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Photo by Tom Pablo, South America Semester.

Leaving Peru

We have just arrived at Ccatan in Urubamba, the same hostel where we started our journey in Peru. In some ways it feels as though we never left, but when I think back on all the experiences we have had it feels like I have been in Peru for a lifetime. In this month alone, I have learned so much about Peruvian culture and spirituality, struggled through cold and rainy treks, and gotten to know each person in our group a little better every day. Our group has also transitioned from our skill building phase to our practicing phase, which gives us a lot more responsibility and freedom. I am excited and ready to move on to Bolivia, but it is also important to reflect on our time in Peru and all that it has given us.

Some of the most meaningful experiences have come from my interactions with local people, specifically in Boca Pariamanu and Nacion Q´eros. In Boca Pariamanu, Don Alberto spent much of his time with the group sharing knowledge of his community and of medicinal plants with us. Most recently, Siwar lead our group through his home of Nacion Q´eros and shared his incredible life stories with us. His spirituality and deep connection to the land allowed me to see and appreciate nature in a new way. Hearing how Siwar lived in the mountains by himself at the age of ten really opened my eyes to how and why someone could love and respect Pacha Mama to the extent that I saw in Q´eros. The way that these native communities work in cooperation with their land has inspired me to spend more time in the outdoors when I am home and to work to help conserve what nature we have left.

While observing the way others interact with nature has been enlightening, I have also had many of my own experiences in nature that have changed my perspective. Being from California, I have taken weather for granted in my life. That is definitely not the case anymore. From the rain, hail, and snow we encountered so often on treks, the sun has become a precious commodity that I appreciate every time we get a glimpse of it. The group arrived at our final community in Q´eros soaked and cold, but after a little while the sun came out and we were able to hang our clothing on the stone walls to dry. I stood with my face towards the strong Andean sun and let it warm my body completely, even allowing myself to get too hot because I knew the sun could be covered by clouds any minute. Sure enough, I woke up the next morning to snow-covered hills and grey skies. My physical struggles with hiking through less than ideal conditions, though unpleasant at the time, have showed me what my body can handle and that, as Becca always reminds us, everything is temporary.

Although pain is temporary, so is the time here that we have to experience Peru. I am sad to leave tonight, but hopefully I will be back sometime in the future. Until then, I have a limited amount of time to learn about and delve into all that Bolivia has to offer.