It was in the post office that I first ran up against the language barrier — something that up to this point had been an abstraction, but now presented itself in the very concrete form of a Peruvian postal employee who had no idea what I wanted from him.
“Arriba,” he said, gesturing upward as though swatting a mosquito. “Está arriba.”
I tried to explain that I’d just been upstairs in search of the package my mother had sent me, and that the office there was closed. There was no one at the window, and the sign had said to go downstairs. I said all of this in what I thought was correct, if not exactly beautiful, Spanish. He stared at me like I was a talking llama, only without the kind of amused wonder and eventual respect you might afford a talking llama.