Location: Cuzco

Hi family! I am alive and well and thriving!

This morning our group woke up to the soothing blare of the hostel’s fire alarm, but don’t worry parents, it was a false alarm. After the abrupt wake-up, we walked downstairs to eat a quick breakfast before going to Santa Teresa. It was the first time that the Sacred Valley and Footsteps groups split up, and our group definitely missed the Sacreds while we were apart. It has been awesome getting to know all 16 of the other kids on this trip, and I think that we are all quite close. Cate and Rhonin have already deemed themselves as twins. After breakfast, we took the bus to Santa Teresa, a shelter for people of all ages with disabilities and no family. Volunteering with people with disabilities has proven to be a challenging yet extremely rewarding experience. It’s so fun to play soccer with some of the boys at Santa Teresa or to hug the kids in the therapy room, but also requires lots of patience. We worked in the kitchen helping prepare food, spent time with the children outside on the trampoline, and helped feed people their lunches. After we finished with lunch at Santa Teresa, we left on the bus for our own meal and went to a vegan restaurant called Greenpoint. While munching on our falafel/tacos, another group of American teens walked to the back of the restaurant, and we all turned our heads, catching a glimpse of a brazenly displayed “Rustic Pathways” logo on their t-shirts. All of us started to joke about the friendly competition between the two groups, but I promise there’s no bad blood. It was just funny:)

After lunch, over half of the group went across the street to buy cookies and cheesecake before another shopping expedition. I think you could throw a rock in any direction in Cusco and hit a bakery or ice cream shop and our group is extremely talented at sniffing out where the sugar is. We’re making our rounds throughout the city. All the cake gave us newfound energy, and we walked to a big shopping market, looking for souvenirs for our families and fun things for ourselves. Then we caught some cabs back to the hostel and waited for the Sacreds to return from volunteering at Casa Mantay. Before dinner, we had a quick group reflection discussing Rachel Remen’s quote about the differences between “helping,” “fixing,” and “serving.” As a group, we came to the conclusion that serving establishes a mutually beneficial relationship between equal people and that serving is the best way to go about working with others. After our appetite for spiritual enlightenment and quotation analysis was filled, our cravings for burgers still needed to be satisfied. We walked to a restaurant called Toro and were happy to eat some big, juicy cheeseburgers, although four of us (including Sacreds) ate veggie burgers with beet patties. Some people ordered alpaca burgers, which were a big hit with the group. Surprisingly, the beet patties were not. After dinner, we walked back to the hostel for salsa dancing lessons. Let me just say not many of us are good with rhythm, but all 17 of us enthusiastically attempted to salsa, and we had the best time. After dancing, most of us were hit yet again with a craving for sugar. We bought paletas from the little cooler in the hostel and then Raquel, and I headed over to the library to get our blogging in! We have an early morning tomorrow venturing to the Rainbow Mountain, so I need to get my sleep for the hike. Goodnight all!

Signing off,