What If Something Happens?

by Sally McKinney

 

Squeezed between napping young people in a tour van, I doubted that this Virgin del Carmen dance festival weekend was a good idea. I’d finished my bottle of water. The driver was swerving down rough roads toward a Peruvian village 3,200 meters high. Weak and dehydrated from several medications, I felt nausea with each lurching switchback.  

When I planned this July weekend in remote Paucartambo, I imagined the fun I’d have. Tripping around in my long, ruffled skirt—while sipping a pisco sour--I’d hitch up my skirt and join Peruvians, dancing in the street. 

Paucartambo, jammed with visitors for Festividad de La Virgen del Carmen, had limited lodging options. In the rear of the van, my back-up bottle of water was buried under luggage. Trucks, vans, cars, carts and visitors with daypacks blocked our way. We parked near a school so we could camp there for the night, but could not unload. After an hour in the parking lot, a tardy local woman unlocked the school room. I unzipped my duffel and gulped all the water I could hold.

Before I left home, my younger sister, Judy, who seldom travels, had shared her concern. “Isn’t Peru a developing country?” she asked and then began scolding, “You’re 78 years old! And you’re going to Peru?”

During the six-block walk to the plaza, we strolled past market stands stacked with alpaca blankets, fuzzy sweaters, striped ponchos and ear-flap hats. We were clearly in Peru. Two-story buildings with blue balconies overlooked the plaza on all sides. Standing on the sidewalk, I strained to see costumed performers parading down the street. My sister had said, “What if something happens?” Yet, as I surveyed the crowd, the festival scene looked safe enough to me. 

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