As I climbed up the stairs, I underestimated the significance of the next few steps I was taking. I struggled to hoist my luggage up the winding staircase and finally joined the group on the upper level of our massive double-decker bus. I sat down ready to settle in and rest during our 12 hour ride but instead found myself transported by the beauty of the Andes Mountains. The summits weren’t so much blanketed by snow as they were dusted, a foreshadowing of the pastries I would eat in San Juan sprinkled with powdered sugar. The sky was such a perfect and pure blue it seemed part of a drawing from preschool, scrawled out with a crayon labeled with a color I never knew really existed. The clouds framed the mountain tops like a portrait, and I suddenly became the uninvited visitor peering through Mother Nature’s family photos.
For a brief moment I felt unworthy to be in their presence, a peasant bowing before the long, spiraling ancestry of an archaic and almighty god. But as I continued looking out at the Andes I was reminded of my own home. While the massive, bare peaks of South America stood in stark contrast to the lush, gentle slopes of the Blue Ridge, the mountains became a lifeline. The one continuous and constant reminder of home and stability throughout my journey. I felt enveloped by their sloping lines caressing me like a mother’s embrace and comforted by the familiar sight of something larger than myself. Something that had been there years before me, seen by millions of eyes before mine, but yet still had the ability to impress the power of its soul upon mine.
The mountains made me a fortune teller staring out at my future, a rough landscape of highs and lows standing tall across the blank canvas of my surroundings. The curvature would guide me, a mountain climber through life navigating through woes and triumphs making my way to the next stop and then the next, each time continuing on my path to the end that is never in sight. In the coming weeks of my journey, wherever I traveled that clear and endless line where mountain meets sky would follow. A reminder that struggles: the language, the culture, the food, would always be chased by another summit, each one higher than the last: the language, the culture, the food!
The days I felt myself losing oxygen, struggling with the language like a climber stranded at the highest summit gasping for air, I could simply stare out at the peaks and picture my next great victory, using the Argentine slang casually in conversation with my host sister or finding myself craving cookies lathered in dulce de leche like a native. Making my way up the stairs, and then the winding path to the Argentine border, I didn’t notice that I was in the ascent of my next great adventure. But scaling those stairs back down, my treacherous descent onto Argentine soil was marked by a feeling of pure joy that went unexplained at the time but in hindsight was a clear foretelling of the experiences yet to come. And looking up in awe at the snow covered peaks, I could feel them smiling down on me, their history radiating my future and the wisdom my journey would hold.
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