On September 1st, I sat in a van winding its way down the slopes of the eastern Andes into the Amazonian valley of Kosñipata. Darkness had fallen, and a magnificent lightning storm electrified the clouds rising from the valley, as the stars above shined bright. I sat in silence, awed by this magical introduction to my new home in the jungle for the next semester, a sign of the incredible experiences to come.
Three months later, our classes are finished, Directed Research is done, and we prepare to return home with mixed feelings. Memories of the semester are resurfacing, and we can’t help but reminisce. We remember our best experiences, like hiking to hidden jungle waterfalls, the boat trip down the Madre de Dios River, and getting lost in the mist of the cloud forest.
We can’t help but smile about the time we harvested corn on a nearby farm, caught bats at night, or saw tapirs in Manu. We still laugh about the day trip to the town of Salvacion when we paddled wooden rafts around an oxbow lake and got caught in a colossal rainstorm, and we danced.
It’s the small everyday things we will miss the most. Like long walks to town under the long canopy of trees, feeding the two resident macaws and turtles, and listening to the symphony of the cicadas, birds, and the occasional distant rumble of howler monkeys among the low buzzing of the jungle. We will miss the many friends we’ve made, Simeon’s warm smile, Betty’s laugh, and playing soccer with Timo.
Saying goodbyes are never easy. It will be hard to leave this beautiful place and these wonderful people. Saying goodbye to each other may be the hardest part; over the past three months we’ve grown and learned and loved together. Now we are leaving, packing clothes in our bags and memories in our pockets. We do not know when we will reunite again, or if we will ever be able to return. I look around now at my friends as the patter of Amazonian rain begins fall lightly; I know leaving will be hard, but we must be thankful for the incredible experiences we’ve shared together in the jungles of Peru.