Looking back on my time in Peru I can say that the experience was life changing; from the amazing people I met, to falling in love with a different culture. Cusco, Peru is the capital of the Cusco Region as well as the Cusco Province right at the base of the Andes mountains that hosts thousands of tourists every day. Speaking to the locals I came to understand that most are very happy about the increasing tourist activity because that is their primary source of income. When you get a chance to visit Cusco you will see that most, if not all stores and markets are geared towards tourists.
Due to our volunteer work with Abre Puertas, Corazón de Dahlia and the Comedores, we were able to get away from the bustling city life and gain an understanding of the daily life most Peruvian people live. Working with the children was fantastic because the children are not glued to any technological devices.They want to play all day. It was a refreshing experience to see that it was the simple things that made them excited. For example, they did not need any ipads or phones to be happy, instead all they needed was a soccer ball and someone to play with. This made it so much easier to work with them, and I left happy arriving to the site everyday, seeing them so excited and making sure we get off the bus fast so they can start playing with us. It was an unforgettable experience seeing a new culture and a people who are grateful for the simple things in life.
However, we did not only volunteer and take Spanish classes. We were fortune enough to be part of the annual Cusquenan festivities. It was a fantastic experience to be part of the Inti Raymi holiday. It was really interesting to see the performances at the Plaza de Armas (Downtown of Cusco). The weeks beforehand we saw a lot of groups practice their dances and acts at night. Seeing the hard work these performers put into their practices was very nice and I am sure very rewarding for them. Especially when they put on their traditional dresses and perform in front of thousands of people. Even though everyone has their own lifestyle here in Peru and most of the people live a life far from the Incan tradition it was really nice to see the performances around Plaza de Armas.
After being back in the U.S. I must admit that I truly miss the four course meal that we got from our host families every evening. Especially now since I have to cook for myself again when our host mom always switched it up so that no one meals was the same. I can say that living with a host family was a great experience to become immersed in the Peruvian culture and also enjoy a great variety of Peruvian food.
I have been back in the states for a week now and it was interesting to get used to the New York City lifestyle again. At first I wanted to say “gracias” to people here in New York City, it is funny how three weeks in Peru makes spanish almost second nature to you. When I walk by street musicians I have flashbacks of Peru remembering the groups outside practicing or other individuals playing their instruments while singing.
It was very nice to see people out and about on a Sunday when a couple of us hiked and traveled around Cusco. The locals were playing soccer on wide fields with two stones representing both goal nets. We passed many fields where people were hanging out and enjoying their day off from work. At one particular field many Peruvians were having a Barbecue. It was similar to a American Barbecue but also very different with the handmade ovens comprised of dirt and clay. Those ovens are used to cook the 3,000 different kinds of potatoes that they have in Peru (no exaggeration in Peru there are 3,000 different kinds of potatoes).
The Binghamton University Study abroad program in Peru was an amazing opportunity to learn about another culture, in addition to take authentic spanish classes. I made some hopefully lifelong friendships with some of the children. One child named Antonio, wrote a letter to me and I hope to stay in touch with him. I know it will be tough because he does not have an home address and only internet access at Abre Puertas so it will be challenging. I am positive though that it will work out. Thank you for the financial support I received from the CCPA Latin American Scholarship Fund Award and the Reeves Ellington Scholarship. Without the financial help I would have not been able to gain such a great experience, for that I am beyond thankful! I can see myself returning to an impoverished country like Peru sometime soon hopefully for a longer time.
–MPA candidate Pascal Trappe ’15