Day 1 - Sunday May 8th
Our first impression of Cusco was that it is immensely different to anything we have ever experienced before. The sheer number of mountains surrounding the city was a surprise. As soon as we landed, we were collected by our in-country partner and taken to our hostel which had an amazing of even more Peruvian mountains. From there, we got to know each other over our very first lunch together, prepared by our personal chef, who over the next week made us realise just how amazing Peruvian food is.
Day 2 - Monday May 9th
On the second day, we drove up to the local community of Pumamarca where we would be teaching and where ‘Peru’s Challenge,’ our in-country partner volunteer organisation, has been working for the past ten years. Our in-country partner explained to us the story behind the organisation which inspired us about the work we’re going to be doing during our placement. Next, we visited the community school where we will be teaching. There were around 100 children from kindergarten to Year 6. The school was very colourful, cheery and picturesque, and the best part was that they had three real alpacas as their school mascots!
On Tuesday we had a full-day tour of Cusco city to explore areas such as the Plaza de Armas and San Blas. We were absolutely stunned by the architecture and fascinated by the amalgamation of Inca and Spanish styles. After a long day getting to know the city we would be living in for the next two months, we went home to celebrate the birthday of one of our fellow volunteers. It was then and there that we first experienced an interesting Peruvian tradition - the birthday person is required to take a bite out of the cake first and have their face pressed into it. Needless to say, we all got a bit of a laugh out of it. At night, we went out to celebrate her birthday and discovered how breathtaking Cusco is by night.
Day 4 - Wednesday May 11
This was a relatively relaxing day. We split into three groups for teaching sport, art and English at Pumamarca School. We made lesson plans for the week ahead and enjoyed a calming day at home.
Day 5 - Thursday May 12
We left early in the morning on a bus called the ‘Batman’ for a six hour tour around the ruins in Cusco with our tour guide to the Temple of the Moon, Qe´nqo and Sacsayhuaman. It was a long walk with some difficult climbing involved but it was definitely worth the pain for all of the amazing views of the city and surrounding environment. At Sacsayhuaman, we went through a pitch black tunnel and had a lot of fun on the natural rock formations that were in the shape of slides. It was an exhausting day, but incredibly worth it.
Day 6 - Friday May 13On Friday we had another day at the hostel in order to finalise our lesson plans. That night we also tried a very traditional Peruvian dish: guinea pig. It tasted gamey and not at all like chicken!
Day 7 - Saturday May 14
In the morning, we enjoyed our last breakfast together before heading out to our homestays. We all felt a little nervous to be meeting our families, having lunch together for the first time, trying to communicate in Spanish and seeing where we lived. However we were all really happy with our families and the houses are in an amazing place as we are all close to each other and near bus stops and shops! The families were all so welcoming and nice and made us feel at home straight away. I think it's safe to say we're all very excited for the weeks ahead.