Location: Peru

*Click* One click of a mouse. One simple mindless click of a mouse started this entire trip. Sure, I knew what I had signed up for. We were going to Peru, doing community service, and that’s it, right? Right? Little did I –or any of us– know that our 21-day trip would manifest into a deeper understanding of ourselves, and other people. Coming back from a trip like this, I am not sure how different I will be, I’m not sure how my family will perceive me differently, but I know one thing for sure. It has been one hell of a ride.

After I had signed up for the trip, I did not give the situation an ounce more thought until I was walking through the airport going to Dallas. In hindsight, I wish I had done more research about the trip, Peru, or tried to at least learn a little Spanish, but by then it was too late. I hopped on the plane to Dallas, met up with the other students doing the trip, and flew with them to Lima, then to Cusco, where our service would begin. God knew what the service would be, but at that moment, I was too tired to care. Not even a thought was going to get in between my hotel bed and me. Soon I would realize that this service was not going to just be tireless and tedious labor, but it was also going to test our empathy, patience, and tolerance for people with drastically different lives, that nobody who lived in Southern California could relate to.

For the next three weeks – with few days reserved for site seeing and activities – we worked with the locals of Peru doing tasks ranging from digging up cement lots and replacing them with gardens, building adobe bricks, working to do school maintenance, painting, cleaning up a river, to feeding mentally disabled patients. Though much of it was made enjoyable by my friends enduring it with me, it was not easy work. However, every time I walked away from a project that we completed, I felt a sensation of accomplishment, a feeling that I had done something that had positively influenced someone else’s life, and I’m sure everyone would agree with me when I say it was worth it. I had no idea that I would meet women who were sexually abused, to students who live in valleys next to glaciers far away from modern society, to a man disabled by polio, but everyone one had much to say to us — so many lessons that we could learn.

Our privileged status as people became clear, but here we were leveraging that privilege to improve someone else’s life. Nothing we could do could completely wipe their past of the things they endured, but the things we could do we did, and every time, we were recognized with the gratitude of heroes, recognition that each time I felt we did not deserve. However, the spirit each one of them expressed to us and the excitement that we all experienced has together come to form an experience that I will never forget. Years from now in all our lives, we will not remember our hours of work in school, we will not remember our years of life spent simply living, but I will remember their faces, I will remember their hope, and I will, without a doubt, remember our great adventure in Peru.