Two Worlds: A Picture of Ourselves
Published 10.10.17, Jaedin Guldenstern
My body is glued to my queen size bed on this Tuesday morning at 6am sharp. My phone blares Taylor Swift throwbacks every 5 minutes, begging me to roll out of bed and brush my teeth. My sister is already showering, being the morning bird she is, with steam escaping from her hot shower in the bathroom. I check my phone for the weather that day, the brightness blinding my eyes, and finally begin to shuffle through my clothes to decide what to wear.
They shiver from the winter’s freezing air leaking through the tin door, bundling under bright alpaca blankets. The farm is moonlit underneath the bright stars, and the animals begin to make ruckus by nearly 4am, signaling that it is time to start the day. The father digs out a flashlight to hike towards the boat for fresh Trout while the mother starts feeding the dogs, donkeys, and goats in the darkness. The children dress themselves quickly with their colorful Quechua clothes, and soon start helping the mother cook in the kitchen.
My sister, Jori, and I slurp the milk from our cereal bowls and rush to get out the door; a daily routine that usually involves last minute studying for a test, immense amounts of attitude, and occasional swearing. The two of us fight over the downstairs bathroom to brush our hair and throw on some makeup. Foundation covers the dark, tired bags under our eyes, and mascara adds a touch of self confidence needed to get through yet another stress-filled school day. We pile into the car with our millions of bags for school and sports, our mom helping us and sipping her hot cinnamon coffee as she speeds down the road.
The sun starts to rise over Lake Titicaca, awakening the rest of the village with its deep red colors and finally bringing some warmth to the air. The children snack on some fried bread as their breakfast while the women boil drinking water from the lake. They prepare rice, potatoes, and occasionally chicken to ration throughout the day which gives their husbands enough energy for tough labor. There is no school during this time for the kids because all the teachers are on strike, protesting their wages. They are trying to shut down Peruvian tourism, the government’s main source of money, in order to raise awareness and initiate change. The children have nowhere to go, so they stay home and practice counting to 10 in English, the only words their parents have retained.
At 7:30am I sit in AP Biology, doing labs on plant transpiration, termite pheromones, and water solubility. My thoughts are scattered and it is hard to focus on the Powerpoint my teacher is giving on macromolecules. I listen to music during independent work, subconsciously letting my brain wander off into my anxieties and checking Snapchat and Instagram every so often when I get bored. I cycle through the day, hearing all the latest gossip about relationships and friend groups as we lap in between classes. Lunch comes around and I eat my sandwich made by my mom that morning, sometimes accompanied with a cute note tucked inside my lunch box. I feel exhausted and overwhelmed by my teachers, a feeling that is expected throughout high school. Everyone complains about how cold the classrooms are in September, and how ridiculous it is that we wear pants and a long sleeve shirt when it is 80 degrees out. We daydream about being outside in the sunshine, and everybody feels liberated when the last bell finally rings at 2:21pm.
Men teach their sons how to efficiently use pick axes to churn last harvest’s soil as they simultaneously stomp on the dirt to pack it down with their bare feet. They add water and straw to this preexisting potato field to make bricks for a future chimney. As the men mold the bricks two at a time, they eventually reach their goal of 400 after only a couple days and some backbreaking work. The women and children tend to them with boiled potatoes while also helping with the tools in any way they can, often making strenuous trips to the lake for supplies such as sand and rock. Day after day, the Peruvians work as a community to improve each other's households by making cement floors, painting walls, installing water systems, and building kitchens. Time seems to be no element, no pressure. You work until the sun goes down, and start again tomorrow.
My team warms up on the turf field in our Nike field hockey uniforms, ready to crush Triton. We all have our hair braided with matching ribbons, our bodies pumping with adrenaline and team spirit. My coach talks strategy and motivates us to run our asses off on the sidelines, because people who want it more always put in 110% effort. My parents cheer on my team in the stadium stands, even though they have zero clue as to what every whistle means. We win the game and everyone squeals with joy, running to get our goalie when the buzzer goes off. I shower when I get home to rinse off my sweat and eyeblack on my face, soon putting on sweatpants and starting the hours of homework lying ahead of me. As I wolf down the pasta my mom cooked for dinner in my bed, I Facetime friends to ask about the history notes and trigonometry graphs that were assigned to us.
The women clean the pots of rice cooked over the fire and continue weaving scarves and blankets in their “free time”to hopefully sell to tourists someday. The men rinse their hands and faces in the ice cold water, trying to scrub multiple days worth of dirt off. The laundry is already washed and hung on a line of string, waiting to be dried by the next morning’s sun. The dogs bark to protect their land as the moon reappears, and all of the kids are sent to bed where they sleep huddled together where their mother and father later join them.
Jori yells at me to turn off the lights. It’s nearly midnight, so I turn on my bedside light and power through multiple essays as I rapidly type on my MacBook Air. My eyes grow tired and start to sting from staring at the screen, so I tell myself to finish in the morning and prioritize sleep for the next couple hours. My head hits the pillow, my body relaxes underneath fuzzy blankets, and my mind races. I stare at the lock screen on my phone. A selfie of me and two smiley Peruvian girls, in the midst of laughter during an English lesson this past July in Perka Norte, Peru.
The girls giggled and pawed at my iPhone 7, begging to take more pictures of each other. They somehow find my camera roll, and their faces change. This was a first for them, something shocking and amazing. The first time they had ever seen a picture of themselves.