I stood upon a small stage made out of plywood (totally safe right?). A small crowd of eager Peruvian faces glanced up at me. The silly gringita with the hula-hoop. Silly my a**. I picked up my hoop, took a deep breath and began the show...
6 months earlier
It was my first big trip out of the country, and my first trip EVER alone. It started out like any normal trip, with just 3 months volunteering in Ecuador. After that I was supposed to return to the States and really "plant my roots" (my father's words, not mine) though to this day I'm still not exactly sure what "roots" I was to plant, besides, aren't you supposed to plant seeds? Anyways, the point is, instead of going home I crossed the border into Peru.
I ended up at a small fishing/surfing town called Huanchaco. It was here that I spent a beautiful long month working at a beach side hostel, soaking up the sun, eating heaps of fish and most importantly, meeting some amazing people.
The two people I became closest with, a couple of girls named Anna*and Sam*, were traveling through out South America by performing tricks in the semaforos (traffic lights). Anna was an amazing hula-hooper and Sam always wowed everyone with her fire twirling. I went with them to the semaforos a couple times and eventually started practicing my own tricks.
Eventually we decided to travel together towards Mach Picchu. I say towards because it was slow going. We worked some days, and just explored on others, but times were tough and our money was running out fast. So one evening, while practicing in the park, we were approached by a small middle-aged man. He asked us to travel with him and his companions. He said we would be paid. At first we assumed he meant to hire us as prostitutes (my Spanish was still quite shaky at this point). But then he started saying "circo! circo!" and we realized he wanted us to join the circus.
Well why not?
The next morning they picked us up in what can best be described as a pedophile van. Naturally we felt quite nervous about this situation, but all the circus members seemed quite friendly, if not slightly stoned. So off we went.
Let me tell you, the Peruvian circus....not a glamorous life. Most nights we camped in shabby holed tents in barrios or desert waste land. The cirus members, all spent their nights drinking raucously. Though they were all very fun to talk to (and my Spanish got quite good!), there is really only so much rum I can take.
We would usually put on a show about once a week (sometimes less). At first it was terrifying, I am usually at a 10 on the scale of stage fright. But eventually I didn't even notice the crowd, it was just like hoop-dancing on my own...sort of.
So if it was so rough, why did we stay for 3+ months? Well I guess when you live in bad conditions, you barely even notice how bad they are after a while. Quite honestly we adjusted, and it became the norm.
And there were a lot of positives too. Anna, Sam and I became inseparable. The other circus folk were great. They taught us amazing tricks and really started to feel like a family after a while. We got to see all over Peru, a bunch of small villages we would have never discovered. We even went all the way out to the jungle town of Iquitos via a riverboat. So we had fantastic experiences.
All in all I'm glad we made the decision to go for it. Travel all comes down to doing crazy things you never knew you could. And to this day I regret none of the (possibly irrational) decisions I've made on the road.
Oh, and hey...after the circus incident, we finally made it to Machu Picchu :).
*Names have been changed.