by Yazan, Civic Semester Participant
Whenever I’m faced with a cup of tea, I am immediately transported to my childhood. I cannot seem to shake the many scoldings I had for my abnormal sugar intake. I would always scheme to find ways to sneak in a tablespoon or two, aside from the one I was already permitted. That ephemeral feeling of an explosion of taste, a racing heart, and the exhilarating inkling invoking in me the power to do anything was what I thrived to pursue. Until one day, I was met with my mother’s stern words that would promptly change my thought process, “Too much sugar is bitter; too much of anything is bitter.”
Now, more than 10 years, 12,562 kilometers, and three flights from home, I marvel at the wonderfully clear skies that happily dominate Peru with a cup of sugarless tea by my side and a life governed by those 5 words relayed to me as an 8 year old. I take my wisdom with me on our many journeys and visits to this foreign land, always keeping an eye on maintaining this sacred balance. But it wasn’t until shortly after that where I realized the infallible ideology, instilled in me, might be in fact imperfect. It all started off at one of our first organization visits, Sacred Valley Health, when we were met with several young and brave women from diverse backgrounds situated in Peru to spread awareness about rising health issues within the region. An impeccable mission statement, a group of women eager to make change, and an attentive group of naive students trying to take as much as they could––I was ecstatic. Blood gushing, pen in hand, and eyes fully locked in. 5 minutes into the presentation, they revealed the staggering statistic, “More than 40% of children in Peru suffer from anemia.” My stomach sank, but I persevered. 10 minutes into the presentation, they revealed the financial struggles and burdens of having to run a clinic with minimal funding and minimal workforce and solely a vision; my right hand relaxed and the pen that was once held intensely fell freely into my notebook. 15 minutes into the presentation, they revealed the lack of aid and support of the Peruvian government for their initiative, thus only aggravating the burden on their shoulders. The epiphany only hit me, as we dashed through the rugged roads of the Andes: Those 7 women are the backbone of spreading healthy and sanitary habits to combat systemic issues within their region despite the lack of funding, despite the increasing rates of the issues their facing, and despite the impediments set out by the government. “Too much,” I said in my head––I grew bitter.
The following week, we went on another organization visit and the cycle of the first was repeated. I felt like a victim of a Monet painting, bound to the chains of short lived devotion and infatuation and sentenced to eternal bitterness at the gruesomeness, injustice, and inequality of the world we live in: “Too much,” I said. That feeling incubated for a few weeks until our most recent visit––The Llama Pack Project. An organization dedicated to restoring the Llama back to its Andean glory since its replacement by mules ever since the Spanish conquest. The natural cycle of its preceding organizations was not broken and inevitably we were left with more questions than answers; I grew bitter. However, during my conversation with the founder shortly after, she underscored the importance of remembering both the sweet and the bitter. She called out the government for their incompetence, she scorned the Spaniards and all their colonial remnants, but she also highlighted the impact they are having in resituating the Llama back into Andean communities. With all the bitterness came action. Not fleeting (sugar high) action, but raw and enduring action. Weirdly enough, I was taken back to my favorite show and the line, “The North Remembers”. And now I spur on by embracing the bitter rather than escaping it.
By allowing my stomach to sink, by permitting my heart to race, by remembering and eternalizing the “too muches” of the world and by allowing that naive kid to explore the consequences of dabbling into more sugar than he can take, I am ready to finally enact change.
I remember, the North Remembers and so should you.
PS: Mama I swear I am cutting down on sugar. This is all metaphorical <3