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Photo by Celia Mitchell (2015/16 Semester Photo Contest Entry), Indonesia Semester.


Two Dragons welcome the sunrise with an improvised dance atop the Andes. Photo by Ryan Gasper.

In the past three weeks, I have been flipped in every direction I can imagine. I have pushed my body up the roaring Andes and through the scorching avenues of the Amazon. I’ve created individual relationships with ten students who have taught me each of their unique values and beliefs. Because of the intensity of my interactions, it’s difficult for me to remember the version of myself that I presented three weeks ago within the somewhat mundane community of my hometown.

When I left home for the airport, I was anxious to see what Peru was going to present to me. I was naïve and believed that my westernized version of the world would translate into Latin America. I had imagined freshly trimmed grass, street vendors serving my favorite foods, and conversation in every direction. In some ways, as I have seen, westernization has carried over, but in other more important ways, Latin America has presented me with a culture of its own. I have been extremely blessed in my ability to explore such a diverse country in a very personal way. Each day I am presented with a beautiful sight that is unparalelled within my group. To me, each sight personalizes itself for its visualizer.

With each sight I see, I become a bit more introspective. I have begun to look harder for the beauty and lack thereof inside of me. Through endless journaling, conversation, and observation, I am beginning to glimpse a different version of myself that I have cultivated here. A version of myself that fumbles with language and smiles with every mistake. A version of myself that recognizes happiness in nontraditional and often impoverished settings. A version of myself that I have come to love and respect in an enriched manner.

When I leave Peru, I will not be as naïve. I will continue to lead an introspective lifestyle centered on self-improvement. I will continue to look for beauty within my country and within myself, despite the ever present turmoil of our nation. My physical location will no longer be whole, because Peru will always have a part of me, and that is one version of myself that I will never neglect.