Hi! My name is Amy Morin, and I will be a senior this fall here at PA. I am a day student from Lynnfield, MA, and I am working for the admissions office this summer. Mrs. Mallick asked me to write a little about my experience during the HUACA project, which was an amazing trip to Peru, and since I can’t speak highly enough about it, I was really excited to write this!
I had to apply to go on this trip; twelve of us were chosen out of 38 applicants. I had heard about it from my Spanish teacher as well as word of mouth. I really like archaeology and nature, and my friend Emily and I both love hiking, and she told about this, so we both looked into it.
This was the first year of the HUACA project, which stands for Human Understanding through Archaeology and Cultural Awareness. It was run through the Robert S. Peabody Museum and the Spanish department together. Mark Cutler, a Spanish teacher, and Donny Slater, a Peabody Museum educator, were the two awesome leaders of this trip and did an amazing job of putting it all together. Prior to the trip, we had a few orientation sessions to meet everyone, talk about what the goals of the trip were, and what supplies we were going to need. At one of the orientations, we also met up with the Niswarth program, which would be traveling to India at about the same time period we were, and we talked about etic versus emic ways of viewing culture; in other words, we had to observe whether we were outsiders looking in with our own cultural baggage or we were really trying our best to understand the culture around us and be as close to it as we could. All I knew was by the end of the orientations, I was beyond excited.
The actual journey began on June 10th, 2013, when we all met at two in the Peabody, bidding farewell to our parents, and heading off with our new surrogate family. There were twelve students who were accepted into the program, and Mark and Donny as well, who went on the trip. Two graduated seniors, Tori and Cam; nine rising seniors- myself, Emily, Miguel, Joey, Janani, Eric, Rebecca, Jessica, and Sarah; and last but not least, one rising upper, Alex. Throughout the trip, we would learn each other’s life stories, learn new facts, and just become one family. We bonded over similarities and celebrated our differences, and it was really the most amazing group I have ever been a part of. I learned so much about other people, and I also learned a lot about myself, too. I will never forget the conversations we had, in all different places, the most memorable of course when we fit all twelve of us in one tent. This trip could never have been the same if it wasn’t the same fourteen people who went. People are what make life special, and on this trip, I got to know the most amazing people. And I feel so incredibly lucky to have been a part of it all.
We would spend the next three weeks together, exploring all different parts of Peru and trekking through all different terrain, gaining new knowledge, perspective, and adventure as we went, and getting closer to each other as well. We started out in Chiclayo, which is in the northwest region of Peru, and slowly worked our way down the coast, seeing the archaeological sites spanning from around 3000 BC to when the Spanish conquered the Inca. We also went into the cities, and conversed with the locals about local culture, practicing our Spanish at the same time. It was really interesting to see the comparison of the ancient to the modern ways of living, both the similarities and differences. At the core, we are all really human, and though some technologies may change, human nature remains at the very least similar. After the coast, we went up into the mountains, watching the cities turn into towns and countryside. We climbed on ancient military forts and we crawled through ancient water ducts. We swam in ridiculously cold rivers and we ate some guinea pig. We sang, we played cards, we made friendly bets, we played the circle game. I can’t even start to cover all of the things we did, but I know that it was the combination of every little piece that made it the awesome trip that it was. I made some small revelations, found out more about myself and the world around me, and I also just lived, plain and simple. Traveling is what I want to do with my life, and this trip only intensified my previous thoughts of traveling. Each day is filled with exciting things to see, new things to learn. Overall, I just gained an appreciation for the diversity of culture that this one country could offer, and the diversity of the world as well. Part one of our journey ended on a prop plane from Huaraz to Lima, and before we knew it, we were up in the air again, headed for the former heart of the Inca empire.
Before arriving there, Donny had described Cusco as magic. I wasn’t quite sure how a city could be magic, but upon arriving into the central city square, with all of the colors and life, the only way I can describe it is magic. There was a festival celebrating the winter solstice and the sun god, so we quickly became immersed in the singing and dancing all over the city. It was from Cuzco that we left to go to our homestay, where we camped out in the backyard of a wonderful farmer and his family. They graciously hosted us, and we lived (or tried to live) two days like they would. It was truly incredible. The best part was when all of the village kids taught us to dance, and that moment right there was one of the happiest moments of my life, just the pure joy of dancing this dance that so many had done before me. From there, we continued onto the Inca trail, which was a four day hike up and down mountains until we reached Machu Picchu. I would say this was my favorite part, but there are so many amazing parts that I really can’t say that. But I love to hike and I love to see Incan ruins, so what’s not to love? I love to camp (shout-out to my tentmate Emily), and it is truly such a connection with the earth- there is also the awe inspiring feeling that there were so so many people who were here before you. And the stars. The stars never cease to amaze me, and also they set me at ease. They make me think, but at the same time I can think about nothing. Never in my life had I seen as many stars as I did lying on the ruins of Wiñay Wiyna, and never felt closer to them. In the end, Machu Picchu was that much more amazing because we had worked hard to get there by hiking the trail together, and we had so many more experiences along the way, too. It was weird returning to Cuzco and that level of civilization, the world we had grown to know over the first two weeks, and then it was the strangest experience when I was home again in the comfort of my own house, in the world I had kind of forgotten had existed. I wish that I could have stayed in Peru forever, but unfortunately the real world had to come back sometime. I just have to smile because it happened, and hold these memories close to me for the rest of my life.
When I started writing this post, I began writing as if it was a journal entry for myself or someone else who went on the trip, and just wrote everything that came to mind. I reached one point when it dawned on me that I couldn’t write about every single little thing that happened. Some things are meant to be kept to myself and just treasured for what they are. I can’t share my whole story with the internet, or else I would kind of feel like it wasn’t my own anymore; some things only would make sense in our context of the trip. So I still kept it as me, and I made it as personal as I could without feeling I was betraying myself, if that makes any sense. I want to share the amazing experience I had, but I want to keep some pieces to myself :) There would also be no way I could cover everything we did because of the sheer volume, but if you have specific questions on certain aspects of the trip or want more details about something in particular, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. All I can say is that this trip was truly the most amazing experience of my life, and I loved every single minute of it.