I cannot believe that this is the last few days of this epic journey. Currently, I’m writing in a café, waiting for the sun to fall so that my classmates and I can board a bus to visit the Planetarium and cast our eyes upon the mysterious ethos of a Peruvian night sky. We are certainly all feeling the excitement of knowing that we will start to head home while simultaneously trying to fit in as much of this new home as we can. With the end in sight, I feel like my eyes are still attempting to soak in every crack and crevice of culture. My heart feels full of appreciation for what I have come to know and already yearns to return for more.
Each day I feel more and more confident conversing in Spanish. I used to feel highly intimidated to interact with people due to my limited vocabulary, whereas now I hardly think twice. There are still situations where I don’t fully comprehend the conversation, but context clues and cultural norms have largely filled in the gaps when my language skills fall short. It’s been hard work to get to this place but over and over again worth it.
In class, this week has been a full immersion to conjugating verbs for past and future tense. Jumping back and forth between tenses has me feeling like I am hopping around in the time space continuum. Irregular verbs definitely don’t help. Luckily our professor is endlessly patient and kindly corrects us as we stumble through telling stories in incorrect tenses. Despite the brain puzzles, it is overall very empowering to finally be able to express more plans and ideas more fluidly and not feel helplessly stuck in the present tense. This has been exceptionally useful when discussing my day or future plans with my host family. This is especially true because I come home to them with stories of my day, and it is critical to be able to converse in past tense. Though they were understanding, it’s much more fun to have the proper conjugations for the appropriate situations.
Upon reflection, this is something that I wish I had a better relationship with before departing. Although I am here to learn Spanish, there are some foundations I would have practiced beforehand. If not for my own experience, for the benefit of my relationship to non-English speakers, and to better immerse myself more quickly and focus more on expanding my listening comprehension without needing to commit so much time to learning the general rigors of grammar. I would definitely recommend anyone interested in learning languages abroad to research some of the basics of conversation. Yes, being able to order in a restaurant is helpful but unless you only hope to express yourself in a transactional way, I would suggest studying the basic construction of sentences in the language you’re interested in.
Back to discussing the jumping around in time, I have also been enjoying the physical overlap between the reality of the now and exploring the many Incan ruins. From the hiking through the immaculate grandness of Machu Picchu to riding horses through the local ruins of Sacsayhuaman, there is something so incredible about sharing space with these ancient relics. Often, I will find myself lying in amongst them just imagining the uncountable steps of people who have tread this space over time. It also feels like a wrinkle in time, and I am simply another traveler admiring the handiwork of an ancient people. Their existence does not feel far from the everyday ongoings of modern day Peruanos.
And… I’m beginning to get excited for my own modern-day life. So, here’s to fully embracing the Cusquean lifestyle while slowly transitioning back to the pace and ways of the United States.