I am a coastal summer baby, I am a magic act. Nails sunset orange, hair stiff from salt, the days slip by and my skin constantly blooms deeper shades of pink like a photo in the darkroom: who knows where color will splash, what shapes will emerge with enough patience and prayer? Here, the sun comes and goes with frequency, but when it’s out it is as warm and strong as the arms that used to wrap my grateful, shivering little 8-year-old body towel-tight. It would be impossible for me to disassociate warmth from being tucked in, from being secure and content.

My hands smell like char from the burnt piece of cardboard I was using to light the oven pilot, though I have given up and instead opened a bottle of Chilean wine (Peruvian is, sadly, far too sweet). Much of this city is in a similar state as my apartment: well taken care of, but ancient—on the verge of being obsolete. I can’t say it isn’t charming, however. Why does retro ever have to regress? May your scripty fonts and cool color palettes live on forever.

Life in Lima isn’t too far of a stretch from life anywhere else; you acclimate to the oddities—to the incessant honking and suicidal traffic; the universal, resolute ban on toilet paper in the toilet; the hazy tint of polluted atmosphere that invariably accumulates from a population 9.5 million strong and hemmed in by mountains—and then continue on in the regular, upward pursuit of being a better (or perhaps just happy?) human. You learn to boil your water as quickly as you learn enough Spanish to get by in a city that has neither clean taps nor English speakers.

Lately, I hum an unbroken tune of appreciation, a sustained note of acknowledgement. It’s remarkable how different your headspace is when your clothes live in drawers instead of packing cubes. Even two weeks in, the roiling pot of life calms to a manageable simmer and things become more clear. I am continuously reminded that I have, indeed, passed some of the lines I drew for myself, and that I am, perhaps, a version of the woman I’ve always wanted to be after all. Even little things take my breath away sometimes. I also know that I have never gotten anywhere single-handedly, and that I am unequivocally lucky. It’s possible that I am repeating old sentiments, but I promise you, the view from this side does not get stale.

I like the grind, the in and out of days. Traveling certainly allows for the reinventing of self; living a daily life puts a patent on the new you, if you want it to. And gee wiz, do I ever want it to. I take advantage of a quotidian existence by tucking fragile, fair-haired hopes into the folds of my free hours. My time here has, and will continue to have some major drawbacks, but I never expected perfection when I took this internship; I wished only for progress. The fact that I might get friendship under a golden sun is as sweet and unexpected as the summer in January.