It has been a whirl wind experience of highs and lows, growth and change. It is finally time to say goodbye to Peru and each other so that we can return to Canada and our regular routines. For many of the participants this trip has been a completely new experience that has helped them to better understand how diverse the world is and what poverty looks like.
When I attended my first Solidarity in Action trip in August 2011, I had never travelled outside of North America so I had little understanding of how drastically different the rest of the world can be from North America. It was a shock for me to see how the large populations of poor people lived and to see the different state of the infrastructure. It was an eye-opening experience for me that was truly transformative but it made it very hard for me to come back home and return to my old routine. What I am trying to say is in my experience the culture shock that participants experience during the trip is most severe when returning home.
When I went on my first trip I experienced quite extreme culture shock upon my return to Canada. I was very emotional and I began to withdraw from hanging out with friends and family. I think this was due to the lack of understanding that friends and family had about the experience. I didn´t realise at the time that they had not experienced what I had so therefore it would be impossible for them to be as passionate as I was or truly understand what I was feeling. It is important for participants to remember that family and friends are there for them and they are trying to help them with the reintegration process but they have not experienced what the participants have so they can not be expected to ask all the ¨right¨ questions that participants may want them to. On the side of friends and family of participants they must be patient and cognizant of the process that the participants are undergoing. It is a good idea to research more into understanding culture shock because it affects everyone differently and lasts for different durations of time.
Things for participants to remember… you have a huge support system of 30 plus people to talk to if you are having any issues. Make sure to try to maintain the friendships that you created in Peru because they will be very rewarding relationships.