This month changed my life. My first time in a third-world country, for the first time I fully felt the impact of my privilege. After my semester in Iceland, I found myself itching to explore parts of the world that were more unfamiliar. Studying biodiversity, conservation, and sustainability in Peru seemed like the perfect opportunity. A couple moments in particular stand out to me.
I vividly remember the second night of the program. We camped at the Limonal Ranger Station along the Manu River to get some sleep before embarking for Cocha Cashu Biological Station the next morning. My tent mate Lizzy and I were struggling to set up our tent in the dark. Bugs the size of my big toe flew everywhere. We were both sweating profusely even at 10pm. We finally managed to figure out the poles and got ready to dive in. On the count of three, we opened the zippers and frantically climbed in, zipping our flaps up behind us as quickly as possible to avoid sleeping with more bugs than necessary. We lay on top our sleeping bags for a few minutes, breathing heavily, still dripping with sweat. I thought back to the pointless sponge bath I had attempted to give myself after dinner an our ago. “Lizzy?” I said. “Yeah…” she panted. “What in the world are we doing here?”
Looking back now, those uncomfortable moments of our trip taught me to trust myself, my circumstances, and my teammates.
The next portion of our trip included ten days at the world-renowned Cocha Cashu Biological Field Station. Though the humidity and bugs had not gone anywhere, we finally had a home base to unpack some of our things, a platform for our tents, and composting toilets! The real reason we came – wildlife. One day after a long morning of field work collecting data on mammal species richness with our camera traps, I remember coming back and thinking how good a nap sounded. I had now spent 7 days straight with this tight group of people at a tiny research station. My group was ahead and done with our work for the day, so I snuck off to my tent. I must have fallen asleep, but the next thing I remember is waking up to something screaming. I pop up and see shadows of branches waving furiously above my tent. It sounded like an animal. Soon enough the entire class had gathered around to observe the monkey meeting occurring in the tree above as I groggily stumbled out of my tent. My not-so-secret-anymore nap turned into a moment of wonder as I gazed upon the seven species of monkeys bargaining, playing, shouting above me.