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Beauty in the ruins

| Friday, December 4, 2015

When I studied abroad in Argentina last spring, my program immersed me into the resplendent culture and city of Córdoba for six months. Landing in Córdoba on Feb. 7, I was a naïve dreamer who had no idea of her place in the world. Looking back, I never expected to accomplish what I did during my time there. It was truly a miracle.

Living roughly 4,900 miles away from my home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and approximately 5,300 miles from school in South Bend, Indiana, by April I remembered sitting in my bedroom, when I felt empty. I sat alone in my host family’s house in pain and heartbreak. Not only had I failed to fulfill my goals while being abroad, but I did not yet feel connected to the people there. Deciding to rid myself of my sour outlook, I devised a plan to do something about it — I had to be bold before I returned home in July, with no regrets. With that said, I had an itch to go somewhere majestic. Somewhere I could marvel at with my own eyes, and soak in the people, the architecture, the food, the smells, the culture and the ruins from the past.

At the whomping age of 22, I needed to travel fearlessly, in whichever direction my sojourning spirit was guiding me. Consequently, my spirit seemed to be leading me towards Peru and I was afraid of what I was asking myself to do; what I was asking myself to risk. Mustering all the courage I had, I took the plunge to “trek Peru.” You see, I chose to go to Machu Picchu because there was beauty in the ruins. Beauty I struggled to understand. More simply, I personally refused to see how bad something was in my life, until it destroyed me. So, why not embrace it and find the roots of a civilization, who had successfully reconstructed their beauty through a refined “brokenness?”

Above all, there is the fascination at Machu Picchu to “find yourself” and to answer the important “questions of life” — whether it is underneath the swaying vines or perched on top of a beetling crag — the rugged masonry of a bygone race will dazzle you. There, I tried to understand the bewildering romance of the ancient builders who, ages ago, sought refuge in this region, like I did. Like the ancient people who built it, I traversed a difficult journey through a deep and winding gorge, stumbling and twisting past overhanging cliffs of incredible heights. Never before had I felt more intrigued and terrified, all at the same time.

Walking up the stone steps of the entrance to Machu Picchu, it was remarkable to think that after being abandoned in 1572, it was not again brought to the world’s attention until 1911. This indicated to me it is never too late to rediscover something: within ourselves, within the world or within one another.

I dedicate this column to those who, in light of exams, lack the motivation to continue on, to those who are currently facing adversity in their personal lives and to the ones who view their impending graduation as a quagmire. I want to encourage you all to not give up. If I have learned anything in South America, it is nunca se rinde — never give up.

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About Chelsey Fattal

Senior at the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary's College. Major in Hydrology - Environmental Geosciences with a concentration in International Development. After studying abroad in Argentina for 6 months (spring 2015), I have also fulfilled a minor in Spanish. Writer for the Notre Dame and Saint Mary's Observer

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