First of all let me just explain what I've been up to this past year. We'll start with PERU (Oct-Dec 2009)
I left this blog having just planned a spontaneous random 6 week volunteer/travel trip to Peru for fall 2009. I was in Peru from October-early December (I flew home on my birthday) and it was interesting, to say the least.
I spent 4 weeks doing random volunteering with kids and English in a small touristy town in the Andes called Ollantaytambo. I hiked a lot, saw Machu Picchu (which was INCREDIBLE) and ate far too many potatoes.
I met a lot of nice people, spoke a lot more Spanish than I had since learning the language in high school, and learned how ridiculous yet gorgeous Peru and the Andes are. I then traveled around by myself for 2 weeks, from Lake Titicaca to Arequipa to Pisco to Lima, surprisingly
managing to stay safe and
crime-victimless. I saw a country that could not seem to pick itself up, and honestly seems to have no desire to be anything other than it is now. I met Peruvians who had never traveled beyond the next town and who honestly had no drive to ever go further. I met people who were perfectly happy just being where they were with the people they were with. It forced me to question so much about my own life and my own curious, wandering nature. Why am I so restless in my life, so indecisive when these people (especially my host family in Ollantaytambo) are so genuinly happy in their simple existence. Does having a world of possibly, a million choices at your every turn, make you actually less happy in the end?
I saw for my own eyes how you cannot force change upon people, they must want it themselves. Peruvians, in my eyes, do not seem to want change. They have outsiders coming in
telling them "you must drink coka cola in plastic bottles!" and "you must use the internet!" but yet there is no one to take away their "modern" waste and really, what does one use internet for in a town of 100 people at 13,000 ft elevation in the middle of the Andes?
As much as I'm an advocate of development and social change, my trip to Peru reiterated
my belief that in order for change and development to be effective and successful, it must be initiated and pushed for by the people it is for. But regardless, Peru is a strange place. My friend visited Peru later and when we were discussing our respective trips, he said something quite harsh that actually rang quite true: "Peru lacks a soul." It kind of does. I hate to say that because it's not Peru's fault that it lacks soul, but it does lack a certain something. The feeling you get from the place is that it has been raped and was left to pick up the pieces without being sure how to put those pieces back together. So they made up some facade of a culture and moved on like they were okay, when they just aren't. Something was stolen from it, and I think even Peru has no idea what that thing was.
But now I can say I have seen Peru and I do have a desire to go back and see more of South America. It was fun using Spanish and being able to communicate and talk to random people while traveling by myself.
Also, on traveling by myself, I don't think I'd do it again. It was stressful and not very fun. It was nice to be able to see and do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted and I definitely met a lot of people and spoke more Spanish than I would have otherwise, but as a girl traveling by myself, it was just uncomfortable a lot. Traveling with friends is just so much more enjoyable overall.
After Peru, I came home to the Bay Area for Christmas and New Year's before heading over to Europe...