BLOG: 6's & 7'S
My father inherited his adventurous spirit from his mother, who never turned down an opportunity for excitement, and his adventures started early. By the time I came along, he and my mom were in the process of becoming missionaries. When I was two, my parents, three older brothers, and I trundled off to Colombia, South America.
We lived in the northern coastal city of Barranquilla four years, where my oldest brother went to school with Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s son, then we moved to Cali, the best city on earth. Our family traveled often, and one almost mandatory trip for anyone living in South America was to visit Machu Picchu.
Around Christmastime in the late seventies, we took a bus through the Andes mountains from Cali to Ecuador, then flew to Cuzco Peru and stayed in a rustic hotel, sleeping off the effect of the altitude. Cuzco is over 11,000 feet above sea level. The next day, a train took us to Machu Picchu where we wandered among the ruins of the ancient Incan civilization and the llamas.
After walking along the paths between the structures, I sat on the ground and looked across the valley to two mountains that were like immense green eggs standing beside each other. One velvety green mountain slid down into the other and the Urubamba River flowed between them, beautiful and enduring. Could it be that, centuries before, a young girl admired that same view?
The trip remains a favorite topic of conversation among our family, mainly because of a certain wooden flute Dad bought for twenty dollars. When my family gathered to go back to Cuzco, he showed us the flute and told us about the man who hand-carved it and offered a free lesson with the purchase. Dad presented the man’s address scribbled on a scrap of paper.
I’d like to think I stood by my dad in buying the flute. On one of the more unusual Christmases in my life, he and I boarded a bus, flute in hand, to search for the address. The weather, sunny and cold, felt refreshing, making me glad I bought a llama’s wool sweater. We traveled Cuzco’s mix of old and new with it’s amazing backdrop of mountains, but we never found the man.
Dad still has the flute, and we all have the memory, which makes that hand-carved souvenir worth a thousand times over the twenty dollars he spent for it in the ancient city in the clouds.
Jeannie Zokan’s debut novel, The Existence of Pity, will be released in October 2016
by Red Adept Publishing.
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