How Pallata, Peru Shifted My Perspective

From the moment I arrived by cattle car in the small Peruvian village of Pallata, I was in awe of its immeasurable warmth and spirit.

PERU
PHOTO BECCA MEDVIN

I was immediately bombarded with confetti and flowers, and it seemed as if I were in a completely different world. Though I had been nervous about whether I would even be wanted there as a volunteer, I felt completely at ease among the villagers. I thought I had some idea of how the experience would change me, but any preconceived notion I may have had quickly faded. The more time I spent with the people of Pallata, the more I realized how inherently similar we were. In fact, what those I met seemed to respect most in me was my ability to see them without judgment and be open to truly understanding who they are. Their way of life captivated me, and I began to feel hollowness in things I used to stress over. Helping and simply being with these people gave me more fulfillment than anything I had ever known. In an attempt to lift the spirits of others, mine had been effortlessly elevated beyond all expectation.

My group and I slept in tents alongside a stream five minutes away from the village. The moment after we arrived, older men and women insisted on hoisting up our heavy baggage onto their backs, carrying them all the way down a steep hill to our campsite. Refusing any assistance, they amazed us all with their unbelievable physical strength. This was my first of many surprising moments in Pallata. What I learned in these instances eventually led me to a greater realization by the end of my trip as I came to recognize the depth of how much I do not know. Pallata was unlike anywhere I had ever been, having lived my whole life in what seemed like the parallel universe of Miami, Florida.

PERU
PHOTO BECCA MEDVIN

Pallata, a small rural village near Ollantaytambo within Peru’s Sacred Valley, is surrounded by mountains and breathtaking Inca ruins. Though many inhabitants speak Spanish, they still predominately communicate in their native Quechua. Every family lives in an adobe house with a thatched roof, and most keep a variety of animals and crops for their own livelihood. I was amazed by how well the people of Pallata have preserved and stayed connected to their cultural practices. For example, they still perform Inca religious ceremonies. The morning after our arrival, community members came to our campground to perform a ritual using leaves and other natural materials. I was fascinated by this tradition and by the intrinsic connection they all seemed to feel to nature. In my opinion, modern society has truly suffered from having lost touch with this feeling and the wisdom at the root of such religions. The people of Pallata opened my eyes to the value of this connection and reaffirmed my belief in the essential oneness of mankind. Though their lives are completely different from mine, we all share a common humanity. Moreover, understanding a foreign culture so different from my own enabled me to see myself from beyond the limited vision I had always known.

My trip to Peru changed me, not because I realized how much suffering and poverty I don’t know about, but because I realized that there truly is beauty everywhere. In poverty, I found the happiest group of people I had ever met. The people of Pallata have a different perspective on life. They’re happy simply being together and being able to help one another. As I worked alongside them building adobe houses, I noticed how different their view of such work is from its American conception. They worked with ease, taking their time, laughing with each other, and drinking chicha as they went along.

PERU
PHOTO BECCA MEDVIN

It made no difference that we didn’t speak the same language, for our method of communication needed no words. We spoke through laughter, through gestures, through feeling. The manual labor wasn’t a chore because I was working alongside my host family, the nonstop tortillas and chicha never made me sick when I sat at their table, and the mud on my torn clothing never bothered anyone since they didn’t judge me by my appearance. Moreover, it was insignificant to them that no matter how hard I tried, I had absolutely no brick laying or bamboo shucking skills whatsoever. What mattered was my eagerness to help, and simply being there was enough. At 9,000 ft above sea level, frozen, completely covered in mud, and carrying a forty pound adobe brick, I had never felt more content. There, I was valued as a human being, not for my strength nor appearance, but for my open heart.

In learning about and growing to love Pallata, I could take a part of it with me forever, incorporating what it taught me into my perspective of the world. But it is only one place among millions, a town of only around two hundred families in a world of seven billion. Pallata made me realize how much I want to continue traveling as much as possible throughout my life and soak up all that I can of what the world has to offer.

Written by Becca Medvin.

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