I’ll tell you of Ecuador

I’ll tell you of Ecuador, and all of its splendor

With passion my memories race

In the sunshine, the mountains, my heart, it grew tender

When I unpacked my little suitcase

 

My arrival was quick; ’twas late in the night

And I watched the bright lights so intently

At two in the morning, awaiting daylight,

I drifted to sleep oh so gently

 

Weeks passed as I learned to write and to speak

And to navigate all on my own

I greeted new friends with a kiss on the cheek

And submerged myself in the unknown

 

I visited cities with lights of warm gold

And beaches with waves of cold vigor

My eyes, they saw creatures, so loud and so bold

Would I ever find anything bigger?

 

Like a flash of bright light, four months had gone by

A plane swept me up and away

And an emptiness held me, its embrace a bit shy

So I smiled and told it to stay

 

It’s a feeling that lingers, just under my chin

A warmth and a chill mixed together

And I begin to remember the sun on my skin

The vendors, the mountains, the weather

 

And I can’t help but miss the places I saw

and the wonderful people I met

So I lower my head and begin to withdraw

But remember there’s no need to fret

 

I’ll tell you of Ecuador, and all of its splendor

For I have begun to agree

In the sunshine, the mountains, my heart, it grew tender

When Ecuador opened to me

Leaping off the Bus

Wednesday, November 9, 2016 – 9:18 A.M.

I went to Colombia.

In order to save money (plane tickets would have been $450+) my two friends and I bussed all the way to the coast of Colombia, to a city called Cartagena. But let me rewind to the beginning. The three of us were planning a very on-a-whim trip and had not considered anything but buying a bus ticket for a 30-hour bus ride to Santiago de Cali, Colombia. The day before, we ran into another of our friends at the Rio Coca bus station and found that he was also planning to go and actually had a solid plan, as his host father was Colombian and had written out a thorough itinerary. Naturally, we latched onto him.

That evening, we bought $70 plane tickets for a small part of the trip (between Colombian cities), and planned to meet at the Carcelén bus station at 3:00 in the morning. Yes, 3:00 A.M. I remember waking up at 2:00 A.M. after having gone to sleep at midnight, and I thought to myself, What the hell am I doing?

But I quickly packed my backpack full of clothes, toiletries, and several hundred dollars, and met one of my travel companions outside of my host family’s apartment, where he had arrived in a taxi. From there, we went to Carcelén and boarded our bus at about 4:00 A.M. That ride lasted approximately five hours, and I chuckle now because at the time I had no idea how horrible I was going to feel.

The ride was freezing cold, as the temperature dips very quickly at night in the mountainous areas of South America. I was shivering and uncomfortable the entire time, but after a few hours, the sun rose and warmed me a little. The unfortunate part of this ride in particular was that the bus stopped frequently to allow more passengers to board. I only hated this because all the lights were turned on, and we had to stop, sometimes for several minutes, and all I wanted to do was get off the bus.

From there, we arrived at a sort of truck stop where there were lots of vendors selling anything from fried bananas with cheese in the middle to plastic cups of chopped fruit (watermelon, mango, papaya, pineapple, etc.). We got a taxi and went to Ecuador’s emigration building, where we waited in line for about half an hour to get a “salida” stamp in our passports. Right after that, we went to Colombia’s immigration building to get an “entrada” stamp. We exited that building and were met with a small group of men with thick wads of U.S. dollars and Colombian pesos. We exchanged our money (and later found out that we’d been stiffed about $30 each – lesson learned) and then took another taxi to the next bus station.

I’ll summarize this since I could go on forever. This bus ride lasted at least twelve hours, and then we had two more 12-hour rides after that, at night. David scheduled them this way so that we didn’t have to pay for a hostel, and at first I thought the idea was ingenious, but that was before I realized that I could not sleep on a bus. Especially a bus traveling through the sharply winding, bumpy roads of Colombia. I didn’t sleep at all, and this persisted through every ride until I became hopelessly nauseous. I tried several times to close my eyes, to change positions, to listen to music, to turn my music off, to eat junk food, to chug water, to think of a pleasant situation. Nothing worked.

By the time we’d visited Ipiales, Popayán, and Medellín (the cities we went through to get to Cartagena), I was nauseous and exhausted to the point of tears. I didn’t cry, as I was actually too exhausted to even do that, but I felt like death. During the bus rides, I always had pretty healthy snacks: Doritos, Snickers bars, Sprite, chocolate wafers, so there’s no way that my diet contributed to my brief illness. But on the final bus ride (the one that took us to Cartagena, the coast), I was so close to crying. I was beyond frustrated with my exhaustion, migraine, nausea, and most of all, the helplessness that I felt. There was literally nothing that I could have done short of leaping off the bus, so I did my best to discipline myself and calm down.

When we arrived in Cartagena, the first thing that I remember noticing was the overwhelming intensity of the heat. I felt like I had stepped into an oven, and it did nothing to help my nausea. We got a taxi that took us to our hotel, and it took a good ten minutes to sign paperwork and show our passports before we were led into our room. To my delight, the air conditioner was not functioning, so the room was almost as hot as it was outside.

We were exhausted, so we lied on our beds and took a nap for a few hours. When I awoke, my entire body was wet and sticky and hot, my head was throbbing, and I actually thought that I was on the verge of fainting. We went and spoke to the owner, and she made a phone call to get someone in to fix our air conditioner.

With little to do, we decided to explore the city. We ate lunch, explored markets and stores, and enjoyed being in a new country before returning to our hotel. The air conditioner had been fixed! I collapsed onto my bed, took a shower, and slept.

Overall, the trip consisted of nauseating bus rides, exploring different cities, eating lots of food (junk food galore), and enjoying a week away from school. I bought three cool shot glasses and a knitted bag for my friends back home, and when I finally arrived back home in Quito, I was absolutely relieved.

Overall, I had a fun time and thoroughly enjoyed getting to see another South American country.

Midway Through

Saturday, October 8, 2016 – 5:24 P.M.

I haven’t journaled in a while because I’ve been traveling every weekend (the beach, Cuenca), so I have some more to say.

Basically I’m in a state of limbo right now with my life. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’m doing, what I want, how I can make a positive impact on the world, and it’s all overwhelming – pathetically so, because my problems could be so much worse. I acknowledge this wholeheartedly.

It’s just that I want to do something that is useful and that I enjoy while also having a fun life with fun people, but it’s not easy. If I had to choose my absolute favorite things to do, in this moment in time, it would be to write, to weightlift, and to explore forests. I’m not necessarily in love with my chosen area of study, but it’s definitely too late to go back now. I’m not sure what I want to do after graduation, even though I have unofficially attached myself to the idea of law school, simply because I enjoy critical thinking, and I think I’d thrive in that environment.

I’ve also seriously considered going to officer candidate school and then joining the Air Force or Coast Guard, as I love physical activity, being outside, and having to adapt and exert myself physically. When it comes to brains vs. brawn, I used to think that my preferences tipped toward the brains side, but I have now realized that they do not. I love playing sports and lifting weights and hiking and kayaking and doing things that require physical stamina. I thrive on these things. In contrast, I often get bored in school and wish that I could be running or deadlifting or trekking through the rainforest or chopping down a tree. I don’t know. I just think that my physical and mental toughness are better suited for the military or something like that, and I hate letting this part of me go to waste because I’m pursuing a different lifestyle.

Aside from this, I’ve completely adapted to Ecuador, and I’m a bit bored. I get up early every day for a sweaty, 80-minute bus ride, I go to school, I eat lunch, I spend another 80 minutes on the bus to get home, I work out, I do homework, I eat dinner, and I go to bed. My group of friends and I travel on weekends, and I have thoroughly enjoyed that, but I’m not sure what I’m doing here. I don’t know why. I expected to thrive, and I was very happy at first, but now I feel as though I’m just going through the motions each day with no real end goal.

The worst part of this is that I don’t want to go home. When I’m home in Oklahoma, I often feel disinterested and disconnected. This hasn’t happened to such a degree in Ecuador, and I’m grateful for the reprieve, however temporary.

The Day of Arrival

Wednesday, August 17, 2016 – 1:10 A.M.

Right now, at this very moment, I am sitting in pure silence (save for the padded clicks of my keyboard) in my new bedroom. I am in Ecuador. I am finally here.

The plane ride from Houston to Quito was very uneventful. I listened to the same twenty or so songs over and over again (thanks, Apple, for making it impossible to sync your iPhone with a new computer without losing all of your music. Okay, this is actually my fault, but still) and stared out the window, leaning my head against the hard plastic frame as I watched the billowy clouds and the navy blue expanse of ocean below.

I felt so tranquil the entire time, which surprised me and still surprises me as I sit here typing, still calm and rational. Several times, I caught myself smiling at the window and breathing deeply and letting the reality of this adventure sink in. It is so surreal. To those of you (Global Fellows, in particular) who are planning a semester or year abroad, you must accept the fact that you can never prepare yourself for how you are going to feel when you step off the plane in your new country. You cannot prepare for the way your stomach will feel a little tight as you collect your luggage from the baggage claim or how you’ll catch your breath when you see your host family waiting for you or even the way your body will finally relax when you’re in your bedroom after hours and hours of traveling.

Obviously, I am no pro at this. I’ve only just begun, and as I sit here at my little desk in my bedroom in Ecuador, I feel so fulfilled. I– I just can’t properly articulate how I feel. I’ve only met two members of my family thus far, as I arrived when the others had gone to sleep, and I spoke Spanish with them. Again, I am no pro at this. I tried my best, and they were so kind as to use gestures and emote to extremes to help me understand. But it is so incredible that this is finally happening.

It’s just past 2:00 in the morning, so I’m going to fall asleep now. Until later!

Before Departure

I’m going to allocate two posts for each of the three segments of my semester study abroad experience. Two for before/the beginning, two for the middle, and two for the end. Here is the first.

Thursday, August 11, 2016 – 5:03 P.M.

I’m sitting at my kitchen table, and I hear my mom’s car pull into the garage. Her door opens and closes, and she comes inside, turning on the TV to catch up on the Olympics. I move to her bedroom and close the door because I need quiet. I need to think. On Sunday, at about 4:55 in the evening, I will board a plane to Quito, Ecuador, and it is there that I will stay until May.

I am genuinely anxious and very nervous about this, so I’ll go ahead and preface what I am about to say with this: I understand that there are so many worse things in the world. I understand that this journal will be filled with first-world problems. That’s just reality.

When I began the application process for this study abroad program, I was lying on my bedroom floor, legs bobbing up and down mindlessly as I chewed a granola bar. The idea of living on another continent was too surreal to have actually burdened my mind at the time, but I knew that I wanted to do it, so I poured my heart into those application essays, I asked my favorite professors for recommendations, and I reached out to several other students who had already spent semesters in Quito. I applied for several scholarships, met with advisors, and suffered (the waiting stressed me) for two weeks while OU’s College of International Studies decided which three students would be admitted to The University of San Francisco.

When I received the email of my acceptance, the feelings of euphoria were indescribable. I felt bliss. All of the paperwork, the essays, the fees, the deadlines, the stress – they were finished. And I was going to Ecuador. Strolling around OU’s campus, I felt confident and excited, and I was fully looking forward to August when I would be on my way to a beautiful new country, my home for a short while. Could anything feel better than this? I thought naively.

Slowly, emails rolled in from my international advisor. First it was time to get a visa, then it was time for the Spanish placement exam, then I had to enroll in classes and receive my host family assignment. Then my host family emailed me, I registered for a new cell phone, and I started packing my suitcases. And each little event tumbled forward, one after the other, until I arrived at today. Three days until departure.

I’m sitting here with a little more packing to do, and I am so nervous. I knew that I would feel this way, but it didn’t start happening until just now, and I don’t think that any of this will feel real until I see my host family holding a poster with my name on it in the airport in Quito. I’m worried about communicating mainly in Spanish. Even though I have wanted this since my first semester of college, the reality of it is daunting. I’m worried about navigating a completely foreign city and going to school at a university that I have never seen before. Again, a few months ago, I was elated at this prospect, but now, it’s causing me immense stress. Even worse, I’ll miss my close friends in Norman. I know that I can communicate with them via technology, but the lack of physical presence will wear on me.

Despite all of this, I know that it will be okay and that I will adapt quickly and that I will probably fall head over heels in love with my new, temporary life. But right now, I’m scared. This is that annoying, anxiety-filled middle ground that must be crossed to get to the promised land. Can I just be on the other side already?

 

intense realities

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I’ve been feeling resentful at having to post about my time abroad, and for a while I didn’t realize why. But now I do. It’s because this experience has been more taxing and stressful than I ever imagined, for reasons that still leave me dumbfounded. Telling people about these issues and even writing about them feels taboo, because I should be enjoying this experience and appreciating it, and I do appreciate it. But sometimes my outlook is so dark that my only confidant is a 54-page Word document where I have expressed my woes excessively.

Don’t get me wrong: I cherish this opportunity. I have become more mature, more resilient, more patient, and more understanding thanks to the nearly three months that I have been here in Ecuador, but at the same time, certain aspects of this country frustrate me, and my frustration is the result of having lived in the United States where everything runs a little more smoothly and is a little more developed. The mountains, the warm sunlight, and the easy-going nature of the people of Quito are my favorite parts, but the crowded and hot transportation system, the inefficiency of certain services, and the poverty/lack of opportunities are all wearing me down.

Often, I find myself overwhelmed in thinking about the implications of my complaints. I think about them on a micro level and how my bus companions and I experience a bit of discomfort during our morning commutes. And then I think about them on a macro level and how this country (and many others in South America and other developing regions) is unable to fund and carry out medical and scientific research at a caliber comparable to the United States simply because of the instability of its government and the general lack of cooperation between its authoritative bodies and its people.

If anything, this experience has hardened me emotionally. The prevalence of poverty among people and animals, the difficulty that they face in finding employment, and the few opportunities to get an education are all blatantly obvious every day. Witnessing this greatly affected me at first, but I found that lamenting the situation was helpful neither to me nor the people of this country. The interesting part of is that I saw some of these things in Peru, but in Peru I was safely tucked into a group of American friends and knowledgeable professors who created an effective (but necessary) barrier between us and the intensity of these realities. Here in Ecuador, I confront them every day in their rawest forms.

Before committing to these study abroad programs, I wanted to be cultured and globally aware, and when I arrived in Ecuador, the semester looked so promising. But in this moment, I am full of pent-up anger at what I am seeing and experiencing. I hope to assess my experience more objectively when I return to the states, but for now, this is all I have.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016 – 3:46 P.M.

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This is the view from the front of my house.

I have arrived in Ecuador, and I am mesmerized.

The weather here sits comfortably around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and there’s always a cool breeze. It’s so much like Lima, Peru, which is probably why I am partial to it.

This morning, I got up and went outside to walk around and was immediately captivated by the beautiful mountains and feathery clouds. The environment here is so tranquil, the people so warm and friendly.

My bedroom with its beautiful view.

My bedroom with its beautiful view.

I have orientation tomorrow, and after that I’ll start school on Monday. And all of this— the speaking Spanish with my host family, the wandering around Quito, the delicious meals, the mountains that are so beautifully visible behind my home— is surreal. To those of you (Global Fellows in particular) who are planning a semester or year abroad, you must accept the fact that you can never prepare yourself for how you are going to feel when you step off the plane in your new country. You cannot prepare for the way your stomach will feel a little tight as you collect your luggage from the baggage claim or how you’ll catch your breath when you see your host family waiting for you or even the way your body will finally relax when you’re in your bedroom after hours and hours of traveling. But it is completely worth it, and you will fall in love with it all.

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Thursday, August 11, 2016 – 5:03 P.M.

I’m sitting at my kitchen table, and I hear my mom’s car pull into the garage. Her door opens and closes, and she comes inside, so I quickly gather my things and move to my bedroom and close the door. I need quiet. I need to think. On Sunday, at about 4:55 in the evening, I will board a plane to Quito, Ecuador, and it is there that I will stay until May.

I am genuinely anxious and very nervous about this, but I will go ahead and preface what I am about to say with this: I understand that there are so many worse things in the world. I understand that this journal will be filled with first-world problems. I can only try to put things into perspective.

When I began the application process for this study abroad program, I was lying comfortably on my bed, stomach against the mattress, legs bobbing up and down mindlessly. I was snacking on a granola bar and thinking about how incredible it would be to live and go to school in another country. Even better, a Spanish-speaking country! I loved my Spanish classes, and I wanted nothing more than to practice Spanish constantly, to speak it, write it, read it, and hear it, and so I poured my heart into those application essays. I asked my favorite professors for recommendations, I reached out to several other students who had already spent semesters in Quito, I applied for several scholarships, met with advisors, and suffered for two weeks while OU’s College of International Studies decided which three students would be admitted to The University of San Francisco. I was one of the three.

When I received the email of my acceptance, the instant rush of euphoria was indescribable. I felt bliss. All of the planning, the paperwork, the essays, the fees, the deadlines, the stress — it was done. And I was going to Ecuador. Strolling around OU’s campus, I felt confident and excited, and I was fully looking forward to August when I would be on my way to a beautiful new country, my home for a short while. I would catch myself smiling for no reason at all. Could anything feel better than this?

Slowly, emails rolled in from my international advisor. First it was time to get a visa, then it was time for the Spanish placement exam, then I had to enroll in classes and receive my host family assignment. Then my host family emailed me, I registered for a new cell phone, and I started packing my suitcases. And each little event tumbled forward, one after the other, until I arrived at today. Three days until departure.

I’m sitting here with a little more packing to do, and I am so nervous. I knew that I would feel this way, but it didn’t start happening until just now, and I don’t think that any of this will feel real until I see my host family holding a poster with my name on it in the airport in Quito. I’m worried about communicating mainly in Spanish. Even though I have wanted this since my first semester of college, the reality of it is daunting. I’m worried about navigating a completely foreign city and going to school at a university that I have never seen before. A few months ago, I was elated at this prospect, but now, it’s causing me immense stress. Even worse, I’ll miss my close friends in Norman.

Despite all of this, I know that it will be okay and that I will adapt quickly and that I will probably fall head over heels in love with my new, temporary life. But right now, I’m scared. I am in that annoying, anxiety-laden field that must be crossed to get to the promise land. Can I just be on the other side already?

The Coast of Peru

My last post encompassed the general happenings of my plane ride and first night in Peru, but there is so much to say and discuss about the trip in its entirety. Our group spent time in the three regions of Peru: the coast, the mountains, and the jungle, so I’ll discuss each region in a separate post.

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THE COAST

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For the first seven days of the trip, we stayed with host families in a wealthy district of Lima called Miraflores. The climate of Lima was relatively dry and cool, it was always cloudy (at least, it was when we were there), and there were hardly any bugs. For me, this was the most pleasant climate of the three regions, and I truly enjoyed every day in Miraflores. But after finishing the trip, I’ve realized that it’s almost silly to say that I enjoyed Miraflores. It’s almost like saying that I enjoy being safe and comfortable and having a full belly… who doesn’t? Miraflores is very safe, well-maintained, and much more politically, economically, and socially stable than much of the rest of the country, so it’s hard not to love it. I was not forced to adapt to anything strenuous or radically different.

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Miraflores sits right against the coast of the beautiful Pacific Ocean, so while the district itself is beautiful and bustling, there is also much to do at the ocean (swimming, surfing, or paragliding, for instance). It’s a gorgeous place, and I felt very secure and tranquil there, but as I said, it’s hard not to. My roommate (Hoai) and I had a generous host family that took good care of us, fed us well, and made sure that we could find our way around Lima with the help of taxis.

Each day, we’d wake up around 7:00 to eat breakfast and hail a taxi for our 9:00 class, and at breakfast I immediately noticed how fresh and delicious all of the food was, specifically the fruit, but that was no surprise to me. Interestingly, I always felt refreshed and clear-headed when I awoke, even if I’d only slept for a few hours. Perhaps this was due to the nice weather?

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This was our host family! Pictured from left to right are Andrea (host sister), Esther (host sister), Hoai (my roommate), me, María-Esther (host mom), and Alfredo (María-Esther’s novio). They were absolutely wonderful and so generous to us. This photo was taken after they invited us to a good-bye dinner.

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This was a typical breakfast with our host family. Pictured is oatmeal with apple slices and coconut shavings, herbal tea, and fresh papaya juice.

This was a typical breakfast with our host family. Pictured is oatmeal with apple slices and coconut shavings, herbal tea, and fresh papaya juice.

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When we didn’t have a group activity, we spent a lot of time exploring Lima, trying interesting desserts, and asking Peruvians for help with directions (we got to practice our basic Spanish skills!) Generally, people dressed nicely in Lima. Women often wore heels and dress pants or skirts, and men wore button-down shirts and nice shoes. The atmosphere was one of dignity and pride, and I appreciated it.

Because we were on the coast, seafood dishes were especially popular, and I made sure to try as many as I could. We don’t eat a lot of raw fish in Oklahoma (besides sushi rolls, which are delicious), so I wanted to indulge as much as I could. Below is an extremely popular seafood dish called ‘ceviche.’

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Ceviche is typically made with raw fish cured in citrus juices, corn, sweet potato, onions, and a little garnish (lettuce, in this case). I absolutely loved it and ended up ordering it several times in Miraflores.

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This is a beautiful sundae that I got at Pastelería San Antonio, a very popular eatery in Lima.

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The district of Miraflores was absolutely beautiful. The climate, the buildings, the activities, the restaurants, and the people were all incredible, and I loved being there. It was easy to find fun things to do, like searching for cool stones along the beach or exploring the bustling districts nearby. The problem was that Miraflores is very comparable to Los Angeles, so I didn’t feel as “out of the country” as I could have.

This feeling changed, however, when we boarded a bus and traveled the three or so hours to Canto Grande.

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I took this photo at the top of a hill in Canto Grande.

I took this photo at the top of a hill in Canto Grande.

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We arrived in a district of Lima called San Juan de Lurigancho. Within that district, there are several poor, urban areas, one of which is called Canto Grande. Marginalized and more neglected by the Peruvian government, Canto Grande struggles to maintain public sanitation, political and social stability, and the general functions of a healthy community. Transitioning from Miraflores to Canto Grande was the most sobering experience that I have ever had.

We boarded a bus in Miraflores, and I remember that as the hours ticked by and the bus passed houses, businesses, and restaurants, the quality of what I was seeing diminished. Little by little, the roads dissolved from hard and well-paved to gravelly and dirty. The buildings that were once gated and well-groomed became smaller, shabbier, and less guarded. The traffic (mostly buses) was congested, the vehicles worn down and outdated.

I felt very strange while I watched this gradual evolution in scenery, almost as though I was sinking into despair along with my surroundings. This was the kind of place that the government had largely turned its back on. The streets (purely dirt) were littered with garbage, emaciated and sickly dogs slept in alleyways and in front of stores, and everything looked like it was about to fall apart.

I didn’t take pictures of these things, because it seemed inappropriate. There I was, comfortable and safe, taking a little vacation into this community to gawk at the relative poverty before returning home to more materialistic comforts. I didn’t like that.

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This is the monastery where we stayed for three days. It was completely enclosed with a brick wall and barbed wire.

This is the monastery where we stayed for three days. It was completely enclosed with a brick wall and barbed wire.

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We stayed in a monastery where we ate meals together, played sports together (soccer, volleyball, and basketball), and essentially lived as a mini community. We did service projects, which included spending time with children at a school called Fe y Alegría, helping at a disabled children’s school, working at a medical clinic, and constructing/painting small houses for families in the area. I worked with the disabled children and helped with the home construction, both of which were incredibly eye-opening and fulfilling. As for my feelings, there were many. I was pleased to see a community that was trying to improve itself. People ran their own businesses, there were many vendors on the sidewalks (this is true for most areas of Peru), and after visiting the schools, I understood the pride that the people of Canto Grande had. They did not wish to be seen as marginalized and poor, rather, they were hardworking Peruvian citizens who were fighting for visibility and rights from their government.

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The monastery was built into a hill, and this is a photo that I took overlooking the basketball/soccer field as well as the rest of the monastery and the hills beyond. This was my favorite spot to visit early in the morning, as it was very quiet and peaceful, and I felt overwhelmed with thought and emotion at the time.

The monastery was built into a hill, and this is a photo that I took overlooking the basketball/soccer field as well as the rest of the monastery and the hills beyond. This was my favorite spot to visit early in the morning, as it was very quiet and peaceful, allowing my mind to overflow with thought and emotion.

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I said this already, but being in Canto Grande was the most life-changing experience that I had ever had. Up until then, I was quick to believe that I understood the world and its socioeconomic tiers. I thought that browsing Google Images, reading a short article from The Economist, and discussing other parts of the world was sufficient, but I was so wrong.

Being in Canto Grande, physically and emotionally, humbled me and altered my perspectives completely. Amidst all of my thoughts and feelings surrounding this particular place, one idea stood out several times. It was the idea that I should use my privileges (my ability to get an education, my connections to people, my health, and my future career) to do good things wherever I go. I realized that I must endeavor to be informed, kind, and helpful, and that I must do my best to be an informed global citizen.

Experiencing Lima, Peru, was personally transformative, and the lessons that I learned will never be lost on me.

the first day in peru

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After a seven-hour plane ride and then hours on a bus, all nineteen of us made it to our host homes at approximately 2:00 in the morning. I was excited to finally be in Peru, and I remember feeling both anxious and thrilled upon arrival, as I had never been outside of the United States before. The bus ride was surprisingly calming, as it was early in the morning (1:00 A.M. or so) when we began, and I kept my forehead pressed against the window to look out at Peru’s bustling capital city, Lima. My first, most notable observations were the buses, restaurants, and other businesses whose signs and advertisements were completely in Spanish.
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An hour or so later at about 2:00 A.M., my roommate and I walked up to the tall, wooden gate that surrounded the front of our new home. We were greeted by our host sister, Esther, and as it was so late, and we were overly tired, we didn’t observe a lot inside our house at first. Instead, we allowed ourselves to be led up a winding metal staircase to our living quarters, and I was shocked at first to feel no difference between the temperature outside and that inside the house. The stairs began in the kitchen, and when we reached the top, we were on a sort of rooftop patio, so the house was open to the outside. At first, I worried that we would have to worry about insects (mosquitos in particular), but there are hardly any bugs in Lima because of the climate. Even better, the temperature in Lima is typically in the 60s, and it is always cloudy, so there’s no need to ever wear sunscreen or sunglasses. I loved it.
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Our room and bathroom were disconnected, so we would walk outside to get to each one, and the first night, I remember opening the door to our room and looking up into the sky. The night was completely silent. Even though Lima is a busy city, nighttime at our house was deafeningly quiet, the sky was lightly grey, and it was so peaceful. I felt tranquil and calm even though I was overwhelmed at being in another country without anyone familiar to me. In that moment, I was so grateful for the opportunity to be in Peru, and I could not imagine what experiences were yet to come.
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