Leah Boucher – Staff Reporter
UMF Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Nicole Kellett, along with her husband, Assistant Professor of Anthropology/Sustainability Coordinator, Lucas Kellett, led a travel course to the South American country of Peru this past May, giving students the opportunity to experience a vastly different culture for eighteen days.
This is the third trip the Kelletts have organized, but this year, they took fifteen students instead of capping the number off at thirteen as they did in 2013 and 2015. On this trip, students were able to visit Lima, the capital of Peru, the off-beaten highland city of Andahuaylas, the Andean mountains, the local community Sacclaya, Cusco, where students visited Inca sites including Machu Picchu, and finally a trip down the Amazon River.
Nicole Kellett always enjoys returning to this country, where she and her husband have performed research and fieldwork, and loves seeing the interactions between students and locals. “ Luke and I always enjoy being able to introduce students to a number of our dear friends in Peru,” said Kellett. “I love seeing our godchildren and other friends walking along holding hands with our students, sitting in their laps, and laughing–really building these cross-cultural connections.”
In fact, these connections with the local people are what stuck with Sarah Jenkins, a senior Elementary Education major who was a member of this trip. “One day, we trekked into the Amazon rainforest and went into an indigenous community where Spanish was their second language,” said Jenkins. “When we arrived on the bus, the whole community was in traditional clothing and put on a welcome ceremony–the kids took us by the hand and danced in a circle with us.”
Another senior in the course, a Secondary Education Social Studies major, Connor Lynch, felt a huge sense of culture shock when arriving in Peru; he had only previously been to Canada and knew little to no Spanish. However, his limited Spanish did not stop him from trying to interact with a local gift shop owner at Huaca Pucllana, a Peruvian archaeological site. “One of my friends was having problems with getting the exact amount of change, so I turned to the owner and said ‘loco’ with my limited Spanish—not knowing that it may be offensive to call someone ‘crazy,’” said Lynch. “The older woman was a bit shocked, but then wagged her finger at me, and we laughed together. It was funny to share a laugh with someone when we could not understand each other’s language but still understood what each other was trying to say.”
Dr. Nicole Kellett is aware that students each have an immense sense of adventure and curiosity as they peruse Peru, and for this year’s trip, she and Dr. Luke Kellett added a new location. “We added a trip to the Amazon rainforest for the 2017 course. This included a four-day three-night adventure during which we visited a native Amazonian community and a wildlife sanctuary, went on boat rides down Amazonian river tributaries, and went on numerous forest walks to learn about the flora and fauna of the Amazon,” said Kellett.
The Kelletts are in the process of putting another travel course together, but nothing is set in stone as of yet. “We typically offer the Peru travel course every two years, but we are also exploring the development of a travel course to the U.S. southwest,” said Kellett. “If that travel course is created, the timeline for the Peru travel course may shift, but we will definitely be offering the course again in the future with minor adjustments.”