Two Months Later
It hit me the other day that my blog has not seen any post-Quillabamba action, nonetheless any posts about my last few weeks in Peru, and readjusting to life back in the U.S. But as I prepare to publish this blog into a hard copy book format, I realized how vital a conclusion post is to complete the cycle of my experience abroad.
Last few weeks in Peru: After my three weeks in Quillabamba, I headed back to Cusco for the last two weeks of the program. I spent the first week back living with a friend in an apartment in a familiar neighborhood, fully dedicated my time to writing the final versions (in English and Spanish) of my ISP. After 6 days and 40+ pages of research turned into writing, the only thing standing in the way of me and my summer was my final ISP presentation. Following the ISP week, we were required to spend two days awkwardly living with our Cusco host families again. We spent Mother’s Day with them, which was a nice gesture, but also made me miss my own family terribly. Especially when my host mother “suggested” I enjoyed myself in Quillabamba, you know, since I had gained weight—needless to say, she’s not on the list of people I miss. Then, with only one week left in the program, we all headed back to Urubamba (where we all first met during orientation!) for our ISP presentations. I must say, my presentation was pretty kick-ass, and it was nice to relax with friends before we parted ways. After one last night in Cusco, it was time to say goodbye and pack our bags to head on to whatever journey came next. In my case, that journey consisted of 5 days in Chile, reuniting with the lovely Sarah Fitzgerald!
Santiago and Valparaiso: My week in Chile was indisputably amazing. It was so great to spend time with Sarah, unwinding and reflecting on our time in two very similar South American countries. It was also nice to really play the role of the young tourist—staying in hostals, meeting other young tourists from the UK, Brazil, and Argentina; not showering for a few days in a row (oops..); going on tours of Chilean vineyards and drinking wine; wandering the streets of Valparaiso and taken dozens of photos of the eclectic street art; getting caught in the middle of an anti-government protest that took place in the midst of a national holiday. And because we were in a bigger (more “modern”) city, we had access to a few amenities we had both lacked over the past few months, such as free (safe to drink) tap water. We were both so excited to be traveling together, but also visibly exhausted from our transformative semesters, so we were certainly ready to head home to the U.S. when the time came. And sure enough, after nearly 48 hours of traveling, I made it to the Boston Logan Airport, greeted by my mom and sister, who I quickly and eagerly embraced in huge hugs.
Home: One of the most important things students who study abroad are repeatedly told is how difficult and confusing the re-entry process was going to be. While I was in Peru, I had an inclination that I wasn’t going to experience those typical emotions. And I was right. It took my less than 48 hours to feel completely at home; in fact, after one weekend home, I felt as though I had never evenleftthe country. My time in Peru felt so distant, so dream-like. The only things that were grounding my Peruvian reality were daily texts from Eva, and a treasure chest of Peruvian mementos (like the earrings I’m wearing today). It’s actually been a rather conflicting experience. Why don’t I yearn to be back in Peru? Does this mean my experience wasn’t as enriching and transformative as it could have been? Am I the only person who feels so normal? Will the feelings unload themselves in a few weeks, just making me a late-bloomer?
Alas, after being home for over two months now, those feelings haven’t disappeared. Peru still feels like a dream—although I did have dinner with a fellow SIT Cusco friend last night, which reminded me that the experience was real. I think (as does my mom and my professors) that this experience just feeds into the larger narrative of my life. I’ve spent most of my life divided between different places and experiences: growing up on the U.S.-Mexico border, enveloped in a bi-cultural environment; summers in Minnesota with my mom’s family; traveling throughout Mexico, exploring my dad’s heritage; moving to New England and splitting my time between Norwood and Providence. I’ve always had people and places to miss; I’ve been surrounded by Latin culture my whole life. All of these things have shaped me into the person I am today, but they have also led me my current feelings of confusion over not having fallen in love with Peru as I expected to.
I am going to carry these feelings of belonging (or lack there-of) with me for years to come. My experience was undoubtedly different than many of my peers who also studied abroad; but because of that, I’ve learned different things about myself and the world. I’ve discovered new passions, which in turn have sparked other new interests. I’ve also come to the realization that there are certain things I love about my country, among many things I dislike; and vice-versa, there are plenty of aspects of Peruvian culture and life that I adore, but many things that I cannot and will not support. All in all, my time abroad was an indescribable learning experience. It was also undoubtedly transformational—just not in the ways I had originally planned, which turned out to be one of the biggest lessons I learned in the Ombligo del Universo.