Independence Day in Huanchaco, Peru

March 23, 2010
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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.

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This article has 13 comments. Post your own now!

SunnyRachel said...
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
Carlie S. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 7, 2010 at 2:48 pm
wow, thanks!
Carlie S. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 7, 2010 at 2:42 pm
Thanks guys! I really appreciate the feedback!
MWilliams said...
Apr. 7, 2010 at 1:13 pm
please write more! I want to know more about peru! this is so good
SJohnson said...
Apr. 7, 2010 at 1:07 pm
wow. just wow. this isn't your typical travel story...
Carlie S. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Apr. 7, 2010 at 2:47 pm
Yeah, I try not to write typical travel tales. I find accounts like this more interesting...
nwalter said...
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...
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. 
Carlie1 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Apr. 7, 2010 at 2:58 pm
I thought that I wanted to be like Indiana jones. Working in the dirt and finding artificats isn't as glamourous as it seems
Nrolly said...
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...
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...
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.
Carlie1 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Apr. 7, 2010 at 3:00 pm
thanks! that's what I was trying to go for, to let people know exactly how I was feeling
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