I woke up a little excited as it was one day before I would see Machu Picchu. Finally, or almost finally, my bucket list dream would come true. As I waited years and years to visit the place, I was looking SO forward to it that it was as if I was meeting a lover that I haven’t seen in a long, long time. The years of looking at pictures on line, in books, and other periodicals made me feel nervous, as if I was in fear that I might be disappointed somehow. I woke up on that Wednesday morning wishing I could fast forward the day. It would be another day of doing manual labor at the albergue, and I did not like myself at all because I was supposed to be doing a good deed by volunteering, only that I hated the chores, hated the weather as it was freezing, and I was still feeling bad about myself because I did not like my experience, and I had to pretend that I did. Pretending, as well as lying, are not my friends. I’m bad at it, and it was probably obvious to others that I wasn’t enjoying myself. In fact, I was sure that others could detect my discomfort and apathy.
We were to tile the bathroom walls that day. The weather was shitty, cold, and rainy. We waited around for the “tile master” to show up and teach the volunteers how to lay the tiles. He was hours late, and I had to remind myself what the literature on my volunteer vacation indicated–that life is more relaxed in Peru and that we should not expect the Peruvians to live by our Western standards of time. But part of me was glad that the tile master was late. I did not want to be touching the cement, in the cold, and doing manual labor. Unfortunately, he did arrive. He mixed the cement. He showed us how to lay the tile…and then he left. I thought it was ridiculous that we, the volunteers, would be laying the bathroom tile all by ourselves (as it proved more difficult than expected) but that’s exactly what ended up happening. It was so damn messy, and I didn’t want any part of it. I didn’t want cement all over me, under my fingernails, nor on my clothes so I just watched the other three volunteers do the job while I got wet in the rain. The bathroom was too small for the four of us to be in it at the same time anyway. When I felt guilty for being unproductive, I asked Rocio what else I could do. She said that the tables used in the study needed to be painted so as a couple of the students carried the table to the shed, I followed. I didn’t know that painting involved sanding the wood first. I had to sand the table with sandpaper in the shack with some other dude who was using a wood chipper, and there were bits of wood dust flying out of the machine which scared me. To make things worse a few other students started sanding a second table in the shed and even an electric sander was being used which made the room way more dusty. Instead of chalky white powder dust from a couple of days before, the dust was a grainy wooden powder. Again, I was scared for my eyes. I had a hard time breathing again, and I could not believe that I was put in such hazardous conditions, fearing that I would get a wood piece (from the wood chipper machine) stuck in my eye. I actually feared something happening where it would affect me the next day for Machu Picchu. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I gave up. I was way too miserable to endure the work so I just stopped in the middle of the afternoon, walked to the house in the cold rain, and decided to take a somewhat hot shower. I didn’t care about anything except my warmth and comfort at that point nor did I care what the others thought about me. I was done. I was happy to spend a long time with the little cheap heater in my room. After dinner the kids put on a show for the volunteers by singing and dancing, but all I wanted to do was meet with the guy who was meeting us that night to go over our Machu Picchu itinerary for the next day. Of course, we were on Peru time so we met with the guy an hour later than expected. Finally, after a long day of pretending to be interested in the day’s activities, I went to bed without the thought of the freezing cold, and slept like a baby.