“Hola.” That’s all it took. Before I knew it the 5-year-old daughter of the hotel’s receptionist was cozied up at my side, shoving handfuls of spicy chips at me before hopping up to dance in the lobby. Boom. Instant friend.
I was never too concerned about making friends when I first arrived in Peru. I think that’s inevitable if you stay in one place for long enough. Nevertheless, moments like meeting little Valeria continually reminded me just how fast one’s world can grow.
Over the span of four months—without stepping a foot outside of Peru—I met people everywhere from Switzerland to Singapore, from all over the United States and from probably every ecosystem in the country. This being my first experience abroad, it was truly humbling as my perspective widened with each individual that touched my life.
Of course I have to give a shout-out to all my ISA peeps. For twelve random individuals who had never met before, I couldn’t have asked for a better group. From our night stranded in Cusco after a flight cancellation, to that fateful hour marooned on our boat in the middle of the Amazon, we definitely had our share of bonding moments…and that was just in the first two weeks!
Then there’s my host family. Martha and Michelle were just that—my family. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to watch another episode of Friends–our daily lunch entertainment–without picturing these two sitting across from me. I’ll never forget Martha with her pronunciation lessons and culinary surprises, nor Michelle, my fearless running coach and fellow ISA adventurer. These were the hardest goodbyes by far.
I’ve already been caught twice referring to Lima as “back home” since my return to Omaha. It’s no doubt been an unforgettable journey.
Ya te extraño, Perú.
Want to read more about ISA students in Lima? Check out “From Combi to Caballo: Trips for Traveling in Peru”