Peru and Bolivia - Ryan Kost

Wrinkles

"Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been." Mark Twain is one of my favorites; but he falls short here. Wrinkles indicate a life lived. They are products of smiles, tears, anger, hardship, grief, joy, love and the range of emotions only gained through experience.

This woman forever captivates my spirit. She was sitting in Amaru, Peru drinking homemade chicha (corn beer). By best buddy Yieber and I approached her and started chatting. Quechua being Yieber's first language provided us direct insight and instant connection. She spoke of a arduous life lived at high altitude, working in the fields, being a mother, a grandmother and just embodying what the human experience is for so many campesinas living in the high Andes. She even scolded me for not taking the glass of chicha with two hands and informed me, I wouldn't be having many babies if I continued accepting with one hand. Her countenance explains it all. Authentic. Straight forward. No complaints about being poor or living such a difficult, physical life....just a matter of fact attitude with some sagely advice intermixed.

Here I sit, aware of my privilege. Consciously grateful to be able to travel to such places and hear other's experiences. The takeaway... infinite. I crave these interactions. Profound gratitude resides in my very core. I have fostered incredibly special relationships with people around the world who grew up very different than I did. They have shaped my perspectives and left an indelible sense of curiosity and compassion for the human spirit. I look up to those who have persevered through true adversity with a sense of dignity and generosity that is utterly remarkable and admirable.

Those wrinkle aren't solely evidence of myriad smiles. They are boundless emotions worn on a face of a life lived. I hope one day, I'll have as many wrinkles.

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