Monday, March 18, 2019

Carolyn in Peru!

Hey. I’m Carolyn. A full-honors Arts Administration and International &Global Studies double-major. And I won’t lie to you, I’m going to have to find another source of motivation to get me through the last two years at UNCG. I didn’t realize it until I’d arrived, but studying abroad was the number one thing I was looking forward to in my college experience. When I finish my time in the beautiful Universidad San Ignacio de Loyola in Cusco Peru, I’m going to have to face returning to “real life” in the States. I guess all dreams end.

This past week has brought a few mile-markers.

·         February 12th – I’ve officially lived in Peru for a month
·         February 13th- I found good flights home. It’s surreal to have a departure date.
·         February 15th – 30-Day countdown to my 5-Day hike to Machu Picchu.

View of the Andes from my flight

Alpacas in a Quechua farm outside of Cusco

I’m not going to lie, I’ve never been more prepared for a time abroad. I was further along in Spanish that I expected to be, and during high school, I’ve had a couple trips that took me away from home 5 or 7 weeks at a time. As a hard-core family gal, it’s hard to believe I was actually ready to be this far away from home for an entire semester. To be honest, I had a whole list of things to do to cope with being homesick. It confused me when a week went by and I wasn’t. Another week. A month. I miss hanging out with my parents in the morning, drinking my Dad’s coffee, talking about life. I miss the piano. I miss the puppy. I miss the hugs from my little siblings. But I won’t lie to you - there’s still nowhere else I’d rather be than right here: a few miles from downtown Cusco, sandwiched between magnificent Andes mountains. On a clear day, I can see snow-capped peaks when I get to the main street. In the true style of my childhood hero, Maria von Trapp, I can hike up and over the mountain behind my apartment. Yes, I’ve been more than tempted to burst into that famous “Sound of Music” song (never mind the fact that this is totally the incorrect mountain range).
Who could have imaged it though? Sure, it’s a dream, but Cusco also feels like home. A “ciao” to my homestay mom, stepping out from the apartment building, through the alleyway, flagging down a bus, jammed up against strangers and the bad breath of old men that chomp on coca leaves, and shoving my way off when I get to my stop. I’m not exactly in the lap of luxury, but luxury has never really been my thing anyway. I like a challenge. I love the beauty in the quiet authenticity of the way people live life. Even when it means cold showers, rain every day, no heating in the house, running out of breath because of the altitude, and the annoying way that clothing takes four days to dry.

View of snow-capped peaks on a mountain behind my apartment

Just hangin' out in the Incan remains above the clouds

When I got here, I decided not to get an international phone. I can connect to wifi at home and at school and in certain cafes. But in-between, hiking, exploring, and simply taking a walk - I’m not connected. Some people might say that’s unsafe. But I’ve never felt so free in my life.
 Speaking of being unplugged, here’s something I’d never thought I’d do: in less than a month, three other students and I are meeting a guide and some donkeys, and with just our backpacks, we’re going to hike to Machu Picchu for five days. Yes. You read that right. I’ll literally disappear into the Andes mountains, hiking toward the snow-capped peak of Salkantay, sleeping in tents overnight, rain, wind, cold, and absolutely no connection with the outside world. I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. And I never thought I could do it. I don’t have experience and I certainly didn’t have the funds. But the impossible happened. We found a deal. And I decided I’d work on that lack of “experience” within the next month and do what I can to be trained for this.
I knew I’d get some experiences under my belt in my time here. What I didn’t expect, was do to all those things I wished I could do, but never thought possible. I started a blog and a YouTube channel. I’m exploring photography. I’m working on a novel and writing songs. I’m going to hike for 5 days in the wild of the Andes and end up at the famous Machu Picchu at the end of it. I study in a building that literally is built on Incan foundation – and yes, I walk through a doorway created by the Inca’s every day. And believe it or not, I even found beautiful painted Incan pottery at an archeological site with my professor the other day.
Getting to Cusco (which is not a direct exchange) required a lot of emails, questions, and paperwork. To be honest, if the people at the IPC office hadn’t been so wonderful, I don’t think I would have stuck it out and made it here. This place is so far beyond how wonderful I pictured it to be. I cried when the clouds parted during my last flight and I could see the layers and layers and peaks of those Andes mountains. I cried when the plane tipped downward and I could suddenly see those orange rooftops of the city I had hoped to see for a year and a half.

And yes – in three months, I guarantee you I’ll cry again when this city fades from view. 

13,000 feet and lovin' it

Indigenous weavers dyeing wool 
Carolyn has a lot to share with you! Check out the additional links below to read and see more about her fascinating journey overseas.

Carolyn's Travel Blog
Carolyn's YouTube Travel Playlist