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Photo by Teva Corwin (2018 Summer Photo Contest Entry), Peru 4-Week.

Finding familiarity and embracing discomfort

Recently, Peru is entering into the hot, rainy season. As much as I love the feeling of smelling fresh clothes dried under Peruvian sun and sensing sunshine gently falling on my shoulder, I am nevertheless enchanted by the sounds of rain fiercely beating the skylight in my temporary bedroom. One night when, all of sudden, the sound of rain tore up the tranquil Urubamba evening, I was filled with the same excitement felt by me as a kid, who could not take her eyes off the view of her beloved city fading within the magic of rain.

The life in Peru is a combination of encountering new things and finding familiarity. I have been much more used to the drinkable oatmeal(avena) for breakfast and genuine friendliness and curiosity radiated by Peruvian people. I could naturally start a conversation with someone from my favorite juice stand, from little tiendas, and even on my way walking up to Casita Huaran. The people who I talked to are genuinely curious about me, a girl with an Asian appearance, and ask questions about my country and my culture. Coming from a country where people generally tend to keep a distance from strangers, I found this experience to be novel, yet exciting. With my poor Spanish, I tried to paint a picture of what my country looks like before their eyes. I feel especially grateful for these conversations, as it is not only me who one-sidedly learns about Peruvian culture but also the local communities who could get something out of my presence being here, no matter how small.

I have always loved drawing and painting, but these few years I have been reconstructing my thoughts on the meaning of art to me. Therefore, I decided to focus on other sectors of my life, only occasionally sketching on my notebook without any idea what I wanted to express. Recently, my artistic skills come in handy in terms of my work in Casita Huaran. Knowing my interest in art, Tania, my supervisor, excitedly took out a stack of boards and told me that she wished that I could repaint them. The past two weeks, I concentrate on making illustration on the boards that are used to remind the tourists not to throw any trash in the toilet due to a lack of water pressure in Peru. According to Tania, she has been really frustrated about tourists throwing paper in the toilet, who did not pay attention to the note on the bathroom wall. This could potentially impact the water system, creating pollution to the water that the locals rely on for growing crops. She happily told me that after putting up my illustration, there has not been anyone throwing trash in the toilet. Then I proceeded to paint price lists for the home-made drinks in Casita Huaran and even a pot in which the guests, if willing, could throw in some “propinas” (tips) that will be shared by all the workers in Casita Huaran.

During the process of getting into making art again in an unexpected way, I realized that having no idea what I want to express in the beginning is not necessarily a bad thing.  It means that the direction of thoughts could travel to any place without restriction. Usually, I put something done, feel unhappy with it, and then erase and do something else. Colors and patterns start to form as I took time pondering, experimenting and making mistakes. In the end, I found they turn out to be the kind of illustrations I have never done before, since I did not dare to take risks. I also regain the familiar happiness and peacefulness like before while I sit down and concentrate on all the colors and forms, thinking about nothing else in my mind. In the rest of my time in Casita Huaran, I look forward to employing more of my knowledge while also observing new thoughts and changes emerging from mistakes, risks, and the unknown.