The familiar mesquite trees sway to the occasional breeze on a hot Texas summer day. I am home. The hum of the washing machine stops and the dryer begins to beep, signaling me to finish the laundry. I’m back. I can hear my dad arguing with my sister about something that won’t matter or be remembered by tomorrow morning. I am finally home.
No matter how many times I say it, the phrase “I am home” does not carry the same joy as it did when I said it while embracing my parents at the Houston airport my first day back in the United States. Now when I say, “I am home,” the words come out more like a question. Am I really home? I’m home, yet I’m ready to go back home. I wonder if that makes any sense.
I’ve been back for a week now and although I am happy to be reunited with my family, I can’t help but feel homesick for Peru. The more I share stories about my experiences abroad, the more I miss my old life in Lima. I remember my first meal back in America. My family took me out for breakfast and we ate at a café in a small town. When the waiter began taking orders, I kept having a natural urge to respond in Spanish. A globe sat on a shelf on the opposite side of me and I kept staring at it, feeling the want and need to return to Peru. The waiter brought glasses of yellow colored juice. My heart sped up and then sank in disappointment once I realized the juice wasn’t maracuyá (passion fruit), but regular orange juice. Again, I mistook one of my favorite beverages–chicha morada (purple corn juice)– for a purple colored tea while walking around the farmer’s market in my hometown.
Transitioning back into my old life during the first few days was the hardest for me. I found it hard to accept that I was never going back to my old home at the Casa Yllika or greet the doorman who sat at the front desk of the building where my political science class was held every morning. I miss living in a big city where everything was within walking distance. I even miss the danger of running across the bustling streets of Lima while having car horns blast impatiently in the air. I miss how every day felt like an adventure.
The biggest difference between the United States and Peru is the difference in social class levels. In Peru, the poor are really poor and there is a lack of a middle class. Driving around Texas however, one can see that there is an obvious middle class and the children are playing instead of begging on the streets. As I pass by the rows and rows of pretty houses with bright green lawns, I can’t help but laugh at myself for thinking our country was truly suffering. I remember the shantytowns outside of Lima. I remember the begging children, the handicapped man selling stale chocolates, and the homeless woman breastfeeding her baby on the side of the mall. I don’t want to forget them, but as more time passes and life returns to normalcy, I can feel them slowly fading into a dreamlike memory.
My mission now is to take my experiences and share them with everyone around me. I will tell them about the village in the Amazon, the shantytown school, the wonderful food, and the amazing people. My trip to Peru has inspired me to travel all around the world and seek opportunities where I will be able to assist those in need. I look forward to visiting Peru again one day, not as a student, but as an English teacher.