Friday, December 30th
6:30 am: I woke up to shower and make last minute travel preparations
7:30 am: I headed downstairs for my last breakfast with Mommy. She had an egg and ham sandwich waiting for me, paired with fresh juice, coffee, and a banana. She had also packed me a snack bag for my travels. She is the absolute best!
8:30 am: I said my final goodbyes to Grace, Julia, Katie, and my host family before getting into the taxi with my host mom and dad to head to the bus station. Saying goodbye with a kiss to Mommy made tears roll down my cheeks. I have grown to love my host mom so much in the past two weeks. Although we have never had a full conversation due to the language barrier, I feel as though we know each other so well.
9:00 am: I departed Trujillo and headed to Lima. The bus ride was ten hours long, and the scenery outside was wonderful to see again. I finished the book by Sheryl Sandberg “Lean In” that I have been reading during my travels and spare time in Peru. It caught the attention of the guy sitting beside me and sparked a conversation between the two of us. He is a manufacturer for a “lean” market approach. He thought my book was about his market, this gave me the opportunity to tell him that it is about navigating the workforce as a woman, and striving for social equality. He gave me his business card, and I hope to follow up with him. His company has a sector in “lean healthcare” that I am interested in learning more about.
7:00 pm: I arrived at the bus station in Lima and caught a taxi to the airport. Since I had a few hours before I had to board my flight, I was able to catch up on my travel journal and began reflecting on my trip.
Saturday, December 31st
12:10 am: I said goodbye to Peru one last time as our plane sped down the runway. Two hours later, we landed in Ecuador. Once I got off the plane, I began looking for a place to rest my head.
6:00 am: I felt a hand shaking me awake and immediately went into panic mode. Thankfully it was just a flight attendant that wanted to be sure I wasn’t supposed to be boarding the flight that was about to leave. After explaining to her that I was on the flight to Miami, I gathered my belongings and went to find coffee. I decided to use my early morning to catch up on all of my neglected emails.
8:10 am: My name was called over the loudspeaker to report to the front desk. “Not again” I thought to myself. Thankfully all was good, I was just the one randomly selected for a security check. I boarded the airplane. While on the plane I spent time working on my personal statement and reflecting on Peru.
As I reflect on the past two weeks, I see personal growth. I see knowledge gained. I have only traveled internationally alone once before, and it was to China with a connection in Germany with a close friend waiting for me at the airport. The traveling adventures, to and from Peru, have forced me to act as an adult, fully responsible for myself. Nobody else was watching out for me. My connection in Cuba was without a doubt the most terrifying experience of my life. I made the decision to place my trust in a girl that I had just met who I later found was indeed sincere in her efforts to care for me. Without her, I am not sure, and I don’t want to think about, what the outcome would have been for me in Cuba.
I have never had the freedom abroad that I did in Peru. I was allowed to go out with the other volunteers whenever we wanted to. We walked downtown, ate street food, went to the beach, and developed relationships that I believe will last a lifetime.
I have never been on a medical service trip before. Most of my previous trips were Christian mission trips, with a specific focus on evangelizing and providing relief. This trip was different, although I was occasionally able to apply principles I had learned on previous service trips.
This trip was also the first educational trip I have been on. The medicine classes held in the evenings were invaluable. We learned first hand from two renowned Peruvian doctors. I was able to shadow in one of the most efficient clinics in Peru. I got to see the inauguration of a health clinic that I believe will be incredibly impactful in the future. On the day of the inauguration, Ramy and I agreed that it will be amazing to watch the progress the clinic makes in the next decade.
I met women that gave up the “normal” life for a life dedicated to public health and putting others above themselves. Katie is 24 years old, has her master’s in public health, and is the co-founder of a non-profit. Rosa is in her twenties as well and has her registered nurse license. She has two beautiful children. She left her job at the hospital to co-found HOP and dedicate her life to improving the health of her fellow Peruvians. The love Rosa has for her fellow people is something I have never seen first hand. She is filled with joy, hard work, and compassion. Rosa was constantly bringing us food, drinks, and inviting us into her home for events.
I worked with classmates and other peers that are exceptional individuals. Ramy, Omar, Brian, Timothy, Julia, and Grace each have an incredible and unique skill set. I can’t wait to see where they each end up in life!
I saw Julia recognize the great need the Peruvians have for new shoes and clothing. After she shared the idea, the entire team got behind her in supporting her thoughts to fundraise once we get back home and send clothing and shoes to the kids we have all grown to love. I saw her put her recent phlebotomist certification into practice in the clinic, and care for each patient so well.
I saw Timothy get asked to be a young boy’s godfather. That is the amount of trust and love the mother has developed in the way he cares for her kids and all other kids around him. Timothy was a tireless volunteer coordinator. He was always there for me and the other volunteers at every turn of the trip. He never refused to answer yet another one of my questions.
I saw Ramy surrounded by kids that he had inspired every day. They were always fighting for a seat on his lap. I saw him take time to sit with a young boy and teach him English. Ramy continued to strengthen his relationship with this young boy day in and day out. I saw him go into the convenience store before most days at the clinic to purchase cold water for a young girl he heard complain of thirst. His heart for others is inspiring.
I saw Grace refuse to let an injury deter her from the goals she set to accomplish in Peru. I am amazed by her resilience. She constantly had insight to offer in the medicine classes from her previous training as an EMT, and she was always willing to translate my broken Spanish to our host mom.
I saw Brian constantly bring laughter and joy to those around him. Brian has the ability to speak up and speak out with grace and wisdom. I am encouraged by his forwardness to speak out for what I want more often.
I never saw Omar without a smile on his face. He was constantly willing to tackle triage, a task that wasn’t always preferred by everyone else. His path and vision for his future at his young age is admirable and noteworthy.
This trip was incredible because of the people: a swag volunteers team, incredible program directors, sweet host family, and precious community members. Although I am heartbroken to see the trip come to an end, but I am even more thankful for the experience and the memories made.
1:30 pm: I arrived in Miami, Florida.
5:00 pm: I departed for Charlotte, North Carolina.
7:15 pm: I arrived in Charlotte, where I found my dad, mother, and younger brother, Brett, waiting for me. My dad and Brett surprised me by driving straight from Ohio to the airport to greet me. After getting my suitcase, we headed to my grandmother’s house to ring in 2017 with our family.
I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the experiences that began on Thursday, December 15th at 6:30 am and will radiate throughout my entire life. Ciao, Peru!