Week Eight

Cusco, Peru

I arrived safely in Cusco after flying through the Andes from Arequipa. It’s only an hour flight so the plane stays nice and close to the mountain peaks. It was really pretty.

I absolutely love Cusco! It’s a hot spot for tourists because of its proximity to the infamous Machu Picchu. The town is so cute and there are so many things to do. It’s really beautiful here. The Plaza des Armas is gorgeous and the streets are all cobblestone.

I was really surprised by the weather though. Cusco is at 11,200 feet elevation, so the sun is really, really strong during the day. But at night it drops to winter temperatures.  The cooler air reminds me of Fall, so it’s a refreshing change.

The new volunteer project is going amazingly well. I’m working at a home for teen moms called Casa Mantay. It’s clean and well-managed and there’s no major illnesses. I am so happy and grateful to be working there under those conditions.

They only speak Spanish in the home, so my espanol is improving at a muy rapido pace. I am still new though and just learning the ropes. But so far, so bueno.

I’ve been in Peru for two months now, and I’ve made some keen observations. I love all things eccentric, and these are my top 20 favorite Peruvian quirks:

  1. Propane-fueled motorcycles. I am always in shock every time I see one at how unbelievably dangerous that is!
  2. Peru LOVES 80’s music and Adele. That’s pretty much all you hear in public places and on buses.
  3. I’ve never seen so many parades in my life. There are at least two every week.
  4. Random sales pitches on public transportation. This means someone boards a bus and just starts giving a speech about their product. And people actually buy stuff from them!
  5. Headphones haven’t caught on down here yet. If you want to listen to music on your phone, you just play it on speaker for all to hear.
  6. Waiters leave you alone, unless you flag them down. This is the opposite of restaurant etiquette in the U.S. and my first few meals here were quite long. I quietly waited for my check…that never came until I learned to ask for it.
  7. At an intersection, cars speed up towards pedestrians. Like they step on the gas if they see a human enter the street.
  8. Toilet paper never goes in the toilet. It goes in a garbage can. Always and everywhere in Peru.
  9. Peruvians have no shame when it comes to PDA. Absolutely no shame.
  10. Guinea pig is a food, not a pet. I couldn’t bring myself to try it, even though it is a delicacy.
  11. Peruvians know how to make an excellent bowl of soup. I will be attempting to recreate a few of the recipes when I get home.
  12. There is time and then there is Peruvian time. Everyone has the attitude of “you’re never late, you’re never early, you’re always on time.”
  13. Hand-written receipts are prevalent here. Which reminds me of my childhood.
  14. The garbage man either has a truck which plays music OR he rings a cowbell to announce his arrival.
  15. Personal space does not exist here. If you’re walking on the sidewalk and someone wants to be where you are, they will literally try to walk through your body.
  16. Peruvians love hill carvings. Like they literally carve words or pictures into the sides of hills.
  17. There is no Walgreens or general store here. For most things, you must go to the small store which sells those items. Like the light bulb store. Or the sock store. Or the hat store. Or the toiletry store. Or the dress store.
  18. One-way streets can change direction at random. I learned this the hard way when I walked out the front door one morning, looked for cars and then almost got hit when one was coming full-speed from the other direction.
  19. There are  “outdoor” dogs as there are “outdoor” cats in the States. Dogs roam the streets during the day. Most of the dogs you would assume are strays actually have homes, which is the good news. The bad news is that come nighttime, the “outside” dogs return home and go to their room….on the roof. Where they bark at each other. All.night.long.
  20. The Incas loved stairs. They created the longest, most difficult staircases I’ve ever seen in my life. And these stairs are in the Andes at a fairly high altitude. I can’t pretend I handled any of them gracefully. I have a whole new appreciation for the Incas athletic ability.