The morning was still waking up by the time the bus arrived to the costal peruvian town. I stretched my cramped legs from spending the night sleeping in the uncomfortable bus seats. I am lucky to be so small, I couldn’t imagine how I would feel if I was ten centimeters taller. I grabbed my only little backpack and hung it on my shoulders. There were only four of us getting out at that stop. Stepping out of the bus, reality checked. A layer of dust took over my entire body and crept into my hair. At the same time ten different cab drivers tried to push me inside of their cabs with tempting offers.
Making my way trough the tumult I arrived to the quiet bus agency and asked the man behind the counter if I was at the right place. I was at the right place. I asked him about sleeping options. He called the only other man in the room and asked him to take me to the hostel he considered the best. With morning peace, we got in the car and started driving. The “best” hostel was on the far end of town. While we drove I looked at the town passing me by, and I tried to find the charm described in my Lonely Planet guide, but all I saw around me were ugly cement buildings.
We arrived at the hostel but the idea of walking all the way to the edge of town alone at night was not very appealing or smart. The driver decided to show me another hostel, two blocks from the beach. He explained to me that the boardwalk was the best part of town and the reason why people visited. The second hostel wasn’t much better, it was crowded with lonely males. Hostel number three was owned by an old couple. They asked me if I was hungry and invited me to have breakfast.
That was it. I was staying.
The hostel looked a hundred years old, the ceilings were so tall I wondered how they changed their light bulbs. I left my few belongings in my tiny room and walked to the kitchen. Breakfast was on the table with a little note from the hosts saying they were out doing groceries. I was the only one there. While eating my breakfast I made up my mind to leave the next morning. One day was more than plenty to wander around. With pen and paper in hand, I started sketching my plan to visit the mountains. Ten minutes later, I was interrupted by a tall skinny boy speaking to me in broken spanish:
– Hola, yo soy Alex! Estoy quedando acá. Si tu quisieras tomar un te conmigo? Yo lo traigo de mi casa. Es Earl Grey es muy bueno. No hay muchos bolsas, pero me encantaría compartirlo contigo.
With the open heart of the lonely traveller I accepted his morning tea invitation. Listening to stranger’s stories and drinking tea are some of the things I enjoy the most, not too many times I get to do them together. I learned he was from America and that he was traveling alone for two months. He was chasing waves, big waves, perfect waves, he liked to ride them. Now he was on his way to Machu Pichu, were I was coming from, he was also leaving next morning.
He was funny, talkative and curious. His tea wasn’t that good, but he didn’t know I was a tea snob and I tried not to show it. After the second cup and a long extensive life interrogation we exchanged surfing lessons for photography lessons. By the time the day came to an end our plans had changed and we made new ones together. Three weeks passed and the time to say goodbye came. With no promises we took planes in opposite directions. Six months of love letters, online calls and messages passed. The idea of living with a “what if” any longer disturbed me. With my tourist visa, my plane ticket and a little bigger bag I left home to “visit” him for three months.
Those three months turned into three years this week. Alex has become more comfortable with a camera and I have become a better surfer. We drink loose leaf tea every morning.
We’ve been celebrating Valentines and the beginning of our fourth year together since last friday, and in Latin style the celebration we will continue to celebrate for the rest of the week. In honor of year four, I decided to write down our story.
A day does not go by that I don’t think about how different my life would have been if I would not have accepted his cup of tea or decided to take the huge leap and go visit Alex in California.