Spring break, Peace Corps style

Happy belated Easter, friends! One of the best things about being a teacher is that you’re never too old for a spring break and luckily, even though I am on another continent, Colombians are also big fans of vacations so I had all last week off for “Holy Week.” My site mate, Michael, and two other PCV’s decided to fly down to Peru, eat some guinea pig, see some mountains and escape the heat. I had another motivator for leaving: turtle is the main dish in my town for Easter and I hate seeing all the poor little turtles in their buckets awaiting their imminent death, also turtle is too chewy for my taste 🙂

You may not know, but Cusco, Peru is home to one of the world’s biggest tourist destinations, Machu Picchu. This ancient Incan city was named a World Heritage site and since then, 2,000 tourists flock to the mountains every day to witness the amazing ingenuity of the Incans. Cool, hard core travelers like to hike up the mountain to fully appreciate the work ethic and determination of the Incans. Michael and our friend, Caleb are these hardcore travelers. Luckily, Caleb’s super cool wife, Alex, is not and so I had a buddy to hang out with in the city of Cusco all week while the boys spent 5 days trekking and camping (AKA my worst nightmare) and then we took a train up to the ruins. It was MUCH more enjoyable and there was still light hiking involved so we were able to appreciate the physical endurance the Incans had. If it isn’t already on your bucket list, I highly recommend making your way down there; it is absolutely breathtaking.

In addition to Machu Picchu, Cusco has so many Incan ruins right outside the city to explore. While on our way to a national park that houses an ancient temple and tunnels where Incan women hid during battles, we encountered a nice indigenous man who said that instead of paying the entrance fee to the park, we could pay to go through the indigenous town and he’d give us a guide to take us on horseback through all the sites. It was incredible and I almost liked the experience more than Machu Picchu. One night, we went back up the mountain to the Cusco Planetarium, which is really the house of an indigenous family that has been studying astronomy for generations. We went star gazing and they taught us all about the Incan constellations. We spent the rest of our time touring gorgeous cathedrals, visiting markets, eating all the food in Cusco and people watching.

Even though I am outside of my home country, I feel like I haven’t had the opportunity to travel much lately so this trip was a good reminder of just how big our world is and how beautiful the human race can be. On my way through the indigenous town outside of Cusco, I saw two Peruvian teenagers chasing each other through the street. The one in the lead came across some of those cute, white dandelions that everyone back home loves to pick and blow the leaves off and guess what he did? He picked it and blew the leaves off. I don’t know why but it was such a simple, beautiful act and really put everything into perspective: we are all the same. We hope, we dream, we have fun, we fear, we laugh, we cry and we all pick dandelions on some point in our lives. Peruvian women may carry their children around differently than Americans but that doesn’t mean they care any less or worry about their futures. American music is nothing like what I hear in Colombia but that doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate a nice melody.

While traveling in itself is amazing and fun and it gets me out of my pueblo for awhile, experiencing new cultures and learning about people is so important and worth every dime. I truly think that the world would be a better place if we all got to know each other a little better. I realize that not everyone has the privilege of having the time or money to travel, but I can bet there are parts of your town that you don’t frequent too often. For my Nebraska/Iowa friends, go down to South Omaha, eat some bomb Mexican food, walk into the International Bakery and strike up a conversation with someone that looks different from you. If you’re living elsewhere, go into international market and talk to the cashier or try out a new restaurant and get to know your waiter you won’t regret it.

It was hard to come back to my little town after such an amazing trip. I was excited to see everyone but I still had anxiety for some reason. Obviously, as it is after every trip, my anxiety quickly went away when Isa ran into my arms and gave me a hug and kiss and my host mom sat on my bed while I unpacked and told her all about Peru. Tonight, my neighbor who is only 19 but is basically my second mom here, made me dinner and I had an eating contest with her 4 year old son and the nine year old neighbor boy. Spoiler alert: I won. Once again, I feel beyond grateful that this is my life and that I have found so much love thousands of miles outside of my comfort zone.

I only have about seven months left of this adventure so I am really going to try and appreciate every moment. Thanks for reading! I hope the lovely spring weather is treating you well. Abrazos!!!

P.S. I’ve been trying for an hour to upload pictures but my weak data plan isn’t cutting it. So I’ll just leave with you this J.R.R. Tolkien quote in honor of my finally committing to tackle the Lord of the Rings series (I swear I’m not as nerdy as that last sentence implies).

“The world is indeed full of peril. and in it there are many dark places; but still there is so much that is fair, and though in all the lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps all the greater.”