This weekend I had to undertake the difficult and very sad task of saying my final goodbyes to my friends, my family, and Urubamba. All last week I dreaded my upcoming goodbyes and tried to take advantage of every last moment in Urubamba. I lingered over meals with my family, sat and thought in the Plaza, took lots of photos of everything, did my final stoves work, and visited with my friends during every free moment. And don't forget pack...the great ordeal of leaving any place you have lived for a long time. I borrowed a scale from the ProPeru office and packed and repacked and organized all of my things several times over to make sure I wouldn't have to pay overage charges. I managed success....every one of my bags weighed exactly their limit. Though 8 kilos for a carry on is quite heavy, I can assure you that.
Time behaved strangely my last week, until it was suddenly Wednesday without my even realizing it. Wednesday was my last night with all my friends with the Princeton Bridge Year group, who left early Thursday morning for Lima and Trujillo. That night there was a big party at The Muse, one of our favorite restaurants/hangouts, because it was moving to Cusco to make more money (the owner wanted to raise all the prices at least 5 soles, which the person who runs it knew no one would ever pay because only volunteers and Peruvians, not tourists, go to The Muse in Urubamba). So I went with David, Brian, Tugce, Agnes, Leah, some of the ProPeru staff, Katie and Mary, several Germans, and a few of our Peruvian friends to give it a last goodbye and celebrate my times with my Princeton friends. It was great fun and a perfect ending to my time with the five of them. The ProPeru staff had us take shots of tequila (my first shot ever), we played pop quiz for the first time and won (good thing we had the germans to help us translate some words for one of the questions!), I ate my last ever plate of potato wedges (though, unfortunately, Maddie wasn't there to enjoy them with me), there was laughter all around with my friends, and we even got a free plate of guacamole, comote chips, and potato wedges to enjoy. The only bad part of the night was the part when my Princeton friends all left bit-by-bit and I had to say goodbye, not knowing when I'll see them next. We're all planning a big reunion in Martha's Vineyard for next fall when we're all over there for college! How much fun will that be...Peru, only in Boston instead. Tugce, Agnes, David, Leah, and Brian were five great people to spend the entirety of my three months and I'm very glad I got to meet them all. Five completely different personalities that all brought something unique and exciting to ProPeru. Working on everything from stoves to a woman's group to after-school-programs to filters to teaching English, bringing so much to all of us. Thank you all for helping to make my experience in Peru wonderful and contributing so much to Urubamba!!
The next few days were a blur of more preparations and packing and quality friend time until the weekend came up. I made sure to spend lots of time with everyone Friday and Saturday in preparation for my early early out Sunday morning. I had my last dinner with Emily and Kusi Thursday night (cinnamon-and-apple pancakes...she is amazing if you want food!!), we went for my last dinner in the Green House and then enjoyed the plaza on Friday night, and then came the final day: Saturday.
I spent the majority of my day with Katie and Mary in Cusco, enjoying my last time navigating the city that we all both love and hate, saying "no" to the last time to the women offering massages, eating my last (spectacular!) veggie burger at Jack's, making my last personal purchase of a scarf at the Artesian Market (leaving me with s/ 20 for my day in Lima with Ònia on Sunday), looking at the waving rainbow Cusco flag in the Plaza de Armas for the last time, riding in my last combi. When I returned I finished my packing until I fit exactly within the limits and enjoyed final quality time with my hermanita, Killary. I also had to say my final goodbyes to Kate, Travis, and Laura, the three of the ProPeru staff with whom I spent the most time and bonded the most. Kate was truly amazing for any problem, concern, or just for a smile; my mom here in Peru. Always there for a hug, sweet, able to help with any problem (if she didn't know the solution she would get on finding out exactly who knew it and get any issue solved), always worried about taking care of you and making sure you were enjoying your time in Urubamba to the fullest. Travis was my stoves leader and one of the funniest people I knew in my time in Urubamba. He made us want to go out for every stoves day, even if it was in Yucay (where he also introduced us to the marvelous juice lady!), and always impressed us with his energy, dedication, and the amazing ways he found to destroy a stove when necessary (pulling the gigantic cloth-wrapped rock through a chimney to create a gigantic hole in the bottom tubo was by far the best). Thank you both for working so hard to make my time working with ProPeru as productive, interesting, and rewarding as it could be and always striving to make changes for the best.
And then, before I knew it, it was nighttime and time for my goodbye party with my friends. It turned out to be my aunt's birthday party as well, so I spent the early evening entrenched in fun final family activities at her restaurant, Pizza Wasi. We all waited anxiously to see the boxing match between the Peruvian star Kina Malpartida and an Englishwoman (Kina won, just like they had all predicted), ate vegetarian pizza (as always, doctored up with ají, rocotto, and the amazing creamy garlic sauce), drank ponche de ava (which is hot pink and actually really good, which I hadn't expected when I looked at it. But my mantra in Peru was to always try everything at least once), and socialized as one big, happy family. But then finally the time came where I had to say my big goodbyes to go for my final night with all of my friends, Germans, Peruvians, and Americans. It was sad hugging every member of my family, people who had dropped by my house for lunch and dinner, people who had come from Cusco for a variety of family birthday parties, my little cousins who, on my first Sunday in Peru, had shown me beautiful trees with orange/pink flowers, made me climb trees with them, and went for bike rides with me. And who knows when I shall see them again? The road through life takes us on a variety of different paths and you never know where you may end up so you can always hope you may come upon someone again, but never know when or in what context. Fortunately, however, my goodbyes to my mom, sister, grandma, and grandpa were able to wait until a little later or it would have been too much at once.
Once I left Pizza Wasi I headed over to Tequila, the biggest indoor space in Urubamba (which isn't saying much) where all of my friends were waiting there to say goodbye to me and many more would stop by later. Germans Larissa, Pancho, Vicky, Sophie, and Marcus, Peruvians Pasu, Nube, Carlos, Franco, Fernando, Arson, Eddie, Jose Luis, and Coqui, Americans Katie and Mary. We all laughed together for the last time, played games together, swapped stories of the last three months in Peru, and took advantage of every last moment we had together to celebrate our friendship. Every one of them has brought something unique and special to my time in Urubamba and without them my experience would have been quite different. It will be hard to see some of these amazing people again, but we have many ways to keep in touch (facebook, skype, email, snail mail) and I'm sure that someday we will find a way to meet up again, even if different countries and a few oceans separate us. But even if we know that in our heads, our hearts couldn't help but constrict and bring not a few tears to all our eyes and extra big squeezes to our hugs as we promised we'd write lots.
The last goodbyes I had to make were among the hardest: my goodbyes to my family. My goodbyes to the people I spent almost every meal with, who watched out for me, took care of me, let me see into their lives and their hearts. My goodbyes to my adorable hermanita Killary, who I had watched grow astoundingly in my three months in Peru, who now laughed when I laughed, smiled when I waved to her or called her name or asked her how she was. My goodbyes to my mom, who, being 26 and close to my age, was more like a friend than a mom, always wanting to chat about my life and her life, always there with a smile and kind words. My goodbyes to my grandma, who cooked every delicious meal I ate in Urubamba, who worried over how much I was eating and if I was wearing sufficient layers to go outside. My goodbyes to my granddad, who always worried about my safety if I went out at night, who was intensely interested in the work that I did with stoves and filters, who joked with me about everything. My Peruvian family--different from my family at home, but same in the way they loved and cared for me.
My experience in Peru was absolutely spectacular and there is nothing I would change about it. I am so fortunate to have been able to spend time in this unique, interesting, diverse country with such a complex culture and history. I know that living in Peru has deeply changed me and I'm proud to call myself an urubambina. Peru has left a stamp on my heart that can never be denied or forgotten and I'm lucky it's there. Thank you, Urubamba, for making the first part of my gap year a success!