This past month I’ve had a dangerous amount of time to reflect on myself and others. The bus ride to the school each morning is a little over 1 hour, offering 2 hours a day to just think. Of course we talk, and listen to music, but I always find myself looking out the window reflecting on things that have happened to me in the last year. At AU, at home, through relationships, loss of relationships, and decisions I’ve made. Most particularly, decisions that others made that destroyed my trust in them. Destroyed my trust in almost everyone.
People can be awful. I learned this lesson the hard way before I left for Peru. People can make promises then take them away. People can lie, cheat, and make you question some of the strongest and truest parts of yourself. This what I learned before Peru.
However, I now am starting to remember that people can also be amazing. People can make promises and keep them. People can tell the truth, be loyal, and support and encourage the assets that you maintain. They can help you improve your strengths, teach you how to trust again, laugh again, and believe again in people. This is what I’m relearning in Peru.
It not easy to relearn something. Especially when everything I was so sure of was ripped from my grasp so violently. The greatest quality about myself – my trust in others, and my faith in all of humanity – was ruined. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over it, but the people here are teaching me that it will be okay at some point. I’m also learning from the kids that even though my entire world was turned upside-down, I have the strongest support system that I could ask for. My parents are the strongest people I know. They have given me everything – from the money for my official education, to their own experiences for my personal education. I have always been grateful for their influence on my life — something that many 22 year olds in the USA can’t say, not to mention the 10 year olds at my school. They don’t have my dad to help with math homework, or my mom to provide breakfast and a hug each morning before school.
Volunteering is one of those things that teaches many lessons. Some of the people I’m living with are here for the completely wrong reasons. They want the appearance of doing good, while actually traveling, drinking, spending money, and bragging about their wonderful lives. I hate those people, especially as I’m here working hard to do as much good as possible in such a short time. I also hate them because its as if they refuse to take advantage of the opportunities we are given on a daily basis. There are a million ways to change lives. Not just in Lima, or Peru, or South America as a whole. But in our everyday lives there are so many simple ways to improve the lives of those around you, without significant effort, or time, or money. However, even when they are handed the opportunity, essentially spelled out for them, they waste it. Disgusting.
Thankfully, volunteering also can show the goodness in people. Volunteers by definition are people who go out of their way to make a difference. They have good hearts, with good intentions, and hopes of learning a few things along the way. I am also, thankfully, living with these people and they quickly become my closest friends. There are a couple people in my house who I admire so much for their work. One hardly traveled so he didn’t miss a day of teaching, while another works extra hours with kids who he barely knows until they learn just a few extra words of English. Their hard work makes me a little more comfortable with the fact that my time is halfway finished. These volunteers are more my heroes then anyone else. Their dedication does not go unnoticed. I know that more like them will come after I’m finished here, and hopefully they will make up for the lack of dedication I see from others. Of course, no one is perfect, but their ability to truly care about the well-being of these children, and this country, makes me incredibly proud to be their friend.
If I could, I would never leave Lima. I would stay always, and spend the rest of my life teaching these kids. Who knows how it would work, how I would afford anything, or where I would live, blah blah blah. But in an ideal world, these two months would be my entire life. These kids – each of them – have stolen my heart. And I’m completely okay with it.
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