Taylor, Outbound to Peru

Exchange is basically a choose-your-own-adventure type fantasy, like the lovechild of Life is Strange and Undertale. Well, maybe a little less Undertale. The point is you’re in charge of how most events play out and I’ve figured that you get the best results when you reiterate a two simple phrases: “thank you” and “yes”. Literally, just that will get you so far; it sounds really repetitive especially after years of hearing adults telling you to be polite, but the fact remains that it is so easy to do. By saying “yes” that just opens doors for you, like an endless supply of opportunities. The reality is exchange can get very busy and stressful, but it can become extremely boring just as easily. There are days when you just want to stay in all day and sleep or rest a little, and it is completely normal to feel a bit drained but still try to say “yes”. It’s like if you wanted to get to know someone and asked them to hangout but each time you suggest an activity, they shoot it down, wouldn’t you tire of asking? It’s human nature and happens so quickly on exchange. For me, my classmates invited me out a couple times but I not one of the times I was able to go and so they eventually stopped asking. The worst part was that they would watch me on Instagram with other exchange students and thought I was standing them up not realizing we had mandatory events.

All that negativity aside, saying “yes” has given me what is quite possibly the biggest opportunity of my life. In early December, a team of inbounds and I traveled to an island in the middle of the Amazon to bring Christmas to the children there. The situation over there is that the majority of the children have never experienced Christmas, some don’t even know about it. So, we brought over a boat full of gifts, traditional panettone, and packets of powdered cocoa to make hot chocolate. That was a bit weird considering we were drinking steaming hot chocolate in the humid desert at about 36 o C (90 o F mas o menos). It was just an amazing, interesting experience. These children are so precious. They are the sweetest people I have ever met in my life. I was talking with this one little boy named Gregori who’s about eleven years old and he reminded me of my own little brother back home, which was comforting for me. The best part was when he discovered that I have never had a dog as a pet---only fish and frogs so he decided to give me one of his puppies. Then two. Then three. Then four. This continued until I was literally covered with a liter of sleeping puppies. The whole trip was just as crazy as us, inbounds, had to fight off bats, cockrocaches, frogs, mosquitoes, and other pests as we slept. Luckily for me, I’m from Florida so it wasn’t anything, however, for the girls from France and Belgium…I never realized that a human could scream so loud. I ended sleeping for an hour or two because the girls kept waking me up kill to the cockroaches. Honestly, I could become an exterminator. Worst was the spiders. Two girls had arachnophobia, so that plus tarantulas aren’t exactly a good mix.

Coming back from the trip, we jumped into the holiday season, which I spent with my second host family. I’ll just say one thing: they are absolutely crazy. Like some mad hatter type of crazy and I love it! This morning right after breakfast, I was led to the backyard where my grandmother was providing me with water balloons to prepare for our battel, but I didn’t see my uncle sneak up on me and attack me with a bottle of water. That was about two hours ago and my back is still wet as I write this. The past few weeks here I have been full of ridiculousness. There’s a party practically everyday for someone’s birthday, I sparred against my mom and grandma in laser tag, we snuck three bags of groceries into the movies to see Bumble Bee, we stuffed ourselves in Chinatown, I beat them karaoke, I made tacos for them and apparently not enough because they wanted more, and we’ve been living it up at beach right behind my house every…single…day! Did I mention we’re in the middle of a two-week long water fight?

Update: they started fighting again. I have to go fill my water bottle!

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