Week 2: Huaca-what? Huacachina!

Tell me something, girl. Are you happy in this modern world? Or do you need more? Is there something else you’re searching for? …. I’m off the deep end, watch as I dive in. I’ll never meet the ground. Crash through the surface, where they can’t hurt us, we’re far from the shallow now.

Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper

That song has been running through my head constantly this week and is playing on repeat while I write this post. The theme of this week has been fear and love. All the ways they impact my/our life. In that vein, I’m starting this post by giving a shoutout to my two favorite people who got married in Israel today. Mazel tov, Brooke and Dan!! My thoughts and feelings on those two are too much for a blog post to suffice. Missing this wedding really breaks my heart and almost kept me from doing this trip. But, like the amazing people they are, they supported me and gave me the courage to do this, even though it meant missing the most important day in their life. I’m sending you both all the love in the world and I hope you have the most spectacular day today– you both deserve the most amazing wedding and the world. I can’t wait to come to Israel soon and celebrate with you. I love you so much! (PS, this week, “Shallow” was in my head the entire time, I must have played it over 500x, and what do you know, Brooke walked down the aisle to it. Such kismet and so beautiful.)

Maido

Wednesday, I went to another one of the world’s top restaurants, a Japanese-Peruvian fusion, called Maido (it’s number 7 in the world, for those keeping track). Everyone raved about this restaurant, and while the dishes were incredible and super interesting (pictures below), I didn’t leave as awestruck as when we went to Central. My honest opinion is that it was not worth the “tasting menu” for the price, and I would much rather have ordered a couple of dishes, like the sushi, cod and the beef short rib, which were insane standouts. This will be my last food splurge for a long time, so enjoy.

Positive Impact Day

Friday was an amazing day. Remote Year partnered up with an organization called Make a Miracle. This organization works in the San Juan de Lurigancho community, which is an impoverished community outside of Lima, and builds houses as well as provides scholarships and mentoring/classes for the children there. This day was an intense one for me. First, on an emotional level, it was jarring. Of course, on an intellectual level, I knew about poverty in the developing world, but this was my first time ever seeing it up close. These people were so warm and gracious and welcoming, and yet, many of them had no running water, had to walk up dangerous, steep stairs just to get to their homes, many of which were really slapped together slabs of wood and tin. (Did I mention there are earthquakes here? So these structures do not seem to be earthquake resistant…)

I couldn’t help feeling so distraught over the fact that here I am complaining about air conditioning and clean sheets, and yet these people literally have no furniture of which to speak of and live in shantytowns, and yet were so grateful to us for just being there and showing up and helping them build these houses. It was really, really humbling. Really puts so much into perspective. I know it’s cliche, but it makes your problems really pale in comparison. I got to talk to a couple of the students who were pre-law, which was really great. The program leader told us many of these kids don’t have any professionals in their lives so its great for them to meet someone in the flesh who does these things. I also had a great connection with one of the women who works for the organization, Giovanna, and I hope I will be crossing paths with her again sometime soon. Even though I spoke very little Spanish and she spoke very little English, we really understood each other, which was beautiful and awesome. I am waiting for some of my friends to upload their pictures from this day, they have action shots of us building the actual house, but this is what I have so far:

Huacachina Day 1

On Saturday, our entire group went to Huacachina, which is basically a desert oasis. I’d never really been to an oasis before. First off, I didn’t even know before coming here that Peru had a desert. Yay for American ignorance. The whole coast going into the ocean is basically desert, including Lima. Anyway, we first arrived at an Airbnb and got to have a really awesome pool party. It’s been a long time since I had a pool day (I seriously cannot remember the last time I was at a pool…) and I’ve forgotten the simple happiness that comes from sun, water, and great people. That’s part of what going on this trip is about — rediscovering the simple joys of life. It really was a lovely afternoon.

Then, we went to the actual oasis and rode dune buggies and went sand boarding. The dune buggies were really fun, we were basically offroading down these massive sand dunes in these big ATV buggies (I’m not sure the proper terminology?). Now, for those of you who don’t know, I have a massive fear of heights. It’s part of why I didn’t ride airplanes for so long. I really don’t like them. When I’m in a tall building, I can’t stand too close to the window. I don’t do rollercoasters under any circumstances. If I am in a plane, I try to get an aisle seat as much as possible so that I don’t have to think about or see what’s out the window. These sand dunes were pretty tall and steep, and we were supposed to lie down on a little snowboard, unstrapped, and just ride down face first. It probably would have felt less heinous if we weren’t going face first, but it really looked like riding the skeleton in the Winter Olympics. Just wrong. I also know that if there is some way for something to go awry, it will happen to me. I know that’s a negative way of thinking, but it’s true. So anyway, I waited for everyone ahead of me to go, and I was pretty much hysterically crying at the top. In my head, I knew I would be so mad at myself if I didn’t try it, but my body was fighting me. It was saying “This is an absolutely terrible idea. Do not do this under any circumstances.” I finally willed myself forward and laid down on the board, still crying, while the whole group was watching me down below. People were yelling out encouragement, and someone yelled out: “You can do it, no one has fallen yet!”, which probably should have been my signal about what was going to happen. The man who assisted me spoke not a lick of English, which only heightened my anxiety because he couldn’t explain to me what to do. I also am not someone who engages in extreme sports, which for me includes sledding, or basically any sport that requires you to be above sea level. So I have no experience in how to brake with your feet or what have you. Well, down I went, I pretty much blacked out the whole memory except the crying. All I know is I had a pretty epic wipe out at the end. I heard the collective “OOOHHH” from the group. It’s caught on video somewhere, and I will send along for those who wish to see it (I can’t videos here I don’t think). Suffice to say, it shook me and I spent the rest of the time trying not to cry in front of my 35 new friends. Thankfully, I wasn’t hurt or anything.

I’m not really sure what to take away from the experience. I’m glad I forced myself out of my comfort zone. But I’m also like, maybe it’s a comfort zone for a reason? I’m frustrated because I had the negative thoughts about falling and then those thoughts came true– and I’m not sure if it’s the law of attraction or if it’s just that I know my limits and what I am capable of. It’s frustrating that I “failed” at something almost everyone else in my group succeeded in. There were two additional runs that people did that were even higher and I opted out. It hits on so many trigger points for me: the fear of failure, the belief that I’m not athletic or coordinated and never will be, my size being a hindrance, my competitiveness. The competitive part of me is definitely sulking. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to do these things when others can, and yet somehow I can’t. It reminded me of when I would go skiing with my family, I would wipe out nearly every time, and after a certain age, I just stopped attempting altogether because it’s not enjoyable.

I’m comforting myself by the fact that after I went down, so many people in the group who knew I had been petrified came up to me and gave me hugs and supportive words. It meant so much to me, really it did. These people who were strangers two weeks ago guided me and helped me overcome a massive obstacle. They also witnessed me very emotional, which does not happen very often and only around people I’m very comfortable with. It made me really grateful for the people I’m experiencing this with. As much fear as I felt this week, I also felt a lot of love.

Huacachina Day 2

That night, a smaller group of us stayed at the Airbnb in Huacachina to do a desert hike the next day. We hung out that night, drank some pisco and played Heads Up! That game is awesome and always makes me laugh so hard. We also hung out in the pool and could clearly see the constellations in the sky which was a revelation to me! We believe we actually saw Polaris, the North Star, which was a big a-ha moment since that’s the name of our group. The hike was breathtaking and physically demanding. And, I conquered my heights fear yet again! There were a few spots where we had to tread over really narrow paths and climb up some steep hills. It was actually really nice being in a smaller, intimate group and getting to know people on a more personal level. What the guide told us, which was crazy, is this massive desert is just untouched. No one comes there, the Peruvian authorities are not interested in it, and locals are not interested in visiting. He showed us massive crocodile fossils that he had uncovered just from his own adventuring. The whole desert used to be under the ocean, so there is a ton of fossilized marine life. But there is no research being done and no resources being put towards studying any of this. We didn’t have to pass through any kind of checkpoint or anything, we just off-roaded all around for hours and hours and it is just open land as far as the eye can see. I kept thinking how if this was in the US, it would either be a National Park, or it would be privately owned and money would be charged to enter. Not to mention, there would be a ton of archaeological digging and tourism happening. Imagine if the Grand Canyon was just ignored and left open. Pretty wild to see the good and the bad of American culture– we will use up every bit that something has to offer, for better or for worse. We got some pretty epic shots which I will share below.

Some interesting notes: now that we are over two weeks in, I’ve had a bit of time to acclimate. I’ve noticed some of my regular patterns in terms of thinking and acting setting in. I haven’t had to meet/live with/hang out with an entire group of people all at once since law school I guess? I’m not sure how many more times in my life I will have this kind of experience. I’ve noticed some of my personal triggers and insecurities setting in, but at least now I have somewhat more clarity and maturity about them, and I’m able to get over them more quickly than I used to. Many people probably thought this trip was me “running away from myself,” but I actually think it’s more about running towards myself. There is no escaping myself here. I have none of the trappings of my old identity to cling on to. I have to start from scratch. I have to see how I function in all these different socially challenging, physically challenging, emotionally challenging situations. I am grateful though, that everyone on the trip seems like a genuinely decent human being who is doing this for the right reasons. That helps a lot. You will not be shocked to learn it reminds me a lot of camp (shoutout to my Monroe fam!), which was and is such an important part of my identity. I think many of the reasons that made camp so special apply to this experience. When you are living with and spending your entire day with people, you become close on a different level. I really do hope that comes true here– although unlike camp, which is only two months, this is a year! It will be fascinating to watch the relationships grow and change, and also how my own patterns of behavior grow and change along with them.

On a more superficial note, my hair has officially turned into straw here. It is unmanageable and I just have to keep it in a stiff ponytail at all times. I’m not sure if it’s the water or the shampoo/conditioner I’m using, but if anyone has any advice on what to do about this, I would greatly appreciate it.

Sorry this post was late, technically being posted on Tuesday. Gathering all the pics and uploading them actually took such a long time. Looking forward to this next week when I finally get to hike Macchu Picchu!! The anxiety is real. EEK!

Love,

ATZ

4 comments

  1. Abby! These pics are amazing! We’re so happy and proud of you!!!!! Keep doing your thing and keep posting so we can live vicariously through you πŸ™‚

    J&M

    Like

  2. Laughed out loud, teared up a tad, read a part out to T.. feeling you in all your beautiful introspection and vulnerability. And btw.. hair stuff isn’t shallow (had to).
    Mwah πŸ’‹

    Like

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