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  • Writer's pictureEmily Breeden

My New Home!

Finally, some time and energy to write a blog post.  I will try to keep this short, but it is going to be tough.  Talk about a sensory overload for the last 3.5 days!!  Hopefully after this post I can just do smaller updates…

I got to Cuzco on Sunday, and it is now Wednesday, and I have felt at home since day one.

The program that InterExchange.org is partners with and I am volunteering with, Maximo Nivel, is FANTASTIC.  They are so well-organized, resourceful, matched me with an AMAZING host family, and placed me in the most incredible little school (in a small farm village outside of Cuzco, called Simataucca) on earth.  Not only that, but they have fun activities every night for their students, volunteers, etc… For example, I did a 2 hour salsa dancing lesson last night for free, with tons of Peruvians and other volunteers.  It was seriously SO much fun, and now I can salsa!!!!  This Friday they are having a (also free) cooking class.  Yippee!

My host family consists of a woman named Maria (“Tuca”), her brother, Victor, and there is another volunteer here from Switzerland.  My “Swisster” (ha, I am so creative sometimes) is such a sweetheart, I am so excited we get to live together.  She is quickly becoming a great friend, and we just met on Sunday!

I studied abroad in Spain 6 years ago and had forgotten a lot, but my Spanish has QUICKLY come back to me here.  To be honest, I have barely spoken much English since getting here.  At my new home, we only speak Spanish.  And even though my swiss-sta knows English, we speak Spanish when we hang out (well, sometimes Spanglish if my brain can’t remember a word or five.)  The only time I speak English is with my lovely new Australian friend who is volunteering at the same school as me for 3 weeks.  She is a trooper… she came here not knowing Spanish, and is taking lessons, but has a great attitude and the kids LOVE her, despite not speaking the same language.  Que bonito!

More about what I’m doing here… Every morning I will be getting up at about 6am and commuting to Simataucca.  The commute is probably about 1-1.5 hours there, and about 1.5-2 hours home (on the way there, I carpool with other teachers… the way home consists of a long walk to the bus stop, waiting for and taking the “Urubomba” bus, then either walking 30 min or taking another bus home from the station).  At the school, I am helping with the following things:  helping kids brush their teeth, sports activities, art/music/creative activities, cooking meals (which so far has been rice and hot milk), and other random things.  Overall, the goal is for the kids learn about hygiene, to read and write, do math, learn how to reuse/recycle, get some hot food in their bellies, and learn to improve their lives at home.

The kids ALL come from families with little to no education, and before/after they come to school they are helping their families with the crops, farm animals, caring for younger siblings or elderly, etc.  It’s no wonder they are always super excited to come see their friends and teachers, learn, and play.  They are seriously the most grateful, sweet kids in the world, and their lives are so unbelievably different than anything I’ve ever seen.  Today, I brought new flavors of toothpaste for them, and they all swarmed me with their toothbrushes cheering, hugging me, sooo excited to try it.  Most of them came back for “seconds” to try another flavor.  Who knew kids could be so excited about brushing their teeth?!

Since I want to go to bed soon I will just summarize the rest of what I’ve learned or seen here:

-Water is very contaminated here; everyone buys huge jugs of water, or fills up buckets from an “Agua de Calidad” truck.  Want ice in your drink??  Forget it… No ice here.

-Hot water with pressure is rare… I am extremely grateful, Tuca’s shower has a gas heater attached to the shower head, so that we can get hot water.

-There are beautiful dogs of ALL breeds here, running around the streets looking for food.  A lot of them are limping or having visible tumors, and it is so sad. 😦

-There are huge trash piles in the streets that the dogs are always digging through.  I seriously wish I could save them all.

-No flushing your toilet paper here!  All toiler paper must be thrown away.

-99% of the cars here are taxis.  You can walk outside any street, any time and have a taxi in 2 seconds.

-The climate is crazy.  In the morning, it is freeeeezing, and I need to wear sweatshirts, a jacket, and scarf and am still cold.  Then, in the middle of the day and the sun is out, it gets REALLY, really hot.  My face (especially nose), forearms, and hands are totally burnt and I have BARELY had my skin exposed.  Then it gets freezing again later in the day.

-The bus system is awesome.  There is a person constantly yelling the name of the next stop, then you have to yell “Baja!” if you’re getting off… They then start yelling “Baja baja baja!!!” so the driver knows to stop… then when someone is getting on that person yells “Sube sube sube!!!” to let the driver know someone is getting on.  It’s NUTS!!!  Also, the buses get so packed the door literally can’t shut… Definitely not for the claustrophobic!!

-“Duck, Duck, Goose” here is “Pato, Pato, Cuy!” which means “Duck, Duck, Guinea Pig”.  I played this today with the kids and it was hilarious.  I haven’t tried Cuy yet but might have to eventually… all the kids love it.

I feel like there are 1,000,000 more things but I am exhausted.  Today (aside from the commute, teeth brushing, reading, etc.) also consisted of playing soccer, volleyball, Pato Pato Cuy, and monkey in the middle with the kids… Time to sleep, so I can do this again tomorrow!!

P.S. my internet is really spotty and slow here, so my apologies if I don’t have pictures, etc. with every post… it takes forever for some reason!

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