“Movements makes richest sense when set within a frame of stillness.” Pico Iyer
Carlos Velasquez Rios came up to us when we were about to leave the village. A tall, slim man, dressed in dark trousers and a starched blue shirt was walking nearby for about fifteen minutes. – How glad I am that you came to visit our country and my village. I’m really proud. I wish I had seen you yesterday, I would have invited you to my house for dinner. Ah, you arrived just before midnight, then indeed I already fell asleep, and today I didn’t get up early, my head hurts a little. I drank a few beers with my friends. You are from Poland? Ooo, you have very good football players. Lato, Boniek and now Lewandowski. I still remember when we lost with you at the World Cup, in 1982, five to one. It was a huge failure, we almost had national mourning in the country. Never again Peru participated at the World Cup. Maybe now we will qualify and will meet up in Russia, who knows.
Fidrygałka (my newborn cycling companion) and I look at the man, his increasingly sweaty forehead, his wrinkled hands, his half-closed eyes, we take a picture for which Carlos asked himself, and exchange phone numbers. – My number is 959630313. I have a few allotments, but I have no money. You could plant something there or even build a hotel. There is the beach and lots of sunshine, tourists like it. Yes, a hotel near the sea, that would be great! But I have no money… And you, wouldn’t you like to invest? You are not interested in it? Why? So, maybe you know someone who could be? Then give them my phone number. I’d like to work, I’m a descendant of the Inca. Did you hear of the Inca? Well, you know what I mean. I am not afraid of hard work and I am a good man. I follow three principles in life: do not envy, do not steal and believe in God. That’s enough, no more you need to be happy, well, maybe yet a little money and you could have paradise here. Could you give me ten dollars, eh?
The question, quite unexpectedly interwoven in the Spanish logorrhea first crept into my eyes, then fixed itself on the growing, dark and sweaty stain visible on the man’s shirt, and finally melted under the scorching sun, so at first it seemed to me that I misheard something. I looked at the man amazed. – Give me ten dollars, eh? Straight from my eyes the question reached my ears. The scorching sun shut our mouths. We said goodbye and moved to Lima.
That night we slept nearby a closed stadium. Just like in Bolivia, some football pitches in the Peruvian villages look as if someone had put them accidentally in the landscape. Immensely clean, neat, with green, trimmed grass stand in stark contrast to the gray structures. What is the point of building something which later you can not use, I do not know, but surely it must be some deeper meaning in it, which is far difficult to grasp.
It is also very hard to understand why this beautiful country is so dirty. I totally disagree with an argument that this is a part of the Peruvian “nature”, so it has to be as it is. Of course, I do not want to persuade anyone, neither explain anything. I am a guest here and I have to adjust. I just want to point out that any shit will always remain shit, whether it is “natural” or not, and from my point of view – any shit looks ugly and smells.
Perhaps it is a matter of “national character”. Some people drink, others litter. As Antoni Kępiński, a Polish psychiatrist, wrote: “Is there something as a national character? This question has no clear answer. From a biological point of view, the existence of national character is possible. The environmental conditions are arranged in such a way that certain traits are beneficial and others detrimental. People endowed with favorable traits are more likely to survive and leave offspring than those who do not have these features.
In addition to innate qualities, the acquired characteristics also play role in the formation of any hypothetical national character. They are conditioned by so- called social inheritance, it means by models of behavior prevailing in a given environment.”
It is not so easy to get rid of your own habits, either innate or acquired. But isn’t it easier to do so during a trip? Maybe that physical distance and some kind of suspension between our ego and that new reality allows us to behave more naturally, because we are less involved in some behavioral patterns and roles (though perhaps it just an illusion). As if suddenly we possessed greater autonomy, greater awareness of what we do, what we need and what we look for. And it does not matter whether we find anything. Maybe it is true to say that any journey is more specified and determined by what is impossible to understand, to see and to experience. Maybe the lack and the absence of something constitutes its beauty and its true meaning.
And there is not need to be ashamed of when we do not succeed, as Zofia Król was talking about Zbigniew Herbert, a Polish poet, in one of the Polish radio broadcasts: “One always travels alone with the world. (…) Because this is a kind of compulsion, which simply makes us to leave one place where I am and to go elsewhere. It is hard to say why and what for. Herbert just needed a new contact, I suspect, he needed a new sense, new awareness. It seems to me that this is not a positive desire; the point is not that I want to travel. It’s about the fact that I can not stand that lack of freshness of seeing and I try to see something new. It is always an effort of senses, particularly of the eye. There are moments when Herbert writes with regret and shame that he did not succeed, that his eyes were slipping blankly on the rocks, and his passion for details was nothing but futile. In those moments we see him as a weak, poor man who goes somewhere and looks for something, but who can not find anything.”
Perhaps that weakness pushes us into the world. Maybe it is just a fear from leading a sort of “normal” life. Whatever we choose, let it be our own choice. “Human life is nothing but an imperfect garden,” writes Tzvetan Todorov. Wherever we are, we should take care of it to be flourished.