Hey friends! As many of you may know, over the break several of my fellow classmates and I ventured to Peru, with our school Interact Club. We headed out (way too early) on friday morning, and after 24 hours of traveling, made it safely to the city of Cusco. Though, since the elevation there is about 11,200 feet, not everyone was too excited for our arrival. Luckily I felt fine, and was able to take in my surroundings. I really had no idea what to expect, but I ended up loving it! If you step outside the airport, the sky is cluttered with billboards, but as you continue more into the city, you can see hills and green everywhere. In addition, rather than the usual black and white skyscrapers, the buildings are colorful and unique, which was a nice change.
For those who didn’t know, Cusco was once the flourishing capital of the Inca Empire, and is known by many for its fascinating history, and remarkable mix of Incan and Spanish architecture. During our stay, we did get the opportunity to learn a little bit about the culture and visit some of the historical sites such as the Plaza de Armas and of course, the breathtaking Machu Picchu. The usual tourist attractions were really cool, but something I found really fascinating, was observing how the people everywhere we went, made the best of what they had. While there are parts of Cusco that are quite glamorous, the majority of it isn’t so fortunate.. For example, since some places couldn’t afford security, they broke glass bottles and put them on the windowsills, or on top of the walls to keep anyone or anything from coming inside. Also, I noticed how often, rather than making something brand new, like a fence to go around a balcony, they reused old materials like the wooden railing from a staircase, and it ended up looking awesome.
I also saw this a lot during the time I spent volunteering in Peru. Each day, we got the opportunity to go to a girl’s orphanage and hang out with the kids for four or so hours. The girls there currently, are from ages two to eighteen, and were sent there because they either have no one to take care of them, or their family just can’t support them at the time. I remember how shocked some of us were by the condition of their playground, and how little they had. They didn’t have all the games and equipment we were so fortunate to have growing up, but they really did make the best with what they had. Some of them drew game boards on the ground in chalk, and others took turns using a broken hose or net tied around a metal bar as a swing. On the first day, there were large plastic tubes that looked like giant noodles, and for fun, they got in and had us roll them all around the yard. It was amazing how much creativity each of them had. Along with playing with them A LOT, we were able to help them with reading, writing and math, as well as working outside in their greenhouse. Gardening was quite an experience, because the hose had a hole in it and water was spraying everywhere. Though, they came up with this system to spray the water at the ceiling, and have it fall back down onto the plants like rain. A lot of us got excited that they were using biomimicry to solve their problems.
I have been constantly writing and rewriting this blog, because it is extremely hard for me to capture what we did, and how meaningful everything was to me, with my below average writing skills. Signing up for the trip, I expected to be helping and teaching others through my volunteer work, but I didn’t expect to learn as much as I did about myself, and the beautiful city of Cusco. I made connections with girls I will never forget, and overall had a blast! I hope all of you had an amazing break as well 🙂