There is something about traveling that never ceases to amaze me. The new people with their big hearts and varying views of the world. The mountains, lakes, beaches, and cities that take my breath away. The experiences that mold and shape me into a different person, a more cultured person. South America is one of these places. It’s a place I’ve given two months of my life to and those two months have taught me things about people, about life, about myself that I cherish dearly.
There is a small ecological village on the Pacific coast of Peru in a quaint little town called Pasamayo. It’s a farming plantation maintained by locals along with volunteers from all over the world. Volunteers come from many different places—not only physically but spiritually as well. Ecotruly Park is the name of the village and it’s what I most definitely consider a spiritual place for all people and all beliefs. The village is founded on and maintains Hindu practices, yet their tall, colorfully painted mud huts serve as meditation sanctuaries for all who encounter them.
Outside the gates that surround the village are miles and miles of the Peruvian coast decorated with tall, steep cliffs that break each wave with a slap. Standing on the shoreline, with my toes sinking into the dark brown sand, I close my eyes, open up my arms, and breathe in the overwhelming serenity of the far and wide deep blue sea. Such beauty and such wonder confirm my belief in something bigger than me, bigger than us, bigger than life.
Children’s giggles transfer me back into reality and I turn back towards the shoreline and plop down into the sand as I give my attention to the family a few yards away. There are five of them: three little kids and what I assume are the mother and father. As each one of them is running around in nothing but dirty white underwear (even the mother and father), I am, at first glance, embarrassed at the immodesty and I turn my cheek back towards the ocean. But I can’t help it; their laughter is captivating so I ease my eyes back towards them and watch.
One child, a boy that looks about 8 years of age, is buried neck deep in the sand by his sister and his brother. The little girl, using her hand as a shovel, is scooping up arm-fulls of dirt and dumping them on her buried brother, giggling in amusement with every scoop. The other boy is undigging the buried one at the feet but isn’t making much progress as the little girl keeping piling up the dark brown sand. The kids are in their own world of blissful happiness and as I watch I feel a pang of longing for my lost years as a little girl without a care in the world.
The man and woman are a sight unto themselves. Unadulterated love is how I would describe it. The woman takes off running in the opposite direction of the man, her hair dancing wildly in the wind. Not far behind her, the man sweeps her off her feet, throws her over his shoulder and strides tall and proudly towards the sea with his prize shrieking and laughing on his shoulder. He gently tosses her into the chilly water and she is paralyzed with fits of uncontrollable laughter. He leans down into the water and pops a wet one right on her mouth and she seizes her opportunity. She wraps her arms around his neck and kisses him deeply before she yanks him down into the water then leaps up and takes off running again.
I laugh to myself as I see his shocked expression before he jumps up to chase after her. This is happiness, I think to myself. I look around and I think about the pollution and the poverty that is so real right here in this place, on this breathtakingly beautiful beach. I’m sad about it for a moment, as I feel sorry for this family that lives here with all this trash, without money to even buy proper swimsuits. Why, though? Why should I feel sad for them? They are obviously happy. Oh, okay, I see. The universe is teaching me a lesson. A lesson that says you don’t need the materialistic things in life to be happy. You can run around a beach, stepping over pieces of trash, wearing nothing but dirty white underwear and be completely and utterly happy and satisfied with life. I smile and I think about the people I love back home as I stand up and stroll back towards the colorful clay village that is full of people searching for the same life lessons.