Back to
Photo by Benjamin Swift, Andes & Amazon Semester.

Fairy Houses

(This was written a few weeks ago during our trekking phase before the homestay. My apologies taking so long to get it to you. It’s just that good ol’ Bolivian time)



Yesterday my 27 year old mentor and I plopped down in the sand and built a tiny fairy house.


We had finished our trekking for the day and had a few hours to burn, so Edwin, our local guide, took us on a short hike down the ridge of a roughly 100 foot high box canyon called the devil’s throat. In our Chacos and flip flops (for we often find ourselves guessing what Edwin means when he says he wants to ‘show us something’) we descended down the switch backs and through the mud and shrubs until the leaves peeled away and the throat revealed itself to us: a massive wispy waterfall sprung from the edge and blasted us with mist. Cities of moss clung to the sheer rock walls while small trickles ran down their faces, shimmering like glass. Giant boulders resembling meteorites jutted out of the sand covered floor.


Like puppies we began exploring. Rose, still wearing her rain jacket, edged under the waterfall and let the water soak her face. Bryn and Sofie forgot the jackets all together and let the falls fully baptize them. Luca and Ezra scaled the meteorites while Nico, Sam, and Henry tried to skip rocks in the shallow pools. Lucy ran her hands along the simmering carpeted walls, while Dani sat in the shrubs and soaked up the sun.


As everyone explored, Sierra and I collected colored rocks until we saw Keshet, our instructor, sitting alone and digging in the dirt. As we approached, we realized she had laid the foundation of a tiny house. Sierra and I immediately plopped down in the dirt beside her to help. We built little walls with sticks and collected leaves for the roof. I joked we were building affordable housing for the ants as Sierra made a little garden of blue rocks to the side of the house.


Now parents, you may be thinking, “What the heck. I did not pay all this money to send my kids off to have, what sounds like, one adult sized play date full of fairy houses and rock skipping.  This was supposed to be a cultural experience.”


And to that I would say yes, you are right. This sort of is one massive, adult-sized play date. But it’s also a cultural experience. Back home, especially the Western cultures we come from, pride themselves on hard work and success. Between school, sports, work, and family there are hardly any moments to just exist in between. Hardly any moments to sit down and make a tiny stone path to a tiny wooden fairy house. Hardly any moments to play. Hardly any moments to “waste time.” Here, this culture, gives us that time. We are able to play like kids in the waterfalls and collect river rocks. And it´s not laziness, it’s not a lack of productivity, it’s not wasting time: it´s enjoying it.


It’s giving yourself the opportunity to look for tiny flowers or a flat skipping rock. For a soft piece of moss, or for peace within oneself. It’s giving time not only to find happiness to also time to enjoy it; fully and wholeheartedly.


So yes, yesterday we built fairy houses. And yes, we have the market for ant houses cornered. But we also built an application for the “in between” moments. The moments where, in the western world you might be wasting time, when here, in reality, we are just learning to enjoy it.


With love.