On March 12th, Holy Cross sent out an email informing us that we had to return home due to the increasing global crisis of COVID-19. A few days later, on March 17th, I pulled back into my driveway of my Lexington, Massachusetts home after about 5 weeks in Peru, instead of 5 months. And here I am on April 22nd finally forcing myself to write a goodbye blog. I’ve admittedly thought about this blog every few days as I go on runs around my town and have time to let my mind wander.
My final days in Peru were a whirlwind. The arrival of COVID-19 was rapid and relatively unexpected. Between finding out that we had to come home and flying out of Peru, there were about 4 days. Suddenly we had to take advantage of every second that we still had in the country. We made one final beach trip, electric scootered through Miraflores, drank chilcanos like it was our job, and ate chifa. We laughed, we cried, we danced. Yet while I spent my final days enjoying time with my amazing friends from Holy Cross, the call for our quick departure left little to no time for goodbyes. As I packed my suitcases, waves of emotions and tears hit as I realized the deep impact which my new friends from Peru and around the world had had on my experience in Peru and on my life. I realized, and I continue to reflect on this even now that I am home, that even the smallest everyday interactions or impromptu conversations with people can have such a profound impact on you.
It was all the small moments which made up the life-changing experience which I had in Peru. Lunch with Steve at the comedor central, laughing hysterically in the silent Biblioteca de Ciencias Sociales instead of reading for class, playing pisco drinking games about limones and vikingos, successfully learning new salsa moves, watching Tito realize he likes We the Lion, playing BINGO with the Parroquia, dancing for hours and hours at my host parents’ Boda de Oro, playing foosball at Pierre’s house, making workout “friends” at Smart Fit, having an unspoken friendship with the bodega owner across the street as I buy the same three items every time I enter, staying up wayyy too late laughing with Nina in Tarapoto, ending up at a random restaurant at 11pm ordering drinks with Joe and Javier, desperately attempting to study for the Estado y Política midterm with Ennedith, sitting outside at the Comedor de Arte attempting to do reading for a final but instead talking for hours with Javier and all the other people who passed through, interviewing Peruvians about the education system with Grace, and looking down at my watch at the club and realizing it is 5 am and I’ve hit my 10,000 step step goal for the day.
There are a LOT more memories. These are just a few.
My first few weeks home, I think I was in a strange sense of shock. I was, and am, happy to be safe and home with my family during these challenging and unprecedented times of COVID-19. I am thankful for every moment in Peru. The experience helped shape me. I learned, I loved, I grew. While I had hoped to continue to nourish relationships I made, improve my Spanish, learn more about the unique country, and so much more, I know that this is not the end of the journey. One day I will return to Peru. And until then, I will hold the memories close to my heart, try to virtually stay connected with folks, and apply lessons learned in Peru to my life here in the U.S..
To anybody thinking about studying abroad. I say GO FOR IT! Keep in mind that it probably will not be a walk in the park. You will be faced with challenges. But you will also meet amazing people, experience new things, and learn a LOT.
In my first blog post back in July of 2019, I wrote that I was taking off on the biggest YOLO of my life. And that is exactly what it was. I embraced the fear of the unknown, one day at a time. I challenge you to do the same. I wrote that “Sometimes you have to jump and hope you don’t just land on your feet, but that you FLY. ” I stand by this. May we all have the opportunity to fly. Cheers to embracing the continuous unknown.
AND here are a few more photos just for the mems: