Adventure

Field Notes: Giving Back In Peru

KyFly_SDPeru-330

I remember where I was sitting when I first saw the photo of a little Peruvian boy with a big toothy grin and a brightly colored poncho, huge mountain peaks behind him. I was 20 years old, sitting at a desk working the only nine-to-five job I ever had, which was on my college campus. I said out loud: “I gotta get to Peru.”

I began plotting a way to live there and eventually ended up doing it, embarking on an international internship in Cusco, Peru. I lived in Cusco and worked in remote villages in the surrounding areas and the sacred valley. I had studied international cultures, communications, intercultural peace building, and conflict resolution, and I was elated to really grow in my field in a place where I (mostly) knew the language. I was on a self-declared mission to help communities ascend out of poverty and foster a space for sustainable development programs to flourish. I never saw myself as someone solving other people’s problems — I wanted to teach what I knew so Peruvians could create their own solutions. Most of all, I wanted to learn from the Peruvian people because I knew there was so much I didn’t know.

Kylie Fly walking in Peru

Three pairs of feet jumping wearing Teva sandals

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Hand holding a llama figurine in Peru.

Kylie Fly standing in front of Machu Picchu

Woman standing in front of blue door.

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Peru’s colors are vivid and happy, an accurate reflection of the people. Many live in humble circumstances and labor their whole lives to provide for their families and their communities. Basic necessities like water and education are often scarce and difficult to obtain. People spend most if not all of their days climbing high-altitude mountains for fresh water or hauling wood and straw on their backs after laboring in the fields for hours.

 

“I never saw myself as someone solving other people’s problems. I wanted to teach what I knew. Most of all, I wanted to learn from the Peruvian people.”

 

Their bodies are worn and tired, yet strong as oxen. They retire early and wake with the sun, harvesting all of their own food and often never leaving the small rural areas in which they live. I spent a season working with locals in Amaru, Peru, on sustainable projects in farming, construction, education, entrepreneurship and health through personal hygiene.  I have a special place in my heart for the people, the land, and the character-building experiences of my young adult life.

Peruvian children in traditional dress.

Feet next to buckets of paint

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Kylie Fly in traditional Peruvian clothing.

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A Peruvian boy in a field.

So, when my friends Brad and Haley of Somewhere Devine reached out and asked me to accompany them on their trip to Peru to do some documentary work, I couldn’t turn the request down (you can learn how to get involved with their work here).

 

“It was remarkable to see the progress of projects we had started almost a decade earlier. I had come full circle.”

 

Most of the trip was spent working in the tiny village of Amaru, painting schools, farming, rebuilding a dam and helping with daily chores. After all the hard work, we spent our free time touring the Sacred Valley of the Incas, hiking at Machu Picchu, and learning handicrafts from local artists. It was remarkable to see the progress of service projects we had started almost a decade earlier in working form. I had come full circle.

The kids I once knew were now teenagers. Old folks whose smiles I remembered from portraits I’d taken were still there. The same meals were prepared and served, same games shared, but new conversations were had, new memories built. We painted, taped, worked, hauled, cooked, cleaned, and washed, with breaks taken to kick a soccer ball, dance, and connect.

Woman holding a Peruvian boy.

Two Peruvians by their home.

Feet next to a pile of textiles.

Kylie Fly hiking in Peru.

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Peru is a special place. When the sun hits the mountain peak just right, it feels like that moment was made for you. Fresh air fills your lungs, wind whips your cheeks, and the earth beneath you feels alive. You’re awake, and for a fleeting moment your worries and heartaches float away. They come back, lazily and like a bad habit, but in the moment you are present. Choose to be where you are. Try to let everything slip away, even if just for now. We all come with a story, we all start somewhere, and together we can rebuild anything.

 

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