Let's take inventory:
- 118 hours traveled by bus
- 1,569 pieces of bread eaten
- 2 friends made
- 174 out of 180 days without rain
- 40 days of traveler's diarrhea and 2 with food poisoning
- 16 pirated movies bought and watched
- 3 cases of altitude sickness (including one upchuck in the bus bathroom)
- 53 hours spent hand-washing clothes
- 50+ cups of maté de coca and 17 pisco sours drank
- Approx. 10 (yes, 10) two-pointers sunk by yours truly on the courts of Arequipa
- One million blessings counted; one million more questions about life
- Get scammed into visiting fake pre-Incan ruins--check!
- Visit a village built on floating islands at Lake Titicaca--check!
- Skip on down to Chile for a few days--check!
- Venture into the labyrinth tunnels of ancient ruins at Chavín--check!
- Say hello to the highest mountain in Peru--check!
- See one of the biggest folklore celebrations in South America--check!
- Hike the second-deepest canyon in the world--check!
As my Spanish improves, I understand less and less of Peruvian culture.
Culture is like an iceberg. There are facets of it you can see from the surface: language, food, dance, religion, music, celebrations, dress, etc...
But there are vast layers below that aren't seen until you crash right into them: practices in punctuality, professionalism, gender relations and ideas about personal space, for example.
Some parts an outsider may only get a glimpse of, or miss completely: the influence of a culture's history on the individual; group-wide prides and embarrassments; perceptions about love, family, money, friendship, political life; and ethics and morality.
How much of a people's beauty, ingenuity and diversity is hidden underwater? I think there's a lot more "lost in translation" than the phrase implies.