Being here in Tiquipaya settling back into our homestay routines, it feels as if we never left. We have returned with photos, copious amounts of bug bites and closer bonds, but was it real? Did our three week excursion from the Andes to the Amazon actually happen?

We started our journey in the snowy mountains of the Bolivian Andes, where we found unparalleled beauty but a rather familiar landscape. For our group (minus the instructors) the Amazon was a new and mysterious place known only to us through text books and television shows. As we descended on the Camino Del Oro I was lost in a world of flora and fauna unlike anything I had ever seen.

We all came into the Amazon with our preconceived notions, some of which included: the Amazon is hot, buggy, consists of a dense forest and a large muddy river, and it is inhabited by scarce communities. All of these were comfirmed (although it was much hotter and buggier than anticipated), but the most important part of our time in the Amazon was that we learned it was more than just a unique ecosystem and place to look for animals.

When learning about the devastating history of the rubber industry, we saw that the Amazon was a land of trees that not only bled their rubber milk but have witnessed the annihilation of countless indigenous peoples. Suddenly the Amazon was not just a place of rarest beauty but a place of suffering and hardship, a place that cannot be defined by a single story. Although we will never be able to fully understand what these people and this land went through, studying this history gives us access to a laboratory of human experience, and develops our relationship to place. Hopefully as we all continue to travel in our lives, we can visit a place and understand that there is more than meets the eye.