Life-Changing Peru Trip Leads to Reflection

The look on her face could not be described. A few seconds later came the hug that brought me to tears one night later.

I thought the most lasting memory of my trip to Peru with the University of Tampa would be the beauty of Machu Picchu, but the image that remains is the one night we spent in the poor village of Huilloc.

I had just given a young girl in the village a set of coloring pencils, a coloring book and a few oranges, but it was like she had been given the world. She colored for the majority of the night, proudly showing me her drawings with a huge smile on her face.

What made me so emotional wasn’t the great appreciation and joy she had showed, but the fact that this brilliant girl and so many others like her had to live in horrible conditions.

She was fluent in two languages — Spanish and the local Quechua — and even counted in English for us. But in the morning I was woken by her loud cough and saw the dry blood in her nose. Her first concern wasn’t about her health, which I suspect is a normal occurrence since the climate is so cold and they are without heat, but she was more worried about getting us orange juice and water.

For the most part of the trip we did not see anything close to Huilloc. We stayed with middle-class host families in one of the nicest neighborhoods in Cusco for seven days of our trip. The only major difference between our home-stays in Cusco and the United States was a lack of hot water in the showers and no heat in the homes.

Despite the awkwardness of using buckets for bathrooms and seeing something I was completely unprepared for, I have to commend the coordinator of our trip, Dr. Decoster, for giving us a true immersion. The village of Huilloc gave me a greater appreciation for everything that I have been given.

I was reminded of a conversation a few weeks ago I heard between a friend of mine and his mother. He was cursing out his mom — the same woman who I believe is paying for his education — telling her that she didn’t know how hard he had it. I wish he could have been there to see the happiness and joy these people shared with us as they remained content despite how hard they had it.

Appreciating all the opportunities we have been given as University of Tampa students is important, but taking action is another important step. I have been guilty of getting so caught up in myself that I have never thought of helping anyone else. And it is so easy to make a difference. It is not just in countries like Peru that people need help, but right here in Tampa.

Although Huilloc will always stick out in my mind, Machu Picchu and the rest of Peru was amazing as well. I have to thank Dr. Lopez for allowing me to sign up for the trip at the last minute. It was an experience of a lifetime.

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