Nos vemos pronto Perú

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.

¡Cuídense!

flying over lima
and FLY I sure did!
sunset
Callao
sunset over the notary
Neighborhood sights on a beautiful summer evening
On the Malecón as the sun goes down
On the Malecón as the sun goes down (photo by Joe Ertle ’21)
Enjoying our final evenings in Lima. Much love <3
Chilcanos and tequenos at the bar
3 por S./20 Chilcanos y Tequeños por favor!
girls on the beach
Day tripping to the beach in Chorrillos with the chicas! Only got a little sunburnt….

AND here are a few more photos just for the mems:

host parents celebrating their 50th anniversary
Mis papás anfitriones celebrando su Boda de Oro!!
Host mom and I
Hermi, Te quiero!
foosball, dancing, and fun
Foosball, Fiorella dancing, and Manuel doing who knows what… Seems about right 🙂
dancing salsa
Salsa hasta que se apaguen las luces
Peru flag
Ciao Perú

 

Finals

**finals ended about 3 weeks ago but figured I’d still post this*

There is always going to be the debate: which type of final is better? A paper or an exam? There are pluses and minuses for both. With an exam, you have to study hard leading up to it, but then it is over and done with in a couple of hours. You don’t necessarily know what the questions will be on an exam, so there is an inevitable element of surprise and fear. With a paper, you slave over crafting the best possible piece of work you can before the turn in date arrives. You have the questions or prompt you need, and the necessary resources are at your disposal.

Finals in Perú were absolutely no easier than finals at Holy Cross. This semester I had three final papers and an oral exam. While I was very nervous studying for and heading into my oral exam, it ended up going very well and I left feeling like a weight had been lifted off my chest. As a perpetual procrastinator, my biggest challenge this finals szn was that two of my papers were due on one day, and the next day I had my other paper due. While it is possible to write one paper the day before, it is not possible to write 3 extensive (high quality) papers in three days. I knew this going into the week. Of course, I still procrastinated. After 4 nights of barely any sleep, some chocolate, and too much coffee, all my finals were turned in. Pages and pages of Spanish words complete, it felt good to finish off the semester.

Yet this was not realllyyyy the end of paper writing. For Holy Cross students who study abroad in Perú, there is a required ICIP (Independent Cultural Immersion Project). This project requires students to immerse themselves in an activity, volunteer opportunity, or other cultural experience while in Perú. At the end of the semester, you have to present your experience and/or findings and write a final paper. As I attempted to get the paper done so I could be fully in vacation mode, I found that the combination of 6 months of life in Spanish and my true passion for my project made writing the final paper relatively easy.

Turning in this final paper allowed me to take a deep breath and say chau to this semester of schoolwork. It has been tough, but I have learned so much unique information that I could never get out of Holy Cross courses. This semester I learned about the complexity of Peruvian politics, society, and cultures. I expanded my anthropological perspective. I improved my ability to critically read in Spanish, as well as write strong academic papers in Castellano. In and out of the classroom, I learned and grew in ways I never have before. Just as with the final exam vs. final paper debate, there are pluses and minuses to study abroad. Study abroad is hard. Study abroad is a challenge. But study abroad is also an incredible opportunity to expand your mind, your perspective and your understanding of the world.

Trip to Iquitos

Before classes began in mid-August, we got the chance to travel to Iquitos, which is in the jungle region of Peru. While there, we stayed at a lodge in a small community along the Amazon River. When we got to the Iquitos airport on the first day, we walked out onto the runway and immediately could tell that we were no longer along the coast. The sky was bright, the air was humid, and finally the temperature was above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. To get to the lodge, we had to take a van, a mototaxi, and then a large motor-powered canoe.

During our first afternoon, we got a quick tour of the community, and then set out in our boat to go swimming. Along the edge of the river, there is lot of mud which we had a blast trying to crawl through and bathe in. Nothing quite like a relaxing mud bath in the amazon! To clean off, we swam out into the river and washed off there. To round off the afternoon, we watched the sun set from the middle of the Rio Ucayali.

Steve, Grace, Joe, and I enjoying a natural mud bath in the Ucayali river!
Steve, Grace, Joe, and I enjoying a natural mud bath!

Holy Cross students with our cultural advisor, Luis, enjoying the sunset over the river.
Holy Cross students with our cultural advisor, Luis, enjoying the sunset over the river.

After dinner, we took small canoes out through the marsh to find caimanes (alligators). It was really neat to see and hold an alligator, but since it had gotten dark, the mosquitos were out and vicious!! Good thing we got the yellow fever shot!

Sarah in a canoe holding an alligator.
Pretty cool holding an alligator!

The next day we did a “full day” excursion. After breakfast we set out for a day of animal watching, fishing for piranhas, and exploring the jungle. We got to feed some monkeys, see an anteater, and climb a massive tree. For lunch, our guide, Gumer, and our motorist, Alejandro, made a fire and cooked up the best meal I’ve had in Peru so far. We had fried plátanos (plantains), chicken, LOTS of rice, apples, cucumbers, tomatoes, and piranha, for those you cared to try it.

A monkey sits on the side of our canoe enjoying some orange.
Monkey enjoying some fruit

The next day, we woke up early to watch the sun rise and see some dolphins. It was absolutely incredible! We then went to a nearby community to meet a sloth named Pablo who has been domesticated by a family.

Sarah holding a sloth named Pablo.
Pablo is the CUTEST!

After breakfast back at the lodge, we went for a walk in the jungle to learn about herbal medicine and different plants which can be eaten or drank from in order to survive. In the afternoon, we did canotaje (canoeing). It was lots of fun even though the canoe, made out of wood, not plastic, was super unstable and we managed to tip the boat after about 5 minutes of rowing.

On the last day, we visited another nearby community to see a lily pad. While there, we also ended up finding an anaconda and a baby sloth!!

Joe, a student from holy cross, is holding an anaconda.
Joe holding the Anaconda.

After lunch, we made the trip back to Iquitos and got on a plane back to reality here in Lima.