Horns meet world. World meet Josh Bower. Josh is a transfer student from the University of Texas Arlington currently majoring in Economics and Iberian and Latin American Languages and Cultures here at UT Austin. This past summer, though, Josh spent his time polishing his Spanish-language skills in South America by participating in the Language and Culture Program at the Universidad de Buenos Aires in Argentina as well as spending some time in Peru on his way back to the Forty Acres. Take a look at what a summer down under (in the Western Hemisphere) looks like:
Since being back in the States, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about my time abroad. I find that I don’t really have the words to describe it in a brief encounter. Most firmly planted in my mind are the people that I met. Not to downplay seeing Machu Picchu or seeing the beautifully European look of Buenos Aires, but there’s just something about meeting people from a different culture that impacts you. I did a 6-week IFSA Butler program in Buenos Aires and afterward spent about 3 weeks in Peru traveling with a friend of a friend. I’d like to use this space to talk about that friend, George. Great people like George are worth celebrating; I just hope that I can do justice to the love and goodness of him.
I’ll preface this by saying that before meeting George in Peru I was in Argentina with a host mom. I had one host brother, Matías, and a Colombian kid who lived with us, José. José deserves his own post for his kindness and friendship, but that’s not who I’ve chosen to talk about here. My relationship with my host mom was akin to what you’d find in a restaurant; I felt like I was being served not out of the goodness of her heart but out of obligation. Soli, the maid/cook, came every Monday to make sure my room was clean and my bed was made, and to prepare meals for the week. My host mom was ~65 and still worked a fulltime job. As we sat at dinner each night and conversed I never felt a genuine interest from her. I felt like extra income to her. I guess I understand, I mean living in Buenos Aires isn’t cheap and hosting study abroad kids is relatively easy. I just wish that I were able to form a real relationship with her.
Saying goodbye to Argentina was a lot harder than saying goodbye to my host mom. I would miss the country and the other people I met, especially José and the people in my program, but I was ready for Peru. George met me in the Lima airport. He was soft-spoken and honest. Any apprehension I had about trusting a man that I didn’t know was gone after the initial taxi ride. I sensed honesty, trustworthiness and bluntness from him. I liked George because he always meant what he said and said what he meant. I felt safe with him, which is a good thing because a few weeks before I was held up at gun point in a park in Buenos Aires. We went back to his humble home and I was introduced to my sleeping area, a mattress slapped in the middle of his living room. He let me rest for a few hours and we were off to explore. George had no chill when it came to exploring; he really wanted me to get to know as much of Peru as I could within the time that I had there. Looking back I’m really appreciative of this but there were definitely times during which I wanted to tell him to calmarse.
We spent 3 days traversing Lima then took an overnight bus to Trujillo, where we explored ancient ruins for a few days. We then took a short taxi ride to the small town of Cajamarca where I met his family. I’ve never been met with such hospitality and love in my life. I met at least 20 family members there, every one kinder than the last. Everyone wanted to know about my family, my life in the US, and my view of Peru. It was a much different scene than what I experienced in Argentina with my host mom.
I’ve never been met with such hospitality and love in my life. I met at least 20 family members there, every one kinder than the last. Everyone wanted to know about my family, my life in the US, and my view of Peru.
George showed me the benefit of having a guide in a country that was foreign to me. Contrasting with Argentina, I was able to get to know “el Peru real,” as George would say. The best part about it was that I wasn’t sheltered in an upper-class house with an upper-class family like I was in Argentina. I was meeting real, humble Peruvians and getting to know the life of the average Peruvian. I met people who were completely different from me. Through George and his family members I learned true kindness. They were some of the humblest people, both economically and in their demeanor, whom I have ever met.
The friendship I formed with George in Peru means the world to me. He is a man who was basically a stranger to me, and yet he took off 4 days of work to take me over the country and to meet his family. I will always remember George and his family for how well they treated me and how much love I felt from them. I know that if I ever go back I have more than enough homes and hearts to take me in, and I hope to someday be able to see them again.
If you enjoyed reading about Josh’s time in Argentina and Peru, find out more about the program he went on by clicking here. Feel free to leave comments below and tell us about your experience living with a host family! Be sure to check in next week to find out where in the world our Horns pop up next!