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Photo: Eduardo Zárate, Feature Photo: Mark Rowland

Clear Andean sunshine streams through thin green curtains. The kitten is meowing outside my window like somebody stepped on her, and laughter drifts in from the patio. It’s impossible to refute the fact that it is, indeed, daytime.

Another day in Cusco.

Another day in my expat dream life.

I was home in Australia for most of September; I hung out at the Sydney Bar Show and listened while friends of a friend gushed over the glamour and excitement of my life. “A hostel in Peru? You are, like, the coolest person ever.”

Hell yeah, I thought. That is pretty cool.

And now I’m home in Cusco and I drag myself out of bed, slip into jeans and tiptoe out of the room. Six more days until my private room is free. Until then I’m sleeping in a shared dorm; I can’t sleep, can’t work, can’t write.

Breakfast is a rushed affair – coffee, Vegemite on bread, pineapple juice. I check emails, Facebook and Twitter; review to do lists written on scraps of paper and shoved into pockets.

And so passes my morning. I sit in the bar or the office, fending off visitors and questions and complaining staff, longing for a small little space of my own. I try to write, stare at a white page. I try to work, and the phone rings and the dog barks and the girls I’m sharing a room with are awake and sitting down next to me to share last night’s gossip.

Lunch is late here; a friend drops by, and I take the opportunity to escape for a while. At least once a week we’ll head to the caldo de gallina joint in Plaza Tupac Amaru for a cheap and delicious Creole feed. I almost always opt for the caldo, squeeze lime and pile spicy ají into the huge, steaming bowl of chicken, noodles, potato and hard-boiled egg. It’s the ultimate reviver; it cures stress, sadness and hangovers.

Plaza de Armas, Photo: Jae

The afternoons are for errands. There’s been more rain lately than there should be this time of year, always in the afternoons. I duck in and out of taxis, never ceasing to feel proud of myself for not even having to negotiate the standard S/.2.50 fare. Tourists pay S/.3, but apparently I have the local air down pat at this stage, despite the obvious gringa looks. I bury my nose in a book to avoid the stock conversation – where are you from? Wow, you speak good Spanish. How long have you lived here then? Have you got a boyfriend? Aah, you must like the Peruvian boysson muy calientes!

Bank, post office, bills, tax office; tick, tick, tick, tick.

Then five o’clock rolls round and maybe the rain has stopped and I take the pup, Manu, and wander out of the hostel once again and turn left then right then left again, till the Plaza de Armas opens up in front of me, and every time is like the first time and all of a sudden my expat dream life is exciting and glamorous once again. The plaza is wide and gracious with bright flowers and green grass. The hills of Cusco spread out and up like the smooth green edges of a tinted wine glass, and Cristo Blanco gazes down on me from the lip.

I live here.

We make a wide circuit through the plaza, up to San Blas, then circle back home via San Pedro market. We almost always run into friends, or drop by to visit them at work. The drop-ins, the relaxed work ethic, la hora peruana… these all used to drive me crazy with frustration, but I’m coming to love the fact that here, there’s always time for coffee and a chat.

I reach home, and I work a little longer, sip a Campari and orange in the office, start thinking about dinner. Cooking is one thing I miss desperately from home – the altitude and foreign ingredients here don’t agree with my cooking style, and I loathe sharing a kitchen. Besides that, time always seems to be scarce.

I reheat the leftover staff lunch or throw together a salad. Then the day is done, and the nights here are for fun. Everybody goes out, all the time. In this respect,it’s a hideously unhealthy city to live in. We end up in Mythology and dance while passing around shared bottles of beer. Someone whirls me around in a rapid salsa I’m just starting to get the hang of.

I walk into a yellow-lit Plaza de Armas and grab a taxi for home.

Community Connection

Share about a day in your life as an expat. For details, see Matador Abroad’s Call for Submissions.

For more about life and travel in Cusco, check out Matador’s Focus Guide on Peru.

Expat Life


 

About The Author

Camden Luxford

Camden lives for long, uncomfortable journeys and dreams of the Trans-Siberian Railway. From hitch-hiking in Europe, through Asia by bus and boat, she has found herself in the Peruvian Andes, where she relishes the colors of the festivals, the warmth of the people and the hearty flavors of the soups. When she's not exploring her new home, she's studying politics by distance and writing for her blog, The Brink of Something Else, or as a regular contributor to Matador Abroad.

  • http://www.worldcurioustraveler.wordpress.com Mary R

    Camden,
    What a wonderful description of a typical day… I want to live there too!

  • http://saffakidlife.blogspot.com jenna

    as usual, you took me right back to cusco.

    i always found plaza de armas such an open and respect-worthy place. everytime i walked into the square it was like i stopped for a moment, without thinking, to take it all in.

    i especially loved how even the macdonalds on plaza de armas is subtle, with the black “m” instead of the typical and sometimes obnoxious golden arches.

  • http://brinkofsomethingelse.com Camden Luxford

    Thanks for reading ladies! It is a lovely place… and Mary, the non-typical days make it even better. Horse-riding through the hills, lunch in the Sacred Valley… can’t beat it.

  • http://kristin5683.wordpress.com/ Kristin Conard

    Love your description! I also like the little moment at the beginning of how people, or at least travel people, generally are impressed when you say you’re working in a hostel – but they forget the lack of privacy in what essentially becomes your home!

  • Pingback: Adjusting to Life as an Expat: Part One | The Brink of Something Else: expat life in Cusco, Peru

  • http://www.cuadernoinedito.wordpress.com Julie

    Camden-

    I was just talking with someone who’s starting out on expat life about what it’s like to go from actively dreaming about being an expat to actually being one. He didn’t “get” the kind of mundane stuff you write about here– life if life, no matter where you are. :) Good piece.

  • Jessica

    Great piece. Love reading about expat life and Peru. Hopefully around fall of next year I will be checking out your hostel as a guest! P.S. Don’t know if I’d ever completely loose the slight grin on my face everytime I read or hear of the Plaza Tupac Amaru. I know the rapper came after but I will always think of Tupac Amaru Shakur when I see that. Somehow tunes like Dear Mama and California Love don’t mesh with the rest of the images brought to mind while reading your story!

  • Tressa

    Cuzco has a special place in my heart too.

  • dave

    There’s a woman by the supermarket on one of the Plaza del armas corners that sells these homemade cornmeal tamales.. so damn good.

  • http://brinkofsomethingelse.com Camden Luxford

    @Kristin and Julie – thanks for reading. I guess we’ll just have to work together to dispel one overwrought expat fantasy at a time :)

    @Jessica – I have the same problem. Get in a taxi – “Tupac Amaru, por favor. Hee.” Looking forward to meeting you here in person!

    @Dave – I hate to admit it. Don’t hate me. Not a fan of the tamale.

  • http://www.mexicounmasked.com Mark

    Great post Camden! You have it rough my friend…ha ha! Seriously, it seems to me that you’ve been able to find a rhythm that works for you and helps you be productive in spite of so many “distractions”. I think I’d be pulling my hair trying to find that one little space of solitude from which to think and create. Or, who knows, I might just be able to incorporate the day’s happenings into something productive as you’ve managed to do!! Oh, and that “caldo de gallina” sounds awesome! Great job again and happy & safe travels to you! :)

  • Kunal

    Truly was one of the most interesting, and in my words, peaceful cities I have ever been too. The Peruvian hospitality is second to none, as with the breakfast at Jacks. Nice piece.

  • Dan

    I had the privilege of visiting Cusco last month, it really is an awesome place hidden in the Andes.

  • Root Leaf

    cool, thanks for sharing!

  • Joe Verde

    Are there any type of other than tourism jobs in Cusco?

  • Joe Verde

    Are there any type of other than tourism jobs in Cusco?

  • Joe Verde

    Are there any type of other than tourism jobs in Cusco?

  • Joe Verde

    Are there any type of other than tourism jobs in Cusco?

  • Joe Verde

    Are there any type of other than tourism jobs in Cusco?

  • Joe Verde

    Are there any type of other than tourism jobs in Cusco?

  • Joe Verde

    Are there any type of other than tourism jobs in Cusco?

  • Joe Verde

    Are there any type of other than tourism jobs in Cusco?

  • Joe Verde

    Are there any type of other than tourism jobs in Cusco?

  • Joe Verde

    Are there any type of other than tourism jobs in Cusco?

  • Joe Verde

    Are there any type of other than tourism jobs in Cusco?

  • Joe Verde

    Are there any type of other than tourism jobs in Cusco?

  • Joe Verde

    Are there any type of other than tourism jobs in Cusco?

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