It was the day I was leaving for Peru on a three week service trip. I was not nervous about living in another country or about not having any western luxuries or about being away from my family. Yet, I woke up feeling undeniably unsettled. I went for a long run, checked and double checked by bags, read the newspaper. Despite my preparations, I arrived at the airport with a huge knot in my stomach, waiting, or at least hoping, I would quickly find somebody to untie it. Eventually, I met some of the strangers who would be on the trip with me. None of us had any idea what the next three weeks would hold for us.
A week passed in Peru. I wrote of how I was somehow not overwhelmed by the incredible beauty and simplicity of the place. In my own words, I was “whelmed”. It was remarkable how comfortable I felt buying vegetables and fruits in the mercado in Urubamba. I felt proud showing up the boys as we dug canals in the hard Andes Mountains. I did not even mind washing the dishes or cleaning the bathroom. I enjoyed the weekly cold shower. Somehow I fit into my new experience with wonderful ease. I had long conversations over coca tea; I played soccer with the locals as I tried my best to communicate with them in my broken Spanish; I became an absolute expert on peeling potatoes.
I’ll never forget this one moment when we were working at the canals. I was the only girl that day and was in the process of mixing cement when I was pulled aside. Nico, the man who organized our projects, was our mentor. He knew barely any English besides a few key terms including, “weakling”, “lock it up” and “amazing”. Luckily, I knew enough Spanish to understand him when he told me that he believed I was a great worker and that he wished I could live in Peru, play on his soccer team and work with him to better his community. I don’t know if there was ever another moment in my life when I felt so proud. He, a man I had lived with for two and a half weeks, had said the words my parents never had.
Nico made me believe that anything was possible. It was in those last few days of the trip when I finally realized that what I had been doing was valuable. I could write a million words about my trip to Peru, but I could also sum it up in a sentence. When you risk your entire being, when you truly live your mind, body and soul simultaneously, the world notices. I realized that fear had been holding me back from being nothing but exactly who I was. During my trip, I lost my fear along with all of my learned reserve. I risked my opinions and my stories and my original words and found that they actually meant something to somebody. I realized that the moment of vulnerability, the notion that what one says will be misunderstood, was worth the sheer love I found in myself and in others. All of my assumptions about the why’s of the world or the nature of humanity were shattered when I found out that, in life, every single person has something to bring to the table. After all, inside each and every person is a little bit of me. After that, I was never again afraid to approach or to be approached.