Reflecting on My Many Adventures

My 6 weeks in Peru were equally rewarding and challenging.  My program showed me how crucial immersion experiences are for the language acquisition process.  I don’t think it is possible to really become fluent in a language without fully immersing yourself in the language and engaging with a different culture.  I see a huge difference in my ability to speak and understand Spanish following my SLA experience, but I also now have a greater understanding of where I can improve.  I think this is one of the best takeaways of my program: I not only know a lot more, but have a stronger appreciation of what I don’t know and how to proceed to fill these gaps.

I definitely achieved two of my language learning goals, but have to continue working towards the third.  My 4-hour daily grammar class really improved my ability to utilize complex verb tenses while speaking (thank goodness).  This rigorous course was one of the most beneficial components of my program and helped transform my speaking abilities.  Consequently, it helped me achieve my second goal of conversing confidently with native speakers on various topics.  I also have to thank Sandro for helping me accomplish this goal since he was always so willing to teach me new topics and vocabulary.  I still need to work to improve my ability to utilize academic sources in Spanish, but I think that this is a skill I can acquire through my classes and my work as a research assistant.  My SLA experience has allowed me to achieve numerous goals and has prepared me to pursue many others as I continue my academic career.

Universidad San Ignacio de Loyola: my school for the 6 weeks!

My biggest advice to people preparing to go abroad: make sure before you go that you are aware of which foods to avoid.  Be careful what you are eating!  It is so tempting to jump right in and try all the new foods, but I’d advise being cautious.  Food and water-borne illnesses are a quick way to hinder your ability to enjoy your experience.  It’s essential to strike a balance between being careful and pushing yourself outside your comfort zone.  When I was in Peru, I was very diligent about avoiding drinking the water and eating certain foods, but still made sure to try the local delicacies.  Despite my best efforts I still managed to get really sick for a large portion of my trip.  What I learned through this experience was that it is important to try and avoid risky foods, but sometimes it really just comes down to luck.  Many people in my program were sick for short periods throughout our trip and this is unfortunately a common occurrence when traveling abroad.  Luckily, there are easy ways to treat these sicknesses and I wouldn’t let this possibility deter me from travelling again in the future.  For anyone preparing to go abroad, I think it is necessary to identify any risks associated with your travel and prepare as best you can.  But it is also important to recognize that sometimes trips don’t pan out exactly as we hope and that any struggles are just part of the adventure and not detrimental to the overall takeaway of the trip.

What I would recommend to people applying for the SLA grant is to choose a country that will push you outside your comfort zone; somewhere where you will experience a little bit of culture shock and learn to adapt.  Initially, I was planning to apply for a grant to study in Spain, but was urged by one of my professors to explore other options and consider Peru, a country that was not previously on my radar.  I am so grateful that she persuaded me to pursue a different path and guided me towards a more unfamiliar and daunting destination.  This was some of the best advice I have received to date and I hope to encourage other people to consider this same recommendation in their SLA experience.

After I got back from Peru, I began volunteering regularly at a shelter for women and children.  I was the only person working at the shelter who knew any Spanish, and after my trip to Peru I felt much more confident in my ability to speak in Spanish while interacting with the women.  It was exciting to test out my Spanish in a setting outside of the classroom; something I hadn’t previously been able to do. This experience really showed me the importance of learning a language and its ability to break down communicative barriers and bring people together.  It also reminded me that it is essential to engage in conversation as often as possible to maintain the improvements I made in Peru.  Even just a few weeks after leaving Peru, I was already starting to feel a little rusty while speaking, but quickly made efforts to stop this regression.  I am excited to spend next spring semester in Toledo, Spain to really solidify my grasp on the language.  After only 6 weeks in Peru I see immeasurable progress in my Spanish and cannot imagine where I will be after a full semester abroad.

My SLA grant provided me with one of the most formative experiences of my academic career.  It showed me the importance of exploring new places and experiencing new cultures.  It helped me break outside of my comfort zone and grow personally.  I learned to embrace the risks of independent travel and take any obstacles along the way in stride.  I truly feel that this experience has helped me build a strong foundation for my future academic and professional goals.  I am inexpressibly grateful for the SLA program and all of the people that made this experience possible for me.  It was one of the most formative and gratifying experiences of my life.

A Bittersweet Final Day in Cusco

My adventures in Cusco truly did not end until I boarded my plane to New York.  My final day in the city commenced with 7am mass at the cathedral in the Plaza de Armas.  The beautiful cathedral is the focal point of the city center and I had admired it throughout my trip.  It took until my final hours in the city for me to finally experience Sunday mass in the cathedral.  The breathtaking mass was of course led in Spanish, the first Spanish mass I had ever attended, and I was excited to realize I could follow along and fully understand the priest’s homily.  Sometimes I struggle to focus and fully understand during English masses so this was a really exciting feat.

My last day in Cusco also happened to be the day of Inti Raymi, a city-wide celebration of the Incan sun god (Inti).  The celebration commenced at Qorikancha where hundreds of performers danced in worship of the sun god.  I was amazed by the volume of people and the coordination of this performance.  Even after consulting my host family, we still couldn’t figure out how all of the performers learned their routines and formations without being able to rehearse at Qorikancha beforehand.

The Inca making his way from Qorikancha to the Plaza de Armas during Inti Raymi

From there, the performers proceeded to the Plaza de Armas, followed closely by all of the spectators.  The entire city center was shut down for this celebration and the waves of people trailing the progression dominated the streets.  The celebration in the Plaza de Armas was followed by another movement of all the performers and spectators to Sacsayhuaman.  During Incan times, the culmination of the festival at Sacsayhuaman included human and animal sacrifices to worship the sun god.  The modern continuation of Inti Raymi has of course done away with the human sacrifice component.  However, the reenactment of an animal sacrifice is one of the central aspects of the celebration.

The excitement that permeated the city leading up to and during Inti Raymi was infectious.  Everyone from Gabi to Abuela waited in anticipation for the celebration; on my way to mass at 7am that morning, the streets were already lined with people waiting for the 9am start.  It was amazing to see how strong the influence of Incan culture still is on the city and people of Cusco.  Their connection with traditions of the past was inspiring, and unlike anything I’d seen in the US.  Looking back, this was one of my favorite aspects of life in Cusco.  The city is now heavily Catholic, but the strong influence of Incan culture and religion is undeniable.

My view of Qorikancha at the start of Inti Raymi.  Look at the crowds!

I am thankful that I got to spend my final day in Cusco as I did.  My early start to the day helped me make the most of my final hours in such an amazing city.  The ability to see Inti Raymi firsthand was the best concluding experience I could have imagined.  It really helped solidify my understanding of the historical significance of the city I had spent the last 6 weeks in.  The goodbyes with my host family were the hardest part of my final day, but I’m still holding out hope that I’ll be able to visit Cusco in the future and see them again.  I am blown away by how fast my time in Cusco went but am thankful for all of the experiences I had and people I met.  In terms of my language acquisition process, I know undoubtedly that this trip was a pivotal moment for me in terms of my conversational abilities and confidence in the language.

After Dinner Debates

I was really interested to hear more about my host family’s views of America.  They were in an interesting position to weigh in, seeing as they had been hosting exchange students for more than 10 years.  The majority of these students were from the US, but over the years they also hosted a significant number of students from other Latin American countries.

I decided to ask the members of my host family about their opinions of America in the middle of my stay.  At this point, there was also an exchange student from Brazil, Mayara, staying with us.  Throughout the course of Mayara’s stay, I had engaged in many impromptu conversations with her and my host father, Sandro, about politics, specifically about the immigration policies of Peru and the US.  As a result, I already had an idea of their opinions of the US, but wanted to know more.  I was a little saddened, but not at all surprised, by the responses of my host family and Mayara.

Sandro acknowledged that he and his family were in a unique position for forming their views of the US since they had worked so closely with American students over the years.  It was nice to hear that his personal experiences with American students contradicted the opinion he developed of the US from the news and public sentiment.  However, he was sure to let us know that the majority of his peers, and even our neighbors in the apartment below, did not share his same amiable feelings towards US students coming to study in Peru.  Sandro felt that over the past few years, especially during the Trump administration, the US has increasingly adopted a “me first” attitude, as he calls it.  He mentioned how he struggles to reconcile the view he has developed of the US as a internally-focused, culturally insensitive country with the curiosity and openness of the students he has worked with.  He imagines that this discrepancy is probably attributable to the media presentation of mainstream politics versus the behavior of individuals.

Sandro cited the ever-increasing population of Venezuelan immigrants in Cusco and the harsh US immigration policies to justify his sentiment regarding the US.  He explained that in recent years, there has been a significant influx of Venezuelan immigrants into Cusco who were barred from entering the US.  Mayara relayed similar experiences in Brazil with increasing populations of immigrants who were attempting, but unable, to enter the US.  She harbored a similar sense of disappointment with the US and its treatment of other countries and peoples.  Our conversation repeatedly returned to the issue of immigration and I wondered if this was indicative of the gravity, or the incessant media coverage, of the situation.  Regardless, I felt disheartened but lucky, to get the chance to see the effects of our immigration policies on other countries which aren’t on the forefront of current immigration debates.  This conversation also made it abundantly clear to me just how influential US immigration policy is on the global stage; something I will be sure not to lose sight of going forward.

Gabi answering my questions, using any excuse to avoid her math homework

Gabi was another story.  When I asked her what she thought of the US, she told me of all the friends she has acquired over time from the US and how she wants to visit New York one day.  She also made sure to tell me how hard it would be for her to get all the necessary “papers and autographs” she needs to be allowed to visit the US; an echo of her father’s frustration with the visa process that I found both endearing and upsetting.  It was refreshing to hear her 7-year-old view of the US that was not as riddled with frustration and lacking in hope.  I also imagine it helped that I asked her what she thought of the US shortly after explaining to her that Meaghan Markle was the first American to become a princess.  The influence of a good real-life princess story shouldn’t be underestimated.

I feel really lucky that my host family was always so open to discussing some more highly-charged subjects with me.  It was not uncommon that Sandro, Mayara, and I would discuss economics, politics, social trends, and public policy after dinner.  Initially, this mainly meant that I would listen, try and pick up as much new vocabulary as I could, and chime in when possible.  But eventually I got the hang of it and these conversations were some of my favorite moments of my trip.  Abuela, the undisputed head of the household, would often sit in on our conversations, but rarely offered up her own opinions and mainly sat silently observing our debates.  One night Abuela interjected mid-conversation to ask me how I learned Spanish.  I was caught off guard, somewhat nervous that she would follow up with some pointers for me.  Instead, Abuela quickly commended the progress I had made and returned to her tea.  I can honestly say this was one of the most exciting moments of my trip for me! To be complimented by Abuela, a woman of very few words and even fewer compliments, was extremely encouraging! I knew in this moment that my immersion program really was helping me improve my Spanish skills, even if it wasn’t immediately apparent to me.

The most amazing host family

Impromptu Adventures

It was the morning of Peru’s second game in the World Cup and the excitement throughout Cusco was palpable.  The city was flooded with people wearing their jerseys; I even saw a handful of dogs sporting them.  My university had planned an excursion for us that morning to clean up trash along some of the Incan trails outside of the city.  We were set to return to the school by the start of the game, but unfortunately we encountered a couple setbacks along the way and our chances of making it back were not looking good.  Some other students attributed our bad luck to the “cursed” bus we were on; they had been stranded for 6 hours on this bus the weekend before while returning from a jungle tour.  Little did we know about the fate of this cursed bus.

After cleaning up the Incan trails for a few hours in the morning, our professor took us to a guinea pig farm.  I have to be honest, I am not sure if this is an experience I would like to relive given the chance.  Upon entering a building filled with pens and pens of guinea pigs, we were warned adamantly to avoid the alphas.  I still have absolutely no idea how one determines which guinea pig is the alpha and my confusion contributed to the apprehension I felt during our visit.  Also! These guinea pigs were not of the Petco-sort I was used to; they were gigantic.  And it was disheartening to know that these were not fated for the life of a pet but rather someone’s (potentially our) lunch. 

The guinea pig farm: 3 cheers if you can figure out which one is the alpha

This guinea pig farm was located in the poorest district of the Cusco department (Peru is divided into 10 departments: independent regions of governance).  The government had previously helped to implement guinea pig farming in this area to compensate for the infertile land and the lack of agriculture.  As a result, guinea pigs had become the main, and in some cases the only, source of income for the families in this village.

Shortly into our visit, we learned that our bus had a flat tire.  It really was living up to its reputation of being cursed!  We would have to stay in that village until the bus was fixed, and with this revelation our hopes of returning to Cusco in time for the game were gone.  Luckily, we were able to watch the game with the residents of the village, all of us cheering on Peru together huddled around a small TV in someone’s living room.  During halftime, we played a game of soccer with the children from the village; sharing snacks, playing soccer, and teaching each other new words while waiting for the game to come back on.  It was especially exciting because not only were we able to communicate with them in Spanish, but also they taught us some soccer-related Quechua words.  Throughout my time in Cusco, moments like these have been my favorites: moments when we had the chance to interact with rural communities and learn from the people we met.

I have been consistently amazed by how much there is to do in and around Cusco.  The number of hiking trails and ruins right around Cusco is unbelievable, it’s impossible to see it all even with 5 and a half weeks to explore.  In the past two weekends, I visited Machu Picchu and Lake Humantay.  Both of these trips were paired with some unlucky weather conditions, but it just made them more of an adventure!

Fog obscured most of Machu Picchu when we first arrived

When we visited Machu Picchu, there was torrential downpour and thick fog all morning.  Unfortunately, this made it nearly impossible to actually see Machu Picchu at first, but we were able to explore the ruins and hike the nearby trails.  As we were starting to leave the site, all coming to terms with the fact that we wouldn’t get the chance to actually see Machu Picchu or any of the surrounding mountains, the fog started to clear with 15 minutes to spare!  Our first glances of Machu Picchu were super exciting and everyone was relieved that we got to really see one of the 7 new wonders of the world before we returned to Cusco.

We had this same kind of experience at Lake Humantay, except in the reverse order.  Lake Humantay sits at the top of a mountain, nearly 15,500 feet above sea level.  The hike up to the lake was grueling and freezing.  Lake Humantay is famous for the snow-tipped mountains that surround it and the scenic views.  When we made it to the lake, all breathing heavily from the challenging hike and the altitude, we were amazed by the view in front of us.  It started snowing heavily as soon as we reached our destination and by the time we caught our breath, we realized that a thick fog accompanied the snow and was starting to block the view of both the mountains and the lake.  We enjoyed our view of the lake while it lasted and soon began our descent back down the mountain.  We had expected our return trip to be significantly easier, but we were mistaken.  The snow had made our entire trail slick.  I don’t think I have ever laughed as much as I did watching everyone slip and slide back down the mountain, taking a few tumbles myself on the way down.  By the time we reached the bottom, we were all covered in mud with frozen fingers and cheeks flushed with laughter.  This was definitely the hardest hike I’ve ever completed and I’d love to do it again one day, even if the snow and fog are a packaged deal.

Feeling accomplished at the end of our hike to Lake Humantay


The Silver Lining to Salmonella

One of the biggest warnings to tourists in Cusco is to be extremely careful about what we are eating.  The laundry list of foods to avoid and recommendations to heed is long, but easy to follow! However, despite our best efforts, the food and water here often take their toll on tourists.  Since my first week in Cusco, many people in my program have fallen ill from water or food-borne infections.  Luckily, since it is so common, doctors are well-equipped to handle these kinds of illnesses and most people were back in action within 3 days.  In my second week here I also came down with a food-related sickness, but unfortunately mine chose to stay around for 3 weeks rather than 3 days.  Three weeks later, I am finally fully back on my feet after a bit of a bumpy ride involving two hospital stays.   Even though it was an unexpected, and somewhat undesirable, arena for language acquisition, I definitely learned a lot along the way.

This whole process made me even more thankful for my host family, which I did not think was possible.  They recognized that this was a hard obstacle to overcome, especially being 4,000 miles away from my family.  Without my host family this ordeal would have been 10 times more challenging, but despite the challenges I faced, I realized how genuine and meaningful the connections I was forming with people were.  For example, my host father brought me my toothbrush and a change of clothes on my second day in the hospital.  Luckily for me, he also managed to smuggle in a couple tamales so that we could eat breakfast together before he went to work (much to the chagrin of my doctor who had some choice words for me when he found out about the contraband tamales).  Without me even saying anything, my host father recognized how stressful it had been for me to spend the night in the clinic by myself.  It sounds silly, but that simple tamale breakfast made everything seem more manageable and temporary.

Thumbs up for contraband tamales

I feel very lucky to have been placed with my host family.  They are some of the most generous, selfless people I have ever met and I couldn’t have made it through this without them.  Also, I have to admit I feel pretty accomplished having overcome this hiccup.  I didn’t let feeling sick stop me from experiencing all Cusco has to offer (except some of the more adventurous foods).  At the height of it all I managed to explore Machu Picchu and hike Lake Humantay, a notoriously difficult hike due to the altitude and incline.  Being sick for so long was tough, but it really pushed me to learn more, think positive, and be resilient.

Despite the stresses of this ordeal, my takeaway is primarily positive! In the end, I learned some really important vocabulary that I probably wouldn’t have under other circumstances.  Now I’m equipped with an arsenal of terminology regarding medical and health issues.  My time in the different clinics made me feel much more confident interacting with professionals and speaking for myself in stressful situations.  I was thrown in head first and forced to learn how to communicate effectively and now I know that going forward, I will be well prepared to communicate for myself or others in similar situations.  Lastly, now it is officially confirmed that I must return to Cusco at some point!  I spent too much time restricted to a diet of white rice and Pedialyte.  There are a lot of foods I still want to try, and not enough time left to try them all.  I guess this is the universe’s way of helping force my hand to come back to this great city!

A City-Wide Strike and a Long Walk Home

Last Thursday, Cusco shut down for almost an entire day.  Hailing from New York, a complete cessation of public transportation seemed completely infeasible to me; I didn’t believe any of the hype in the days preceding the strike.  I was quickly proven wrong.

The traffic and chaos that dominate the streets of Cusco have consistently amazed me.  Traffic patterns are irregular and unpredictable and the streets are inundated with taxis, buses, and personal cars.  I would even venture as far as to say that the traffic in Cusco is worse than that which I’ve experienced in New York.  Drivers often use their horns, rather than turn signals, to indicate their intended path or warn pedestrians against attempting to cross.  I asked one of the taxi drivers I rode with about the lack of traffic laws and was told that even the stop signs here are simply suggestions meant to signal a busy intersection.  Yielding to pedestrians and stopping at stop signs are not enforced here in Cusco and it is apparent… makes for exciting walks to class.  The incessant hustle and bustle that dominates Cusco made it hard for me to imagine how this strike could possibly pan out.

Typical traffic right outside of my school; note the three necessary traffic officers present at this one small intersection

My host father, Sandro, works as an economist for the regional government of Cusco and so he was really helpful in answering my questions about the causes and consequences of the strike.  According to Sandro, strikes are not an uncommon occurrence in Cusco but had been much more frequent in the 90s.  During this time, there was a real revolutionary undercurrent in many universities in Cusco and other major Peruvian cities.  However, the presidential administration that came to power in the 90s put a stop to this movement and the frequent strikes, even using force to do so.  Since then the residents of Cusco have still relied on strikes as a method for broadcasting their grievances and mobilizing politicians, but less often. The most recent strike that I witnessed was conducted in protest against rising gasoline prices and stagnant wages for Cusco’s many transportistas.

The night before the strike, people started lining the streets with large rocks to prevent transportation by bus or car.  Parking lots around Cusco started to fill up with taxis that would be out of commission the next day.  Any cars on the street past 8:30am on the day of the strike had rocks thrown at them or their tires slashed.  Luckily, my class begins at 7am so I was able to take a taxi to school in the morning before the strike commenced.  Recently, the government placed an increased tax on juices, sodas, and gasoline.  The increase in gasoline prices causes the cost of living for people all across Cusco to increase.  However, this change was especially cumbersome for the taxi and bus drivers, who have no choice but to adapt to and absorb increasing gas prices.

Some of the remaining rocks in the empty street, 6 hours after the start of the strike

I am extremely interested in social movements specifically how and why people mobilize.  It was amazing to be right in the heart of Cusco during this strike.  I had the opportunity to talk with people who filled so many different roles in this situation: taxistas, teachers, and even an economist.  I was astonished by the extent to which the people of Cusco were able to quickly, uniformly, and effectively mobilize.  I don’t think that a strike to this extent could possibly occur in a major US city, specifically thinking of my own home in New York.  The complete silence on the roads last Thursday was equal parts impressive and eerie.  Throughout my entire hour-long walk home from school that day, 6 hours after the strike began, the only car I saw driving was a police vehicle beginning to collect the rocks and barriers from the street.  In the days that followed, similar strikes sprouted up in other regions of Cusco; a sign of the success of this preliminary resistance to the taxes.

I can feel my Spanish improving every day and it is such an exciting experience.  It is amazing to have the vocabulary and the ability to speak about important applicable issues pertaining to social movements, governmental policy, and the economy.  Conversing and learning about current issues has really helped me gain confidence and speed while speaking.  I’m also so thankful for my host family, they have taught me so much and don’t seem to be sick of my incessant questions quite yet.


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.