During spring break, I went on the school’s Spanish trip to Peru, which was organized by Envoys. We spent two weeks exploring the gorgeous country and visiting some of its well-known cities and landmarks such as Lima, Cusco, Puno, Lake Titicaca, the Uros Islands, Machu Picchu, las Salinas de Maras, and Moray. Our tour guides each had different characters, allowing us to see various aspects of Peruvian culture. One of them studied archeology and had his very own theory about the Incas! Besides just hearing about Peru’s history and seeing its famous landmarks, we got to try Peruvian food everyday. Our diets consisted mostly of beef, chicken, rice, and potatoes, but I think I may have accidentally eaten alpaca once. We would usually come together as a group after dinner (whether it be at the hotel we were staying at or in a park before we were dropped off at our homestays) and discuss how the day went and how we were feeling, both emotionally and physically. One of our discussions focused on travelers v.s. tourists; more specifically, if we were travelers or tourists… or both? Although we saw a lot of groups of white or Asian elderly tourists at the restaurants we went to, we still stuck out wherever we went. Unlike in New York City, when you don’t think twice when you see hundreds of tourists who don’t speak English, we definitely stuck out to the Peruvians. On the first day we landed in Peru (in Lima), a few locals asked if they could take a picture of us. Our reply: yes, if you get in the photo with us! That was a first. We were definitely tourists.
The one time I didn’t feel like a tourist was when we were with our host families. Sure, we didn’t necessarily fit in at first and dinner conversations were awkward at first, but I doubt that most tourists visiting Peru get to stay in a Peruvian family’s house! Actually, I doubt that most, if not all, of the hundreds of thousands tourists visiting New York City have stayed with an American family for five nights! I was with my friend, Hailey, because I dreaded being all by myself with some random family I knew nothing about. Here I am now in New York missing everything so much! Our host mom, Véronica, was so sweet. Her two sons, Joaquín and Wagner (Jr.) were in school, so that had to eat together without me and Hailey because we would arrive at anywhere between 8:00-9:00 p.m. Despite our late arrival, Véronica would cook dinner for us whenever we showed up and sit with us, asking about our day. One day when we were in Cusco, our group had all the families eat at a restaurant (the one with alpaca). We had free time in the afternoon after lunch, but our host mom wanted to take me and Hailey to the mall! We saw Insurgent (Insurgente) at the mall’s movie theater. I don’t know exactly why, but that made me so happy. I really wanted to see the movie when I got back to the United States, and our host mom went out of her way to spend time with us. Our host dad, Wagner (Sr.), was never home when we were staying at their house. He is a tour guide at Machu Picchu, but he was our tour guide when we visited Machu Picchu! We were at Agua Calientes, and Hailey said, “I think that’s our dad.” It was…
We stayed at the EcoAmazonia lodge during the last few days of our trip. It was an amazing lodge/resort with a pool. We stayed in bungalows and only had electricity between 6:00-10:00 p.m. We were rushing to get ready for bed before 10:00 p.m., avoiding having to rely on a flashlight to light up our shower or attracting more mosquitoes. I got over 20 mosquito bites. The first night, we took a short stroll through the Amazon Rainforest and got in a boat, looking for caiman. Although we couldn’t find any, the man steering the boat turned the engine off, allowing the river to carry it downstream. It was so peaceful and silent. The moon and the stars were our only source of light. As we approached the EcoAmazonia lodge, we heard the annoying buzz of the generator (keep in mind it was earlier than 10:00 p.m.). It made me realize how disgusting and disruptive electricity is. I would always be blissful whenever we took the time to just sit down and have silent meeting. It gave us time to just settle down and appreciate the landscape. I was excited when we finally got to give back. After waking up/being woken up by monkeys around 6:00 a.m., we got on a boat and took a 8km hike. It was so muddy that all of my rain boots were covered in mud. It finally began to rain, but I have never seen so much rain in my life. I went from being hot and sticky to cool and drenched within seconds. Later, we attempted to go fishing with fishing poles made of a long stick, string, a hook, and a small hunk of meat. After discovering that none of us were natural-born fishers, we jumped in the river and swam. It was so nice to submerge ourselves in the water that we have been floating down the night before. The same day, we went to a family’s farm down the river and planted exactly 50 trees. We only had three digging tools, but we managed to get the work done quickly. They gave us fruit to eat after. We went to another family’s farm the next day, but their field had snakes in it, so we couldn’t plant all 50 trees. While we awkwardly waited for our boat to arrive, we got a quick lesson on how to shoot an arrow. I’m just really happy that we did something positive for the environment, giving back to the beautiful country of Peru and the two families.
I miss it so much. I miss the food, the culture, the people, my host family. There’s not one thing I don’t miss about Peru. I don’t even want to take back any bad things that happened in Peru, like when I fell at Machu Picchu (don’t worry, I fell AT Machu Picchu, not OFF Machu Picchu). I will continue to learn from these amazing two weeks. There’s so much I got out of this trip. Whenever I doubt myself, I remind myself how nervous I was for this trip, but everything turned out fine. Well, actually, it turned out to be incredible. I’d like to thank all of my classmates, Micah, Señor Quiñones, Ángela, Flaco, and Ahava for making it so great.