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Compone, a town of love and joy



Coming to Compone

The first time I traveled to Compone, in 2018, I was unsure of what to expect. Nonetheless, I was beyond excited to finally have the opportunity to travel to the partner community for whom we had been preparing intervention materials all year! When we first arrived in Peru early that morning, we stayed in a modest hostel in Cusco, the city we flew into. The following morning, bright and early around 7 am, two members of our host family — Anibal, the father, and Elvis, the middle son — came to the hostel with open arms and big smiles on their faces, ready to drive us to their home in Compone, a small town located about an hour away from Cusco.


When we got there, the rest of the family — Marta, the mother, Leo and Anibal Jr, the other sons, and their dog Negra — were all waiting to greet us with big hugs. Though this was the first time most of us were meeting the family, they were so welcoming that it felt like we’d known them for years. The family showed us to our rooms as well as around the house and property. It was very different from what I had expected — an outdoor bathroom, cows, pigs and chickens living in the yard, and seven girls sharing one bedroom. At first I was a little skeptical, but I knew that with all of the love the family had already shown us just within the first few hours, this would be an unforgettable two weeks, and I was ready for every second of it!



Daily life

Our days in Compone were extremely busy. We would wake up around 7 a.m. and come downstairs to a delicious breakfast made by Marta every morning, usually consisting of bread, homemade cheese, tea, and sometimes eggs or avocados. Then we would gather our workshop materials, including posters and props, and walk to the elementary and high schools for our first set of educational workshops. Around 12 p.m., we would walk back home to eat another meal prepared by Marta, then go back to the schools for our second set of workshops or to the local clinic. Around 4 p.m., we would finish the day, come home, and play soccer with our host brothers and their little cousin Aldo until around 7 p.m. when dinner was ready. After dinner, our team would usually head upstairs to reflect, go over the cultural competency handbook, and prepare for the next day of workshops.



The universal language

It was one of the most beautiful things I had experienced, since even though not everyone understood each other’s language, since some of the team didn’t speak Spanish, we were all able to connect with each other through the universal languages of music and dance. Compone had become my new second home.

Though most days followed the same general routine, every moment was unique and created an unforgettable experience. The kids at both schools always greeted us in the most welcoming ways, from hugs, to wanting to take pictures, to playing soccer, or singing and dancing. One of the most unique moments for me was when, after one of the workshops, we had some time left over before we had to go to the next classroom. We asked the students if they had any questions about us or the U.S., and this turned into an extremely memorable cultural exchange. They asked us to sing our national anthem and dance for them. So, we did exactly that — we sang the anthem and all did the Cotton Eye Joe dance, even teaching some of the students who wanted to join us. We also asked them to show us their national anthem and dance in return. Though this was such a simple moment, it was one of the most memorable experiences I had while in the classrooms.



The dancing and sense of community extended back from the school into our host family’s house: On the last day of the trip, we spent the entire morning outside in the front yard playing music and dancing. Teaching each other dances from all over the world, ranging from Peru, the United States, Iran, and the Dominican Republic. It was one of the most beautiful things I had experienced, since even though not everyone understood each other’s language, since some of the team didn’t speak Spanish, we were all able to connect with each other through the universal languages of music and dance. Compone had become my new second home.




Return to Compone

In 2019, I had the opportunity to return to Compone once more. I was beyond ecstatic to have been given the chance to return to my new second home. This time, I knew what to expect and was eager to tell the rest of the team about what an unforgettable three weeks was to follow. That year, we had partnered with the University of Maryland School of Dentistry and had two dental students traveling with us, which made the trip even more exciting due to its expansion through collaboration. When we arrived in Compone this time, I was more excited to rekindle and strengthen the friendships I had formed with the community the previous year. It was such a good feeling to see familiar faces of the students and teachers when we went to the schools again, and to have them recognize me from the previous year. This time, in addition to completing the workshops, we engaged in more cross-cultural experiences. We hosted a “campamento” field day event for the kids, played much more soccer with the students, and they shared some of their talents with us, including one boy who played a traditional Peruvian instrument and performed for us. This experience in particular was very special to me since music has been a part of my life since I was very young. With our host family, this time we spent much more time getting to know them personally. We also helped in the kitchen and even played card games together at night! Aldo, the 8 year old nephew, was very special to me and our friendship had strengthened significantly. This time, he would call up to my room every morning “amigaaaaa!” to play a quick game of soccer before he went off to school for the day.



Seeing the difference in how much our relationships had strengthened from the previous year was truly amazing to me. Completing the workshops with the students is definitely an incredible experience, but the friendships and bonds we formed with the community members is what I will truly hold on to for years to come. Two years have passed since I have been able to return to Compone, but I am as eager as ever to return to my second family and second home.



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