Up until living here in Ancash, Peru I liked hiking, I liked the outdoors and liked outdoor activities but it wasn’t something I thought about a lot. Or thought I needed. Now, I really can’t get enough of it. It would not be an exaggeration to say that my backyard is basically hill upon hill upon mountain upon lake of naturaleza of Huascaran National Park. When I go on my morning hike, I can walk up only 30 minutes are get rewarded with views that make me want to fly. Where before I was really proud to climb Half Dome, now I’m setting my sights higher, want to test my abilities, want to climb and explore more. When teen girls in my site describe a hike up in the mountains as just a “day hike” I yearn to be like them, to be like a mountain goat and just go!
I can really say that Shilla, Ancash is the most beautiful place I have ever been in my life and I take every chance I get to point that out to my host familia (who have seen it everyday their whole lives as well as the rest of the inhabitants of Shilla and thus have no idea that they are actually living in a gem). My little 3-year-old niece Itzl now points it out to me “Tia Emily! Mira! Shumaq nubes!” (Look, Aunt Emily! Beautiful clouds!) These are the moments that it so easy to feel a part of this town, so easy to feel myself becoming not just a passerby, but someone who is intricately connected to the nature and the people here.
Last week some fellow Peacecordians hiked over to Shilla from the other side of the hill where their pueblos are to visit and to get some delicious menu in the nearby Carhuaz. When I returned back up my dirt road to Shilla (a 30 minute trip no mas) I got to ride back in the back of a small truck! (finally!) Which just basically means standing up holding on to the bars and absorbing the shock of the bumps in your bent knees so as not to get jolted out. It was slightly raining and I was the only gringa in the back (so of course there were lots of stares and smiles) and I felt the most free I have ever felt in my life. I realized I didn’t know what freedom was before. Sure, I am part of a government program and therefore have certain goals and meetings to uphold to, however I am pretty much left to my own creations and ideas when it comes to projects and what I want to do on a daily basis. When I need to put a bookshelf in my room, I get to measure it; when I want to start projects, I make the contacts; when I want to explore, I just go! This experience is simply the most liberating one I have ever had. Maybe it’s just my age or the first time not having to answer or tell someone where I am or what I’m doing… but it tastes good.
This weekend we have Quechua classes in Huaraz, which I’m very excited about. One of my goals (besides hiking everyday J) is to be able to speak this language that I never even knew existed before last April (when I found out I was going to Peru). I now even get text messages in this language!
Hasta pronto, (can you believe January has already passed with lightning speed?) cuidate!