Aw Sh-t and Counting One’s Blessings

img_0966Donkey dung. Now on my pants for the next 24 hours. We were departing the birthplace of the Inca gods, the Island of the Sun in Lake Titicaca, and hence were trudging through the donkey dung strewn path down to the ferry. On the island, these donkeys are the beasts of burden, and, as a tourist, one can have one’s luggage carried up or down on the backs of one of them.

We were in a rush, so we shouldered our backpacks and set off. The path was slippery with donkey fecal matter. As we got close to the edge down by the harbor, we could see that the ferry was pulling in. We started hurrying. Next minute, I was on my back like an upended turtle. Except that my leg was bent in the other direction. For one second, I thought it was broken and thought how awkward that would be when halfway up a hill in Lake Titicaca.

The edge of the cliff was a foot or so away, and the only damage I had suffered was a bit of manure on my jeans. My friend gave me a hand up. And then, I was reminded of how lucky I was.

We made the ferry too. I enjoyed the aroma of my donkey dung for 24 hours. It didn’t smell that bad.

A City of Villages – New York City

Colombian food in Brooklyn.
Colombian food in Brooklyn.

While many people visit New York City for the shopping, the sites, the entertainment, I like New York for its villages. It seems like every few streets, New York changes nationality, from Chinatown, Little Italy, Jamaica, and all the other little villages that make up the great world of New York City. Every neighborhood is distinct and many New Yorkers never leave their neighborhoods.

Seafood dumpling soup in Chinatown, NYC.
Seafood dumpling soup in Chinatown, NYC.

Usually, when I take a taxi, I chat with the taxi drivers. Taxi drivers are often immigrants and many have interesting stories to tell. On this trip, my first taxi driver shared with me where to get the best Pakistani food in New York and in Washington, DC. But then suddenly, he asked about my marital status. I was a little taken aback because I had forgotten, after a few months in politically correct DC, that this is considered a polite question in some cultures.

A few days later, my second taxi driver, an Ecuadorian, patiently let me practice my Spanish with him (gracias, and I appreciated your philosophical stance on bilingual education). My third cabbie was a Miami Cuban taxi driver. I considered trying to practice Spanish on him but his delightfully colloquial rapid fire English and his story about his epiphany about happiness, on 9/11, made me keep quiet.

A farmers' market in New York City.
A farmers’ market in New York City.