Just over one month ago, my peers and I packed our bags and left for Peru. Giddy with nervousness and excitement, we boarded the plane and began our journey. Twenty hours later, we arrived in Cusco. A bus was waiting for us at the airport to take us to Amauta School where we would meet our host families. Sitting on the bus, just seeing the city of Cusco for the first time, was surreal. Cusco was like no other place I have traveled to before. The bright crowded buses, bustle of people, and street vendors nestled in the gorgeous mountains blew my breath away.
Amauta School is located in the older and more historic district of Cusco. It’s where you’ll find the cobble sidewalks and narrow streets with countless historic landmarks. We walked into the school on the first day where we met our host families. Lily DeMovellan and I stayed with a 30 something- single mom named Melisa and her 4-year-old son, Fabian. The first day we met her, we used the formal greeting ‘usted’ to greet her. “No,” she said, “Use tu. For the next two weeks, we are going to be friends.” And that’s exactly how I would describe our relationship with our host mother. She was kind and fun, but treated us like adults. We played games with her and Fabian, and we helped to cook and clean the dishes while we made conversation.
Every weekday, we headed to the school where we took Spanish classes. Over the course of the two weeks, we completed 40 hours of classes. In the classes, we learned a lot of grammar and practiced applications in conversations with the amazing teachers at Amauta. And on the weekends we went on excursions. One of these was Machu Picchu. It was incredibly breathtaking. The view was amazing and to think an advanced civilization was standing in the same soil where we stood was mind blowing.
But the most unforgettable part of the whole trip was volunteering. Lily and I worked with the project San Nicolas Urraca. Everyday, around 20 to 30 kids would come to play with the other kids. One kid told me about fruit he sold on the street that day, another about baskets she made with her mother, and many about the school days they had come from. But when the kids came together it was all pure laughter and happiness. When we first walked in and introduced ourselves, the kids were very warm. They gave us hugs and included us in their games. A lot of times, we walked outside and drew on the sidewalk and played hopscotch. Other times we played cards or puzzles inside. Their favorite activity was to go to the park, where we went once a week. They rode tall slides and jumped on the trampolines. Other times, we gave them piggy back rides or played tag. Over the two weeks, we bonded with all the kids. We learned about their families, their friends, and their favorite colors and activities. At the end of the day, they always gave us hugs and asked when we’d see them again. Seeing the kids have so much joy over things that we, in the states take for granted, was eye-opening. It was an experience that I’ll never forget. At the end of the two weeks, Machi, the woman who ran the project, spoke with us in Spanish. “You must remember to be grateful for what you have,” she said. “Be grateful to have opportunities in the States that many others do not have. You have been privileged. But in the end, remember that we are all still children. We all have hearts that beat, lungs that breathe and cuts that bleed.”
The trip to Peru was an incredible experience. While my Spanish improved immensely, I learned much more than just the language. I learned about different people, a different culture, and different ways of life. I cannot thank everyone who made this trip possible enough. Thank you for giving me an experience I’ll never forget. Cusco, until we meet again.