As we embark on our journey to Peru, we had to endure a long night of travel Saturdayinto Sunday. We were apprehensive about sleeping on the plane because we wanted to feel as best as possible on our first day in Peru. We were really nervous about going through customs and immigration, but in the end it wasn’t that bad and we were only slightly sleep deprived when we landed in Lima. We were feeling great and ready for our second flight, anxiously awaiting our next adventure! Although we thought things were going well, altitude sickness got the best of us when we landed in Cusco. Coca tea has crept into our daily routine; morning, day and night becoming our best friend. The tea is used by locals to overcome the effects of the 12,000 foot elevation and has proven its reliability. After our long travels we finally settled in with our host families, who welcomed us with open arms. We were a little nervous about the food because we heard people eat Guinea pig, however our families have been accommodating and talented chefs. Another factor that has been lingering over our heads is the language barrier. While walking around the streets we have noticed not many people speak English, however if the vendors notice you are American they will automatically take advantage of that. We have also noticed a number of people dressed in traditional clothing selling items on the street. Our favorite part is the people offering to take pictures of you with their llamas.
In regards to overcoming our apprehension about the language barrier we have a few tricks up our sleeve. We have both studied Spanish and studied abroad, but we know that immersing oneself in another language is difficult. Our prior experiences abroad definitely helped us acclimate to the new culture, however more people speak English in Europe so we are still getting used to the differences. Having the experience of already being abroad makes us more cautious about our surroundings and guarding our belongings. Prior to the trip we had three classes held on Saturdays that helped us get to know more about the history, culture and our fellow Binghamton travelers. This has definitely played a crucial role in our adjustment to the new environment. Since we already knew each other before the trip everyone is very close and we feel comfortable exploring the city together. This is an important factor in how we are going to work with one another when we visit the organizations because effectively collaborating with one another will play a huge role in our overall impact.
As future professionals we know that working together cooperatively is an important factor that we will experience daily. This component is extremely important in the public sector because we are trying to make the greatest impact and if there are issues among co-workers that are not handled appropriately the organization will not run smoothly. From our MPA classes, we understand that while working with people here it is important not to over step boundaries and that “helping” may not always benefit the other person. We need to put ourselves in their shoes in order to understand the situation that they are in. We hope to use the knowledge we’ve gained from the MPA program to further develop relationships between the nonprofits we will be working with in the upcoming weeks and with the Binghamton community. We are very excited to start our service-learning component in the next few days and are excited to share it with all of you!
Cecelia Nyman and Jennifer Pincus