It’s been a little over six months since I left the good ol’ town of Spokane and headed down south for the good ol’ town of Andahuaylillas. Though small in size, Andahuaylillas has been a BIG change for me in just about everything. But it’s also demonstrated to me that there are shared values, struggles, and dreams in humanity across the world…which is a humbling and steadying realization (more on that later).
My experience so far has lived in an odd dichotomy, influenced by the learning curve of transitioning, cultural adaption, and slow and steady realizations. Freedom, yet with control. Control, yet with freedom. Realizing the openness and opportunity to engage in each day, but the limits of what culture and work-site politics allow me to do.
The mornings are full of juggling hope and doubt for the coming day. Some nights, I go to bed with the idea of “I’m going to be here for another 18 months!!” Other nights…the emphasis is quite contrary. “I’m going to be here for ANOTHER 18 months???”
Some days, I miss the comforts of a Stumptown cup of coffee and a Northwest berry pastry. Other days, I’m content to have a piece of pan huaro and Nestle cup of coffee with evaporated milk. Sometimes, I realize that I’m legitimately in a relationship with crunchy Peanut Butter. Our long distance relationship (LDR) is challenging and leaves my taste buds longing for something I just can’t have. Other days, I stuff my face with popcorn or potatoes and it’s no sweat (I swear…you’ve never had potatoes until you’ve had Peruvian potatoes).
There are days where I miss the access to the news, the conversations around world events and the stimulation of getting into a heated difference of opinion. Other days, Justin Bieber gets arrested or Tracy Morgan is in a car accident and I’m so grateful that I don’t have access to newspapers or television or internet as freely as I did.
Some nights, I SO DEEPLY DESIRE a fireplace to sit in front of and play Sudoku. And then there are days where wool socks and alpaca blankets work their weighty magic with their fuzziness. Side note, currently we are in the dry, winter season, and with no heating in the house, I often catch myself daydreaming about this one.
Then there are the days that I associate with certain foods or activities…Like pie with Christmas, or green bean casserole for Easter; grilled veggies and burgers and good beer (meat or bean) for the kickoff of summer. But these desires are relatively surface level, because more than anything when I start thinking about these, I miss the people and the places that house these memories.
But I also am extremely grateful for the time away. I’d like to think I’m growing in ways that I previously only had little time for. For example, I love to cook. And I’ve gotten to spend a fair amount of time throwing things together in the kitchen. I’m improving at playing the guitar, writing, and doing pushups thanks to one Yoga video and one Jillian Michaels video. I’ve become addicted to Game of Thrones, and now get to read a lot more for fun—from Tina Fey to Barbara Kingsolver to David Duncan (everyone who is from the Northwest, go read ‘The River Why’).
Here, the world is a vacuum. Andahuaylillas is Andahuaylillas…the Quispicanchi Valley is its own entity. Not many things besides the tour busses pierce the bubble that it is. World War III could start up and no one would move an inch. It’s provided immense time to reflect and get to know myself better, while also getting to know the day to day life here. Patience has not only become a virtue, but a necessary way to live life because one would go bonkers without it.
Maybe most importantly in these last six months is how my definition of success has changed. The definition and standard that I legitimately and internally hold myself to has been reshaped. As my program coordinator put it, this is not an environment that facilitates success. The resources, the discrimination, the history here make obtaining the success that I have been used to much more challenging to obtain. My success-oriented self struggles with observing and feeling this, and at times, the powerlessness around it is debilitating.
In the times though that these moments are overwhelming or I’m just feeling a little bummed out, I find myself needed to step back from the loneliness it provides. While I entered into my time here seeking to accompany people, I didn’t expect them to be the ones accompanying me on my journey. My friends, students, and co-workers seem to lift me up relentlessly. I am gently reminded of the necessity of interdependency in human relationships through them.
So….Six month status update? Doing fine, and slowly sinking into the reality of my life here, not just a service commitment. Peanut Butter and all that air at sea level are missed dearly, but the sunrises and mountains are pretty incredible. I feel incredibly lucky to be here and look forward to the surprises, the frustrations, and the joys that the next 18 months hold for me. And while the dichotomy is a strange thing to stand in front of and hold, I know that the people and places I call home are doing fine without me.