¡Me cargas! ¡Me cargas!
The excited children scream in the ludoteca, or play center, of the local parish center in Andahuaylillas, Peru. As you put one on your shoulders and carry him around, tons of other children grasp on to your legs wanting a turn. Without worrying about the events of the day or even the time, you put each child on your back, run around the soccer field, and repeat.
This was one of many scenes that the ten students experienced on the rural Peru trip this July. By immersing themselves in a shockingly different environment, these students truly learned what it means to live simply.
Before embarking on the trip, the group consisting of 10 students and 3 teachers met numerous times to reflect and prepare for the journey.
These meetings before the trip involved scripture readings, reflections written by the teachers, and engaging conversations between the students.
Liam Leahy ’20 used these meetings as a means to learn more about his classmates.
“At the first meeting before Peru, I was surrounded by mostly acquaintances, people who I would occasionally see in the hall at school or know nothing about at all. However, after the meetings continued and I started to grow closer to the guys, I knew the group was special. Everyone brought a unique aspect to the social dynamic and our bond began to form.”
The group left from DFW Airport on July 5th and flew into the Lima Airport. After a Papa John’s Pizza snack, the group took a plane to the Cusco Airport.
While in Cusco, the group saw the main plaza of the town and had a traditional Peruvian lunch, complete with plenty of Inca Kola. From there, everyone took a bus to the destination: Andahuayillas.
After arriving in Andahuaylillas (Anda for short), the group went to mass at San Pedro Church and had dinner.
Each day held a new adventure for the group, but for the first week, the group stayed in one of the oldest parishes in the Americas. At this parish, the students spent time playing with the kids, immersing themselves in a unique and rich culture void of any distractions of busy life elsewhere.
Students participated in friendly, yet strangely competitive, soccer matches with the local Peruvians, constantly gasping for air due to the high altitude. Other students would do arts and crafts with the children, while some would read to the children.
Matthew Freeman ’20 particularly enjoyed this aspect of the trip. “My favorite part was playing outside with the kids during their gym classes and helping out in the classroom with arts & crafts activities.”
Each day was filled with a new surprise, as students would often explore the area outside of the Parish by visiting nearby villages and shops.
At these nearby villages, the students would play sports with the kids as well as participate in reflection with the people of the villages.
While leaving everything you are used to, including a phone, a schedule, or a powerful toilet, may sound like a daunting concept, many students found it to be quite refreshing, including Freeman.
“Fully immersing myself into the culture, language, and lifestyle of the people in Andahuaylillas was a great experience. Living simply and in community with each other, the Jesuit Volunteers, and the locals allowed myself to be fully present in every moment.”
Many also found the strong sense of community within Andahuaylillas to be remarkable, because every person in the town relies on each other. An example of this is found in the community ovens, where everyone in the town gets his or her bread for the day.
Students and teachers on the trip also got bread from the community ovens each morning, and for Mr. Host, it was one of his favorite parts of the day.
“I really enjoyed walking to get the bread in the morning for breakfast. It was incredible to be up early, before anyone was out. The mountains were lit up with the rising sun. The bread had the crunchy taste of fresh fire. It was the start of a new adventure.”
One day, everyone went up to the village of Suyumayu, more than 14,000 feet above sea level. Here, some students walk 3 hours to school each day, and many work on farms to sustain their own lives.
On the way down from Suyumayu, a few Peruvian children hopped in the cars, wanting to ride down the mountain with the Jesuit students.
For Andrew Stelling ’20, this was one of the best moments of the trip.
“My favorite moment in Peru had to be when we rode down the mountain in the back of a pickup truck. There, for the first time, we were able to spend an hour or so with kids our age as we learned about the struggles they go through in their daily lives. It was impactful to hear about the sacrifices they have to make for their families and their responsibilities as young adults in their community as they also tirelessly chase an education at the same time.”
After spending time in Andahuaylillas for about a week, the group then went on to Ollantaytambo after visiting a farm-to-table restaurant. From there, they visited the ruins and hiked the mountain at Macchu Picchu.
By the end of the trip, all of the students were very close, explained Leahy.
“By the end of the trip, I was more than happy to call each and every one of [the students] my brother. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys and I wouldn’t do a single thing differently.”
Dr. Riemer, who lives in Peru for a few months of the year, enjoyed the presence of all the students on the trip.
“I think some of my favorite memories in Peru are some of the more ordinary. Late evenings around the fire when students and faculty share stories and laugh together. Or the early mornings when I wake up early with a couple of students to walk to the community oven to buy bread, returning to have a cup of coffee on the porch of the comedor with Mr. Host and Mr. Howard.”
Riemer continued, “One afternoon towards the end of our stay in Andahuaylillas a couple of us had lunch in the grass in the retreat center courtyard with Ines, Jessica, and Mia (Jessica’s little girl) and within 30 minutes almost our entire team was there lounging in the grass, enjoying a slow afternoon together. It’s moments like those that tend to resonate with me the most.”
While certain aspects of the trip made students uncomfortable, whether it be the language barrier, the different foods, or the lack of technology, the trip overall is a great escape from busy life in Dallas.
“The biggest takeaway I had from Peru was an increased appreciation for the things in life that are really important to me. Stepping away from the rush of my day to day routine really allowed me to take the time to thank God for his presence and the role of my family and friends in my life,” commented John Noel ’20.
If you want to challenge yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually, consider applying for the Rural Peru trip. While it was difficult, everyone who attended considered it to be a deeply rewarding experience and a once in a lifetime trip.
Stay tuned to The Roundup for more stories on summer immersion trips!