I have been on the road of late for a project – specifically in the highlands of Peru in a remote highland village of 400 folks a 12-hour bus ride from Lima. For the first time in a while, I was doing a bit of projecting about alcohol. One of my reasons for going to Peru was to be present for a special Fiesta based on some work I was going to begin collaborating in. I was a bit nervous that I would be in a small rural village with the speciality corn liquor, chicha flowing in abundance. And there I would be, a gringo who speaks little to no Spanish, having to explain why I did not want to drink the ceremonial toasts and so forth. The Fiesta was to take place on August 3. My sobriety anniversary is August 4.
So I did all the requisite preparation that I need to do for such situations. I know it is always just a matter of being prepared for such situations – not drinking from the communal cup that might be passed with an unknown content. I mentioned to my colleague who would also be in Peru that I would not be joining in on the ceremonial toasts with alcohol. She noted that would not be a problem.
As is often the case, my greatest fears are projections not based in the real world. I had no trouble with the 11000 ft above sea level location of the village, nor did I have any other health problems during the trip. On the evening that I arrived, I was invited to a dinner of rabbit and potatoes at a local resident’s home. There were about 10 other folks attending. My colleague was held up and did not arrive until the next day. I was brought a Coke for the ceremonial “Salud” after dinner. One of the North American students, chose to lecture me on how the drinking of alcohol in such situations is the social lubricant on which trust is built. I did not wish to engage in a debate over the issue, but I am confident a proficiency in Spanish on my part would be the better social lubricant!
At any rate, the Fiesta on August 3 was fantastic and I did not once even consider the thought of drinking. To do so would have been completely at odds for my reason for being in Peru. I was too busy doing the business of the trip. When darkness fell on the Fiesta and the dancing and beer were in full flow, I did not even need to excuse myself to go back to the room and crawl into my sleeping bag for the night. I was no more missed at the late night celebrations than I would at a bar.
On August 4th, I woke up early while the rest of the village slept it off. There was no one else up. I made my coffee and went for a walk up the side of the mountain a bit further. I was mindful of life and grateful for another day of sobriety that now totals 29 years one day at a time.