Written by Jessica Morton - Peru 2008 Year Out Volunteer
First off I would like to say sorry for how bad I´ve been with the emails, I never seem to get around to sending them often.
I can´t remember where I last left off so sorry if I end up repeating myself. The last few weeks have been great with the group officially starting our weekend trips last Thursday night. We all went into Cusco Thursday night for a great Thai dinner before going to bed early to be ready for the 10hour bus ride to Puno. The bus trip was long and not very comfortable but interesting to say the least. We had a few stops on the way to Puno which were amazing, we stopped at some ancient Inca ruins which still to this day stand tall and look as they did hundreds of years ago. Once we arrived in Puno the altitude sickness started to set in for both Izzie and I, we were at around 4100m above sea level and there seemed to be a distinct lack of oxygen! It´s funny to see the effect it has on all of us, easy tasks such as carrying your bag into your hotel room leaves you gasping for air by the second floor!
Saturday was the highlight for all of us I think, we went to the floating islands in Lake Titicaca. It was unbelievable to see how these people lived, they actually live on islands made out of reeds. They some how manage to anchor the base of the island to the bottom of the lake so they don´t float away and put layer after layer of reeds on top until you can safely walk on the top without falling through. Although having said that I swear there were a few weak spots we tried to avoid while on the island. The people were lovely and dressed us up in traditional clothes and showed us all of their handicrafts - needless to say there was a substantial amount of money spent!
Saturday night we spent on an island with a host family which was an experience not to be forgotten. Izzie and I were put with a family we believe lived the furtherest up the massive hill on the island, it took us about 45mins to walk to their house thanks to our altitude sickness. The families had a party organised for us at around 8pm which was great. We all dressed up in the local clothes and spent the night dancing to traditional music being played by a live band. It was heaps of fun but once again we had to sit down between dances as we were all finding ourselves out of breath!
Sunday we went to another island that is fully self contained with no police needed as the last crime was committed in the 1880´s. It was interesting to see how these people lived on the island with various different codes of conduct if you will to ensure life on the island was peaceful. Sunday night was not so nice however, we left Puno at 9pm on a night ride bus and didn´t arrive in Cusco until 4am. We then had to catch another bus back to Urubamba and arrived in the main square at 6, as you can imagine we were all home in bed for the rest of the day.
I´m not back in Urubamba for long because on Friday Izzie, Sair and I head off to Choquequirao (the Last Inca Refuge). We´ve been told it´s one of the hardest treks you can do in Peru so naturally we´re all a little bit apprehensive. Still as Izzie pointed out it will be a real achievement when we get to the top (let´s just hope we have enough energy to enjoy it once we get there)!
Teaching has been going well so far, the elder kids are really starting to remember the stuff we´re teaching them which is a great feeling. The younger years however are difficult, I think the novelty of having us here is starting to wear off and it makes it close to impossible to keep there attention for more than 5mins in any class. The other day I found myself running after three kids that decided our P.E class wasn´t as fun as running away from the teacher, the most frustrating thing was I couldn´t form Spanish words in my mind to tell them off! Still that was a one off and things have been sorted out since then. The construction work has come to a bit of a hault though due to the weather which has been a little frustrating but the weather is looking up and I think we are going to really get into it over the next few weeks. We´re painting the poles that support the fence with rust proof paint and organising the wire to be attached soon, after that´s all done we can really start to focus on the health program for the kids.
Time is flying by over here, this coming saturday marks the half way point until I arrive home after the placement. The group has bonded really well; I think we´re all glad that it´s a small group unlike last year when they had 30 or so, it´s given us all a chance to get to know one another and has really helped us work well together as a group. We have two groups for teaching which has worked out well with the timetable and with people being sick throughout the placement.
Anyway I´m a little concerned the computer may crash before I send this off so I´ll stop now.
Hope all is well with everyone back at home and I´ll be sure to send through more updates.