Over the past two months I have witnessed an unbelievable amount of strength among my peers. With every unexpected turn of this journey, I find myself in the midst of resilient students with incredible adaptability. If the power goes out, my friends are still working hard on their assignments regardless of the less than favorable conditions. When a forceful storm overtakes the forest we call home, we walk in the rain to the comedor to enjoy a meal and think nothing of it. On a daily basis, we are challenged academically and personally and there have been so many occasions in which I have been in awe of the endurance in this group as a whole.
A few weeks ago, we hiked Montanay outside of Urubamba in the Sacred Valley, on a day when most students were recovering from illnesses. The drastic increase in elevation pushed our physical limits, but somehow we made it up most of the climb and enjoyed lunch and a lecture. After this, we were presented with the option of hiking a little farther with the prospect of seeing a lake, or staying behind and taking in the scenery. I was already exhausted, but the prospect of reaching a beautiful body of water so close to where I stood was enough encouragement. James, Melissa, Rani, Olivia, Aracelli, Charlie, and I made our way farther up the trail. We passed hillsides with dogs herding llamas and the cool mountain air kept me moving even though it would have been just as enjoyable to stop and sit for a while. We came to a point where we looked at our watches and knew it was probably reasonable to head back to the rest of our group. Despite that, we continued on just a little bit further with curiosity guiding us. I stopped, and looked around. A mountain with a glacier on top of it sat before us, and it became clear that we made the right decision to continue exploring. We never reached the lake, but I was still proud of all my classmates that day.
Somehow between our assignments, we found time for participating in a soccer tournament with the administration and workers of ACCA, our family at Villa Carmen. It was on a Saturday morning and we were a bit pumped up. We had some great nicknames flying around for our teammates and we warmed up quite a bit, so naturally, we could take on some of the best soccer players around. A couple minutes in, most of us were covered in sweat and mud. It was a tournament where we fell down a lot. It could have been sheer clumsiness, but it was mostly the wet ground to blame. At one point I got a soccer ball to the face and fell on the ground in the same moment, and I stopped caring. You get right back up and fight some more. All of my teammates had such an amazing attitude throughout it, even though we ended up getting our butts kicked. And I feel like that’s the case many times here. Somehow we power through challenging situations and move on in ways that are so admirable.
I can’t even begin to list all the moments in which I have respected the strength of my SFS family. I’m amazed every day in all the little ways we make the best of challenges and take time to have a bit of fun despite such a hectic schedule. Some days we take walks, go for runs, play music, read, and make obligatory trips to get ice cream in town. These are the ways we stay sane, and keep our momentum even though most days it would be easier to just stay in bed. With the physical and academic rigor of our program, I am grateful for having peers that inspire me even through the most demanding situations. We find strength and courage to take on our classes that are now winding down. Through so many challenges that come from being far from home and our comforts, we are able to adapt and strive to make the most of our time in Peru.