When I was young, home was the little apartment crowded by my parents, my grandparents and I, where the specific arrangement of furnitures, the smell of old books, and unique voices of family members made up the picture of “home” in my younger mind. Then, there was my dad’s hometown Yuetian where people share the same last name, which, according to Chinese traditions, is also my hometown. Almost every year, my family and I would drive all the way to Yuetian and celebrate Chinese New Year together. As I grew up, chances to reunite with my extended family become less and less, and even the time spent with my parents and grandparents is ruthlessly cut down when I flew overseas to spend my high school years in the U.S. As much as I love to embrace new changes in my life, I feel that most of the time I am standing on a void, unable to set my foot on the ground and retrieve my roots.
Bringing this kind of uncertainty, I stepped on another journey. This time, the destiny is even farther from home. After landing on Peru, we spent a few days in Huaran, and then packed up our luggage again for Paru Paru, where local communities lovingly open their arms to us and show us Peruvian cultures through different lenses. During our four days here, we spent time during the day with families from the local community to learn about their daily life. Abi and I were lucky to have Felix and Francisco as our hosts. I remember walking with Francisco on the rocky roads and realizing my surroundings–the whole village surrounded by endless mountains, rivers traveling through the village, and colorful houses built on different levels of altitude. We helped with feeding trouts, separating potatoes, and herding sheep and llamas. Here people have a slower speed of life, unaffected by the busy technology era. They have the time to connect with their mother Earth, showing reverence and gratitude for abundance of food and life. There were numerous moments when I thought of my hometown Yuetian–when the scenery of mountains and village unfolded in front of me, when I had my first experience of herding the sheep, and when Felix’s rough hands held mine. It is no longer a new place. It is a home away from home.
Being in new places does not mean looser connection with our homes. Rather, we have stronger sense of our identities when we leave home, tied by a force named love. In addition, my experience in Paru Paru makes me realize that “home” could be more than one. As we embark on a new phase in Urubamba, I am excited to see the establishment of valuable relationships with our host families and local communities and the deepening of understanding for each other.