Bienvenidos a Cusco

I have officially completed my first week in Cusco, Peru, and it has been quite a whirlwind!  I managed to depart from JFK with very few delays; another girl in my program was scheduled to take a flight out of JFK only 4 hours after me, and those four hours led to a flight cancellation and lost luggage.  I was really lucky to make it out ahead of the storms encroaching on Florida and the lower section of the East Coast.

Arriving in Cusco on time after managing to avoid incoming storms!

Upon arriving in Cusco, I was welcomed by my program coordinators at the airport.  I felt excited, curious, and a little travel weary, but was ready to start my adventure.  Unfortunately, I encountered a small problem when my program coordinators dropped me off at the apartment I would be staying in… alone on the opposite side of Cusco from the university I am attending.  This development was somewhat overwhelming and stressful; the apartment didn’t even have running water when I arrived.  Up until that point, I had been told that I would be staying in the university dorm-style housing with other international students two blocks from campus and two blocks from the main square, the Plaza de Armas.  I have to admit I was really intimidated to live by myself far from all the other students in the program for six weeks, and was unaware why this housing change had occurred.  I was also concerned that living on my own would make me miss out on some of the authentic experiences and spontaneous conversations which I had travelled to Peru to experience.  Luckily, my program coordinators sensed that I was uncomfortable with this new housing, supported me throughout my first few days, and ultimately arranged for me to move in with one of the program’s host families for the remainder of my trip!  I was inexpressibly grateful that they helped me navigate this bumpy start to my trip and that my host family was so welcoming in opening their home to me.  As they say, all’s well that ends well! And I am really excited to get the opportunity to stay with a host family and put my conversational skills to the test.

The Plaza de Armas: only one block away from the Universidad San Ignacio de Loyola, where I am studying

From the moment I arrived in Peru, I was taken aback by how supportive and welcoming everyone I encountered was.  I have been repeatedly amazed by how often people go out of their way to provide for and ensure the comfort of their families and others.  If not for the major emphasis placed on family and hospitality here, I might still have been in an apartment on the other side of the city.

Sandro, Tania, Joaquin, and Gabriela, my host family, are some of the most inspiring people I have ever met.  Their effusive generosity was evident after only briefly meeting them.  I am so looking forward to spending the summer here and learning about them and from them.  I especially love interacting with Joaquin, 12, and Gabi, 7.  Gabi frequently acts as my profesora, teaching me new words for objects around the house and keeping me up to date on her favorite shows.  Joaquin is always quick to correct me when I mix up a word or conjugate something incorrectly.  They have both helped me really improve my understanding of different colloquialisms and improve my confidence when speaking.  Also, I frequently get the chance to repay the favor by helping them with their English homework or telling them about exciting things back home.  Gabi and I were watching the news one morning when I first arrived, and she was elated to learn all about the royal wedding.  Telling Gabi about the royal wedding and the first American princess is a sweet memory that has become one of my favorites from my time here.  I really enjoy these opportunities we have to learn from each other in fun and quirky ways.

There is so much to do in Peru and we hit the ground running immediately.  On our first free day here, a group of us from my program hiked over 12 miles to a variety of archaeological sites right outside of Cusco.  In one day we were able to visit Tambomachay, Puka Pukara, Saqsayhumán, Christo Blanco and Q’enqo, as well as some of the surrounding towns.  It was an unbelievable day and it made me even more excited for all of our adventures to come.  It is amazing to be in a place so rich in history, I often find it hard to fathom how old some of the ruins I am visiting are and the history of the peoples and cultures that inhabited Cusco.  Fun fact: I learned that Puka Pukara, a Quechuan name for one of the sites we visited, means “red, very red fortress.”  The Incans most likely named this military structure as a result of the pigmentation of the red rocks used to build it.  I wish we named more of our sites like this: red, very red fortress.

An amazing view of Cusco from Q’enqo, my favorite of the archaeological sites we visited

Even after only a short week, I can feel my comfortability speaking Spanish growing.  I have caught myself thinking in Spanish about the tasks I need to complete throughout the day or places I want to see.  This switch happened so fast, I can only imagine where I will be at the end of this program.  I start each day with a 4-hour advanced Spanish grammar & writing class at 7am, so two developments are probable: I will be waking up quite early and hopefully giving Joaquin less opportunities to correct me on my conjugating skills.

My time in Cusco is flying by, I cannot believe I’ve already finished my first week.  I am super excited to see what these next five weeks will hold and can’t wait to share it here.