On a recent mission trip to Peru, I loved watching the cultural differences unfold as we utilized Peruvian transportation. My teammates and I were schooled in this firsthand as we traveled by plane, train, bus, taxi, and foot.
First of all, we American travelers had to remember that timeliness in South America is nothing like timeliness at home. A journey to Peru puts the traveler on, “Peruvian time.” Planes, trains, and buses MIGHT run on time. Or, they might not. Peruvians have their own internal clocks for how they get things accomplished. The Peruvians just roll with this style of living, and so the visiting Americans must roll with it, too.
Quiet, orderly transportation is also not the Peruvian way. Horns honk constantly, day and night. When we were stuck in a traffic jam in Lima, we watched cars drive up and over the sidewalks to get where they needed to go. Cars pass each other all the time, making it safely back to their lane of the road with only the barest of centimeters to spare. Speaking of lanes, they seem to be optional. People just drive on the part of the road that works best for them. The highly regulated driving of the United States doesn’t exist south of the Equator.
Lack of personal space is another Peruvian concept that revealed itself as we traveled. Being crammed into a bus right next to your neighbor is a typical Peruvian experience. Tourist trains and buses aren’t as crowded as the ones for locals, so it’s quite a spectacle to see a crowded bus packed with Peruvians cruise down the street. The concept of a “full bus” doesn’t exist. There’s always room for one more!
Our task for this mission trip was to hike into the Andes Mountains to deliver Bibles to native people. For that portion, we walked. This wasn’t a leisurely stroll through shady woods. We hiked up and down mountain paths, some of which reached 12,000 feet. Oxygen was a sweet luxury at those elevations, and all we could manage to carry was a small backpack with the barest of essentials. Our leader, Ade, always took us on the most adventurous routes, which included tromping through farmers’ fields, up creek beds, and down the steepest hills. This kept us on our toes! Llamas hiked with us to carry the Bibles and a few other provisions. We also had horses that served as our “ambulances,” which unfortunately, were utilized by a few folks suffering from the stomach bug.
We discovered the greatest thing about sitting in airports and train stations was people watching. We soaked in the culture just by observing people’s clothes, hair, and luggage. When we tried to relate to the local people, their reactions ranged from polite indifference to curiosity. Some folks wanted to interact with us, even with a language barrier, but some obviously wished we would just go away! One thing was certain…we couldn’t fit it no matter how hard we tried. We always stood out as foreigners, a situation our missionary colleagues live through daily.
To travel in a country and use its varied transportation methods is to know that country. Never have I experienced a culture so fully as when I rubbed shoulders with its people on planes, trains, automobiles, and more!
Read more at www.travelingteacheronline.com.