Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Unexpected Souvenir

"30 soles" the paunchy cab driver said too quickly when I had asked the fare.  We had learned to fix the price before stepping into a taxi or, in this case, agreeing to follow the cabby’s florescent yellow racing bomber jacket along the dark sidewalk thronged with passengers and cabbies. Jorge had been happy to accept the 25 Soles I offered (roughly $10, the fare we paid the day prior to get to the station).  We understood each other only to a limited extent but the driver took the opportunity during the 25 minute cab ride from Poyho train station to our hotel in Cuzco, Peru, to practice his poor English.  However, he chose to do so by teaching us words in his native tongue; Quechua, for which he knew the English equivalents.  It proved to be a short lesson.

The cabby knew the Terra Andina Hotel where we were returning after our one night stay at Aguas Caliente (near Machu Picchu), but decided that roadwork was going to make it difficult to get his car close so unilaterally decided we needed to get out several blocks away.   All this was in Spanish, which proved somewhat problematic as he instructed us as to how to navigate the dark, torn up streets. Then came the real problem; paying Jorge.  Carson and I had enough money between us, but not the right type apparently.  The driver refused Carson’s 20 Soles bill (and required coin), pointing out that a small corner was missing from the bill.  It seemed laughable, but he stood his ground and insisted we pay with another bill.  Carson had no other so offered American dollars.  They were refused.  Remembering I had a 100 Sole ($40) note left, I handed it to him hoping he had enough change.  Without so much as a glance at the bill he pushed the money back at me, grabbed the 20 and stormed around to the driver’s door, got in and drove off, muttering all the while in his native tongue (apparently not words he had taught us). 
Despite a couple of wrong turns, we managed to make it back to the hotel where we made arrangements to check out early the following morning in order to catch our plane to Santiago, Chile. Hungry from the long day, we decided to enjoy a late Peruvian meal (our last) at the hotel, and immediately thereafter fell exhausted into our beds in an upgraded room that we would not get to really enjoy (the nicest we'd stayed in so far).

It was not until the following morning that the altercation with the taxicab driver became logical. I was at the front desk paying for the meal that we had enjoyed after checking out the night before. I handed the clerk the 100 Sole note that had been so brusquely returned to me by the cabby. But before I could get it fully out of my wallet the expression on the clerk's face changed. Her eyes narrowed, she looked more stern, and said one word as she touched the bill and handed it back to me. "Paper", she said. In short order, she demonstrated that this note was clearly counterfeit currency. The fact that I have received the bogus bill from a Scotia Bank ATM in Lima several days prior was of no comfort. I had an expensive and unanticipated souvenir.

Traveling has made it harder to disguise my Parkinson's symptoms. The lack of proper sleep, tense interaction in a foreign language, a stressful schedule from time to time, plus the physical demands we are facing, all contribute to amplification of my tremor (at least at times). The reality is that with a modicum of observation skill I am immediately recognized as a "counterfeit". That is, what I sometimes seek is acceptance for something I am not. Faking the role of someone who does not have Parkinson's disease is tempting for me. However, it is unsustainable and falls into another falsehood; that somehow I am less acceptable as a result of the disease. I realized, through this experience with counterfeit money, that I do not need to be a counterfeit, somehow attempting to pass myself off as something more real. If I cannot accept myself, "warts and all", then others will be less able to do so. Despite being different, those of us who have disabilities are as real as any others who do not struggle with those particular challenges.  No counterfeiting required.

PS.  Internet is slow and intermittent here, making picture uploads painful.  They will follow.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful application and insight...goes far beyond just those in the PD community. Made me think of Psalm 103:14.