A Peruvian Snapshot

I’ve somehow stumbled into July to find myself with less than two weeks left in Lima, and I’ve realized it’s been difficult to accurately convey my time abroad to my friends and family back home.

When someone isn’t there along with you, how can you express just how life-changing your travel actually has been? When someone doesn’t see and hear and take in all that you do on a daily basis, how can they completely understand your day-to-day life and how it affects you? How can you add all the details, the complexities, the life to a story to make it as vibrant and urgent as it was when you experienced it?

The fact is, you can’t. And I don’t think I’ll ever have the capability to make you all appreciate and comprehend everything that I’ve gone through the past four and a half months.

Regardless, I’d like to offer a snapshot of it all, because my time in Peru has been nothing I imagined it would be and everything I hoped it would be at the same time.

It’s been diving headfirst into an unfamiliar culture and an under-practiced language, completely unprepared for the culture shock I would undergo.

It’s being stricken mute for fear of saying something wrong when an overbearing host mom corrects every word I would say.

The superficial tendencies and critiques of said 67-year-old host mom, and how I blatantly ignored them.

Struggling to find my niche in a completely unfamiliar environment, not only for a few weeks but for a couple of months.

Being paired with the greatest compañero PUCP there ever was who quickly became one of my greatest friends here in Peru. From showing me the ropes to answering my ridiculous questions to listening to my crazed rants about basically everything, he never missed a beat in being there for me through this entire process. This one’s for you, Dante—como siempre me dices, no pasa nada =).

Spending Semana Santa in Huacachina, sandboarding and wine-tasting and nature-exploring with two girls for whom I now have developed so much respect.

Watching my fellow exchange students, especially my fellow Hoosiers, grow and learn as the days and weeks passed. That in itself has been truly inspirational.

Feeling my heart sink when I heard my mother crying on the other end of the phone, informing me that my grandfather had passed away.

Accepting help from a group of girls in my class, because I was terribly lost and didn’t understand anything going on, ever, and developing friendships as a result.

Taking surf lessons in the Pacific Ocean and feeling invincible.

Going out four nights in a row until 5 a.m., because my friends here always, always, always show me a good time.

Lunch dates with my friend Alex and learning about his life, the state of Peru and so much more.

Setting off on a last-minute trip to Trujillo with my friend Kimberly, only to surf in Huanchaco, frolick around Chan Chan and hunt down shoes in downtown Trujillo that we never did find. Meeting and becoming close friends with Kimberly’s now-boyfriend, as well.

Confusing the ice cream brand “Donofrio” with “Banafria,” because clearly it just looks like the word “banana.”

Spending more than ten hours on a bus for an hour-long fieldtrip to Caral.

Venturing to the Amazon Rainforest near the city of Iquitos for the very first time, exploring nature in a sense I never imagined possible, taking in a blend of modernity and tradition and gaining an appreciation for the biodiversity our world has to offer and deepening a friendship with Sarah, an amazing young woman from IU.

Finally making the decision to switch homestays after accepting the fact that I wasn’t receiving what I wanted or needed from my previous home.

Becoming included in a Peruvian family that never ceases to entertain me. Yes, it gets loco in here, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Puppies in garbage cans and puppies on the beach and puppies on the streets and now a puppy in my house.

Hanging out with my Peruvian sister Camila, doing everything from bathing the dog to walking to Plaza Vea several times in one day to singing at the top of our lungs while dancing. Te quiero!

Going camping for the very first time in my life. It may have been ridiculously cold, but I enjoyed every minute of it and pushed my limits farther than I thought possible.

Creating excessive inside jokes on a six-day journey from Lima to Cusco to Machu Picchu to Cusco to Puerto Maldonado. Always doing things the opposite of the way they’re supposed to be done. Wings flapped. Chloroform rags. Grupo de Jimmy. And many, many more.

Climbing to the top of Machu Picchu Mountain, despite trouble breathing due to asthma and high altitude, despite the fact that I am terribly out of shape. I reached the summit, and it was an amazing accomplishment with the reward of a breathtaking view.

The gut-wrenching laughter at a 4:30 a.m. breakfast at an Amazonian lodge in Puerto Maldonado, surrounded by middle-aged couples who weren’t always pleased with the antics of Kimberly, her sister and me.

Spending a weekend in Huaraz with Melanie and Kendra, two incredible girls from the U.S., avoiding Chavin and evading drunken bus drivers and sampling Andean beer.

Realizing I’ve lost all common sense after missing buses because military time confused us and burning brownies because we didn’t understand the difference between Fahrenheit and Celsius.

Starting an exercise routine with Kimberly randomly on a Monday night to avoid doing homework and studying, as per usual.

Stealing the cherry off the cake at Camila’s birthday party, just to get yelled at by a little boy.

Running around on a Sunday night, wearing a flamboyant hat and clanking down the street with two medals around my neck, only to attract an absurd amount of attention.

Finishing a book about the Amazon and indigenous rights, and being able to connect my own experiences to those discussed in the book.

Suffering through illness after illness, from colds to pink eye to severe stomach issues.

Noticing how much my language skills have improved in a short period of time.

Developing a passion and furthering my understanding of a nation I’ve always had an interest in.

To be honest, I don’t think this is everything, and it definitely doesn’t capture my experience as a whole. But generally speaking, this is what Peru has been for me.

It’s been rich. It’s been chaotic. It’s been real.