The first time I went back felt like the first time I’d ever been there. Having moved from Peru to the US when I was only three, I had no memory of it, just images from pictures and shaky video footage that I occasionally tried inserting in my mind, as if that alone would help bring some recollections to surface. But I wanted more than anything to be a part of it, to reclaim it as my own. Because I’d never had a chance to remember my birthplace, my parents made sure to never let me forget it. They taught me its history, nourished me with traditional dishes, made sure the language didn’t become foreign to my tongue.
The first time I went back I was twelve. I was an old romantic. In Spanish, we call our homeland mi tierra, my earth, and I wanted to always have it near me. So I took a small bag and filled it with dirt from the backyard of the house my mother grew up in. The soil was black and moist; it stuck in clumps to my fingers. I remembered seeing a picture of me eating dirt as a baby, and wondered if the particles I held now came from the same place as they had ten years ago.
Years later, the dirt was dry, cracked and gray. I must’ve thrown it out because I can’t find it anywhere. By then, I’d had many trips back to Lima. Each time back I’ve had the strangest sensation, of being from there, but not of there, at least not completely. I’ve moved around so much by now and redefined the idea of home so many times that I often feel a bit scattered. I go back and find pieces of myself only to realize I’ve left others back home. I wonder if we can ever truly be complete in one place.
The last time I went back to Peru was this February, and I took pictures and wrote every day in a journal (yes, by hand!) because again, I wanted to take bits of it back with me. I spent precious time with family I hadn’t seen in years, and precious time alone at the beach, fighting with the waves or reading in the sand. I thought I’d get home and write about my trip immediately on the blog, but months later I realize I’m still taking it all in, missing and longing for it in ways I can’t completely express.
But I did take one picture that I always intended to post here. Walking along the beach with my sister, I thought it’d be fun to write a message in the sand (similar to what Julia Munroe Martin did on her blog). I wrote “Hi from Peru!” and before I could snap the picture, the waves had washed over it, leaving only half a message captured.