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Two Dragons welcome the sunrise with an improvised dance atop the Andes. Photo by Ryan Gasper.


One of the first things that made me smile when we arrived at the Boca Pariumanu community was meeting Kegley. She’s a four year old girl with constantly smiling eyes and a little green parrot who can either be found perched on her shoulder or clinging to clothes. My friend Emmy said that little green parrot, Brando, was like her soul being brought to life outside of her body. There was a beautiful truth in that, because your soul is always with you and that bird never left Kegley’s side.

I mentioned that Kegley was four not because her age defines her, but because her wisdom of the place she existed in seemed beyond her years. She was my homestay sister, and I assumed that since she was tiny and precious, I needed to lead her places and show her where to go. But she walked across the grassy community by herself and showed up at our common area without anyone telling her what to do.

At Don Walter’s house, which was a few hours walk outside of the Boca community, she also knew things that I could never know. Like where the last mango was in the mango tree. We stared dumbfounded at all the leaves that looked the same until Kegley shouted “¡acá!” because she had found the fruit that our outsider´s eyes weren’t able to see. She handed us the stick to get it down for her, and once we had finished sharing the sweetest, most golden mango I had ever tasted she insisted we washed our sticky hands with soap.

Everytime I looked at Kegley she smiled at me, not just with her teeth but with her entire being. To me, Brando was just a bird that sometimes got grumpy and liked to bite me and poop on my shirt, but when he was with Kegley he was something else.

I´m still surprised by how much someone, of any age, can know about a place despite what this journey has shown me again and again about the hidden wisdom in people. Wisdom about the Earth’s paths, its fruits, and all of its tiny creatures. If only more of us could be that connected to our own pieces of earth, even through the simplest of things. I will miss Kegley’s joyful laugh and won’t forget the wisdom she showed me.