Before I came to Peru a friend of mine told me that I would want to learn the language as soon as possible because the culture is so intriguing that I would want to be a part of it and be able to immerse myself in the daily life rather than simply be an observer. He couldn’t be more correct. The people are lively, the buildings are vibrant and the homes are open and colorful. I am beyond curious to learn more about the life of the family I am staying with and I want to tell them about my life and experiences. At least we can laugh about the fact that it often takes me a while to understand what they are saying.
Thus far, we have been able to discuss the names and ages of our family members, our favorite topics in school and I have gotten pretty good at telling them where I am going. They have told me where they work and asked me what I do at Awamaki. They often explain to me what one or two ingredients are in the food we are eating and tell me the name for it in Spanish. One day they even asked me to teach them a few words in Spanish. I told them how to say cup, plate, book, and several numbers and months. They then asked me to tell them the English word for sombrero. I replied it was called a “hat”. They then brought a different type of hat to the table and asked what it was called in English. I again told them it was called a “hat”. The expressions on their faces turned from inquisitive to extremely confused. “But sombrero is hat”, they said. I told them we call them both hats. At this point my host father exited the room to bring back yet another type of hat and I told them this too was called a hat. We all started laughing and just like that, the bonding began.
Though I have a long way to go before I can fully participate in the culture, I feel very at home and natural here. It is a bit of an odd dichotomy of both being a visitor yet feeling like you belong. Usually, I am snapping photographs right and left. However, here I find myself not wanting to take photographs. Yes, it is beautiful and there are countless opportunities to snap incredible pictures. I find myself conflicted though because I believe by taking a photograph I would, in a way, take away from the naturalness of the scene. It would denote the moment or object as something unique or noteworthy. But it is not, it is simply the way of life of the people living here. I suppose I will have to get over this though because I cant pass up the opportunity to document life here as I see and experience it.