The three of us finally get the courage to venture out of our tiny 3-bed room and give the 10lb plastic bag of presents to the local family who is hosting us for the night. The night before, in Puno, we had purchased a ton of non-perishable food items, toiletries, and other knick-knacks on suggestion from Luciano.
We walk down the haphazard steps and turn right towards the hut serving as a kitchen. The flimsy metal door is half open, but I still knock to be polite.
Marina and Killian designate me to be our group’s communicator.
As I slowly enter the dimly lit kitchen, I am greeted by the sight of an indigenous woman on the floor vigorously handling a hairless guinea pig carcass in a shallow basin.
This is our dinner, I think to myself.
Five others work around the room on some component of meal preparation, but no one looks up to see the three strangers bearing gifts.
“Presents from us to your family,” I manage in broken Spanish.
Still no one looks up at me.
“This is so fucking awkward,” I whisper to Killian who just entered this unsocial environment behind me.
Just then, a hand of one of the women working around the 2 range gas stove is raised in my direction. Her other hand continues to work, and her gaze barely breaks from her task.
I put the bag in the floating hand.
“Gracias” is muttered as our bag of presents is quickly dropped to the floor without any inspection or acknowledgment.
Everyone continues to work in darkness and silence, and the three of us stand awkwardly in the doorway waiting for more interaction.
“Well, I guess that’s that.”
We walk back out feeling confused and rejected.
The metal door slams behind us.
This home stay with a local family on one of the islands on Lake Titicaca, the largest high-altitude body of water (approximately 4000m), was supposed to be our big finale of Peru travel, and yet it is failing miserably.
After this interaction, or lack thereof, the three of us brace ourselves for the most awkward dinner experience of our lives.
“What if we just say we are sick?” suggests Killian.
We’d all rather just avoid the dinner altogether; Luciano previously warned us against the locally prepared dinner due to high probability of getting a wide array of GI problems.
Just then, a knock on our door is heard.
The dreaded dinner call.
We are led back to the kitchen by one of the younger members of the family, and shown to a table with three place settings in the corner of the candlelit room.
Immediately after we sit down, three bowls of mystery soup are handed out.
“I can’t eat this…”
“Can you find any guinea pig in your bowls?”
“This is the worst dinner of our entire trip”
As Marina, Killian and I carry on our miserable conversation whilst mindlessly stirring the contents in our bowls, a couple members of our host family sit on the floor across from us devouring their cenas. No one speaks or looks at us.
“Let’s just say ‘thank you’ and go back to our room,” I suggest.
After pushing around our food some more we use this strategy and get back to our room.
Soon thereafter yet another knock on our door.
This time, we are dressed in traditional Peruvian garb to attend the local dance hall – or Inca-theque.
While Marina looks quite cute in her intricate and multilayered outfit, Killian and I look like ridiculous hobo wizards.
After an underwhelming Inca-theque, a cold night of broken sleep, the development of a sore throat, and another frightful meal with our socially challenged hosts, we were off the island and en route back to Puno.
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