deal with this four car pile-up of negativity that was weighing me down and affecting my enjoyment of the trip. I had to learn how to let it all go.

First, I allowed myself no more than two minutes to feel and express whatever it was that I felt, no matter how irrational or unfair it was. At that moment it was hysterical frustration. Very hysterical. Ok it was more like five minutes.

Then in an effort to calm myself down, I imagined all the ways it could’ve been worse. Like earlier on the trip when I dropped my BRAND NEW CAMERA and it broke the second time I went to use it. It was a small break so it was most likely fixable and covered by warranty and at least it hadn’t fallen in the river!

Finally, I acknowledged that at the end of the day, I was still very lucky. I had my health and I was fortunate enough to be on an awesome adventure in Peru with my best friend. Yes, a stray dog stole my shoe but no matter how diligently I try to control things, shit happens. I had to accept that bad things would happen sometimes and move on to appreciate the good things. I had to drop the mic on the negativity.

Luckily Peruvians are the nicest people in the world and Janelle had told some guards in the cafe about my situation. They had ventured out and found the dog and my shoe, still intact! And still wet and smelly. Poor guys. I felt bad they had to touch the disgusting thing and worse for myself since I still had to wear them.

^Very happy to pet a llama and have my shoes!

ETC is the overflow of thoughts in the mind of Teri Yeung. It’s a place full of stories of travel adventures, imparted lessons learned from life’s achievements and failures, behind-the-scenes of projects and experiments, and anything else that inspires excitement and joy.

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