I’m currently sitting in the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, after clearing security and checking my bag in an unprecedented 15 minutes. Thank you to my intensely prepared mother for allowing me time to blog, wander the terminal, catch up on every episode released in the 6 seasons of Game of Thrones, and nap for an hour before the flight begins boarding. But as I relax before heading to Lima (and then connect on a quick flight to Cuzco), I began reflecting on one question that the application to this program asked: why would you like to work in Cuzco specifically? I felt confident in that answer when I first formed it and wrote it down. But I’m coming to realize as I sit in this airport that I don’t, in fact, no much about the city in which I’m about to spend 2 months.
I don’t fault myself for not truly knowing about the city I am working in, because it’s nearly impossibly to without having been there. So as I sit here and think about where I will be living, the only descriptions that come to mind are mere facts about the city: it is in high elevation, it has a festival called Corpus Christi during May that is a celebration, it is located near ruins of an ancient Incan empire because it used to be the religious and administrative hub of that empire. And I can make inferences about what Cuzco means to Peruvians because of its geography and history, but I truly don’t have a clue as to how residents of Cuzco and residents of Peru interact with this city, and that is the crux of knowing a city.
I grew up in Dallas (evident by the airport I’m leaving from). Dallas is sprawling and surprisingly diverse. There is quintessential US suburbia, and dense apartment living above lively bars and grungy burger joints. There are residents of Dallas who never venture into downtown, and others who rarely make it out. So rather than the image that Dallas may project of stuck up wealth, the way that various residents interact with the city has given me a more thorough idea of its identity. And growing up, I could interact with the parts of Dallas I found interesting.
My point is ultimately that the facts I’ve accumulated and excerpts I’ve read about the city in which I will be living, may inform or belie ultimately how I see it. I obviously want to interact with the city in a way that suits me (and pushes my comfort zone as well). But the reality is that I simply don’t know enough about the city yet to feel comfortable. And I’m just now coming to see the reality of my situation when days and months before I’ve done a good job of convincing myself I feel totally comfortable moving into a foreign place.