Hi all! I know I’ve made y’all wait far too long for another blog post. But every time I thought about writing one, I would get stuck in the trap of thinking that every post needed to be a long, deep story about how much I’m learning and growing. Don’t get me wrong, I have continued to learn and grow over these last couple of months, and you’ll hear all about it in time, but this post is just for fun; and what’s more fun than ALPACAS!?
My site coordinator, Pam, and I recently went on our winter retreat where we stayed in an Air B&B on the Yair Country Estate near Innerleithen and Peebles in the Scottish Borders. The whole trip was planned in secret, and I slowly learned more and more about what we would be doing and where we were going. I loved the suspense of having the pieces of our trip slowly revealed, but no surprise could top our activity for our first full day: alpaca trekking. I’m not sure I even knew such a thing existed, but just the name alone told me enough to know I would love it.
The next morning, we set out to a small farm where we were met with muddy fields but beautiful sunny skies and a herd of nearly 50 alpacas. Our guide, the farmer who owned the land, introduced us to our personal alpacas for the day, Pearson and Ringo. As we led our new friends on our path through the woods and into the surrounding hills, we learned more about alpacas than I ever thought was possible. I could now tell you how they are bred for color variations, what makes a good quality fleece and scores well at competitions, as well as how alpacas survive in the wild and adapt their bodies to deal with external stress. And, in case any of you are interested, I also learned that alpaca shearing is a surprisingly lucrative career. More than that I learned how the farm used their alpacas, specifically Pearson (my alpaca for the day), to emotionally support elderly people in care homes, facilitate learning with children with Autism, or provide enrichment to children in local schools.
After a nice walk and graze with our two alpacas, we got to walk the fields, meeting the mothers and babies of the herd, and experiencing first-hand the joy and gentleness of these animals we had just learned so much about. In fact, Pam and I had just spent the morning reflecting on the importance of finding joy in everyday, whether in the small moments or big events. By the time we left the farm that afternoon, we were on an alpaca-fueled joy spree, setting the tone for the rest of our retreat.
We spent the next few days visiting castles, walking through the country, exploring quaint villages, and all those other uniquely Scottish experiences I like to brag about. We reflected on what I’ve accomplished in my first 5 or so months as a YAV, as well as the challenges I’ve had to overcome. However, through it all we remembered our first conversation about joy, and I am personally challenging myself to find as many opportunities for joy as I can, with alpaca trekking as my new gold standard.
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