Spanish Class at ECELA

While we lived in Cusco we took classes at a small Spanish school called ECELA, from an amazing teacher named Erik. We had so much fun and were always laughing in class. It was just the two of us and since we really have no real use for Spanish, we decided that sometimes we would have class at restaurants where we could just practice instead of studying grammar. We highly recommend this school, which ended up being more professional and organized than the large-scale Maximo school in town.

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Our Homestay

I haven’t said much about our homestay, but I wanted to take some time to mention how great they were. We lived with our host mom, whose daughter, son-in-law, and two beautiful grandchildren were visiting for the summer. We lived with other students and volunteers from Sweden, Germany, Belgium, Brazil, and America. We had so much fun and have truly made some amazing friends that we hope to visit in Europe soon. We also had a housekeeper Toti, a handyman Yorky, and our hostmom’s oldest son Renzo the racecar driver was our roommate on the 2nd floor.

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Awanacancha: Learning the Process

On our first few days we learned how the yarn was dyed using natural materials, including a parasite that grows on cactus, which produces one color naturally, and several others when activated with salt or lemon. Then we learned how to turn the wool into yarn by hand using a spool. And finally we learned how to weave the yarn into something using handmade looms.

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Awanacancha: Llamas

Our next volunteer project was called Awanacancha and its main mission was to preserve the culture of the Andean Highlands by raising llamas, and alpacas, to then turn into beautiful handmade goods, woven by the local communities, some projects taking months to complete. Every morning we cleaned the llamas’ cages with our boss, Lady, who was 16 years old. Then we fed the animals, and after that we learned about the process of turning wool into yarn into blankets.

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Our Favorite Places in Cusco

Our time in Cusco has come to an end, and I feel like I haven’t said much about our favorite things in this beautiful city. We spent most of our time at our volunteer projects and Spanish class, but towards the end of the stay we tried to see as much of the city as possible. These were our favorite things, minus several of the ones I have mentioned in other posts:

Chaski Shoes: We all had boots handmade from our choice of fabrics and suede, by the happiest Peruvian I met. If you like them, don’t worry because we are going to start importing them for all of our friends soon!

Jack’s Cafe: For a little taste of America we would head over to Jack’s for huge portioned breakfasts and coffees. My favorite was the huevos rancheros, but the pancakes, and vegetarian breakfast was great too. Oh and they sell breakfast all day.

The Meeting Place: This was an interesting cafe because all of the profits are donated to charity and all the workers are volunteers. They make huge belgian waffles with various accompaniments and offer a comfortable setting for hanging out in San Blas.

La Boheme: A wonderfully quaint creperia that along with crepes served tea infusions, amongst beautiful decor.

La Valerina: This cafe had amazing brownies and drinks, with a very fancy, and clean environment.

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Niño Fiesta

Our first volunteer project came to an end of a few weeks ago and we threw a party for the children with cookies and sodas, and small presents for their good behavior. We both miss the kids very much and hope that they are continuing to have a good time at their summer program.

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Cristo Blanco, Cuy, Cabellos

In staying with our hiking streak, Diana and I woke up early again on Monday, and walked all the way to the Jesus Christ statue here in Cusco. We then discovered a small house, or maybe a restaurant, that rented us horses to ride around, which proved to be horrifying and we hardly made it an hour. On our way back into town we stopped by the house-restaurant, saw that their kitchen was full of live guinea pigs, regretted ever eating one, and then went and had a big glass of Chicha, beer made from corn.

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Hike to the Incan Caves

The couple that also lives with us organized a hike to some Incan caves last Sunday afternoon through Loki Hostel. We hiked for around five hours total, stopping to explore the caves, which in the dry season you can actually walk through.

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Tia’s Last Morning

One of our housemates is from Germany and on her last weekend here, we decided to have as much fun as possible so when her flight was switched from Saturday to Sunday we decided to wake up at 4 am on Sunday and walk to the 6am mass in the main square, Plaza del Armas. It was an enchanting service, and even though we didn’t understand everything we were able to grasp a lot of the sermon, and were truly moved. After mass we walked to Jack’s Cafe in San Blas, had hot chocolates and cappuccinos, and a delicious breakfast, before sending Tia on her way.

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Our Spirit Animal, Pedra

One of the most memorable days was last week when we were walking home from school. We had been walking for only about ten minutes when I looked down and realized there was a dog following us. We didn’t touch, or feed, or really talk to the dog much, and thought it would go away, but it continued to follow us for over an hour. We even went into the supermarket to try and lose it, and it was waiting for us when we came outside. Oh and to make matters worse, our little dog, was in heat, so every time she passed a male dog, the other dog began chasing her and trying to make puppies. Needless to say, we felt like her security guards/mothers, and also changed the name we had originally given it from Pedro to Pedra given the circumstances.

When we arrived home, we showed our host-mom the dog, explained the problem, and began thinking of solutions. We could definitely take her to the shelter that our host-mom’s friend runs, but first we had to make sure that she didn’t already have a home. [side note: dogs here roam freely in the streets during the day without leashes or collars and are usually let into the houses at night.] We hopped into the trunk of our host-mom’s daughter and son-in-law’s SUV with their dog, and their daughters, and retraced our steps back to where we had found Pedra. Pedra was very scared and was laying on our laps, but suddenly realized she was in a car, got very excited, looked out the back window, proceeded to get motion sickness, and then threw up on the floor. We finally arrived at the place she had started following us, and got out of the car thinking we would have to go knock on people’s doors and ask if she was theirs, but our new friend seemed to recognize where she was, and ran off into the alleys. We look for her everyday, but still haven’t seen her again.

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Free Walking Tour

It was our housemate Tia’s last day, so we decided to pack it full of as many things as possible. One of these was the free walking tour offered in town. Even though we had already been here for two weeks, we thought we could use a refresher course on the city, and so we joined a tour on a Saturday and visited several restaurants, shops, and landmarks. Our guide Luis was full of energy, very fun, and showed us some great places we hadn’t been to before. We even got to try playing some new instruments at his friend’s house!

After the tour we went out to lunch, visited San Pedro market, and got hot chocolates at a small cafe our teacher had reccommended.

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A Buddhist Lecture, Salsa Lessons, and Drinking

Last weekend we stayed in town and could not have done more. On Friday night a few of us went to a Buddhism, or Budismo in Spanish, lecture, where even though we did not understand the language, we were able to participate in a group meditation and meet some interesting people.

After the lecture, everyone that lives in our home-stay met up at a local bar that teaches salsa lessons for free every night from 9-11pm. Diana got her face painted, and we drove the DJ crazy requesting Beyonce, and Ke$ha, but all in all it was a really fun night, and was much needed after a hard week of school and volunteering.

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Our First Volunteer Project

Our first volunteer project in Cusco, is located a short bus ride away from our homestay. We can’t communicate with the woman that runs the program, and can only sometimes communicate with the children, but we have an amazing time coming up with ideas for the lessons we teach. So far we have had several English lessons, and many art projects; including, painting self-portraits, drawing family-portraits, making animal flashcards in English, and making Valentine’s Day cards. The children come from a small town with dirt roads, and despite the language barrier, have been so much fun!

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Tipòn

We took a local bus out to the small town of Tipon, and walked to the Incan ruins at the top of the hill. Catching a cab at the last minute where you cannot walk any farther. These ruins were especially interesting to me because they were a system of aqueducts that were built to take water to the crops, which are still running today, without any electricity, and no sure sign of where the water actually comes from.

After the ruins, we drove back into town and had our cab driver introduce us to a woman that took us to her “restaurant” where we ate the local delicacy, Cuy, or guinea pig. The pigs are fire roasted outside and served over potatoes and noodles. Many families in these areas raise guinea pigs to eat, and Peruvians generally enjoy them on special occasions.

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