Reflections of Peru

As his lucid blue eyes begin to squint and his mouth begins to contort into another warm, joyful smile, I know that Carlos is happy. His face worn from 62 years of strenuous work, wrinkled by the difficulties of struggling in Peru, and a simple smile with a deep-bellied laugh makes me realize why I travelled so far and abandoned the United States for five weeks. As I continue the joke about our pig, Api Senca, tears roll down the cheeks of this kind, sweet man. With laughter, we shed out backgrounds and cultural differences to unite in our brotherly bonds of humanity. Though I am pleased by my ability to control the foreign language to entertain my host family, I am more proud of discovering the fountain of joy within this loving Peruvian and letting the water pour over me. After the last chuckle with silence imminently approaching, I steal another gaze at the face. Never have I been so moved by a physical feature of another human being and never will I again.

          A simple smile possesses unfathomable power: it can uplift a sullen friend or, in my case, it can alter a mentality. After persistently witnessing such warmth, I have unconsciously transformed from a mundane teen into a more confident, kinder human being. While most would assume that I, bringer of funds and motivated but unskilled laborer, would have a significant impact on the home stay family, they would be wrong. Material possessions can be acquired or lost; they are temporary. The impact of receiving the loving comfort of a wise, soft smile for twenty straight days will endure for longer than any adobe brick in the world. I never would have imagined prior to the excursion that the most meaningful event during the whole five-week adventure would be witnessing a simple, well-intended smile.

2011 Peru Alumni and his host parentsJonah Hahn is a junior at Northampton High School in Northampton, MA and a two time Global Routes alum


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