Taylor, Outbound to Peru

There are officially two months left of my exchange and I have honestly never felt more upset. I feel like I just wasted eight months of my life but at the same time I have learned so much about myself personally. I finally found my niche here in Peru. It took two schools, four families, thirteen countries, three Rotary trips, countless taxis, hundreds of presentations, and a few unforgettable days to help me realize that I have made a home here. In these eight, nine months there’s been so much personal growth that I fear that I’m coming home a complete stranger. Like I have literally forgotten some cities exist in my state. It is definitely going to take some time to adjust to pretty much everything.

I don’t think I’ll miss Peru so much but I will miss definitely miss my exchange. Not going to lie, if I did not have my fellows inbounds here as buffers I probably would have canceled my exchange after the first three weeks. They are not my blood but they are my family. I have a gorgeous, sarcastic German wife; a 6’2, scrawny son from California; a smart aleck German son who just burned half his face on a yacht; an adorable supermodel of a Danish daughter; the most religious heathen from Indiana; a former Mormon mother/daughter; a rambunctious, crazy father from Connecticut who’s also Mama Peru; a sister from New Hampshire who can’t dance but loves to anyway; and my two Taiwanese sisters who literally ying-yang (no joke, one is an angel and the other is devious but they’re both amazing). There are so many more aunts, uncles, and cousins in my new exchange family that I absolutely love to pieces.

January. February. March. Quite possibly the BEST months of my exchange so far. I just want to go back and relive them. January was full of quality time with my favorite host family. Just so many karaoke parties, beach trips, movie nights, and water fights. I miss them so much but unfortunately my new home is so far away from them. I also got to experience 5-star, all-included VIP treatment when we went with Rotary to the Royal DeCameron resort in Punta Sal. Three days of feeling like an absolute rockstar. Once that trip ended it was off to Ica for my February fun. Let me tell you, I have never been in a desert and was definitely NOT prepared for that extreme heat-especially in the summer without A/C. There isn’t even a beach or something to cool off. The closest beach is about two hours away and even there it was so hot that I got my first ever sunburn plus heatstroke! That was pretty amusing for my little Canadian else who listened to my endless complaining about my sunburn. While there, I was also able to visit Chincha, Paracas, and the Vina Tacama, which are some popular tourist attractions. But I’ll have to wait until May to see the Nazca Lines. This month I was super involved with Rotary activities as my host mom is in charge of Interact and Rotaract there. Once vacations ended it was back to Lima to prep for our jungle trip. This is like the most important of exchange because all the mini projects we do in the beginning serve as fundraisers for our major project in the pueblos of Loreto. There’s just something about Iquitos, about the Amazon that’s so special. I really want to just go back. It’s my favorite part of Peru, my favorite place in the world. I just kind of calls you and draws you in. the people are so happy and warm, the food is muy rico, the nature feels like home, and the animals are so unique. We were able to see rare pink dolphins, fish piranhas, and play with some of our monkey cousins-capuchins are the superior species. More than that, we listened to communities. When i went in December, the river was pretty low but since then the rainy season has started and the water has elevated about fifteen feet. Many of the communities there have been flooded and students have had to relocate because it isn’t safe to enter the classroom. Some students who used to attend schools a thirty minute distance from home either can’t go to school or have to go to one in another community about two or three hours from home. Some students have to take boats to cross the river and go to another if they want to be educated. So with what little funding we had, we built a refuge where kids can still attend school without such a hassle but there are still communities affected out there who need help. Sadly, we had to end our trip and it feels wrong like there was more we could’ve done but that’s for the next group. We ended that trip feasting on delectable suri, which taste just like pretzels if pretzels were fried larvae on a stick. The weirdest part was when we landed my new host family was there waiting for me with a poster and neither my current host family at the time nor I knew about it. They kind of just picked me up and I went with them because no one else in Peru is named Taylor and that’s a fact. And since then, everything has been better. I’m hanging out more with kids from my first school, I even went to support my friend at her final gala for Miss Teen South America and she didn’t win exactly but she came home with the title of Miss Sympathetic; and I’ve immediately clicked with the kids at my new school like my first week of school they taught me how to play volleyball and invited me to a quince which never happened at my old school. I am also pretty close to fourth family: I help them in their mini market, take my sister to dance classes and to celebrate St. Paddy’s day we made green slime and ate tallarin verde. So, in summary, life’s good.

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