An Olympic Scale Journey

Lima, Peru

As I write this, I am 37,000ft above the Gulf of Mexico flying to Lima, Peru. We will catch an early morning flight to Cusco and, on Sunday, visit Machupechu. I had a two-day break in Atlanta to see Sidney, hang out with some friends, and repack my bags. However, now, it is back on the road and another international flight. I’m at the point now where I know what movies are in the airline rotation. Having now seen it twice, I recommend the Best Exotic Marigolds Hotel. It has a great cast and a good figure of humor and deep heart.

I am very glad that I had a chance to visit my brother Drew in London. It was only two whirlwind days, but it was great to see London as he lives it, visit his work, and check out the 2012 Summer Games. I have been to London close to a dozen times in my life, but this visit felt quite surreal. Although the opinion of the average Londoner is that they cannot wait for the games to be over and for life to get back to normal, seeing Olympic athletes riding the Tube or walking along the streets transfixed me. It’s not like I didn’t know that the athletes would be there. I’m just not sure that I realized that meant that they would do normal things like a ride a subway or go to the mall. The night of the mean’s 100m final, I was in this gigantic new mall that was built for the games adjacent to Olympic Park called Westfields. During the 9.6 whatever second race, I was crammed into the Bose store with close 100 other people. Within our tightly packed group were athletes from 3 countries. Since that mall is right on site, it is basically flooded with Olympic team members. Just walking around buying supplies, I saw Serbian shot putters, Spanish field hockey players, and a group of Finnish athletes. London always has tourist, some of them even wearing vaguely athletic clothing, but seeing groups of people in exactly matching outfits added a whole new dimension to s a city that I thought that I knew well. By the way, the trick for spotting an Olympic team member besides the name badges is the shoes. Olympic team members have shoes that color match their uniforms.

Drew also managed to get tickets to an Olympic event. We saw one of the women’s soccer semi-finals, Japan vs. France at Wimberley Stadium. Admittedly, neither of us had anything in particular invested in the match. Japan was predicted to win, and they did. France made a much bigger effort in the last 30min of so, but it was not enough to overcome the deficit. Still, it was the first time in my life that I got to watch the Olympics in person rather than on a television usually thousands of miles away from the action. There were tens of thousands of people there cheering for a huge gamut of countries. There were of course French and Japan fan, but also Brits wrapped in Union Jacks supporting Team GB, Spaniards wearing superhero outfits and singing, and even some other Americans. It was definitely a new and unforgettable experience. I will, no doubt, someday annoy my future grandchildren with the story. 

It is hard for me to believe that on Saturday, I woke up in Limuru, Sunday London, Wednesday Atlanta, and this coming Saturday Cuzco. This will make 4 continents in 7 days. Despite my best efforts, my body is not entirely sure what time zone it is in, but it has gotten used to being able to shower every day and eating non-rice and beans based food. I had an amazing revelation on my first night in London. I would drink the water that game out of the faucet again. In Limuru, I got running water back, but I still was not supposed to drink it. London was the first time in 10 weeks that I could drink the running water. For me, these kinds of things are a stranger adjustment than all the time zones that I am racking up. My life in London or Atlanta is so different from my life in the village, which I only left 2 weeks ago. Can my life go back to normal so quickly? In some ways, it clearly has. I connect showering to humanity, but in other ways, it probably won’t be quite the same. In a prep meeting for Peru yesterday, we talked about “reverse culture shock” that is the experience of reintegrating back into your own culture after a long stint in another culture. This is not the first time in my life that I have been through this process, but it is the first time that I have a name for it. One never quite views their “normal” life the same way.

In logistical news, expect a post and accompanying photos covering my first few days in Peru sometime Monday or Tuesday. From there, things will be a little more complicated. I am the official blogger for the conference that I am attending, so I will be posting material here and over on their site. I will post more details when I have them, but it does mean nearly daily content from me. Thanks as always for your comments, thoughts, and prayers as the journey continues. 

There are Olympic and a final few village pictures up, so as always check out my photos at 

Mungu Akubariki,