The question begs an easy answer. When I was his age, bad movies like Rising Sun were all the rage and the tiny island nation of Japan was going to economically rule the world. Now after a 20-year recession, North Korea is lobbing nukes over them for fun and China has a fifth of the world’s people and money.
Rodrigo suffers from the curse of all young people, a hunger for success starved by a drought of experience. And at the other end of the arrow of time, I’m an old man who can’t pass up the opportunity to patronize others.
Who can say what Rodrigo can do now that will be profitable in 20 years? I give him two suggestions. One – he should graduate from school no matter what (educational discrimination will endure). And two, Iiving in China for a few months won’t make much of a difference in Rodrigo’s life. If he was serious about Asia, he’d already be taking free online courses (I mention Duolingo). The more of a language base he has, the more he’ll get out of a semester abroad.
When Maya steps away for a moment, I also tell him to get her number. She’s cute! On that note I exit the show. Outside it is a bright, sunny day. Palm trees sway in beat to a song I can’t hear. The wooden pincushion of international flags out front suddenly pitches over with a crash onto the people admiring them. The distraction allows me to poach a cab back to the hotel. Dropping my stuff off, I get a drink before heading to dinner.
The Royal Park bartenders on call are Pedro and Manuel. I teach them the English phrase “If loving Pisco Sours is wrong I don’t want to be right” with mixed results. Two Piscos later I’m off to “Amaz”, a popular restaurant specializing in Amazonian jungle cuisine. The portions at Amaz are meant to be shared, but in a first for me they also offer quarter portions. I order the crispy paicha skin (with roasted cocona fruit), a Churos Pishpirones (giant snail stew) and some yucca empanadas filled with wild boar.
The baseball-sized snail shell is a deep mahogany brown (camouflage against the rainforest mud I guess). Instead of a plate they serve my food on a plank of jungle wood. With a few gulps my meal disappears. Both tables to my left are French guys on dates with native ladies. I now understand why they only have European wines on the menu. The men have the obligatory 2-day old beard and collared Hermès shirts. Patek Philippe and IWC watches are tied over their shirt cuffs. Can’t have the metal equivalent of a $10,000 Viagra ad be hidden by a piece of cloth, now can we? The average yearly salary in Peru is about $600 U.S. dollars. Calculated in watches, about 32 years of labor is failing to get laid next to me.