To be honest, the flight to Cusco from Lima, though gorgeous, was not as pleasurable for me as it might have been. Worn down from lack of sleep, massive amounts of travel in miniscule amounts of time, and the inherent second guessing that comes with spending a lot of time alone and quiet, I was nervous as we landed at the airport. I began to wonder why I was doing what I was doing with my life, and suspecting that I had made a horrible mistake.
Much of my concern was centered around this problematic thought: “I will not be able to make friends here.” My own mind took me down lonely alleyways, where the only living creatures I would be able to associate with would be the dogs that run in packs all over this city. I would like to say that this feeling vanished once I hit the ground and ventured out into the narrow streets of the place where I had been trying to return for so many yeras. However, it persisted.
When I got off the plane I was picked up by the secretary of the volunteer organization, a kind woman who always is wearing a coat named Rocio. Rocio took me directly to the house where I would be staying.
Aldea Yanapay, the organization, runs a hostel where most of the volunteers stay. However, on their webiste they present the option of living in the home with the mother of Yuri, the man who runs the organzation. The site touts this as a more authentic option, because the volunteers would live with a Peruvian family and also have the opportunity to eat three typical Peruvian meals a day. Of course this option interested me, as one of my goals coming down here was to better understand and submerge myself in Cusqueñan culture.
When I arrived at the house, bedraggled, starving and sleep deprived, I was greeted warmly by Aldé, the mother of Yuri and the matron of the house. She was a short, kindly woman who didn´t speak a lick of English. I also was introduced to Lydia, the housekeeper, who cooked all the meals and cleaned the house, while pregnant. And I met her daughter, Maria, who is one of the students at the school where I volunteer. I ate a meal with Rocio and Aldé, (Lydia and Maria ate in the kitchen), the whole time my over-tired brain working double time to recall Spanish words I hadn´t thought of since 8th grade.
Though I could have begun volunteering that day, Señora Aldé, having found out that I slept in the Lima airport, demanded that I take a long nap. I didn´t argue. I slept that day until 1pm, and then returned downstairs for another meal.
After my meal, Senora Aldé showed me to the showers upstairs, where I was introduced to the puzzlework that is Peruvian shower systems. I also discovered this:
I was still depressed tired in the evening, so I only ventured out into the city to call my parents and let them know I was safe, and then returned home to sleep some more.
Over supper, I was surprised to find out that there were no other volunteers in the house. My first night in Cusco, laying in my bed, I was overcome with despair. Señora Aldé was a lovely woman, and the food that Lydia cooked me was delicious. But how would I surive socially alongside a middle aged woman who didn´t speak English and an otherwise empty house? As I´ve said, this was problematic thinking that often overtakes me when I´m in a new situation. It is ludicrous to panic before the wheels start turning, and yet that´s what I did.
This was all over a week ago, and now I am happier than I ever have been in my life. I´ll talk about the changes I made to get this way soon, but for now, I´m going to go watch the thunderstorm pass over the mountains from my balcony. Chao!