Ibn Battuta once said, “Travel- it leaves you speechless and then turns you into a story teller.” When my feet first touched the ground in Peru, I instantly felt changed. Every single step was culturally enriching, from hiking Machu Picchu, to trekking through the Amazon Forest, to running through the markets of Cusco in the early morning. The food had amazing flavors to it, the people instantly inspired me, and the views had me taking photographs every two seconds- in short, I fell in love with a country, and that country became a part of my heart.
It’s true that traveling leaves you speechless- at times, I could find no words to express the emotions surging through my veins; however, one boy, Jorge, changed everything I ever thought I knew about life, and turned me into the story teller I am today. During my time in Peru, I encountered children every single day. From volunteering at an orphanage in Cusco, to walking down the streets in Lima, there were always children around- playing, laughing, or begging. Jorge, though, was different. I met him while I visited an alpaca farm in Cusco. I expected to learn about how alpaca’s wool was used to create clothing; I never could’ve predicted what actually happened though that day. While on the tour a small boy came up to me. I will never forget the way he looked when I met him. He was dressed in bright attire, the brightest being his smile. He followed the tour group around for a bit, and I couldn’t help but talk to him; he was the cutest child I’d ever seen.
“Hola, como estas?” I said to him, in my best Spanish.
“Hola. Muy bien, gracias,” he replied, in a quiet voice. I didn’t know how to respond next, though, because I wasn’t fluent in Spanish. Because I didn’t know what else to say, I was about to say goodbye, until he held up a book to me.
“Lea, por favor,” he said. This boy wanted me to read to him. So, that’s how two strangers, age four and eighteen, who spoke different languages, found a way to communicate. I read to him for twenty minutes, having completely forgotten about the tour. I could’ve stayed there all day reading to Jorge; his enthusiasm was like nothing I’d ever witnessed before, and it was incredibly contagious.
However, after the story had ended, he took me by hand to his house, which was on the alpaca farm. Again, I couldn’t have predicted what I saw next. Jorge’s house was a small hole inside an old, abandoned, shack. He had a blanket, his book, and a ball. My heart instantly throbbed, thinking of all the unnecessary possessions I owned, compared to what this boy had. It was absolutely shocking. We played catch with his ball for a bit, and then I took my notebook, scissors, and markers out of my bag. Jorge’s face instantly lit up, and my heart warmed this time. We drew pictures together, and enjoyed the afternoon.
In Peru, nobody wears watches, and no one is a slave to a schedule. It’s the most serene feeling I’ve ever experienced. However, as the sky started to take on shades of pink and orange, I realized that I had to leave in order to catch the train back to town. Though I’d only known this boy for one day, it was one of the hardest goodbyes I ever had to say. I gave him my notebook and markers, and through his hug I could understand words that were not spoken. He tried to give me his ball and his book in return, but I couldn’t accept them. For the second time that day, my heart throbbed. A boy who owned next to nothing was the most generous person I’d ever met. I wanted to give him the world, but all I had was a notebook and some markers. As he walked me to the train, again by hand, he spoke three words, of which I understood perfectly.
“Por favor vuelve.” Please come back. With tears in my eyes and my throat tightening, I nodded, and gave him one more hug. As I boarded the train, I felt such an overwhelming amount of sadness for having to say goodbye to this little boy; however, I also felt happiness and pride in knowing such a selfless, and sweet child. Because I met Jorge, I don’t care about possessions so much as memories. Because of Jorge, I have a thirst to travel more that can’t be quenched. Though I had arrived at the alpaca farm for a tour, I immediately realized that my time would be better spent getting to know this boy. I don’t regret any of it.
About The Author: My name is Barbara Anne Scheibel, and I am a Childhood Education major at SUNY Oswego. It was my experiences with children in Peru that inspired me to become a teacher. I love writing, traveling, and helping others- especially children.
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