It has been a little bit less than a week since my family left Peru. They came to visit me for 10 days. It was their first time in Peru and in South America. We planned the vacation 6 months in advance and eagerly watched as the calendar counted down to their arrival.
My family decided that they were more interested in seeing me and where I live than doing the super touristy loop through southern Peru’s Sacred Valley. So we planned to spend half the time in Lima and the other half in the Sierra where I live. In the weeks prior to our vacation I felt like we were just not going to have enough time. That the vacation would fly by. That my family wouldn’t enjoy what I attempted to plan for them (which was very little). I was nervous and anxious that things would’t go smoothly. That we might get sick. Lose days. That I bought the wrong bus tickets.
Looking back it makes sense that I felt that way. My family was spending a lot of time and money to come see me. So I wanted it to be worth it. But it was also silly of me to be all worried like I was. What was most important was that we were able to see each other, spend time and share an experience as a family. And that is exactly what we did!
I think one of my favorite things about my family coming to visit is that they now can visualize what my life is like here. They have lived certain portions of it. They can see and remember what is was like to be there and in certain situations. They know how the combis drive too fast. How the market smells. What Peruvians think of personal space (or lack there of). What my room looks like. The faces of my host family. The laughter of the kids at school. The intensity of the Andean sun and rain. The sound of Quechua.
In training, we talked a lot about how other volunteers and Peace Corps staff need to be our primary support systems. Mostly because they are “in it” also, they “get it.” No matter how much our families love us and want to help us, it is difficult for them to understand what it is we are experiencing. But now when I talk about what I am doing or the challenges I am having, they can have a better idea of what it is. They can relate better to me. They still might not be the solution to our problems, but at least my family can empathize better and put themselves in my shoes more effectively.
Another thing I really enjoyed about our vacation (and this might see a little bit mean) is how at times we were uncomfortable. Our trip to Peru was much different than many of our other vacations. We didn’t rent a car. We used public transport. We didn’t stay in 4 or 5-star hotels. We didn’t only visit the touristy areas. We didn’t only interact with people who looked like us and came from similar parts of the globe as us. We got into situations where we were a little bit lost, short on time, out of our element and uncomfortable. Now, this isn’t to say we didn’t treat ourselves also. We had our fair share of nice meals and experiences. But we also got to experience a bit of adventure and spontaneity that we otherwise didn’t have on our previous vacations. This I think added an extra degree of spiciness to our vacation that made it more authentic and memorable.
Even before our trip was over we started brainstorming about the next. I want my family to come back next year so we can experience more of Peru together. But before getting too wrapped up in all that, I think I would prefer just reflecting on our last trip for a bit longer.