Independence Day in Huanchaco, Peru

March 23, 2010
By CarlieSorosiak SILVER, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
CarlieSorosiak SILVER, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
9 articles 0 photos 6 comments

Smash a mirror into a million insignificant pieces, and then quickly glue the fragments back together. The mirror looks different than before: less iridescent, cracked, but still polished glass. Such is my life after two months in Huanchaco, Peru, breaking and rebuilding my body, sex and mind, like a sculptor crushing and remolding her clay.

In one moment I’m lying in the grassy quad at my ultra-liberal, suburban university, letting the summer sun drench my pale features, and in the next I’m scaling the Andes foothills, vomiting into a rocky trench with such force that I search for my large intestine in the rice-and-avocado excrement. Wiping my dehydrated, pink lips and looking out from the sharp crag, I see sugar cane fields smoldering with black smoke and abandonment, withering like me, and I wonder: how did I get here?

Up to my ankles in mire, digging for ancient Moche ruins but finding more temperamental scorpions than significant artifacts, I am far removed from my natural collegiate element, a Sheppard without her serene pasture.

What the hell was I thinking, signing up for an excavation? I blame cinema, and my immature, naïve self, for painting a glamorous and sexy picture of the stiffness and grime that is archaeology. Here I am, in my Indiana Jones shorts, wielding a mason’s trowel and flimsy Ace Hardware paintbrush, thinking this will be the most influential summer of my life. Maybe I’d find a fully-intact human skeleton or a ritual burial site full of golden beads.


The real influence comes from crouching in a ditch with piss streaming down the back of my legs, from roaming the frigid beach at 2 AM to find a dead seal washed ashore and eaten, from hearing a man’s sorrowful croon as he’s stabbed on a nearby street, from stooping down on the soiled pavement just to look a wild dog in its eyes.

And I am cracking like the 12,000-year-old floor we found buried in the primeval ashes.

Without warning, the excavation is ending; the July 4th sky looms over the celebratory campfire that we primitively lit on the sullen beach. Sprawled in the gray sand, hair wild and unwashed, I try unsuccessfully to grip reality despite my wine-induced intoxication. Stacked reed boats in the distance appear like monsters as the sea spins in my ears. My personal Independence Day in Huanchaco culminates in a hostel’s dark bedroom, watching fellow drunken excavators have sex in the streets.

Normalcy is relative, and I no longer know its definition. University life now seems so pedestrian, so bland. After smashing my sense of how life is supposed to be, Peru remolded me from the shattered pieces. I now desire to again sprint through the back alleyways of Huanchaco at midnight, to once more wander through the mango-selling markets in my bare feet. I would give all the money in my jean pockets to be back, sitting on the curb with a man selling tamales, feeding a stray dog from the palm of my hands.

At least in Peru, life is interesting.

The author's comments:
I spent last summer on an archeological excavation in Peru. This is my story.

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This article has 13 comments.

SunnyRachel said...
on Apr. 7 2010 at 3:03 pm
I went to Peru last summer too, but it was nothing like this. It seems like this is a "real" experience, like you couldn't make this up if you tried. love it

on Apr. 7 2010 at 3:00 pm
CarlieSorosiak SILVER, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
9 articles 0 photos 6 comments
thanks! that's what I was trying to go for, to let people know exactly how I was feeling

on Apr. 7 2010 at 2:58 pm
CarlieSorosiak SILVER, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
9 articles 0 photos 6 comments
I thought that I wanted to be like Indiana jones. Working in the dirt and finding artificats isn't as glamourous as it seems

on Apr. 7 2010 at 2:48 pm
CarlieSorosiak SILVER, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
9 articles 0 photos 6 comments
wow, thanks!

on Apr. 7 2010 at 2:47 pm
CarlieSorosiak SILVER, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
9 articles 0 photos 6 comments
Yeah, I try not to write typical travel tales. I find accounts like this more interesting...

on Apr. 7 2010 at 2:42 pm
CarlieSorosiak SILVER, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
9 articles 0 photos 6 comments
Thanks guys! I really appreciate the feedback!

MWilliams said...
on Apr. 7 2010 at 1:13 pm
please write more! I want to know more about peru! this is so good

SJohnson said...
on Apr. 7 2010 at 1:07 pm
wow. just wow. this isn't your typical travel story...

nwalter said...
on Apr. 7 2010 at 1:02 pm
This story almost makes me feel... uncomfortable. What you went through sounds terrible and awesome at the same time. I guess that's what makes a good writer: to have someone strongly react to your work. you are a great writer

ellenator said...
on Apr. 7 2010 at 12:57 pm
I thought I wanted to be an archaelogist...but maybe not anymore. this is still a really great story though. I really liked when you said, "Normalcy is relative." I think that's something we can all relate to. 

Nrolly said...
on Apr. 7 2010 at 12:55 pm
Wow. This is kind of dark, but I really like it. You managed to turn what seemed liked a horrible experience into something beautiful and amazingly written. great work

EmilyWall said...
on Apr. 7 2010 at 7:53 am
This story is so unbelieveably descriptive. Your writing is so unique. You are very talented, keep it up.

nkelly said...
on Apr. 7 2010 at 7:51 am
This story is absolutely amazing. I love the imagery, and I could really sense what you were going through. The writing is just spectacular.

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