Sadly, today marks the last day of our Peruvian Medical Experience. We celebrated our return to the United States (arriving in the Atlanta airport this morning after a red eye flight from Lima) with a much-anticipated, proper feast at Buffalo Wild Wings at 9:30 am. I’m not sure what felt more surreal, eating completely American food at a completely irregular time, or realizing that our trip was really over. The past three and a half weeks have been absolutely amazing. Words cannot accurately describe this incredible experience, but we will give our best effort to recap it for you.
It all started at the orphanage in Cusco. We arrived there understanding we would be assisting our providers at the medical and dental clinics, but quickly realized there was more to it than that. The relationships we built with the kids were incredible. Whether it was through soccer, an intense game of tether ball, flipping water bottles, taking pictures, or going shopping, the boys and girls at the orphanage and shelter quickly became not only patients, but true amigos. They will forever hold a special place in our hearts.
We then made our way to the Willoq community to set up similar clinics. Here we were immersed in the deep culture of this beautiful community, and were greatly humbled by their memorable welcoming ceremony for us. We saw numerous patients and were given the opportunity to have a meeting with the elders to learn about the future needs of the community. Our goal for these meetings was to better inform the future groups so that we could continue building our relationship with the Willoq community. There is such a strong connection between the community and Peruvian Odyssey team already, and we feel confident that it will continue to change lives on both sides in the upcoming years.
For our last week, we stayed in an impoverished area of Arequipa. We spent our mornings assisting in various public health service projects to help the community, and were exposed to the heartbreaking, difficult realities of poverty. The addition of multiple guest speaker talks, group discussions with Father Alex, and a few days to explore the city of Arequipa gave us the opportunity to bond even more closely as a group, and to really reflect on everything we had seen.
We also wanted to thank and acknowledge all of the amazing people who made this journey possible for us. We learned so, incredibly much from the providers who came with us (Doug, Diane, Eric, Dan, Becky, Murt, and Kolby), as well as the providers who met us in Peru (Wayne and Roberto). There is no way we could have successfully navigated through Cusco without our incredible tour guides and translators (Odon, Jenny, John, Wilson, Alfredo, and all their families). We were grateful for the hospitality and translation help from Father Alex and our HBI friends in Arequipa (Bob, Karen, Maria, Ericsson, Lydia, Sergio, and others). The tour of Lima would also not have been possible without our tour guide, José. And of course, Sara was with us every step of the way to guide us and learn right alongside us. All of these incredible people did everything in their power to make this the best, most memorable learning experience possible for us, and we cannot thank them enough.
Despite our over-tiredness from a long day of traveling, combined with our excitement to sleep in our own beds and take hot showers again, it was still bittersweet to say goodbye to Peru. We came here with the hope that we could truly make a difference and change peoples lives. Perhaps we did. But what we can say with certainty is that those people made a difference and changed our lives. Thank you for everything, Peru. Truly, this was an experience that we will never forget.
Jack and Annie