It was around 8 pm and I was chilling in the living room in my pajamas talking to my family on the phone when all the sudden my host mom bursts in the door and yells “Sarita, let’s go to Chilete!” (A town about 30 minutes away). I tried to protest saying that I was in my pajamas and had just received the phone call from my family who I hadn’t talked to in weeks but she wasn’t having it and insisted I come along. My host brother was also very insistent in his own 8-year-old way, so the next thing I knew I was in my pajamas riding in a van through the night on the way to Chilete. The van was filled with professors, staff, and my socios (counterparts) from the institute my host mom worked at, all still in their uniforms and I felt just a bit uncomfortable and unprofessional needless to say, sitting there in my pajamas and wondering just what I had gotten myself into. The van was missing several windows and it was windy and chilly. I regretted not bringing my jacket along. I remember thinking to myself, “oh well, I’m going to try and make the most of this, and at the very least I’ll have a new adventure to write about later…” I asked my host brother who had his head out of the window next to me what exactly we were going to do in Chilete, but he didn’t have much of an answer and seemed he just along for the ride as well.
25 minutes later the van came to a stop in front of a row of houses. Each one had its front door open, just like in Magdalena. My host mom signaled for my host brother and I to get off and we followed her into the second house. It turned out to be my host dad’s sister’s house where their daughter also lived. She told me she was going to run some errands and would be back in a bit. I watched La Voz, Peru’s version of The Voice with my host sister and a Sila, a Turkish soap opera that is apparently very popular in Peru. At commercial breaks I caught up with my host sister and she told me about her trip to Macchu Picchu that she took with her high school for their class trip. She also informed me that parts of the Macchu Picchu trail were being destroyed due to so much tourism and as of January the trail would be closed for good. I’m really hoping this isn’t the case because I had planned on going when we have vacation time.
Around 11 pm my host mom finally came back and we were back on the road again. We stopped to get gas on the way back and as we pulled up the service attendant said something to the director of the institute who was driving and shook his head. The gas tank was in fact on the other side. He turned around and began to back up to reach the pump when all the sudden, BOOM! We hit something. I was half expecting the car to explode at any second but fortunately we had just hit the metal railing. There was some damage done to the back of the van and the taillight had been broken, and they apparently didn’t have any papers proving ownership. It also just so happened that we crashed right next to the police station.
Everything immediately got very tense. One of the older professors began to get very agitated saying that it was past 11 pm and he still had to plan for his class in the morning. We sat there in the parking lot of the gas station for what seemed like forever debating our next move. One of the professors told me that if they got pulled over the van could be confiscated and the driver could have his license taken away for a year. On the other hand, the longer we sat there, the most suspicious we looked so we decided to take the risk and make a move.
We hadn’t gone more than a few feet out of the parking lot before two policemen appeared and waved us over to the side of the road. The driver got out and tried to explain to them that they worked at an institute for mechanics and that they had left the papers in the office. The policeman didn’t seem to be buying it but then one of the women in the van who was still in her uniform told my host mom (who was also in uniform) to get out of the van with her. They exchanged a few words with the policeman and then he let us go. Just like that. They told me that because they worked in the institute (and were able to prove it by showing their uniforms) they were seen as more credible and thus we were let go. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief as we made our way back to Magdalena. By that time it was almost midnight and I couldn’t wait to in my bed under the covers in my hot room.