Coming Home


Beautiful Parcas

Beautiful Parcas

I spent the past two and a half weeks traveling. Six airport stops, the equivalent of a couple of days in the air, and several days each in four different ecosystems: the Andes mountains, Lima’s damp coast, the breezy warm moonscape of Paracas, and tropical Miami. We had rainstorms, hail, dry windy sand storms, clouds, sun, low-hanging mist and 100 degree humidity. We wore many layers of fleece in the thin mountain air, bathing suits by the pool, our lightest clothing to walk around Miami, and sweaters and scarves to deal with hotel air conditioning. Now I am home in the gray of Seattle, back in jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt, my go-to uniform for this time of year.

Lovely ladies in the Andies

In the Andes

What does it mean to experience so many different climates, time zones, cultural and environmental zones? How do we make sense of it all? How do we transition home? I think sometimes because world travel is so accessible, because it is possible to fly all over the globe in a matter of days, that we downplay the significance of the transitions. We forget that our bodies, adaptable as they are, need time to adjust to each place and time. We wonder why we pick up stomach issues or respiratory problems, why we’re not thinking as clearly as we might when we first return. I find myself moving more slowly than usual, resting and napping, wanting to prepare simple, healthy meals and sit in silence. I vow to honor this transition time, feel what it means to be “in-between,” use it to integrate the experiences I had, the people I met, the foods I ate and the places I saw.


Global Educators in Miami

As I transition, I think of the people in and around Kathmandu, Nepal, as they deal with the trauma of the earthquake that shook their foundations, killed loved ones, destroyed most of their homes and forever altered their lives. I feel sad. I grieve for a place although I have never seen it, because we are all connected. I feel powerless to make things better, even as I am glad I can contribute to the relief efforts. As I return home, I am aware of many who are likely to be homeless for a very long time. I also feel the pain of what is happening in Baltimore right now, and in other parts of this country where young men are being mistreated and killed because of the color of their skin. My own disorientation because of my travels, in my lucky privileged world where I can experience a family vacation overseas and a global education conference, somehow help me feel the pain and loss of others who are experiencing terrible tragedies right now. And that is a good thing.

Mountains and Coastal Desert

IMG_7214In all of my trips to Peru, I have spent the largest portion of my time in the high Sierra, in and around the Sacred Valley of the Inca. I have stayed in a number of places in the town of Ollantaytambo, visited nearby weaving villages and ruins including Machu Picchu, Pisaq and Sachsayhuaman in Cusco many times. I have trekked over mountain passes near Salcantay and walked through remote villages, camping at the base of snow-capped peaks and attending festivals like Q’olluriti celebrating Andean life in a variety of locations. The mountains are familiar to me and I am quite content to hike for hours surrounded by their beauty, exchanging greetings with people who live in modest dwellings nearby, finding it nearly impossible to get lost here above the tree-line.

IMG_7419In recent years, since my sister moved from the mountains to the coastal city of Lima, I have also become more comfortable there, especially in the somewhat artsy-funky district of Barranco. I enjoy walking along the Malecon, looking out over the Pacific, eating in great seafood restaurants, and visiting art galleries like MATE and the Larco museum.

IMG_7566But when my husband, my brother, his wife and I decided, after our nephew’s wedding in Lima last weekend, to visit the area a few hours south of Lima known as Paracas, nothing prepared me for its desolate beauty nor contrast to both the Sierra and Lima. I knew Paracas as an important pre-Incan civilization with beautiful weavings and pottery, but when we arrived at the Bay of Paracas, I was stunned by the dramatic scenery. The coastal desert looks like a moonscape, and the barren landscape butts right up against the bay. Pelicans dive, flamingos strut, and dozens of other shore birds via for the plentiful fish. On our final day in the region, we drove through a reserve, where I was expecting lush greenery and biodiversity, but instead found a continuation of the eerie beauty of rocks, sand, and hidden coves holding rock formations and sweeping views of cliffs. To my surprise, the IMG_7553landscape began to capture my attention and pull me toward its stunning starkness.

At the end of our time, as we drove back to Lima to begin the journey home, I found myself wondering more about the people of Paracas who were conquered by the Inca: who were they? How did they survive out there amidst the rock and sand? What inspired them to create such beautiful motifs on their weavings and pots? I plan to carry that question with me on my next exploration of this fascinating country; I will not soon forget the haunting scenery.