Around here summer flows quickly past on waves of palpable humidity and heat mirages; it’s August already! Amidst all the heat and humidity and various activities, I have had time to at least briefly dwell upon those impending three months in Peru. I came up with three questions. So, I emailed my Andeo (the Peru program) correspondent two of my questions. (I lost the third question somewhere in the recesses of my unfocused, summer vacationing brain. I’ll let you know when I find it.) My email, in short, consisted of these two questions: Can I drink the tap water in Peru, and do I need a visa? When I wrote my email, I was pretty confident that I knew the answers to these two questions. Still am.
When I asked whether or not I will be able to drink the water in Peru, what I really wanted to know was whether or not my host family will be providing filtered water for me to drink. The Andeo lady surprised me with her answer. She basically stated that I might very well be able to drink the tap water, though I should stick to bottle water for the first week while my body is adjusting to the altitude, and that I should ask my host family about it when I get there. Well, her advice directly contradicted my assumption: I should not drink the tap water. And, since I have traveled and lived in several less developed countries, I was quite hesitant to embrace her advice with an innocently trusting, “OKAY!” So, I whipped out my handy dandy Lonely Planet Peru travel book (thank you Uncle Tom!) and found a blurb on drinking water. There it was in black and white on page 550, “Tap water in Peru is not safe to drink.” Ha! I knew it! And I felt better immediately. I’m on familiar territory if I can’t drink the water in a foreign country. It just feels right. With that conflict of information resolved, I immediately started searching for water filters, since I refuse to assume that my host family will have filtered water readily available, and I will most certainly not be living off little bottles of water in Peru. Mother suggested I look at reviews for water filters on a reliable backpacking website. There were numerous options, of course. But, I narrowed my options significantly by deciding that I definitely wanted a filter that removes both viruses and bacteria, not just the latter. The most cost-effective and simple thing I found is not really even a filter. It’s called SteriPEN. You stick the end of this little, vaguely pen-shaped thing into the appropriate amount of water and it kills everything dangerous in the water by zapping it with ultraviolet light. As Mother and I were discussing this clever contraption, we recalled that we already own a small pump filter that we had purchased for some excursion in Africa. She dug it out of the attic. And in the end, that is probably what I will use.
You may recall that I had emailed the Peruvian embassy and consulate and called the consulate about the visa thing. Well, I never got a reply. I was annoyed. And when my beloved father found out that I still didn’t know about my visa, he was annoyed that the Andeo people had not just told me whether or not I need one, since they are being paid to organize the details of my trip. In any case, the Andeo lady responded promptly, as always, and confirmed my suspicion: namely, I don’t need to apply for a visa. Since I will not be a proper university student, I don’t need a student visa. Therefore, when I arrive in Peru, my passport will probably be stamped with some sort of 90-day touristy visa-ish thing. And I will go on with my life.
Now we have come to the other things. tickets. applications. deferral letters. lists. Let us begin with tickets.
Before Beach Week (a biennial, week-long beach gathering of my paternal extended family), Mother had been searching for tickets to Peru and had found nothing fantastic. Then we went to Beach Week, where Uncle Tom revealed the wonders of Spirit Airlines. To put it bluntly: Spirit is cheap. Their flights cost only a third or maybe less of what other airlines charge to fly down south. ‘Tis wonderful! Of course, they don’t fly a huge number of places, but thankfully, Lima, Peru is one of the places they do fly.
The other thing about flights that is being considered is whether or not one of the parents will accompany me to Lima and send me off to Cusco. The reason for such an odd move is that there is no possible way to fly to Cusco from home without spending a night in Lima. And the parents are not quite thrilled at the thought of me spending a night in a foreign country by myself, to say the least. I am not quite sure what I think about that prospect. Regardless, one or another of my parents will probably fly down to Lima, maybe a few days early so we can tour the city, and see me off on my flight to Cusco.
I gave up on the second set of Panama DTS people (the ones on some Panamanian island called Bocas del Toro). I emailed them weeks ago and have recieved no response whatsoever. Therefore, I printed off the application for original Panama DTS and have begun the gradual process of filling it out. One must never rush these things. Or at least I do not intend to this time.
Yesterday I finally received a letter from UNC-CH. While waiting for a few brief minutes after finishing cooking supper for dad to come home so we could eat it, I moseyed down to the mailbox. I instantly recognized the UNC-CH logo on the envelope with my name visible through the flimsy plastic window of the envelope. Still juggling the rest of the mail, I ripped it open with my teeth and scanned the letter. SUCESS! Gracious and sensible Mr. Farmer granted me a deferral until the fall of 2012. God be praised! Along with some kind but scripted sentences about successes and other such worthy goals, the letter detailed the terms of my deferral: I must not deviate from what I outlined in my deferral request; I must not take any college courses; I must pay whatever fees I owe to UNC-CH; and I must write again by December 31st to confirm my deferral. Sounds feasible. My gap year is officially permissible.
I started a packing list. I discovered about a week ago that I was coming up with random but vital and not entirely obvious things to bring to Peru. And I was not writing them down. Afraid I would forget my sudden packing inspirations, I titled a loose piece of notebook paper “Peru” and jotted down my thoughts. I have been adding to it as items come to me. I have not yet started my comprehensive packing list. The current one is for things I might forget about, like cold medicine, chapstick, peanut butter (oh yes), and extra led for my mechanical pencils (just thought of that one and wrote it down). With any luck, I will have exactly everything I need, no more, no less, with me in Peru.