I had embarked on the trip to Peru with the hope that it would bring together my studies so that it would be possible to write my Senior thesis. Unfortunately, I’ll be honest, that didn’t happen. The program was amazing and I don’t regret one bit of it at all, but it didn’t have the impact on my academics that I was hoping it’d have. The courses were rigorous, no question. The professors were knowledgeable and informed and taught well, no question. The problem was with me and what I was studying. The whole experience led to a lot of personal growth, realizations and healing that I badly needed. Within the first week, I realized that I had been attracted to the program by what seemed to be academic pursuits, but the purpose, my purpose for being in that space, in that time, with those people, was for a personal healing that went very deep.
Since coming back, the topics for my Senior thesis papers have completely changed, in a good way, however. I feel that now my thesis is much more solid, it’s more coherent and it flows much nicer. And it speaks more to me and what I want to learn and write about, more of it resonates with me. I’ve come to learn that what resonates is what’s most important and you should listen to that. The still, small, quiet voice is usually the right one. I learned in Peru, that I was forcing my thesis, and my studies. I was studying topics that had spoken to me at one time, but no longer resonated, they were hollow. I continued to study them because that’s what people expected of me, and I felt it was my duty to deliver. But I changed it, and I’m much happier for it. I know that this is what I’m supposed to be doing at this time in my life, in this space.
So, here I am. I am a first semester Senior who is supposed to write a 100+ page book on topics I’ve never studied before in an academic setting. And I’m…actually all right with it because I know now that it’s what I’m supposed to be doing. I wouldn’t have figured all that out without going to Peru.
Upon returning to the states after completing the Ecology, Indigenous Spirituality and Spanish in the High Amazon program, I have had time to reflect on my experience in Peru. Its hard to know where to start when trying to put into words the ways that I have changed and the knowledge I have obtained from this program.
After experiencing community immersions with three different indigenous communities in the High Amazon of Peru, I feel that I have an understanding of the Kichwa-Lamista indigenous way of life. The Kichwa-Lamista people do not have a lot of money, but their lives are incredibly rich. They have a very strong sense of community. The forest is a part of them and the forest sustains them. Medicinal plant healing and valuing and respecting natural cycles of regeneration are integral. Going back to “modernity” in Columbus, Ohio, I am able to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of the Western lifestyle. I believe that the way that progress is defined by modernity is highly problematic, and that modernity has a lot to learn from the way that the indigenous people live in the High Amazon.
To address the flaws of modernity, with its commoditization of all forms of life, individualism, consumerism, linear view of progress, income inequalities, ecological un-sustainability, and more, I believe that a paradigm shift is needed. I am not interested in band-aid solutions to the problems that we have at hand. In order to truly address these serious problems in the way in which modernity functions, a shift so large is needed that I call it a paradigm shift. Before coming to Peru, I felt that this shift was highly unlikely. I had such a gloomy vision about the likelihood of change combined with the depressing facts about climate change that I thought I wouldn’t even want to have kids because the world is not a fit place to bring new life into.
These countless problems are a result of a system dominated by a Western, modern, industrialized way of life that has encroached on most of the rest of the world. This system, this way of interacting with one another, this approach to understanding this world, is inherently flawed. It does not prioritize spirituality, all life forms, biodiversity, equality, sacredness, traditions, culture, community, or regeneration. I personally will not stand to accept a world operating under a system that causes so much pain for the world. I believe that we must not be passive observers in this world, but must actively take part in creating and influencing the world around us in whatever positive ways we can.
I feel that the profound needed change can be described as a “paradigm shift”. I have been interested in this “paradigm shift” concept for a long time, because I want to see a change that will address the root, rather than just the symptoms, of the problem. Despite my dedication to social change and my very strong desire to see a paradigm shift happen, it wasn’t until I started this program that I felt optimism about a paradigm shift being realistic. I felt that the economic and political power structures that exist are so strong and dominant that seeing a profound paradigm shift, at least in my lifetime, is highly unlikely.
I will never forget the first anthropology lecture of Frederique’s (the program director) where, we discussed the paradigm shift. Frederique expressed her perspective, which is that a paradigm shift is already in the process of happening, and is actually quite possible! She stated that we are in such a deep globally recognized ecological crises that an uprising is inevitable. In addition, the inner parts and workings of the industrial dominant machine are rapidly crumbling and falling apart, and the power of this machine is hollow. Upon hearing Frederique’s perspective, I found that her beliefs deeply resonated with my mind, body, and soul and I felt an extremely exciting, profound sense of hope!!
I am dedicating my life towards creating this paradigm shift. I will fight for change by implementing many forms of advocacy and activism. I will also reflect my visions for a better world in my daily actions, both in my personal impact on the planet and in the way that I celebrate life and treat others around me. My desire for this better world, and the energy that I have to work towards that world defines who I am. I am not interested in living passively on this planet. I hope to continue inspiring others to wake up, feel optimistic about this paradigm shift, and actively take part in it.
Two of my major goals upon returning to the states were to learn African drumming and to participate in and create rituals around the full moon, agriculture, and other parts of life. Last weekend, I attended a community drum circle event. Yesterday evening, I co-lead a full moon ritual around a campfire. I incorporated several aspects of the full moon rituals that we practiced in Peru. People cleansed one another with Peruvian mapachos, agua florida, and we passed around paulo santo bark. On separate pieces of paper, we each wrote down the positive things in our lives that we are thankful for as well as the negative things that we want to remove from our lives. Collectively, we threw them into the fire. We also gave an offering to a tree in the yard as well as the moon, which included a few pieces of broken ceramics from Peru. I was happy to find a use for the ceramics that broke in my bag on the way home! For most people, last evening’s full moon ritual was the first ritual they had experienced. Friends told me afterwards that creating intentional spaces where we could collectively enhance consciousness, give thanks and appreciation to mother earth, and build the positive energy in our lives was very meaningful and uncommon. It was momentous for me to partake in and create a ritual in the states for the first time. The process of leading the ritual and sharing something very sacred and important to me that I learned in Peru with others and with close friends was incredibly special.
I have returned from Peru was a renewed sense of hope about creating a better world, and I have adopted a new life style that is more balanced and incorporates spirituality in a way that I had never experienced before. I feel so lucky to have had my experience in Peru, and I am excited to continue implementing all that I learned back into my life in the United States.
It’s been almost two weeks since we all left Peru; my own travels have brought me to Nicaragua and now to Barbados but my mind has stayed steady revisiting my experiences in Peru. My six weeks there with that particular group of individuals were magical. What I learned in my studies and in my own interactions is still finding a home with in my own life… Simply put I am thankful; Returning home I am excited to nurture the ideas, concepts and relationships I started abroad. I am excited to meet my present having been through such a valuable experience, I know that from here I will only grow. Cheers to expansion, magical moments and finding yourself always where you need to be<3
During our stay here we went on three immersions trips. The first one was in the native community of Solo, the second was the language immersion in Wayku and the last was in Shukshu Yaku. Amid the natural nervousness of being outside of our comfort zones, the most magical part was interacting with the children. The barriers of shyness or awkwardness were gone with giggles and jokes.
One night in Shukshuk Yaku, we all go out into the middle of the soccer field with a group of kids. We bring out our blankets and towels to sit under the blanket of stars to await the rise of the full moon. We’re laying down listening to the rambunctious children play in the dark. We all get up and start play various local games. It was really fun and a very special moment
I remember most before arriving here at Sachamama, the raw feeling of excitement for the unknown. I wasn’t really sure what I was looking for but the insistent feeling of wanting to explore, to learn, and to discover new perspectives of the world and of myself propelled me to be here. It seems like I got a whole lot more than what I was expecting.
The first week of arrival here in Sachamama, I remember how excited we all were to meet each other and to begin this adventure. Days were hectic, classes early in the morning until lunchtime then working on the chakra in the afternoons. Doesn’t really sound that hectic but our schedules felt jam packed with activities and little time to reflect and take everything in. Freetime was mostly for recharging the batteries and jumping right back on the fast moving ride. I really enjoyed learning about medicinal plants, healing and spirituality in nature seems to be a topic that attracts me. Also having discussions about the problems in our current capitalist system and working on creating a paradigm shift has been tremendously inspiring. With the language classes, I really enjoyed learning an ancient language used by the Inca Empire. However, having never learned a new language through school it was extremely difficult to wrap my head around the sentence structures.
Overall, I’m still mulling over these last few weeks. I’m left inspired, motivated, and I’m not sure what other feelings. They haven’t really sinked in yet.
My experience here in Peru over the past five weeks has been a journey, not of normal sorts. The kind of journey that is as emotionally exhausting as it is experientially exciting; the kind that illuminates new ideas as it simultaneously uncovers old thoughts and hidden fears. I believe that travel alone has the power to place one in a new relationship with time. Being so far away from familiar situations poses new opportunities to reflect on one’s routines, to think back to when one decided that life was to be approached in a certain way as opposed to another. For me this kind of reflection combined with the ideas, theories, and conversations we’ve had in class, and the interactions I’ve had with individuals while here has led me to beautifully complicated thoughts, and at times overwhelmingly frustrating and painful realizations.
I’ve thought a lot about the ways I will bring what I’ve learned here in Peru back to my life in New York. Of the many lessons I’ve learned here, the concept of regeneration is the one I’ve really taken to heart. We addressed the concept in class by talking about the way that in modernity the Global North has lost touch with the cyclical process of regeneration– that is the birth-growth-death cycle nature runs on, only to replace this system with one of linear of development (think new, bigger, better, best, more ) ; we spent a lot of time talking about how the linear system has no regard for the natural cycle of regeneration and for this reason drives people, plants, animals, and otherwise to extinction or exhaustion. While here I’ve explored regeneration on a personal level, first by becoming aware of how burnt out I am in my own life by school and work and then by recognizing how common burnout is on a societal level in the states.
In Peru I have been able to maintain a morning routine that allows me some sense of regeneration. I wake up, I reflect, I make myself present in the moment and I become very aware of my connection to the life around me. If I bring nothing but this routine home I know that my life will still be changed immensely.
We are in our final week here in Peru. Classes are over, and it’s time to work on our final projects and reflect on our experiences here. We returned, 2 days ago, from the third and final community stay that was in Shukshu Yaku, Kichwa indigenous community. I would say that overall, the experience there was much better than that of Solo. I enjoyed learning the traditional crafts of Solo; I’m extremely excited about making coil pottery when I get home with local clay that I’ve found. However, the atmosphere of the village was odd at times. Solo is located right off a main highway, thus they are accustomed to visitors and “outsiders”, if you will. There didn’t seem to be a genuine interest in getting to know us, the exception was with the children, they were quite happy to have new playmates.
Shukshu Yaku, on the other hand, was very different. It’s secluded and the village doesn’t receive a lot of visitors. The people did seem to have a genuine interest in us; we were received much more warmly. In Shukshu Yaku we learned about sustainable gardening methods that they use and assisted them in their community chacra, or garden. On the last day, we played a soccer game, our group of women against an all-girls soccer team. They won, which wasn’t a surprise to us, but the score wasn’t as bad as you’d think: 2-1.
All in all, I liked the atmosphere of Shukshu Yaku better. It was warmer, and there seemed to be more of a sense of give and take, we both learned from each other.
Its hard to know where to begin when writing about this program! Overall, its been incredibly intense and rich. I have had so many enlightening, deep, and educational experiences and opportunities here in Peru. Currently, I just completed day 3 of the language immersion. My host parents, Ermina and Adolfo, are such extraordinary people. They are both Kichwa-Lamista indigenous people who live in the community of Wayku, about a 20 minute walk from Sachamama. They are incredibly laid back, life-loving, genuine people who love to laugh and joke around, very much accept you and appreciate you for who you are, and are very kind to one another. They always keep their door open so throughout the day family members and friends, young and old, spend time there eating, conversing, sewing, and laughing together in their home. My highlights of the immersion so far include the following:
-Having my nickname be “Queso” (meaning cheese in Spanish) because Casey is hard for them to pronounce
-Learning how to do embroidery from my host father
-Eating fried fish—I’ve never eaten so many parts of a fish before. It was quite delicious.
-Spending time a wonderful French girl named Ani who is also staying with Ermina and Adolfo, who has been traveling around Peru studying ceramics
- Watching horses walk by on their own on the way back to their homes, carrying food from the chacra to bring to their families
-Experiencing the wedding dance party with our host parents and then a beautiful lookout spot with a view of the surrounding mountains and city yesterday evening
-Learning about a different way of life that is incredibly sustainable, laid back, content, creative, and community focused
-My excitement about taking their laid back, generous, and life-loving ways of life back to the States with me.
I just got back from our three day stay at Solos. Our first day was quite an adventure, we were immediately immersed into their culture. Our first day we made bowls and pots using a coil method. First we collected clay from the earth using machetes. The second step we used large rocks that were shaped like half moons to crush broken pottery into a powder. After it was time to prepare the clay using our hands and feet mixing the clay and broken pottery until it was the right consistency. After the clay was ready we learned the traditional coil method that the women make their pots and bowls with. It is amazing to watch these women make perfectly smooth bowls with their skilled hands weathered with years of knowledge and practice. After a long day we returned to our room to encounter some critters that were taking up residence. That caused for a bit of excitement and the setting up mosquito nets. The next day we learned how to make Chicha, a very sacred drink to the people. It started out with going to a chacra to harvest corn. To hold the collected corn we were all able to try out baskets that were carried using a strap that rested on our forehead and pressed against our back. Once we got back to the communal tombo we shucked the corn and gathered all of the kernels. After this process was done the kernels were placed in a giant wooden bowl were we used an even larger half moon shaped rock to crush all of the kernels into a powder. Next we added water and transported the corn to a large pot of boiling water over a fire. There it was stirred for a while to assure that it didn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. The now chicha was boiled for 12 hours and left to settle. I must say that the third day was my favorite. We were taught how to make the traditional belts they wear. There is so much work involved in making just once belt, it took almost the whole day to finish! Our last night a lot of people of Solos and all of us from Sachamama gathered in the communal tombo. The women of Solos dressed us 6 girls some in their cloths for the party and we spent the night dancing their traditional dance and interacting with the people of Solos full of many laughs.
Greetings from Paradise, where a small group of girls with big ideas are finding the moths to be so large and wild we confuse them for bats, and the food to be so delicious we feel like goddesses feasting (healthfully) at each meal. Here at the Sachamama center, the world seems more alive than ever before.
In Anthropology we have been talking about the dualism of culture and nature that exists in the Western world from which we all hail, ancient discoveries that lead to sustainability solutions, and endless other topics that genuinely fascinate me each morning during class. This course is blowing my mind because the concepts Professor Frédérique Apffel-Marglin present to us have been totally new to me. One theme that we are currently discussing that I find particularly interesting is the idea that nature and humans are separate entities, simply stated. Indeed, the dictionary definition of nature I found describes nature as “the phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth, as opposed to humans or human creations”. In this definition we find a seed for discussion. When and why were human beings separated from the environment that has sustained our lives over all of human history? There is a definite problem for the future health of our earth and all those living on it if humans choose to continue to exist considering themselves separate from the non-human diversity of life, which happens to be struggling like never before to survive all around the world.
I’ve got to get to homework for class tomorrow – how wonderful it is to get excited for reading assignments!
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I had embarked on the trip to Peru with the hope that...