I’ve just finished my second week in Cusco, and right now I’m cozied up with two sweatshirts and a blanket on my bed to write this post. There are still many places in the world I have yet to travel, but I would say that Cusco, Peru is arguably one of the most difficult to pack for. The days are typically sunny and in the 60s, while the nights are brisk and in the 40s. Though it is currently the dry season, right now it is 45 degrees and raining. While all the extra layers take away some prime real estate in your suitcase, the uniqueness and variety of Cusco make it all the more exciting. Yesterday afternoon, I returned from a 16-hour a bus ride from Ica. Over the weekend, two other volunteers and I traveled to the tiny oasis called Huacachina in the Ica desert, and the small beach town Paracas. Huacachina was unlike anything I had ever seen before; it felt like being on the set of a science fiction movie. The tiny town in the middle of sand dunes attracts tourists for a short stay to experience the unique setting and go sand boarding, which we did as well. After the night in Huacachina, we ventured to Paracas where we visited the beach and toured the nature reserve, learning more about the biodiversity of Peru.
I’m sometimes a little nervous on the way to the orphanage, even after two weeks, but as soon as I get there my fears subside. Today I arrived and all the girls were working on homework, and I sat at the kitchen table and helped any of the girls who needed it. Though they are all around the same age, the girls are at varying learning levels, and it is fun to help them individually with their work. While I expected to have no trouble with a second grade math worksheet, the small differences in formatting and wording of questions made some of the simple concepts seem foreign. The girls were all full of energy after the weekend, and we enjoyed working and playing Go Fish together on a rainy day. There are two other volunteers in the same house as me, and we are planning to bake cookies with the girls on Wednesday. To make everything a bit easier, I will go visit their host house on Wednesday morning to help them with the dough, so we only have to add chocolate chips and bake them with the girls.
I’ve started taking Spanish classes, which are one-on-one conversations with an instructor. So far, they make me think on my feet and force myself to improve my conversations skills, which is what I was looking for. A couple days ago, I was sitting on a bench in the plaza reading, and an older woman sat next to me and starting talking to me in Spanish. Though I could not understand 100% of what she said, I learned all about her son’s unsuccessful marriages and her niece’s journey to the States. The locals generally are friendly and warm, proved by when I dropped my sunglasses down a storm drain and two men went into a nearby shop, retrieved two wooden poles, and grabbed my sunglasses like they were using chopsticks, all without being asked.