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Photo by Tom Pablo, South America Semester.

Tom´s Tiqipaya Time

Having left Tiqipaya for the last time this semester, I find myself in an emotional limbo, trapped between the excitement of moving on and the sadness of leaving behind an awesome community and homestay family.  Looking back on it, I can readily call my time in this suburb my favorite section of the semester.  This viewpoint is radically different than the one I held after my first few nights there – crying babies, tiring commutes to class, and general exhaustion had me whining about my discomfort and countin down the days ´till we left.  That initial mindset softened as I adjusted to my new lifestyle, however, and I began to embrace the challenges of living in an alien environment with newfound vigor.

That being said, I wasn´t expecting to miss the city or my homestay family as much as I did during the month-long Peruvian excursion that interrupted our two stays.  I found myself missing the 40 minute walk to Spanish Class in the morning; I missed chatting about the prior day´s activities with fellow students and hearing what interesting things they´d done in their time away from the group.  I missed the never-ending supply of fried meats my homestay mother provided at every meal (fresh off the farm), and the consistent love my little homestay sisters displayed when I came home, their little feet running towards me for a hug.  I also missed the sense of independence that accompanied living away from the group (as much as I love ´em).  Having some alone time was invaluable just to relax and think for a second.  And the ability to head into Tiqipaya´s center if I wanted to use Internet or grab a bite to eat added a sense of responsibility that made me feel more mature (than I really am), teaching me to stick to a schedule and plan my time more efficiently.

Thinking about all of this while traveling around Peru got me hyped for our return to Tiqipaya in November.  This second stay picked up right where the first left off – my homestay mother, Doña Paula, was immediately poking fun at my consistent capacity for sleeping-in way past the rest of my homestay family.  Speaking of Doña Paula, she was a big part of why Tiqipaya was so special.  She taught me a lot about personal drive and humility through her kind and upbeat personality, maintained 24/7 despite an incredible workload divided between three toddlers and farm maintenance.  My first night in her home I found myself internalizing the question of how she could possibly be happy with such a strenuous workload and seemingly unfulfilling lifestyle.  But what I came to realize, or what she showed me through her kindness and humor, was that she had made her life fulfilling, that she enjoyed or at least accepted the life she was given.  This came as a powerful revelation for me, and it really put my privileged life into a new perspective.  I learned that satisfaction and happiness can be found in all circumstances of life – what´s most influential is your mindset about the situation.

And my mindset regarding that Tiqipaya lifestyle had definitely changed by the time I left for good.  I fully accepted the limited sleep, farm work, and crying children.  My family´s awesomeness and my own personal independence had allowed for an intensive period of mental and emotional growth, and another couple of months there would have been totally manageable, even invited.  I still hope I can return in the future.  I know that if I do, no matter how much time passes between now and then, I will feel comfortable there, picking up right where the last stay left off.