In September of 2007 I was traveling through South America when I came across a town called Arequipa in Peru. I only spent a few days there, but while in town I met some amazing people.
One such person was named Magaly. Magaly worked at one of the local restaurants. When I met her she was outside the restaurant in the square across the street trying to hustle business to the restaurant.
Arequipa is a large town, but doesn’t get a lot of tourists passing through. There is a lot of poverty in town and the cab drivers, restaurants and accommodations all try to steal each others business. Its a survival technique, really. There’s not enough to go around, especially in an area that tries to thrive on tourism.
Best known for the dramatic views from Colca Canyon and as a stop over on the way to the Nasca lines, Arequipa is situated between three giant volcanoes. Because of the color of all the buildings it is commonly referred to as “The White City.”
Anyway, I met Magaly in the square and we started talking. I joined her for dinner at her restaurant where she served me the local delicacy, Cuy al horno (fried Guinea Pig). Our conversation took us past dinner and into the evening where we spoke of many things.
I came to find that she was working as hard as she could to support her mother and younger brothers. Her younger brothers were both in school and very bright students. But unfortunately, the older of the two, Yacud, who was in his final year of high school wasn’t going to be able to finish his schooling. He was needed to help put food on the table as times were hard in Arequipa.
Magaly and I spoke for hours into the night. Before leaving her, I got the name of Yacud’s school, a contact number and his teacher’s name. Upon returning to the United States, I put together a scholarship package with some of the savings I had. Western Union sent the gift to the institution and Yacud was able to finish his schooling.
“There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.”