Over ten weeks had passed, and I could call this home. Both of my Peruvian host families had truly adopted me, my students had taught me more than I could ever aspire to teach them, and the friends I had made knew me in the most unique way.
I knew this adventure I had embarked on would change me, but I only truly acknowledged the extent of the impact on the very last day.
That sunny morning, a whirlwind of emotions flew as I journeyed to school on that tiny bus, appreciating every second of it: the yelling driver that had once frightened me, the dangerous driving, the overwhelming heat, the glances of old men that I no longer noticed.
As I walked in the schoolyard, tens of young children ran to me yelling “Mathiii” and hugging me. I proceeded with the sad and tearful goodbyes, trying to find ways to explain to children too young to understand that I wasn’t coming back because I originally lived farfaraway and had to go home. “But THIS is your home” my 9 year old student replied spontaneously.
I suddenly realized that this “English Impact” project could not have held a better name. The other interns and I had had a true impact. On these children who considered us, in their own words, their siblings. On our host families who had before us never met foreigners or interacted with a different culture. And most notably, on ourselves for immersing in a radically different environment in the realest of ways.
On my homekeys set, there is an extra key. The key to my Peruvian home. As we finally said goodbye and I was about to hand her back my set of keys, my 16 year-old host sister, Deyna, told me “No Mathi, keep them, for whenever you come home to us.”
I made myself a promise to go back. And I will.