My plan was unlikely to work out. The challenge was that where I live (Chincha Alta, Perú) is more set up for Peruvians than foreigners. You can find the syrupy peruvian donut known as picarones on most corners; you can find bootleg DVD’s of surprising quality; you can easily find street ceviché, crazy mototaxis, rowdy discoteks, stray dogs, and fruit vendors. But I was looking for chopsticks.
I wasn’t trying to indulge my nostalgia for the fat sushi rolls at Saburos back home. I was trying to come up with something good for my last class of international club. I had been leading a workshop on the world to 8 Peruvian high schoolers for the past 2 months. The students got connected to everywhere from Alaska to Romana- we watched foreign films, had trivia games, and some of you even helped out with my pen pal program.
Not thinking about how hard it is to find a laundromat or other things I thought were basically in every city, I got the idea to get chopsticks and eat sushi with my students. And I almost gave up on the idea after several wild goose chases through the chaotic downtown of Chincha. But then I stumbled on a tiny storefront a Peace Corps friend tipped me off to. The fancy interior looked closed but I got the attention of the owner. I quickly explained my class and he smiled, let me in, and went upstairs. Laughter spilled out of the back room, where a private dinner party was happening. While I waited I met a few folks who were starting a NGO, and wanted to chat about my experience. The owner came back and started pouring fancy drinks from unmarked bottles on the shelf. After sharing some pleasantries in Japanese and swapping a few stories he also passed me not only chopsticks but Nori imported from Japan. No charge.
My class was really satisfying. Not just because we ate veggie sushi rolls (they ate more cookies then sushi with chopsticks anyways) but because I got a sense that the past few years of traveling fit together in ways I couldn’t have imagined. My time in Japan last winter was amazing in it’s own right, but now it also serves as a connection to people on the other side of the world. That trip turned into something I can give away. It’s come around full circle. I can only guess, anticipate, and imagine how I’m going to be able to use my current travels.