Over spring break I travelled to Peru with a group of 12 Friends students. Over the course of two weeks, we hiked, swam, toured, bonded, and immersed ourselves in Peruvian culture. With the assistance of our amazing Envoys guides, our group was able to experience Peru both as tourists and as insiders. We participated in the predictable tourist activities like visiting Machu Picchu, the salt mines, and many ruins but we also spent time with local Peruvians and completed a service project in the Amazon rainforest.
I learned the most about Peruvian culture from my home stay family. For seven nights, I was able to spend time with my home stay family and experience everyday Peruvian life. My family took me to multiple birthday celebrations where they shared with me many unfamiliar dishes that may or may not have been guinea pig. My family taught me Peruvian dances, such as salsa, and showed me a different meaning to the word family. The extended family of my host family lived within a 5 block radius of each other and they engaged with each other many times everyday. I noticed that my home-stay brother spent more time with his cousin than I do with my brother even though we live in the same house. In comparison to the Americans, Peruvians seem to value family more. When returning home to New York, I tried to bring back with me the kindness of home-stay family, and their belief in the importance of family.
Another meaningful experience was completing our service project in the Amazon. After a long morning of swimming, both in the river and the pool, and a delicious lunch at the beautiful reserve, our group got onto a boat and travelled for around twenty minutes to a family farm. That afternoon, we planted 50 trees under the burning Amazonian sun in an area that had been deforested. It was great to get down and dirty under the sun and it felt incredibly rewarding to know that we were helping both the environment and the Peruvian family. The next day we went to another farm and planted 30 trees. The families of each farm were appreciative of the work we did on their farms and rewarded us with fresh grapefruits and coconut water and an archery lesson. Thanks to our amazing supervisors and group. I had an incredible time in a beautiful country. I know that I’ll remember the experiences I had in Peru for the rest of my life.