Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Clean underwear

Twenty-five years ago this month I was traveling in South America with my friend Jacqueline Webster. She was my pal in university. (We lived across the hall from each other in first year and found that we shared the same birthday.) We ended up becoming good friends and kept up with each other after university ended.

We planned this trip to South America because she was working for an 'alternative' travel agency, and she could get some good deals. She was also very interested in communism and was bent on exploring more unconventional ways of living. Jacky was working for a co-operative travel agency that specialized in travel to Africa, Cuba, Latin and South America. You get the picture. I, on the other hand, was working for a chemical distributor selling industrial grade and laboratory chemicals to industries in  WNY and Northern Pennsylvania. Despite this rather large divide between our 'life choices', we got along famously. We were gone for a month, and we never fought once.

I had finished my Bachelor of Science in Biology and wanted to see the Galapagos Islands. That's all I really wanted out of the trip, but I was willing to indulge Jacky's desire to see the rest of Ecuador and Peru. We were naive and silly and stayed in some real hell holes. (I recall sharing one "bed" with a few pigs.) It was one of those life changing trips. And I have her to thank for planning the entire trip and for helping to shape my outlook on life.
My pal and travel agent taking a break atop
Machu Pichu, Peru
I had met Bill just a few weeks before we embarked on our trip. He thought we were insane to go alone. It was 1986, and the Shining Path had a major presence in Peru. Jacky and I had a few adventures just trying to stay out of their way. But, that is another story.

This was a time before cell phones and the Internet so we were really out of touch. I posted some airmail letters, but they didn't arrive until after I returned. Jacky and I had a rough schedule, but the only things set in stone were our flights. Bill therefore knew that we would be in Quito on Feb. 13th and 14th because we had a flight to Cuzco booked. I had promised my mother that we would call her when we got to Quito since it was about half way through the trip. Man, was she relieved to hear my voice. She had been talking to Bill quite a bit, and she expressed his worry as well. She told me that he had sent me something c/o the American Embassy in Quito. 

Being the highly resourceful man that he was, he had arranged for a FEDEX package (yes, FEDEX was around back then) to be delivered. He thought that was the cleverest spot since he had no idea where we would be staying. We had booked nothing in advance -hence the night with the pigs mentioned above. Jacky and I figured out where to go and introduced ourselves to the guard at the embassy. After a lot of discussion and a number of individuals making inquiries a FEDEX package was delivered into my hands. On February 14th!. And do you know what was in that package???? UNDERWEAR!!! The funny thing was that I had already cycled through my 14 pairs and was about to do some laundry in the sink of the hostel in which we were staying. Luckily, I didn't open the package in the embassy - we waited 'til we were on the street and out flew some choice items from Victoria's Secret. Yes, Victoria's Secret was around back then, too.

So, this year, on February 14th,  Bill personally delivered a pink striped Victoria's Secret package into my hands. And inside was UNDERWEAR!!! Just like 25 years ago. But, this time there were no street vendors in Quito eyeballing two young girls far from home.

1 comment:

  1. this is your best post yet! so hilarious and sweet.