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For the past month and a half, Casa Mosqoy has experienced some technical difficulties with its plumbing. It’s quite humorous, really, when you’ve been privileged enough to have running water in your house your whole life, and then one day, out of the blue, you find yourself completely without a functioning water supply. When you wake up an extra two hours earlier every morning to take a bucket bath, you learn very quickly just how much you appreciate water pressure and warm showers. Yet ironically enough, the appreciation garnered from such a small inconvenience tends to pour into other facets of life as well. The countless bucket baths I have endured over these past two months have encouraged me to recognize the little things that truly give importance and happiness to my life. These include festivities, providing emotional support to others, and striving to be a positive influence in the lives of those who surround me. Thanks to these bucket baths, I became the super-woman of all Resident Advisors.

My primary objective during the month of October was to provide a communication workshop for the young women in Casa Mosqoy. Tensions sometimes arise with 10 girls living together as sisters in one house. Healthy communication amongst the girls in the house is one of my main objectives, so it was really important to me that I find a fun, yet constructive way of demonstrating how I would like the girls to treat one another. Luckily, one day I had a glorious moment where I remembered the movie “Mean Girls” and realized just how many of its ridiculous scenes actually applied to situations that occur in the house. So I set out to plan a North American style movie night, with chemically buttered popcorn and all. None of the girls had seen the movie, which made the event even more special. They laughed and laughed hysterically, as if making fun of the fact that they could personally relate to some of the absurdities they were watching. At the end of the film, we had a long discussion about the themes that appeared in the movie. These themes include venomous words, passing judgment before getting to know someone, how to be a good or bad friend, and hyper criticism of another’s actions that distracts you from focusing on yourself and your personal growth. One of my key points illustrated that night was the fact that someone had actually made a comedic movie about malicious actions amongst young women. They made a COMEDY so that others could laugh at the ridiculousness. And immediately, as I said this, all of the girls laughed because they knew it was true: their actions are very often laughable. It was a beautiful moment where everyone let go of previous resentments, laughed, and forgave. The forgiveness was unspoken, but somehow we could all feel some of the tense energy leave the house. Since then, the girls have been getting along incredibly well and the teamwork within the house has improved exponentially. I am so proud of these young women for continuing to show their incredible capacity to learn and grow every day.

A few nights and bucket baths later, in light of my re-discovered appreciation for festivities, I decided to plan a Halloween night in Casa Mosqoy. The students and I had an absolute blast carving pumpkins (well - the Peruvian version of pumpkins), eating candy, and listening to music. Although I had printed out several basic designs to carve into the pumpkins, the students once again demonstrated their ambition by choosing the absolute most complicated designs they could find. These designs included witches, cats, bats, and even letters. Although they had never carved a pumpkin before in their life, their concentration and determination to complete their designs made for quite a successful jack o’lantern turn out. Marilyn and Alex, the power couple of the house, by far had the best results. It was absolutely precious to watch them work together, helping each other with the difficult designs that the other had chosen. Deniss and Clayda also worked as a pair and had an adorable outcome, with a “C” and “D” carved into the pumpkin as a reminder of what they had accomplished together. What I find most inspiring about these students is that they always prefer to work in teams, never leaving another behind. When we come together to do these activities, it really feels like a family full of brothers and sisters. I can’t wait to start planning our next holiday festivity for Christmas. I’m thinking that the plan will include mint hot chocolate, ornament decoration, and possibly some homemade Christmas tree crafting…

Although I have gotten to know the students incredibly well because of the extensive amount of time we have spent together in Casa Mosqoy, it has been of great interest to me to get to know their families as well. In October and November, I was lucky to have several opportunities to meet family members. First, I attended a family meeting held by Kristina in Ollantaytambo where I met the mothers of Deniss, Cristian, Marilyn and Carmen, Orlinda’s father, Raul, Fernando’s grandmother, two of Clayda’s sisters, and Alex’s sister. A few weeks later (and many bucket baths later), I traveled to Ollantaytambo once again for the grand anniversary of the city. The students, Kristina, Cara, Jordan and I marched in a small parade to advertise the work we have done as an organization. Although we only marched for one minute, the gathering gave me the opportunity to meet even more siblings and parents of students. And even more exciting, I was able to go on a community visit to Parobamba to meet Nataly’s family.

It was quite the hike to reach the community (5 hours in total), and the ride home entailed sitting on top of hundreds of oranges in a fruit truck, but it was one of the most incredible things I have done in my life. I was able to watch Nataly’s mother weave traditional indigenous textiles, hike to pre-Incan ruins, and see some of the most beautiful, untouched Andean landscape. These opportunities have given me an incredible insight to the personal lives of the students that I work with and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to share these moments with the students. Forget the bucket baths - I’d choose these experiences over running water any day!

-Stephanie Smallshaw

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