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I began my journey in Peru empty-handed, with nothing but the shirt on my back and the valuable lesson of what it means to live simply! Yes, I am one of the unlucky ones whose baggage was forever lost in the dark void of airport security, never to be seen again. While I pride myself on being prepared for almost anything, I certainly wasn’t prepared for this. Despite the miserable situation of having only one pair of socks, I tried to make the best of it, rearranging my pre-Cusco plans and heading to the beaches of Lima to soak up the summer sun and catch a wave or two – who needs socks on the beach anyway? I spent a few weeks exploring Barranco, eating ocean-fresh ceviche, and enjoying the Pacific Ocean the best way I know how – atop the waves riding a longboard! After 21 days, my luggage was officially deemed lost and it was time to move on. A painful process indeed, I reluctantly went shopping and booked my flight to Cusco.

Temporarily living out of plastic bags!

With a fresh new pack, my days of living out of plastic bags were over, although my bad luck was not. Due to bad weather and other extenuating circumstances, I was stuck at the Lima airport for nearly 24 hours before safely landing in Cusco. Needless to say, my first impressions were a bit clouded by stress and a lack of sleep, but thankfully, it didn’t take long for things to turn around. I was greeted with a warm welcome at Casa Mosqoy and enjoyed a lovely dinner, getting to know both the students and volunteers. I have been enjoying my new home at Casa Mosqoy with its spacious living room and beautiful view – a great place to practice Spanish with my many roommates! Thankfully, after the many ups and downs of my first month here in Peru, I can happily report that I am comfortably settled in Cusco and have begun work with Cara!

The view from Casa Mosqoy as an afternoon storms rolls through the valley at sunset.

I have been gradually taking on more and more responsibility after a week of training and am excited for the upcoming projects with the Andean Youth Program. So far, I have put together the March Class Update email, soon to be sent out to AYP student supporters. This was a fun project and a great way to familiarize myself with the students and what they have been up to in 2015.

Over the last few weeks, Cara, Stephanie and Katie have kindly shown me the best cafes with reliable wifi and the best places to get cheap eats. I feel blessed to have coworkers that have been so fun and helpful!

On my weekends, I have been joining Katie, our Q’ente textile liaison, on ventures to the different communities we work with, some of which are quite remote and difficult to get to. We embarked on the arduous excursion to Cancha Cancha on my first weekend here – 13,000 ft in the Andes! This being my first time in high altitude, the hike was anything but easy, yet the immense beauty of the natural surroundings kept me chugging along with a smile on my face and a sense of bewilderment!

Soon I will be creating student community profiles, a project that I am particularly interested in as it requires travel to each community to gather information about where our AYP students are from. This past week I went to Amaru, a community just outside of Pisaq. Here I had the pleasure of speaking with the talented women of the weaving association and admiring their beautiful textiles. I even took home a couple of souvenirs!

The whole crew – Stephanie, Katie, Cara and myself – will be traveling to the Mapacho River Valley this coming weekend. This is an adventure I am very much looking forward to. Stay tuned for photos!

A photo from our trip to Cancha Cancha on February 14th. Who wouldn't want to spend Valentine's Day with these lovely ladies?
Surrounded by beauty, we began our descent into the valley.

-Brooke Shaughnessy

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