I’ve been home from my journey in Peru for more than a week now, and it’s an interesting predicament to be in- getting used to being home, here in Detroit, with firetrucks sounding and no gleaming stars above when I look up at the smoggy night sky.

Don’t get me wrong- I’m thrilled to be home- I was homesick like crazy the last week of my month in Peru. Still, the fact that my time in the country is over is extremely bittersweet, which was a realization that came over me as we were driving to the Jorge Chavez International Airport in Callao, just outside of Lima, where we initially landed when we arrived in Peru. As I passed all the billboards for food that had caught my eye the first day in-country, I realized I had eaten many of the products with my homestay family. I felt the way I had when I boarded my luggage into the taxi going to the airport to fly back to Miami as I had when I arrived a month earlier, but wholly different at the same time- excited, full of anticipation, ready to face new experiences head on.

My time in Peru was glorious- whether it was laying on my back in a bull arena gazing at the stars with friends or eating pan al ajo (garlic bread, the best I’ve ever eaten in my life, by the way) at a local cafe in Ollantaytambo. My memories of Peru are filled with sounds of toucans and screeching “HOLA” at the top of their lungs early in the morning at the resort in the Amazon and images of hungry monkeys swiping up fresh bananas from tourists on the Monkey’s Island in El Rio De La Madre. Still, I feel the sticky residue of the Amazonian humidity on my body, the cold night breeze on my balcony in Ollanta, just above freezing, on my face. I fondly remember the soft fur of Alpacas encountered at the summit of Machu Picchu, and alpaca hats encountered everywhere else!

From my host family, I gained a sense of new-found humility in respect to my Spanish skills and just in general. In hotels across the country, I learned to cherish the warmth of a hot shower, and the unexpected comfort an episode of Law & Order: SVU could bring after climbing up mountains all day.

With my group leaders and all the young people involved, I learned how utterly exciting new journeys with no expectations can be- not to mention how close you can become with complete strangers, all united by a deep, abundant curiosity for life. The summer of 2012 will always with me, along with all the people I met, the adventures I had, the ups, the downs, and the food… oh, the food… for years to come, I’m sure. The lessons this experience enlightened me to will never be forgotten, and I am deeply grateful for Walking Tree, The Wandering Scholar, and all those who made this opportunity possible.

Now, I know I will always have a home away from home- Peru will always be a place of awe and inspiration for me, and it’s people, my family. Adios, amigos, adios.

XoXO Jonathan

 

 

 

 

 

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If I had to chose one word to describe my experience in Costa Rica it would most definitely be MEMORABLE! Wow, I can not believe the trip is already over. It seems just like yesterday I was boarding the plane to San Jose. I must say ten days was just not enough.

The best part of my trip would definitely be the time spent with my host family. At first I was extremely nervous about meeting the family for the first time. Soon after I met them we began to click and connect on so many levels. Of course they knew very little English but we did not let our language differences be the barrier of communication.

I definitely had the best family, they were so loving and thoughtful. I felt like my host mom was the back bone of the family. She did everything from cleaning and cooking, to making sure kids were happy at all times. She always had a smile on her face and that’s what I loved about her. Also what I found to be so cute was how my mom would speak to my dad. She would always address my dad by “Mi Amor” which means “my love”. My parents were together for over 35 years.

San Salvador was the village we stayed in with our families. The place was so beautiful and peaceful, it definitely gave a relaxed vibe. I could definitely picture myself living there in the future. Something I noticed while staying in the village, and will forever cherish, was how content the people were there. They didn’t care about having the latest technology or the hottest clothes. As long as they had each other, nothing else mattered. I respect that a lot because in America we are very materialistic. We tend to believe that these material things are our necessities and we cannot live without them. I have realized that we can live without them. If the people in Costa Rica can do it and be happy so can we! All you is need a great support system, your family, to be happy.

When I look back on my journey I feel so grateful and blessed to have been a part of it. Thank you Wandering Scholar for this amazing opportunity! read more →

Wandering Scholar Serina

“Today we are all going to take a hike to the waterfalls” says our leaders Paul and Sara.

Everyone asks “How long is the hike?” Our group leaders casually brush it off and tell us not to worry it’s not so bad. Let me be the first to say this hike was a monster!!! This hike was an uphill struggle literally. If anyone has been up a hill that seems to have no end in sight, imagine four of them one after the other.

The way to the waterfall was indeed a journey but it was beautiful. Costa Rica is filled with so much nature and beauty. It was a battle of will though because it was hard not to be that one person who complains the entire time about the all the negative such as this hike. This tough experience of hiking through the jungle to get to a beautiful waterfall was no exception we did have that complainer that has a complaint about everything.

This made the hike difficult in two aspects; walking up the gigantic hills and listening to the never ending complaints. By the time we got to the waterfall I was ready to jump from the top of it to my death, not from exhaustion but from annoyance from the endless complaints. This taught me something. It taught me that it’s the positivity that makes the tough stuff easier and the negativity that makes it harder. It also taught me that it’s not worth complaining when something is tough because no matter how long it may seem and how terrible it may be at the time, it has an end. Everything has an end. I learned this because of all the complaints that were said and all the complaints that were thought, when it was all over and I was relaxing in the Bungalows the difficulty of the hike seemed insignificant. It was the beauty of the waterfall and the cool temperature of the water that I remembered most, not the uphill mountains, not exhaustion but the experience.

It is really your accomplishments that mark the memories of your life. The perseverance through the tough stuff that makes you smile and the level of difficulty that makes you proud. It’s funny how a hike made me think about an idea in a new way. How a hike made me grasp a concept I was unable to before.

Now I appreciate not just the things that come easy to me but also the things that come hard. I completely understand the saying “Don’t sweat the small stuff !” I understand now because I know that everything has an end- small, big, tough, sad, happy, etc. But that is what makes life great, the constant change. The fact that you can’t live in one situation forever. read more →

Day One: Indescribable Moments
Today I am traveling to Costa Rica with Walking Tree Travel. I am feeling very BLAH, I can’t quite articulate the emotion in words. I am standing in the San Francisco airport so overwhelmed by the fact that I am actually leaving the United States (which has been my home for my entire life) for the first time. I am not sure what emotion I am expressing.

As I approach airport security I meet another young person traveling overseas for the first time. We immediately hit it off and become friends. It is strange how two people from completely different places can have the same dream. In the case of my new found buddy and I, we both dreamed of traveling outside the States and experiencing new things. When we were talking she asked me a series of questions that I’ve always wondered but never been brave enough to ask. She said with no hesitation at all as if she ponders these questions often, “Do you ever feel like you want something different? To experience something different? You don’t know what it is or how it will feel, but you want it, you want a change. And you just know that the experience you’re searching for, that difference is somewhere other than where you are?”

I was completely blown away. Here I am walking through an airport having a deep conversation with a girl I just met. I ponder how the word different is remaining so ambiguous in our conversation but to us it has a meaning. I try to define what difference I’m searching for. I have no answers for me or her. I come to the conclusion that I don’t know what it is but I know I am off to search for it and experience it in Costa Rica.

As my friend approaches her gate and we are saying our goodbyes she begins to cry. I immediately know the reason. She’s scared. I know because so am I. I find myself comforting someone I’ve only known for no more than 20 minutes. Not even thinking before I speak I start telling her “Don’t worry, everything will be fine, it will be life changing, you will love Nicaragua.” When she calms down and stops crying I ask myself how can I comfort her when I am having the same worries and anxieties?

The empathy I have felt for my new amiga Caroline astounds me. When we finally say our goodbyes and I find my gate, the time passes quickly. My hour wait seems like five minutes. It’s like a dream! It is really unreal, I am a Wandering Scholar and I am fulfilling my life long dream to travel overseas. It feels as if my life is moving in slow motion. I am noticing everything; the smell of the plane, the color of seats, the chip in my arm rest, the unpleasant smell of body odor, and how the flight attendants put 3 cubes of ice in each cup (if the put any at all).

The plane takes off and gets further and further from the ground. My face is wet. Really wet. Tears? I am beyond shocked because I am not an emotional person at all or sentimental. Here I am going on a life changing experience and I am crying.

I finally realized what emotion I am feeling, happiness! I have never cried from excessive happiness, only sadness and tragedy. I much prefer tears of joy. I can not put into words the joy I feel it won’t do it justice, but this is a moment I will remember for the rest of my life. Tears from joy!!!!!!!! I am Costa Rica bound and beyond happy.

Upon Arrival
As the plane lands, I take one last look out the window I say to myself with no sense of volume control “Que bonita? Costa Rica es bonita!” I don’t care who hears. A man stops next to me and says with a chuckle “First time abroad?” I shoot him the biggest smile as he tells me, “Traveling is life changing.” His wife soon stops too and tells me “It will be all you want it to be, if not more.”


For more about Serina’s trip check out the photos and video on Walking Tree’s group blog.

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Dear folks back home,

A big “hola” from Cuzco, Peru! All is well here in the ancient Incan capital nestled high in the Andes. Much has changed here in the past 600 years — today this city has become an international destination, offering a wealth of activities to its visitors. Between exploring the tunnels of the mysterious temple ruins of Sacsayhuamán, sifting through piles of hand-woven alpaca wool in sidewalk markets, and sipping local “cafe con leche” in our new hangout, the European-styled Café Perla, the stack of heavy adobe bricks at our village community service project now seems far away.

Cuzco, though, can be a bit overwhelming at times; we often wind down the evenings playing games and tuning into televised Jenga competitions (yes, Jenga, the block-stacking game) in our hotel, Teatro Inca. We are, nonetheless, looking forward to returning tomorrow morning to our new home in Ollantaytambo, beneath the dramatic peaks of the Sacred Valley, where we have now all settled in with our host families. They have made the adjustment easy for us, opening up their homes and giving us a taste of the famous “Ollanta” hospitality. No doubt our younger siblings eagerly await our return, especially to the soccer field the and basketball court!

The new arts-and-crafts house at the local center for the disabled and retired is progressing by leaps and bounds. In the past week, we have laid a cement foundation and built seven feet of adobe walls. In the week to come we hope to complete work on the walls and prepare the beams upon which the roof will eventually sit. Please take a look at the attached pictures to get a better idea of what we’ve been up to. Check back next week for our next blog update too!

Hasta luego,

Jonathan

More about Jonathan ’s trip can be found here: http://www.walkingtree.org/a-big-hola-from-cuzco-peru/ read more →