The Last Post

I originally wrote this because I was half-jokingly assigned to write a final reflection, but after I was finished I decided it would be a good way to give some closure to this blog. With that said, here it is:

It’s funny the things you remember after something is over. When I first got off the plane in Trujillo, following a long night of little sleep in the Lima airport, I was running completely on adrenaline; I was slightly nervous and yet unbelievably excited. It was then that our group was finally made whole with Alicia, Fox, Becca, Zoe, Ehwa, and myself. We were  strangers for all intents and purposes, and strangers from all different walks of life at that. With the exception of Alicia, none of us knew Peru at all and we were uncertain as to what exactly we would be doing there. Thus I began my first international journey— wholly unsure of what to expect.

The last six weeks unfolded to be a curious medley of new experiences, from the people I met to the things I did to the places I went. Taking in the bustling Trujillo, laid-back Huanchaco, sunny Simbal, and our little Collambay the first five weeks provided innumerable contrasts for me. Only a sliver of our trip took place in Trujillo, but I will recall the pace of the city, the crazy drivers, and one fantastic steak dinner. Greater stretches were spent in Huanchaco. Weekends there always yielded wonderful times, with regular trips to Sabes, a few nights at our reggae palace Sunkella, and the constant comfort of the nearby sea.  The mix of the people and the atmosphere of that town grew on me quickly, however not quite like that of the campo. The majority of our time was spent in between Simbal and Collambay, where we self-dubbed “country cousins” lived and worked.

These places were those that I became the most acquainted with, where the school children came to know us by name and where we labored to renovate the Plaza. It was in these places that we hiked up on mountain tops so we were above the oceans of clouds, where we had the chance to see remnants of the Sinsicap valley’s ancient residents, and where I learned a humble thing or two about archaeology. We came to expect a wake-up call at any time from our neighboring roosters, as well as power outages if two showers were used at the same time. Our mornings began with breakfasts of butter and jam rolls, the packing of lunches complete with Picaras, and piling into our noble steed, Rhonda, for each day’s excursion. Evenings consisted of Teresa’s home cooking and good times together, often accompanied by lengthy conversations with Javier as well.

In between our breakfasts and dinners were days spent out in Collambay. During these daylight hours we gained an introduction to the people of the community and were able to get an idea of their way of life. Every morning we were enthusiastically received by the children, who found great amusement in repeatedly calling out our silly gringo names. Herds of sheep, goat, turkey, and chicken crossing through town became a common sight, and there were always antecucho sticks drying out on the sidewalk. Encounters with the adults of Collambay, however, were scarce during the day. The reason for their absence quickly becomes apparent when considering they mostly all work in their chakras from dawn to dusk, taking Sunday as their only day off. I was surprised to see how many adults were actually a part of that community at the reunion, but that was more of a time of observation for us than a time for introductions. Nonetheless, we had the chance to meet some of them on later days, people who showed us kindness and generosity. They showed us how to more efficiently lay cement, they lent us their tools, helped us clear the land in the plaza (at a much faster pace than we could), gifted us their crops, and invited us to their celebrations.

Our month in Collambay was marked by mutual respect and appreciation not only between our group and community members, but also in between our small band of six. I am extremely grateful that I was joined by such amazing people for this venture. Through the weeks of living and working alongside of each of them I have come to love and admire every one—Zoe for her creativity, Becca for her compassion, Ehwa for her intrepid nature, Fox for his patience, and Alicia for her passion for Peru.

I have never learned so much in such a short period of time. I learned how to laugh at cold showers, how to communicate even when I can’t understand every word a person is saying to me, and what a full day of hard work means. I learned how to play Jenga, that walking to get around town is wonderful, and, surprisingly, that I can dance. I came to feel comfortable when dirty, discovered that there are no paltas like Peruvian paltas, and even to appreciate farm animals as alarm clocks. This list seems like a shadow of everything that I’ve ascertained and experienced the last few weeks, but to record everything would be an endless task. But between the mototaxi ride and playing taps, between Huanchaco and Collambay, between carting bricks, hiking mountains, and teaching schoolchildren ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,’ I have perhaps learned one thing that is the most important. It seems that no matter how different two people can be—in lifestyle, in language, in culture, in ethnicity, or in age—there can be a common ground, maybe even a place for friendship.

It is with these thoughts that I conclude my first Peruvian passage. I am thankful for the new perspective I have gained and for the adventure I have had. More so ,though, I am thankful for the people and ,of course, the place that have given these gifts to me.

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