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Crossing the river before summiting 17,500 Pico Austria. Photo by Ella Williams (2016 Fall Semester Photo Contest, 2nd Place), South America Semester.


People grow up in different surroundings. Whether they live in the concrete jungle in New York City, or as hunter gatherers on the African savannah, people’s outlooks are influenced by these factors. I have grown up 30 minutes from the city of Vancouver in “suburbia” in a town of 100,000 people with uniform houses for street, after street, after street. It is quite boring; however all I have to do is look North and find my playground, the Vancouver Coastal Mountains. My itch for adventure is satisfied by the backscratcher of BC biking, hiking and ski access. I honestly just love being in the outdoors. I love the beauty, the uncertainty, and the challenge of nature. That being said most of the challenge for me is convincing my mom to lend me the car to get there. This is what I love about growing up in South West British Columbia.
My connection to Bolivia and Peru is through my environment. The Vancouver Coastal mountains are a part of a long chain of peaks that range from Alaska to the tip of South America. Bolivians and Peruvians have had a meaningful relationship with the Andes since Incan times.
The Incas practiced mountain worship and gave human sacrifices to their environment. Most of the human sacrifices were the children of the emperor. They were the bridge between mortals and Gods, and were the ultimate gift to give to the mountain gods. The children were heroes to the Inca community. On the day they were sacrificed, they were given chica, a type of alcohol before and after death. Then the child was encased alive into a tomb with holy relics to take with them into the afterlife. The mountains that I play in are sacred to the Canadian aboriginal people and are part of their culture and history though human sacrifice was not a part of their traditions as far as I know! I look forward to seeing how the indigineous communities where we will travel, and the aboriginal communities I know from home, connect to their sacred mountains in ways that are both similar and different.
I searched to find Bolivian or Peruvian people where I live but most of our immigrant communities are from Asia rather than South America. My biggest connection with the Peruvians and Bolivians we meet is likely to be a shared passion and wonder for these giants that loom above us.