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Erick at the Temple of the Moon

After just shy of a month of being in Cuzco I thought it would be good to let you all know what I am up to. For those of you who don’t know me, I am Erick, the new Peru Field Assistant. I was born and raised in Victoria, Canada and am going into my last year of Biology at UVic.

I arrived in Cuzco on April 30th after 20 hours of tiring travel from the Vancouver airport to Dallas to Lima and finally to Cuzco. Kristina picked me up from the airport and for the next five days I was given a thorough introduction to Peru: the best Israeli restaurant, a trip to Amaru, Calca and Pisac, and a lot of walking the varied topography of Cuzco. On Sunday April 4th I moved from Casa Mosqoy to my home-stay in San Sebastian. My home-stay family - nine of them living together - consisted of a very lovely abuelo (grandfather) and abuela (grandmother), their three daughters and their families and, of course, Peluchín, the dog. There were two other students who arrived on the same day as I: Naomi from Antwerp and Mike from Manchester, both of whom provided great company for the next three weeks. On the following Monday morning I began my three weeks of Spanish classes; two hours of grammar and two hours of practice every morning with a different teacher for each. In the afternoons I started on my work at Mosqoy.

My main job is to assist Kristina in managing the AYP (Andean Youth Program). The first big task has been helping Mosqoy 6 (the incoming students) to organize a River Cleanup in Ollantaytambo. We are planning for this Saturday, May 31st. It is a partnership with the municipality of Ollantaytambo to clean garbage from the Urubamba river - a collaboration we are very happy about. I spent some time in the last few weeks creating posters for the event and distributing them in Cuzco. The Mosqoy 6 students did a great job of putting up the posters in Ollantaytambo, too. I have also been joining Kristina, meeting with small businesses, the municipality and the colegio (high school) in Ollantaytambo. We hope the event will be a success and be the first of many such events in which we can join with the community and government of Ollantaytambo to take care of the natural world. Check back for a blog dedicated to the River Clean Up in the next few weeks!

Overlooking the centre of Cusco and the Plaza de Armas
Temple of the Moon just above Cusco

My Spanish classes and home-stay at FairServices went by incredibly fast and although my Spanish has improved from not speaking at all before coming to Peru, to being able to struggle out a good number of my thoughts, I have so much more to learn. The Mosqoy students can surely attest to that! Now that I have moved back to Casa Mosqoy I will be working more hours, mostly on administrative work for AYP. I will also be putting together profiles that will allow you to know more about our programs, communities and alumni!

So yes, my experience in Cuzco has been positive so far. This is my first time travelling internationally (not including trips to New York) and especially travelling to a developing country such as Peru. The culture here is rather different but I have found the people to be friendly and patient while I work to get used to this new place. Given that I am so new to travelling and international development work, I feel that so far things have gone very smoothly. Though some volunteers have gotten sick recently, I have stayed quite healthy besides getting a cold that has stuck around for a while. The high altitude, which can cause problems too, hasn’t been too bad. It is still very tiring to climb up the steep streets of Cuzco but I am told that is normal.

Salineras salt Terraces

Now for some highlights of my time here so far: The two other students at my home-stay have been grand travel buddies. Naomi spent much more time than I have researching tourist destinations so she became the initiator of several fun trips. The three of us went up to Chinchero, Moray and Salineras, all of which are in the Sacred Valley, the sacred region of the famed Incas. Chinchero has a fun market where vendors sell textiles, food and souvenirs from Peru. But the trip got even better when we went to Moray, the site of circular terraced Incan ruins, which were apparently an experimental agriculture site. Whatever it was, it was great fun. Unfortunately, with my limited Spanish I didn’t understand the sign saying prohibo ingreso (entrance prohibited). I did understand the person whistling at me, though, and then I made sure to get back where I was supposed to be. The taxi driver we hired for the day then took us to Salineras, the salt terraces nearby. Wow, what a spectacular place! Naomi and Mike can confirm I was impressed. These salt terraces were apparently also made by the Incans. I didn’t really understand how they worked but each pool was full of drying salt so however it worked, it was successful.

I also really enjoyed my trips to the Q'ente weaving communities (Mosqoy's textile program). I went to Amaru and to a farm near Huaran with Juan, Marietta, Natalie and Marilyn, a current Mosqoy student, to meet the weavers and discuss some business matters, which I couldn’t understand. Rose met us at the farm and Marilyn did the translating between Quechuan and Spanish. Officially Rose (the previous textile community coordinator) had already made her last visit but she wanted to come one more time. The textiles they make are absolutely gorgeous! Watching them spin and weave was a joy.

Four post loom weaving

Another fun thing I've participated in has been the cooking nights and salsa lessons provided by FairServices. On Tuesday nights all the students and teachers get together to make a traditional Peruvian meal, and on Friday nights two very fun and talented salsa instructors come in and teach the students to salsa dance. I have found this very enjoyable and once I even went out afterwards with the students to practice my dancing skills.

Stunning scenery!

The landscape here is breathtaking and every time I go out to the Andean communities I am reminded that, as vital and fascinating as Cuzco is, I need time in the beautiful outdoors to feel rejuvenated. I often find that the drive, if it is not too stressful, is just as beautiful as the destination. These pictures can’t do justice to the immensity of the mountains and the mood of the landscape.

Well, that more or less gives a picture of my last month here. Time moves very strangely here. I feel like I am just getting into the flow of things and yet I have also done so much and learned so much in my time so far. I look forward to the next three months and will keep you all posted on my adventures here at Mosqoy in Peru.

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