I’ve been in Cusco, Peru for about a day now and the main thing I’m excited to do in Cusco is leave Cusco.
To be fair, I disliked Cusco before I even got here. I was talking to a Canadian guy in Lima who told me how convenient it was in Cusco because everyone spoke English to him. That was about the time I suspected Cusco and I probably weren’t going to get along. On top of that, I came to Cusco directly from Lima and that’s a tough act to follow because I loved Lima. As soon as I arrived in Cusco, I could tell it was everything I’d feared
by focusing only on the aspects of the city that confirmed my pre-conceived notions about it.
Walking around, I constantly get the sense that Cusco has two kinds of people: tourists and people who are trying to sell to tourists. Every block’s got a travel agency, a “traditional food” restaurant, an internet café, a massage parlor (I think legit?), a Peruvian crafts/art store…
This morning, I saw an 8 year old girl dressed in traditional clothing carrying a baby alpaca under her arm. If you’ve never seen a baby alpaca, they’re outrageously adorable. It’s an alpaca that’s so small that this tiny girl could comfortably carry it in a pouch under her arm! I was SO excited. But then I realized that this whole thing was contrived. She was dressed this way and carrying around the alpaca so she could charge people to take her picture. Totally ruined it for me. I wanted it to be that I was catching this slice of Andean life that’s adorable, but instead I was seeing a caricature of Andean life that’s manufactured for tourists to make a profit.
When I had lunch, the waiter told me midway through the meal that I spoke Spanish very well. I was kind of dubious because I hadn’t said anything very complicated, but he said it with such conviction, I decided to humbly accept the compliment. Then the exact same thing happened when I was eating dinner, except that time I knew that I hadn’t said anything in Spanish aside from my food order and that was dead simple, but I had still managed to screw up the pronunciation. Fake compliments for the gringos! It almost cheapened all the definitely sincere compliments about my Spanish I’d received in Lima from waiters / receptionists / various people I was paying to serve me. Almost.
On top of all that, it’s cold and rainy here and a lot of the stores / restaurants aren’t heated, so you have to be bundled up even inside (including at my hostel). Most of the streets are really narrow, so they feel more like back alleys than roads. The city’s in the middle of the hills, so you’re constantly trudging up and down hills to get around.
So in closing: waaaaah, waaaaah, waaaaah.