After the initial culture and altitude shock, the excitement of being in a new place and starting a new adventure, life in Cusco started to feel more normal, more habitual and more familiar. Being thousands of miles away in a small town that speaks another language from what you’ve been used to, as a volunteer, you are forced to find your way to dive into the different culture. Forced maybe a strong word. Because in my case, it just happened naturally.
I arrived in Cusco on a Saturday morning, after a long layover in Lima airport. The feeling of seeing the Andes mountains the very first time from above through a small plane window, it was beyond overwhelming. As we landed in the smallest airport I’ve been to, it was becoming more real to me. Picked up by a representative from the volunteer organization, we boarded an old Smart-sized cab on our way to the town center.
After checking in, I was told I will be in a volunteer house which was a relief to me. I will be staying in a house where I will be sharing with people of the same situation. Nobody was there when I arrived. I guess it’s a Saturday and who wants to stay in? Maybe only me who was traveling close to 24 hours.
I met my housemates the next day. Volunteers with different accents from different parts of the world. It was a good group and we clicked right away. The next weekend, we all booked a trip to Lake Titicaca. And our San Pedro family was born.
San Pedro is the name of the part of town where our house was. A more known landmark is the San Pedro market, where everything from newly chopped beef to housewares to clothing of alpaca materials were sold. This is one of my favorite places in Cusco – a little off from main street, less touristy and more real – where locals go to eat lunch.
A usual day for me was volunteering in the morning then Spanish class (not mandatory) in the afternoon. At about 5 or 6pm, just after we watched episodes of the Big Bang Theory and Friends – apparently the only two English shows in Peruvian TV, more and more volunteers get back to our home, and we then proceed to have dinner at the same time, sharing stories of what happened to our day.
It reminded me of being in school again, finding new friends and bonding over the best pastry from new bakeshop we found while exploring the beautiful cobblestone streets of this town. We went hiking to Neon Jesus, weekend excursions to Sacred Valley, some even went to Machu Picchu together.
It’s already been two years since I’ve been to Peru and we still keep in touch on Facebook. Some have travelled to visit other volunteers, some even found love while volunteering. It’s amazing to know that the friendships you’ve made for a relatively short amount of time will remain one of your best treasures in life, even if you don’t see or hear from them everyday. The feeling of sharing something unique brought us together in a different world that only a few can understand.