Well, I’m home.
It’s hard to find the right words to sum up my experience in Peru. All I can say is that it was an experience with its ups and downs, like any other, yet somehow unlike any other I have ever had before.
Several people have asked me whether, if I could go back in time knowing what I know now, I would choose it again. I don’t have an answer. I am in a different state of mind than I was when I made the decision and I can’t conceptualize going back in time and making that choice. All I know is that it was an experience that helped to shape me, taught me lessons, and opened my eyes and heart a bit to the unknown.
I miss my host parents. I miss the sound of the Spanish language. I miss the paltas, granadillas, aguaymantos, maracuya, galletas, jugos, arroz con leche, locro de zapallo, causa rellena, and chicha morada. I miss the deer on campus, the dogs in Villa el Salvador and the cats in the park. I miss nighttime yoga in Parque Reducto. I miss never having to wait more than 10 minutes for a combi. I miss bodegas. I miss days at Kulca, nights at Luz Roja and late-night Lucha trips. I miss lying on the grass in Sociales with friends between classes. I miss being able to walk to the ocean. I miss the daily excitement of navigating new experiences each time I walked out the door.
I don’t miss being an outsider. I don’t miss asking people to repeat themselves, más despacio por favor, otra vez? I don’t miss being constantly honked at by taxis and catcalled by strange men on the street. I don’t miss nearly falling over with each jolt of the combi. I don’t miss living in someone else’s home and all of the uncertainties and awkwardness that came with it. I don’t miss being far from my family and friends. I don’t miss the gray Lima skies (though they’re starting to get sunny and blue now).
I do miss the people I met there, and I am holding out hope that I will see them again someday through our travels.
At our re-entry talk, we were given a quote from a former IFSA student, which ends with:
“Eventually, the foreign becomes familiar, the familiar the past, and home only gets bigger and bigger.”
For me, the familiar is not the past; returning to it I find it very much alive and present and changing, just as I am. But my home keeps expanding, and there’s no better way that I can sum up this return than with that quote, and this one:
“Still, there are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination.”
– Jhumpa Lahiri
¡Gracias y hasta luego, Perú!