Beautiful Perú was my pot of gold after a loooooooong trip. Upon arrival to Cuzco’s airport, I was welcomed by the cacophony of shouting drivers and families delighted to see each other again. I met the cool drizzle with a sign of relief — this was a welcome change from Lima’s choking humidity.
I met with the SIT program team for our first academic trip in the city of Yucay, or El valle sagrado de los Inkas (the Sacred Valley of the Incas). We spent the first bit of the minibus ride out of Cuzco chatting and sipping mate de coca (coca leaf tea), which is a tea to help with soroche (altitude sickness). After about twenty minutes though, we all were just exhausted from traveling, and so we mostly admired the view.
We finally arrived at our hotel for the first week in Perú, primarily orientation workshops and class activities. While I’m already feeling stressed about the beginning of a three-month long research project, I’m also excited to be a part of this learning and growing experience!
La Casona de Yucay is absolutely gorgeous, the staff is wonderful, and the food is magnificent! Yucay is a humble village, but it’s surrounded by humongous, luscious green mountains. The beautiful mountain view seems unreal! I have seen some really gorgeous landscapes in my life, but the view in Yucay is one of my favorites.
While I love the friendly people and the natural beauty of Yucay, another highlight was a trip to Urubamba. It’s a nearby city, so I decided to go with a group of friends. The combis (minibus) ride was about ten minutes and only cost S/. 1 (one sol = $0.29) each way. It was a lot of fun navigating our way around in the combis and exploring the city.
The weather was warm and sunny — perfect for our trip! We visited Huyana Capac’s palace, and the plaza before making our way to a market with all kinds of fresh produce, cheeses, meat, handmade clothing, etc. The market was hands-down my favorite place to visit so far. The place was bustling with vendors and vibrant colors. The variety of fruits, vegetables, and legumes was amazing. It was like going into a candy shop!
Although there is so much that I love about Perú so far, I have also experienced some cultural shock. I love the whole environment of the market, but at the same time, I was shocked to see whole pig heads, cow noses, and whole chickens out in the open. I’m a vegetarian and an animal lover, so this was tough to look at. Additionally, the cities I’ve seen so far in Perú have a lot of stray animals in the streets, especially dogs. Some of the animals have owners, but they go out and explore during the day or are used as guard dogs, but most don’t have owners and roam the streets looking for love and nourishment. It breaks my heart to see so many dogs wounded or not taken care of well, and what is worse is that we are advised not to interact or pet them because many dogs do not have the rabies vaccine.
The poorer areas of Perú seem to be more effected by this. It makes sense because when the quality of life for people is low, it is very difficult to add another mouth to feed in the family; however, it is still a sad reality for me to see and witness every day.
On a more positive note, my first week in Perú has been great overall! Monday I will meet my host family and start my classes, so that will be another whole adventure coming next week!