Well-traveled, bilingual, naturalist, interpreter, with an M.A. in International Studies. Foodie and cultural explorer. Sometimes an ethnographer, sometimes a photographer. Always ready to use skills of communication, gained in medical, cultural, and scientific environments, to pursue goals that encourage education and understanding.
Earlier today, at 3:27 pm, I saw a Pitt County Deputy Sheriff expressing one of the most amazing human traits, compassion. I was driving eastbound on 5th Street, behind Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, North Carolina, towards the intersection with Memorial Drive. This officer of the law was handing food and a drink to a lonely lady, who seems to be homeless, sitting on a chair on the sidewalk. I couldn’t see much, as I was passing by, but I can tell her face lit up. The caring attitude of this police officer restored my somewhat tainted hope in humanity.
In recent years, we keep hearing of some of the atrocities committed by police officers in the United States against people, many of them being African Americans and other minority groups. These officers have been depicted as hateful, racists and brutal enforcers of the law. Today I can reaffirm that not all cops are bad. We have good people and we also have bad apples everywhere, but this doesn’t mean we should label all police officers as bad or incompetent.
Today I witnessed the commitment to “Protect and Serve” at its maximum expression. Who was this police officer? I don’t know. I just know he was a young African American, wearing his sharp light-khaki uniform shirt, and that lady’s angel for a moment. I congratulate this officer, whoever he is, wherever he is, and if I had the opportunity I would shake his hand for such a selfless expression. I’m proud of him!
My last post was about eight months ago. In those eight months, life changed dramatically for me. My mother became sick again with cancer, after years in remission, and this time it came back fast and furious. It attacked her lungs and eventually her complete body, shortening her life to a mere three months. Life was difficult at the time. Stress, anxiety and uncertainty invaded my mind and body. Fortunately, a group of dear friends, the magnificent seven as I called them, were there to help me with mom unconditionally, otherwise I could have never dealt with the situation by myself. Time and the destructive nature of cancer consumed my mother’s body and mind, eventually extinguishing her life. Her last breath was not alone; she was surrounded by people who loved her when she crossed the door and departed to the eternal life, joining my dad and my grandma.
The following months were very difficult, I struggled and I fell apart, I was broken. It felt as if suddenly I was floating on empty space, lonely, with nothing to grab on. Slowly and with the support of amazing friends, classmates, professors and mentors, I have been able to recover and to start rebuilding my life.
It is for this reason The Fourth Explorer had been silent. There was no spark and no motivation to write. But things have changed, the spark is coming back and the desire to continue exploring has bloomed once again.
As I walk through the streets of Lima and sit down to take notes, I look back at my life and remember. I remember my dreams as I was growing up, dreams of adventures, dreams of travels and dreams of meeting other cultures. I remembered the crew of the USS Enterprise on the Start Trek episodes, traveling throughout the galaxy and encountering other species, other civilizations and their unique cultures. I remember dreaming about having experiences like that one day. I always kept repeating and memorizing those words from Captains James T. Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard at the very beginning of the show, “where no one has gone before”.
My life hasn’t been easy; it has been painful in many instances. I have been through dark alleys where some of my worst fears trapped me for a while, perhaps a little longer. Times when I thought I would never be able to explore the galaxy and meet other cultures; times when I thought I would never see the light at the end of the tunnel. But I have been able to move forward and leave all that darkness behind. Most importantly is that those experiences have made me stronger and focused to accomplish the many things I want for my life. They have given me the incentive to look at the stars once again and dream.
I might not be on board the USS Enterprise, but I have just started traveling to explore new worlds and new understandings of human civilization. Perhaps I will never be eating gagh with a Klingon at the Ten Forward and drinking Romulan Ale, but I am surely enjoying a good anticucho or ceviche in a nearby restaurant with a nice Pisco Sour. I have just started the quests to find those unique experiences nobody else can make you feel, unless you jump and reach for the stars. I am now going where no one has gone before!!!!
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams” – Eleanor Roosevelt
I have been eating avocados since the dawn of my days. The creamy texture and unique flavor of these fruits have always fascinated me. I eat it in soups, with rice and beans, guacamole with nachos, or simply by itself with a pinch of salt and pepper and a bit of olive oil on top. Avocados are one of those comfort foods that make my palate a happy one.
In the English language it is mostly known as “avocado”. I grew up calling it by its Spanish name “aguacate“. But where does the word aguacate comes from? This fruit find its origins in Mexico several thousands years ago. The name aguacate derived from the Nahuatl word ahuacatl. Nahuatl was the language of the Aztecs. The word ahuacatl was then transformed into aguacate by the Spanish. Consequently, the word aguacate was twisted into avogato in English, which then evolved into the word avocado that we know today.
You might be asking yourself, so what’s the point of all this description? Well, let me tell you what’s going on. I came to Peru and encountered an amazing culture, but when it came to ask for food or talk about recipes, there was a problem. Nobody could understand what I was talking about.
I was supposed to be speaking in Spanish but there was definitely a problem with the communication. I was talking about aguacates (avocados), which is the word used in the Caribbean (where I am from), Central America and the northern parts of South America; and they just didn’t know what I meant with that. Completely clueless, both sides.
Later, after explaining that the word in English is avocado ( I had no other option), I find out that they call it palta here in Peru. Palta? What in the world is that word?, I asked myself. After digging a little bit in the history of food in the Americas, and speaking with my Peruvian friends, it seems that the avocados came down to this side of the world many centuries ago from Mexico, and the Quechua speaking inhabitants named it palta. Well, now it makes sense.
Now I have adapted and to avoid people looking at me strangely, I talk about paltas and not aguacates!!!! At the end the guacamole is still good with both words!!!! Enjoy!!!!
Ripen Palta at the Wong grocery store, in Surco, Lima.
During my exploration in the southern coastal region of Lima, I visited the district of Pucusana. Its name derives from a combination of a Quechua dialect of the coast and the Aymara language. Pucu means “red” (from the Quechua) and Sana means “abundance of something” (from the Aymara). The name refers to the reddish tones present in the mountains surrounding the area. These tones are the result of the abundant content of iron oxide in this region.
Pucusana is known for its beautiful beaches sought by many tourists and its abundance in marine resources. Its residents mainly dedicated themselves to fishing, having a very active production in the area.
When I visited Pucusana,I only had the chance to visit its fishing market and some areas around the town. I was able to observe the unloading of their daily catch, the processing and the packing. It is quite an operation involving many people moving around in a very unique synchronization.
The bay was quite a spectacle. That day, mid afternoon, there was a fog covering the area creating a very unique visual ambience. The bay was congested with all the fishing boats and it looked like an enormous colorful carpet covering the water.
During my time in San Bartolo I visited the neighboring district of Santa María del Mar. It is a place that stands out for its upscale arquitecture and beautiful beaches. It is a district that attracts many tourists, especially during the Peruvian summer (winter in the northern hemisphere). However, it is winter season at the moment, but its coastline, bathe in warm light from the sunset, still provides an inviting sensation to all those looking down the cliffs and enjoying at the same time the refreshing and cool breeze coming from the Pacific Ocean.
I also had the opportunity to meet with the mayor of Santa Maria del Mar, Mr. Marwan Zakharia Kahhat Abreddrabbo. He was born in Peru to Palestinian parents who migrated to South America many decades ago. I spent some time speaking to Mr. Marwan, who provided me with a unique insight about the socio-economic and political aspects of the region. He represents one of the many cultural heritages that gives a distinctive shape to the diverse cultural landscape of Peru. It was truly an honor to meet such an interesting individual with such a charismatic personality.
San Bartolo is a district inside the city of Lima. It is a colorful town filled with strong community ties. The people in San Bartolo enjoy the casual talks in the “malecón” (water front) sharing their daily lives, catching up with events in the community or simply telling jokes. This Peruvian town with its beautiful coastline houses some of the best surfing you could find in the western hemisphere.
I spent a few days with friends enjoying the community warmth of this hidden and lovely place in the southern part of Lima, walking around, shopping at the “mercado” and tasting some of its delicious sea food and “pollo a la brasa” (roasted chicken). I had the honor of meeting several people who granted me the opportunity to learn more about the history and idiosyncrasies of San Bartolo and the Peruvian culture as well. I will definitely go back soon!