by Emily Gabbard

I have now reached the point where I am counting down the days until I leave Peru. Not because I want to leave sooner, but because I have fallen in love with this place and cannot bare the thought of finally leaving. It’s a strange thought: leaving a place that you know you will never see again and also leaving people that you will never see again. I’m not saying that I won’t come back, I’m saying that I will miss living in this moment. I have less than a month until I leave Peru.

My blonde hair, green eyes, and light skin gives me away as a minority in Peru. People yell in the streets “gringa,” “americana,” and many other phrases that state that I am clearly not a native. The other day my roommates and I were stopped in the center of the city by some people who asked if they could take a photo of us. In the next minute there were over twenty people surrounding us, cameras flashing, people pushing and shoving to get a photo with us. This is the closest I have ever felt to being a celebrity. In my opinion, people of a minority race here in Peru are treated much differently than people of a minority race back in the United States.  I have been asked to be in countless photos with people and even asked to sign autographs!

I have experienced many new things here in Peru. I have eaten many animals from guinea pig to duck, and afterwards I went to the backyard where their friends were being raised for future meals. The family that hosted us for this meal cooked and cleaned everything for the volunteers. They treated us as family. “Mi casa es tu casa.” I am continually amazed at how generous people are. This family of about six lived in a three bedroom house. All the beds were crammed into the same room with absolutely no privacy. Yet they were happy to be together and were filled with love and joy. They taught me a lesson: having a great life doesn’t mean having great things. Love and joy overpower any attainable object.

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Also, I have visited the botanical garden. Peacocks and rabbits running around the same paths where people walk. There were exotic flowers bursting with color, lush green trees, and the best part was laying in the grass, which is a rare thing to find in this desert-like place. I closed my eyes and listened the different birds talking to each other. For a moment I was transported back to my home in Highlands, NC, categorized as a bird sanctuary. Also, I felt rain for the first time since I’ve been here! It may have lasted for only two minutes and consisted of the smallest raindrops ever, but it was still rain. I have never wanted to feel the rain as much as I do now.

Another new experience was Halloween. I learned that my small hometown celebrates Halloween in a similar way that the people in Trujillo, Peru celebrate the holiday. In Highlands, North Carolina there are not enough houses for the children to go door to door for the typical trick-or-treating. Instead, the trick-or-treat activities are held in the Main Street where children go from store to store to gather all their treats. I decided to go grocery shopping in the mall on Halloween night here and witnessed the Peruvian children dressed up in costumes going from store to store asking for candy.

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Yes, I did go grocery shopping on Halloween, but I am not completely lame. During the day the Horizon school held a Halloween party for the children of the school, so naturally a lot more children came. Children were dressed up in Halloween costumes that their mothers had made for them, and, I must say, they were quite impressive. Those Peruvian mothers have some major talent! I was the only person that knew all about Halloween. My other housemates from Europe told me that the United States celebrates Halloween more than any other country. I helped organize typical Halloween children games… wrapping the children in toilet paper to look like a mummy, pin the spider on the web, face painting, and of course pumpkin carving, but instead of pumpkins we had to use oranges because they were cheaper and easier to find.

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The party was set to end at 4:00pm, but really it ended at 5:00pm. One thing I have learned about time here in Peru is that it doesn’t matter. People are an hour late or an hour early, time is not an important factor to many. At first this was a strange thought to me. I believe that in the USA time is very important to many people. If someone is late it is considered very rude; however, here it is just the norm. I am learning how to not make appointments and time the center of my life, as it was before I left.

I am counting down the days until I leave. I am going to miss this place greatly. I am not looking forward to the day that I have to tell my students they no longer have an English teacher. Currently there are only five teachers at the Horizon school. When a teacher leaves there is nobody to take their students. These students will have to wait until February when more volunteers come to the school before they have a teacher. My two Danish roommates, Caroline and Lene, will be leaving at the end of November. I will be leaving a week after they leave. Together we teach about thirty English classes. After November, those thirty classes will no longer exist. I have three more weeks to teach my students all the English they can learn.

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