At the beginning of the fall semester, we asked student Sam Slevens about her first impressions of Peru. Now, as the semester comes to a close, she shared her thoughts with us again.
The dreaded week has come… our time here at the SFS Center for Amazon Studies is nearing its end. I have begun to organize my possessions into piles: things I am bringing to Chile, moldy things that need to be washed, things I definitely do not need to bring home and things I am keeping. None of it seems important though as I have experienced such a happy, fulfilling life here in South America needing so little. Possessions seem worthless to pack as my bags are filled with the hundreds of blissful memories I’ve made with life-long friends I’ve acquired here including: my peers who originate from cities scattered throughout the United States, staff who have taught me so much about this magical rainforest and local people who I am so fortunate to have befriended…oh! Also, Tomasa, Mocha and Murci (our center pets).
I’m sitting in the comedor now (our dining hall), listening to bellowing thunder and endless echoing tweets of the hundreds of birds that call our center home too. I can’t help but feel overwhelming emotions of bitter sweetness. The thought of returning to my tireless work routine and being engulfed in holiday consumerism makes the thunder in my heart bellow as well, but I remember that I am like these birds I see gliding so freely over our sparkling swimming pool. I will be free, and I will fly like them. The knowledge I have acquired here on academics and through the experience of living in a foreign country will guide me through my next adventures in life. As a zoology major, I know a career I land will take me to the places where all the lizards, snakes and frogs are. I chose my major for that reason and this program for that experience.
Photo courtesy of Molly Sayles
Before having spent these past three months here, the longest I had been away from my very close (emotionally and physically) family was for three weeks when I went to Europe. My Nanny (grandma) was having a fit about me being away that long so you can only imagine what she has to say about this South American journey.
She may not understand why I love to travel but I have always been innately drawn to it. Animals have continuously been my primary interest in life and getting to see them in their native habitats is a dream come true for me. I am overcome with excitement just thinking about the creatures I’ve been able to identify here, animals I have as pets in my home! I have a pet fish; his name is Ralph and he likes to bite. He is an Oscar fish, known as acarhuazu here and we measured many of them within the markets for our Directed Research project… they were chopped up and ready for eating but don’t worry, I won’t tell Ralph that. My favorite spotting so far has been the charismatic Actaeon Beetle, one of the ten largest insects in the world (pictured below). Just being able to observe the behavior of these ‘exotic’ animals is enough for my time here to be an experience I will never forget.
I was expecting an adverse emotional reaction to this dramatic change in lifestyle, but it never truly hit me hard. Of course, I missed my parents, nanny, cousins, best friend and my adorable puppy named Duppy, but the SFS family I have made here was enough to temporarily fill that void. I have been surrounded by intelligent, thoughtful, inspiring people whom I have learned so much from in such a short time. I am looking forward to returning to the comforts of my home: the hugs from my family and the warm snuggles of my dogs and monitor lizard, Piggeth (he probably misses me so much). I can’t wait to see my friends, use a microwave, shower in hot water, sit on a comfy couch and watch nature documentaries about all the animals I have encountered here. I will have a newfound appreciation for the little things in life that I have taken for granted like flushing toilet paper and drinking tap water. I will not miss everything I own aggressively molding if sitting stationary for more than five hours or the mosquito/ant brigades that attack while hanging ‘clean’ laundry to dry, but I will for sure miss all the other luxuries I did not expect to attain while ‘roughing it’ in the jungle.
Photo courtesy of Zara Zakrzewski
The SFS experience has been unforgettable for me and I look forward to sharing more memories with the friends I’ve made here. We are scratching another location off our bucket list and heading to the desert in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile once the program ends! After these adventures, the assimilation back into the United States will be an interesting experience but I am looking forward to all the lessons I learn from it. Thank you to everyone who allowed this journey to be a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity, I am so glad I took advantage of it when it presented itself.