Devil May Care

From Joanie:

Michael and I returned from Peru just over a week ago. We have about a million stories, and could either a) cram them into one blog post that shows a whirlwind trip full of amazing experiences but just barely glossing over them or b) share small hilarious stories over time.

We’re choosing b, since that’s the general theme of this blog—small, hilarious stories.

While in Cusco, we stayed at a hostel—not the kind of scary, dirty hostel you run into while backpacking Europe—the kind with dorm beds and smelly hippies from all over the world who stay up all night binge drinking—more like the kind of boutique hostel you run into while backpacking with picky opera singers in Europe: small, quiet, comes with a big, delicious breakfast, and looks like it came out of a movie set.

Our hostel had never-ending filtered water, fruit, and coca tea, in an effort to help guests avoid altitude sickness, something we felt only until we came in for our quiet, sit-down check in when we were first handed mugs of coca tea.

Now, coca tea is not the same as cocaine. Having never done cocaine, I can’t really compare, but since neither of us discoed all night at any point during our trip, I think it’s safe to say that whatever process that turns coca into cocaine is a [expletive deleted] shame.

The effects of coca tea are somewhere between a strong cup of black tea and a very weak cup of coffee prepared by an elderly person. It tastes like liquid edamame, and is on the whole very refreshing. And it made a huge difference in our enjoyment of the trip to not have altitude sickness at all. The fact that I could now fail a drug test in the near future is immaterial.

Our hostel served breakfast super early for hikers leaving prior to six, and a more civilized and larger breakfast from 6-9am. The breakfast room had a glorious view of Cusco and the surrounding mountains, and was decorated with angels and devils.

Yes, that’s right.

Blond, blue-eyed angels, and brown, dark eyed, Native American looking devils. My white guilt bells went off immediately in this room, where I was facing early morning prior to caffeine and coca tea. Until we read the wall describing the Quechua conception of the devil. When European missionaries first told them of Christianity, they couldn’t get behind the idea of a supreme evil devil. They had a variety of sub-gods, some of whom were underworld gods. They weren’t good, for sure—they were minor trickster gods, a sort of Loki-light. They watched over miners, but in general, were just kind of [expletive deleted ]-holes.

So the devil is depicted doing all sorts of normal things.

Like this guy:

Here he is, sleeping past the alarm. Again.  Sometimes, the devil just wants to stay in bed, you know? Just ten more minutes.

But he’s got work to do:

And boy, does the devil have a busy day ahead! After checking his email on his tiny computer (with full size mouse for some strange reason), he’s got an Episcopal church choir service to sing in, soccer practice to coach, and a Mardi Gras parade to march in.

It took us four days of eating breakfast in that room to come up with a narrative for the devil that made sense for those outfits. Seriously, it took great effort and thought to come up with what the [expletive deleted] that could possibly be for…

It didn’t help the thought process that breakfast was accompanied by Andean flute covers of popular songs, such as “Colors of the Wind” and “My Heart Will Go On” and a particularly eerie Bossa Nova recording of Beatles covers.

And so we’d finish our breakfast, ready to head out and learn more about Cusco and the Inca and all of the wonderful things we’d be seeing. But not without first having the minor devils mess with our heads a little bit.