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Life Lessons in Peru...

I fell to my knees...

"Oh my god!" I gasped. I fell to my knees and looked under the seat. Not there. I told a nearby couple to watch my other things before rushing out of the station. Frantically I searched for a sign of my yellow bag. No luck. A small crowd gathered around me.

"My backpack, my backpack", I uttered unbelievingly. Of course I now understood what probably happened: the man who I suspected of sexual harassment had violated me in another way. While he distracted me, his partner in crime probably picked up my bag. How stupid I had been! I had been warned about these scams yet I allowed myself to be fooled into being less watchful.


The police tried to help...

As I stood there trying to explain the situation, the memory of exactly what I had lost became increasingly clear. My inner thoughts broke out of me in a wail, communicating to my audience better than words the extent of my loss -- gone were my negatives, my film of Huanchaco, email addresses of new friends, and worst of all, my journals from four months of travelling. My guidebooks, sunglasses, Walkman, the new camera that I loved --these were all expensive casualties, but nowhere near as priceless as my memorabilia.

A well-meaning citizen guided me to the police station, where they bundled me into a jeep. Perhaps we could find the culprits, they said. I went along with them, although hope lay low on my list of prominent feelings.

As a lone woman in Peru, I had experienced both excessive hospitality and hostility. Versus traveling in a group, I found that alone, I reached out more to those around me and people reached out to me, offering invitations to their homes, teaching me how to prepare ceviche and guinea pig. However, I was robbed three times, despite being careful. It was almost enough to discourage me from traveling alone. Almost.


I must leave Peru...

Suddenly, more than anything I wanted to be on the bus to Ecuador, to move on. I begged the officers to take me back because the bus was leaving in five minutes. In front of police headquarters, I jumped out and ran, pounding my boots into the pavement. I put all of my pain and anger into that run and I made it to the station just as the bus was pulling out. The staff helped me load my bags and I took my seat next to a little boy, who looked curiously at the crying gringa clutching a book to her chest.

In the morning, I felt the warmth of Peruvians again. Hearing of my plight and ashamed of their countrymen, a family took me to the bus to Vilcabamba. At a spa in this town, I spent one day crying; however, meeting new people, as well as partaking in some foot massages and exfoliating body scrubs, helped me feel better and I decided to continue with my trip.

Although the pain has lessened, I sometimes think of my stolen property. Is a little girl scribbling in my journals? Whose finger is pushing my camera's shutter-release button? Is my yellow bag pressed against someone else's back? It's like picturing your boyfriend with another partner. And it hurts. But so do root canals, stubbed toes, and paper cuts. All we JourneyWomen can do is heal, and travel on.


Women's words on loss...

Losing is the price we pay for living.
It is also the source of much of our growth and pain.
Judith Viorst, Necessary Losses (1986)

We never know the full value of a thing until we lose that thing.
Mrs. Henry Wood, East Lynne (1861)

One knows what one has lost, but not what one may find in the process.
George Sand, The Haunted Pool (1851)

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