Location: Cuzco

Note, photography is not allowed at the Santa Theresa Orphanage, so we’re only able to post photos from Casa Mantay.

Waking up three hours ahead of schedule, thanks to other visitors in Hostel Resbalosa, was an unexpected way to start the day. However, I found it to be an opportunity to lay in bed and realize I am on the adventure of a lifetime. I sat in bed to watch the sunrise through the window of my small yet comfortable hostel room that I share with Eve and Natalie. Sitting in the same spot as this morning I stare at the magnificent night lights of Cusco and reflect on how amazing this day turned out to be.

Our group split into two as one group went to Casa Mantay while the other group visited the Santa Theresa Orphanage. Max, Avery B., Rachel, Jack B., Steph, Louise, Anna and I all went back to Casa Mantay for more divertido (fun). The minute we got there we anticipated a day full of hard work, although we ended up getting to visit a local market before the tiring work began. When we returned, the manual labor started as we lifted hundreds upon thousands of pounds of rocks and dirt onto a truck, that took the materials to an unknown place. We filled three truckloads by the end of the day.

We were rewarded with a delicious lunch made right in the kitchen of Casa Mantay and by the hard workers that keep the house running. As we sat with teen mothers, stuffing our faces full of rice and chicken, I realized the girls we see on the outside are not the same on the inside. They have gone through unimaginable circumstances and still find the strength to get up in the morning and find a reason to smile. As the day progressed, we played many different games, including soccer, volleyball, dodgeball and a few others that we made up as we went along. During these games, Max found a hidden talent of making the balls fly over the wall of the yard. This happened not once, but twice. He promised to bring new ones back on Wednesday. I can speak for the group at Casa Mantay when I say it was an unforgettable day. The girls laughed the whole day, mostly at us, and it was an uplifting feeling knowing that we put those smiles on their faces. The young children, on the other hand, are just as fun-filled as the mothers.

Saying goodbye was the low of my day but knowing that we get to go back on Wednesday made me feel less guilty about leaving. The bus ride back to the hostel was solely about how incredible our day was and how the mothers are even more incredible. We had some time to rest before leaving for dinner at Morena, which provided a fantastic display of Peruvian cuisine. Following dinner, we ascended the “staircase of death” back to Resbalosa. There we took part in three informative, yet entertaining, activities. The first was a mock cocktail party (do not worry parents, there were no real cocktails) where we all were given an alter ego to act out and interact with the other given egos. This taught us how we could all be different, but the way in which we communicate is very important no matter what. The second activity was to declare our highs and lows of the day. As the relatives back home can only imagine there was a limited amount of lows to share. The last activity included sharing our appreciations for one another from the energy-filled day we endured. This also served as a confidence booster for most.

As anyone reading this can tell, we started and ended the day on high notes while laughing and telling our stories. I am excited to see what the orphanage can teach me and what I can take away from experience tomorrow. Although this is only day four, I can already tell I have made lifelong friends and memories to keep in my heart forever.