Friday, August 21, 2015

I'm Engaged!

My lovely astronomer, Ryan, flew over to Peru to visit me. Despite us both being sick, we had many adventures traveling to Cusco, Arequipa, Colca Canyon, and finally Lima.

Ryan proposed to me in Machu Picchu Pueblo, also known as Aguas Calientes. It is the little tourist town at the bottom of the Machu Picchu archaeological site. There is a beautiful little church there that I had entered the time before when I visited the town. It was quiet and had beautiful religious art. I loved it for the life-sized crucifix of the "black Christ" in the style of Spanish Realism. The statue had real hair and a painful expression that evoked deep emotion in those kneeling in prayer.
I wanted to show Ryan this church, which had no name posted. We walked up the aisle and knelt down to pray. As we were praying (and Ryan needed a considerable amount of prayer to mull over what he was going to say), he leaned over to me and whispered to me to ask if he could interrupt me. Then, he asked if he could be my life companion in marriage. It was a beautiful moment that I will cherish my entire life.

Now we're both back in the US. It feels strange to be home and about to start classes again. All of my adventures abroad have ceased, and I feel as if I've awaken from a dream, and instead of feeling like being home, I feel a sense of nowhereness. 

I suppose this "nowhereness" could also be categorized as "inbetweenness." I am in between states of being. I carry the experiences of Peru in my heart, and nobody around me will fully understand. I am now an engaged woman, which is not quite single but not quite married either. I am young—young enough to be looked at as a "young person" but old enough to deal with adult responsibilities. And yet, I still feel ill-prepared. I come back to my home feeling like I don't belong. However, when I look down at the ring on my finger, I start to think fondly of what the future could bring—a true home and a companion in the struggles of inbetweenness that will likely not stop, but metamorphose, perhaps into something quite beautiful.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Long Awaited Rain Forest Post

When I got the email from the study abroad organization asking if I would like to spend extra money to visit the Peruvian Amazon, I asked, "Will we be visiting la Isla de los Monos?" "Yes," they replied. I was sold by Monkey Island, the place where multiple breeds of monkeys saved from poaching dwell. It was a dream for the little Katie inside my heart who said this is your chance to become their monkey queen and feed them and hold them and love them. I didn't hold them, but I did feed them, as glimpsed in the video below. 

You see, the Amazon wasn't exactly the trip that I had hoped it would be, mostly do to diarrhea. Sometimes that occurs when one travels and happens to unsafe food that was deemed safe by the host organization. Not thinking anything of it at first because I already have issues, I let it go until it was too late to see a doctor due to the nonrefundable Amazon trip. So, I spent a lot of time in the jungle either in pain, on the toilet, avoiding food, and/or sleeping.

When I did venture out with the group to go on an incredible jungle trek, I felt like I was Indiana Jones. By the way, the movies don't show the after effects of very realistic parasites that Indiana Jones must have had. If you want a simple introduction, everything in the jungle can kill you! We walked through the mud for two and a half hours. It was mud that was so thick that it ate someone's boot. I got stuck in the mud twice and needed to call for reinforcements to help me out. The mud was also slippery when it coated other surfaces, so it was incredibly difficult to keep from falling into the mud pits. This would naturally force you to have to cling on to nearby tree trunks, but wait! If you clung onto certain tree trunks, giant ants would come out and vigorously defend their homes by biting you into oblivion! Other tree trunks had two inch black spikes covering the trunk. I learned that the hard way!

Finally when we made it out of subtropical purgatory, after glimpsing sloths, aardvarks, and other creatures, we emerged through the trees to explore Lake Sandoval by boat. We saw caimans and a variety of birds around the lake while we got to sit in the boat and take a break.

"Stinky Bird," which looks like a phoenix
After we boated along the large and thriving lake, we arrived to the entrance of a lodge, where I claimed a comfortable hammock. My body molded to that hammock like melting butter, and I took one of the best naps. 

When we got back from our trek, we did a little zip lining up in the canopy, and I climbed across a wobbly rope bridge to a beautiful lookout. I stayed at the lookout for a few minutes to sit and reflect on the sheer volume of wildlife around me and how blessed I was to experience it, but there was a tinge of sadness in the feeling of awe. This was truly a privilege, thinking of the future generations who will not have the opportunity to witness it in the same condition that I had due to deforestation, mining, oil, and other factors contributing to the destruction of the Rain forest.

What an interesting thought that if I return, the Amazon rain forest will be weaker than it once was. The air will be a little less clean, the forest a little less abundant, the animals a little more threatened, and the uncontacted tribes a little more aware of the outside world and the slow death of their home. There will be a day when the Amazon rain forest dies, and I hope I never live to see that day.

What a sad and beautiful world in which we live.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

What Next?

I am back in the States now, but I still have a few more Peru posts I have not uploaded. I will upload those and maybe some reflection posts on the whole experience. I would like to keep this blog going in the future as I consider applying for a Fulbright grant (most likely in Peru). Stay tuned!