Welcome to the initial stage of our journey together! My name is Anna Wolf and I’m thrilled to be serving as one of your co-instructors for the Peru 6-week course. I wish to start off by expressing my admiration for each of you, who have chosen to leave behind the comforts of the familiar to step into the unknown and immerse yourselves in the diverse cultures, histories and landscapes of Peru. It is estimated that each year only 1% of US high school students study abroad, so you are among the few who will venture beyond geographic, political, and social boundaries to experience the world as your classroom this summer!
I write to you from Silver Spring, MD, where I provide therapy and crisis intervention services to youth and families. Although clinical social work is my profession, my passions extend into experiential education, rugged travel, yoga and meditation, cross-cultural exploration, and anything mountain-related. In Peru, mountains are known as Apus or spirits who protect the people. Although they have left me breathless on many occasions (both due to altitude as well as being overwhelmed by their sheer beauty and majesty), mountains have put the scale and fragility of human life into perspective and have taught me to honor the sacred and ephemeral that nature encompasses.
I first visited Peru at age 17, when I trekked across the sierras of Ayacucho and stayed with a host family in Colca Canyon. Harvesting quinoa, herding sheep and weaving textiles with my host mother by day and watching novelas on TV with her by night not only exposed me to a different way of life which felt more holistic and sustainable, but also revealed threads of connectivity between tradition and modernity. In addition to studying abroad in Chile for one year and conducting internships in Ghana and India, I returned to Peru several times during college to research the intersections between micro-finance and women’s empowerment, as well as to further traverse the Andean cordillera.
One value in Andean cosmology which strongly resonates with me is Ayni—the art of reciprocity. Ayni means what you give, you receive; and what you receive, you have the responsibility to give back. It is about listening, sharing and learning; opening channels of expression, perception and communication; and strengthening connection and harmony between ourselves, fellow humans, and the universe. My hope is that during this course, we can practice Ayni by being open, flexible and adaptable; trusting the process as it unfolds; and embracing challenges and opportunities that arise (including unexpected itinerary changes and weather conditions!).
As you prepare for this trip, I invite you to journal, practice self-care, stay active, and pack only what you can carry. I also encourage you to learn some basic Spanish and Quechua phrases, which will go a long way when interacting with local communities. Please post your own introductions on the Yak Board—we are truly excited to know each of you and integrate your interests and visions into the course!
Saludos y abrazos,