I was caught green handed in a cloud of smoke when he burst through the door struggling to find his breath. I noticed a brown bag over his shoulders but didn’t think anything of it. Outside the thunder clapped and water poured through the roof. I got up from my seat at the table to investigate the leaking, overhead window pane. A bowl was no use because the water streamed through the crack and ran down the inside of the wall. Then he appeared at my side, a young Peruvian tuk tuk driver who had just climbed up the 187 steps to the hostel lounge. After catching his breath, he came to inspect the leak which must have had me visibly perplexed. We couldn’t communicate in a common language but he expressed that he had an idea and he disappeared into the kitchen and came out with a yellow dish rag. He ripped off a strip, crumpled it into a ball and shoved it in the crack of the broken window pane. After a few seconds the rag was saturated and the water moved through the rag and just far enough away from the wall to catch in a bowl. I was majorly impressed by the ingenuity and a smile spread across my face and I gave the hero a fist bump. The storm raged on outside so I invited him to sit down and wait out the storm.
“Como te llamas,” I asked him? What is your name?
“Adolfo,” he said. “Y tu?” And you?
“Dusty,” I replied. “mucho gusto.” Nice to meet you.
I walked into the kitchen for a drink of water and noticed the size of the brown bag which he carried on his back when he came through the door. On the kitchen floor was a 50 kg, or 110 pound bag of sugar. Once again I was impressed by this dude. He carried a 110 pound bag of sugar up 187 steps and he had to make another run for salt and wine. I went into the kitchen and grabbed the bag. I tried to imagine just how exhausting it is to haul a 110 pound sack up the mountain. I stood the bag up and grabbed it by the haunches. I sunk my hips and pulled the bag in close and with all the power I had I stood up, lifting the bag and struggling to throw it over my right shoulder. From there I clumsily managed to slide it over my shoulders. Adolfo was watching. He motioned me to set it down and informed me that my form was incorrect. He grabbed the bag and displayed the correct technique for me. I stood there in amazement at him and I wondered what he is paid to go out and buy the goods then make multiple trips hauling sugar, salt, and wine up 187 steps. I wondered if he dreaded that day or if he is happy to have a job that pays him regular money. I wondered if he had a negative attitude for his tough job or if the order brought a smile to his face knowing he will have money to eat or provide for his family. I wondered if he thinks about other options or if that idea is even a part of his psyche. I thought about my life. The options I have, the freedom and education I have. The idea of working a better life- certainly carrying 110 pound bags of sugar up a mountain can’t be a good life. But for him maybe it is. In my shoes, it’s impossible to know if he yearns for more or if yearning for more is even an idea that exists in his mind. I wanted to know what it feels like to carry 110 pounds on my back up the mountain so I told Adolfo I would carry the salt up the hill for him when the storm blew over. When the rain gave out, we both walked down the mountain where his tuk tuk was parked on the street. The rain and lightning picked up again. The thought of carrying a sack of salt up a mountain during a thunderstorm crossed my mind but I wasn’t going to say anything to Adolfo. If he is going up, I’m going up. Luckily, he decided it would be best to wait out the rain in his tuk tuk and I dodged becoming an electrically charged moving target.
After 10 minutes the clouds gave us another window so we hopped out of the tuk tuk and snatched the goods. Adolfo grabbed the case of wine and me the salt which was only 55 pounds. I carried the salt up the hill, but it wasn’t 110 pounds and I still wonder what it’s like to make a living hauling 110 pound sacks of sugar up a mountain.