Location: Cuzco, Peru

Hello, family and friends back home (Hi Mom and Dad),

On our fifth day in Cuzco, we all had a day off from volunteer work. I will say that I do miss working with the moms and children at Casa Mantay; it was satisfying. Today after sleeping to the late time of 7:30 am, we all started with the normal breakfast: eggs, toast, tea, juice & fruit around 8 o’clock.

Arriving at the main plaza, Dan revealed the “Secret Activity” (which everyone knew about…thanks Zoe :). The morning was spent exploring downtown Cuzco in groups of three, working on a Scavenger Hunt that spanned from the Cathedral to the local market filled with produce and traditional clothes. Not knowing Spanish was the hardest thing for me during the hunt. Luckily both my partners were more versed in Spanish, so they were the most involved with speaking to the locals. Having the language barrier is one of the toughest things to overcome for most of our group. One of the questions was “What is the average salary in Peru?” Most locals said their average yearly salary was around 700 to 800 Soles (roughly 250 to 300 US Dollars) and the daily salary averaged 6 to 8 Soles (1.50 to 3.00 US Dollars). In the end, every group seemed to have a great time being able to explore Cuzco more independently than as a big group.

After a hearty lunch at a local restaurant, we arrived back at the hotel to prepare for the afternoon activity of horseback riding and explore the ruins of Sexywomen….whoops I meant Saqsaywaman where our guide Santiago lead us through the Incan ruins. He explained how the Incas built the enormous wall that was at least 30 feet tall. After many pictures and sliding down a slide made of rocks, we got back on the bus to go to our next activity: horseback riding.

Just a short drive up the road is where we began our ride. Most of the girls and guys in the group were unfamiliar with riding horses, but everyone rode with ease. Maia, who had never ridden a horse before, did an amazing job with her horse and did awesome on the trek. Elaina, Adi and I all stuck together not because we were trying to, but because our horses – Spirit, Cheese-puff, and Tornado – would not leave each other behind. If one stopped, they all stopped. If one went forward, they all three moved despite having steep parts or having to “jump” over a creek everyone did an awesome job.

At the end of our fifth day, after showering and changing into fresh clothes, we all stopped by a local pizzeria to enjoy vegetarian and cheese pizzas. Even though it hasn’t been a week, I’m amazed at how everyone can be included into a conversation that can last for a while. Over dinner, I had interesting conversations with Shannon, Miranda, and Neena about what our favorite shows and movies are. Arriving back to the hostel, Bridgett wanted to do our “cocktail” party. Earlier in the day, we were each given a role/personality we had to become during the party. I had a shy role, Zoe had to look everyone in the eye, Danny had to become a know-it-all, Adi needed her personal space, etc. During the debrief everyone agreed that it was really hard just to act the role and that we need to put ourselves in another person’s shoes before we judge someone.

In this group, no one is feeling left out. You just need to engage yourself in the conversation, and you will be heard and listened to. With sixteen days left in the trip, I think the whole group will be even more of a family than it already is.

Signing off for now,