Being rewarded for something you did is always a good feeling. Whether it’s a simple acknowledgement from a teacher for scoring a 100 on a test or a first place trophy for winning the championships soccer tournament, it is nice to know that you have succeeded. However, I truly believe the most rewardful item isn’t materialistic.
A little over a month ago, I went to Cusco, Peru. I spent two weeks living with a host family, taking language courses, volunteering, visiting historical sites, and immersing myself into the Peruvian culture. The experience was rewarding in ways that I will never be able to pay back to the people that helped create this magical feeling. My life is forever impacted, because of Cusco.
While in peru, I roomed with Stella Brex. We lived with a local family who has been hosting foreigners for over two decades. They were extraordinarily welcoming, loving, and kind. The inevitable awkwardness was gone within moments, and from then on we were treated like family. We all ate meals together, told stories and laughed with one another, and created lifelong bonds with our Peruvian parents. Mami and Papi, our parents, created an environment for us to feel safe and comfortable in after a long hard day out on the town.
Part of our language immersion trip was to take classes. We spent 40 hours of our trip in the Spanish classes. Four hours a day, five days a week. The classes were mainly focused on improving our grammatical Spanish. However, we also spent some time focusing on conversational Spanish. In the classroom we were taught through worksheets, games, flash cards, and movies. Outside of the classroom, we would have opportunities to practice our oral and auditory understanding of the language. We would go on trips to the main plaza (Plaza Del Armas), museums (chocolate museum, textile museum, coca museum), markets (El mercado San Pedro), and other places where we could fully dive into Spanish speaking communities. Spanish classes were very helpful in the developmental process of becoming bilingual.
The company that provided us with spanish classes, also organized our volunteer projects. Stella and I worked with the project Colibri. Colibri is a program for children who have parents that sell items on the street. The kids can go to Colibri after school to work on their homework, watch television, play games, interact with one another, and have a snack. Working with these kids was more than just “community service”. We created such strong connections with all the children, it was truly heartbreaking to leave them. The kids didn’t view us as strangers or as their “teachers”, but rather they viewed us as their friends, brothers, sisters, and role models. We were able to make a difference in the kids lives. This difference became apparent when their smile would grow wide when we brought balls or bubble for them to pay with, when we would sit and talk and braid each others hair, when we would paint together, when we figured out the really hard math problem and could finally take a break, when we would high five after someone scored a goal, when we would hug a million times before leaving for the day. Ever since my last day working with the Colibri kids, not a second has gone by that I haven’t thought of them.
The feeling I left Peru with, was like no other. I had felt proud to have made such a difference in the lives of the kids I worked with. I was astonished to see how my Spanish improved by leaps and bounds. But most of all, I was eternally grateful. I was grateful for my family, my teachers, maria, flor, leo, and carlos from Colibri. I was grateful for the numerous ways Cusco has allowed me to grow as a young adult and as a Spanish student. I was grateful for the memories I created. I was grateful for the beautiful sunrises, and chilly night trips to an ice cream parlor. Cusco 2019, an unforgettable trip. Unlike any other. It will be missed.