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Careful Not To Miss The People

Careful Not To Miss The People

Hello and good day!

I was walking through the Lima airport towards the security checkpoint.

There were two tall European men in front of me, who I believe were German.

They were fully equipped with hiking and camping paraphernalia. They carried bulky cross-country backpacks that were packed tight and stretched to the breaking point.

One was carrying black titanium walking sticks.

I know that they were titanium because the sticks had the word "Titanium" emblazoned in white letters.

Both had on high topped, leather, hiking boots that came up over their ankles and looked very strong and reinforced. Both wore tight-fitting walking shorts, and both had strong, muscular calves.

They were in a deep and animated conversation with one another as we walked along a walkway that was lined with shops on the left, and a packed food court to the right.

The Lima airport is a pretty interesting place.

I'd guess that 40% of the people in the Lima airport at any given time are tourists on their way to Cusco to see Machu Picchu.

It seems likely to me that the two Germans who I was following were geared up to hike the Inca trail.

Peru is a land of beautiful nature, fascinating history, and wonderful food.

But, in my humble opinion, none of those is the principal attraction of this charming country.

The number one thing to see and experience here is the people.

My German friends were so caught up in their conversation, that they walked right by two interesting and heartwarming sights that are representative of the type of people you can see and interact with in Peru.

Right before the security checkpoint, there was a family all gathered around a single young man.

One at a time, each of the 15 family members stepped up, hugged the traveler, and said a few parting words to him.

Since me and the Germans were standing in line waiting our turn, I took the opportunity to observe the departure scene.

The last person to say their goodbye was an old delicate grandma in a wheelchair.

Somebody helped her up and she shuffled slowly over to the young man. She touched his cheeks with her old knotty hands. He leaned down to give her a kiss on the cheek. She wrapped her thin arms around his neck, and they embraced while she whispered into his ear.

When the embrace was over, and the young traveler stood up, his eyes were blood shot red and he wiped tears from his face with the back of his hand.

He looked back and waved as he walked to the end of the security line.

His family stood and watched.

I didn't see the final send off because I reached the front of the line.

I don't know that I've ever seen that many people at an airport to say goodbye to a traveler.

15 people is a lot.

It looked like his parents were there, along with his siblings, and their children, his nieces and nephews.

An aunt and an uncle had come to help with the grandma.

This scene gives you several important insights about the culture.

Not many people in the United States have 15 family members who live close enough to go to the airport with you.

But even if we did, how many of us could rally that kind of crowd to come and say goodbye?

Over the years, I've seen many of these types of gatherings.

Not only do all of these family members live near one another, all in the same city, but they are happy and willing to take some time out of their day to head to the airport and show their loved one how much they care.

There is a very strong dedication to family here, which I find refreshing and exemplary.

In some ways, at least to me, a family moment like that is every bit as beautiful as Machu Picchu or the nature that you will see on the Inca trail.

It is a different kind of beauty, less grandiose, but lovely none the less, and a principal attraction of traveling in Peru, which an astute traveler won't want to miss out on.

When the Germans and I made it to the front of the line, we saw that a young lady in a business suit was directing traffic towards the various security stations.

Just when the chatting Germans were about to go through, she held up her hand, motioning for the line to stop.

Way back at the end of the line, there was an older couple.

The wife was using a walker.

The husband had a hunched back and was moving pretty feebly in his own right.

With the entire long line at a standstill, the young lady walked to the back of the line and signaled for the older couple to follow her.

She cut them all the way to the very front of the line and directed them to a security station with a big sign hanging over it.

The sign read "Preferential Passengers" and had stick figure drawings of an old person using a cane, a family with children, a pregnant woman, and a person in a wheelchair.

The airports in Peru let preferential passengers cut to the front of the line and there are dedicated security stations for these passengers which have shorter wait times and move more quickly.

My German counterparts paid no mind to this unfolding and continued to chat in their lively way.

They missed another wonderful thing about Peru that they are unlikely to see at the tourist attractions.

There is subtle humanity built into the administration of airports and other public venues.

You wouldn't see it unless you were making a strong attempt to watch the people and culture, which you should, because again, the people here are as unique and intriguing as the more traditional and tangible sights.

I won't have space to get into the Plaza de Armas, the town square, in Cajamarca, where at 6pm on a Tuesday, the entire town gathered together.

Children ran on the grass.

A man dressed as a clown, with his face painted, sold balloons.

Several food vendors meandered, selling freshly made food, churros and baked potatoes, out of baskets hanging from their necks.

The plaza is bordered by several ancient, grey brick, Spanish Catholic churches, originally built by Spanish conquistadores.

Towering mountains look down on you from every side, all around the city.

And people are out there, together as a community, enjoying their Tuesday evening, for no other reason than because it is good to be alive and together.

I am running long now, so I am going to sign off.

But before I do, one last reminder.

Whenever you take a trip or visit an attraction, don't forget to watch the people.

Sometimes they are lovelier than the place itself.

Thank you so much for your time today.

I hope that you have a truly blessed day.


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