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A young arriero leads a mule across fresh snow in the Peruvian Andes. Photo by Benjamin Swift (2016 Fall Semester Photo Contest Finalist), South America Semester.


Around the fire one night Luis spoke about what the word “event” means. He’s reached the conclusion that an event is a happening, an intersection of time and space. It can range from the eating of a meal to the span of your entire life to the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs. These three months have been an event for me, a constant happening, and my life has intersected with the lives of many others. Last week, living in Urubamba was an event as my life intersected with a family of four in the city for six days. They were some of the kindest and warmest people I’ve ever met and we spent lots of time laughing around the table and finding our way around language barriers. I instantly felt comfortable and at ease with them. They ran a cafe out of their kitchen and had a lovely home with a succulent and cacti garden on the roof. I felt so lucky to be with a family like them and see how they interact and live. The last morning Nancy, the mother, woke up at 5 am to cook Gabe and I empanadas for our departure, the act alone made me tear up and I did my best to communicate how much our short time together meant to me. She humbly smiled and hugged me and I felt she knew.

That morning I found myself in the back of a big red truck driving into the mountains, Jack Kerouac style. A momentous start to our next event, a three-day trek in the Sacred Valley. Events aren’t limited to solely human happenings of course. The existence of a mountain is an event, they are actively existing and nourishing life, they are happening. The events of mountains or rivers reduces my human life to a minuscule scale, yet we are still able to intersect and live together for some time. We hiked up into the hills with mules in tow. I can’t even begin to describe the mountains and valleys, it looked like something out of Lord of the Rings, a fantasy land of moss and trees. When learning of Andean cosmovision it’s so simple to understand and grasp when you’re actually out among the mountains, they are giants that demand presence and it’s hard not to hold them in reverence. Same with the freezing glacial stream I sat in after our day of hiking. The next day we trudged uphill; I was struggling in the back with a cold, barely able to breathe, yet finally we made it to the top of a pass, it was absolutely stunning. From there we hiked down past llamas and lakes to the town of Lares where we camped in a schoolyard and had Ramen in the Andes pt. 2! The final day was a two hour walk to a hot spring where we all soaked for hours and felt the satisfying ache of trekking, a blissful time. I feel so lucky to be able to walk among these mountains, to intersect with them and be a part of their event, which has been occurring for thousands of years and will continue to outlive all of us.

I hope there is not a clear beginning and end to an event. As this trip comes to a close and I return home for the summer I know I will be bringing pieces of Bolivia and Peru back with me. I will also be bringing all the connections I made with the group, our lives intersected for these three months on this continent and they changed me in countless ways, a family I will never forget.

I believe the intersection of time and space isn’t limited to physical presence. My dear friend Braiden left our trip early and I’ve been missing him every day. Yet he was such a life force that I don’t feel he’s gone, he continues to be a part of this trip as his spirit and love and encouragement is still with us, pushing us up that mountain. He may be the single most positive person I’ve ever met, his smile alone could change my mood in a heartbeat. He was the one who could vocalize all the wonder and joy I felt while we freaked out about the clouds and plants and endlessly cool things around us. The event that was our friendship and all the wild adventures we had on treks and homestays and putting on a tent fly during a rainstorm in the Amazon at midnight, it’s all still happening and will continue to do so. Until time meets up again.

I hope there is not a clear beginning and end to an event

Peace and love,