Now a week post DukeEngage Academy, we are all two days away from our departure to Cusco. The goodbyes to friends and family are starting to begin and the suitcase lies on the bedroom floor half packed, but the excitement about the adventure to come is setting in. It’s exhilarating to think that in a few days we will be in a completely unfamiliar place with different beliefs, values and different languages used to communicate. While I do find these differences exciting, as our leaving date creeps closer they are starting to make me a little nervous. Personally I have spent 10 years learning Spanish in a classroom but this is the first time I will be using the language in a native Spanish speaking country. I’m used to having the opportunity to slip in an English word in class conversations when I don’t know the Spanish translation but this luxury will not be available frequently in Peru. I know this is going to be a challenge but it is important that I stay calm and try my best because people are usually kind and if they see you are making an effort they are hopefully understanding if you conjugate a verb wrong or you need to pause in a conversation to find the right word to use. I also hope my group and I quickly become comfortable in finding new inventive ways to communicate in order to work around the language barrier we will encounter.
I think another fear of mine is that I won’t be helpful in my service site. During DukeEngage academy, leaders and DukeEngage alumni expressed that our individual work, and even our work as a group in our host communities, will not change the problem at hand. The issues facing these communities are systemic and have been occurring for many years and it will take more than what a group of 11 students can achieve by themselves to fix the problems. I think it is important that during this trip although our work may not be tangible or have huge, direct impacts, we remember that it is our role to firstly respect and better understand our community in Cusco then to work to support the community in the best way possible. As Duke students we always want to do our best and usually our best results in great results such a good grade, a win in a game or awards of some sort. During this program we need to remember that our work isn’t about us and although we personally may not always see the visible ‘reward’ of our efforts, we can only thoughtfully do our best to be helpful in our service. We need to also remember that our work hopefully makes, as small as it may be, an impact on the goal of supporting our host community in fixing the bigger problem at hand.
As I finish my blog post I am reminded that this is the last time I will be writing from the U.S. for two whole months and man I couldn’t be more excited to say that. Con suerte yo te hablaré después cuando estemos en Peru. ¡Chau!