My first few weeks working as RA in Casa Mosqoy have been an absolute whirlwind. Just three weeks ago, I was finishing up my final exams at university and preparing for graduation. When I look back at everything I’ve done since then, it is incredible to think how much my life has changed. I have always been the small beach town girl whose main focus revolved around studying and outdoor activities in the beautiful California weather. Never would I have imagined that just two days after graduation, I would be in Cusco, Peru working for a development organization. Mosqoy has given me the most amazing opportunity to jump-start my career; instead of working in a cubicle or toiling in an unpaid internship for a United States corporation, I am gaining hands-on experience in developmental work in South America. I am so grateful to be participating in a project that not only fulfills the academic dreams of the students who participate, but also fulfills my own professional dreams to work in Latin America as someone who can make a positive difference.
Within the first couple of days of my arrival in Cusco, I accompanied Juan (the previous RA) and a few other volunteers to Ollantaytambo. We were invited to stay the night with Raul’s family in Huilloc (small campesino or rural village) and participate in the hair cutting ceremony (a traditional ceremony of baptism) of their youngest son, Guido. Juan and his girlfriend, Carolina, were asked to be the padrinos (godparents). To be a padrino means that one has the responsibility to help the parents raise the child. Juan and Carolina’s promise to the family was that they would send money to the parents in order to help pay for their son’s university education. The ceremony was very small: only the parents, their four children, Juan, Carolina, Erick and I participated. We were all dressed in traditional garb – men with their ponchos and women with their skirts, sweaters and hats. Both the parents, Juan and Carolina gave short speeches about the importance of the ceremony and then each of us took turns cutting Guido’s hair. The ceremony was followed by dinner, which consisted of cuy (guinea pig), tortilla, a potato sauce and chicha (fermented corn drink). Overall, it was an amazing experience that allowed me to get to know Raul and his family on a more personal level.
The morning after the hair cutting ceremony, all the Mosqoy volunteers traveled down to the Plaza de Armas of Ollantaytambo to set up for a river clean-up event that Mosqoy had organized. Over seventy five students and volunteers came to participate in the activity, which was a quite impressive number. Seeing how many people were willing to participate in Mosqoy’s project really affirmed that my choice to work for them was a good decision. In the end, the group spent three hours cleaning the river and filled over three hundred trash bags with garbage from the river banks.
Regarding Casa Mosqoy, the intercambios (cultural exchanges) have proved to be very positive experiences for the kids, as well as for myself. I think that they are the best way to get the students more involved in house activities because it exposes them to new people and cultures, and it allows them to show off their cultural pride. All in all, it is a great bonding experience that allows the students and guests to come together, dance, laugh,and share excellent food. In terms of experience with my new RA position, it has been interesting to see how the students are adapting to my leadership style after having lived with Juan for nine months. I conducted individual meetings with each of the students, which really helped me understand what kind of experience each of them hopes to obtain during their time with Mosqoy. I am working towards increasing positivity among the students. I believe that if they are recognized for responsible and mature behavior, their professional and personal skills will improve as a result. Most importantly, an increased collaborative atmosphere within the house will make Casa Mosqoy a place the students want to support and engage in.