“Well I am in Peru can you believe it!” reads the first sentence in my journal on July 9th 2008. After all the airports, airplanes, baggage claims, Dramamine, Customs, two buses and a very daring step into a tiny alleyway that nearly killed me because apparently in Peru taxi’s do not yield to pedestrians, I have finally reached my destination. My travel experience wasn’t too bad considering the fact that I was traveling with thirty-five other Eagle Condor Humanitarian volunteers, ranging from ages 8 to 50. We arrived in Lima at who knows what time and were promptly shown to a bus that we would be sleeping on all night. Needless to say I didn’t sleep well.
We arrived in the bustling town of Trujillo sometime in the afternoon, and the culture shock was hitting hard already. The whole hour plane ride from Lima to the tiny Trujillo airport these guys where taking pictures and videoing me! Down there blonde-haired 16 year olds are hard to come by, and I would soon get used to the honking and whistling of taxi drivers as we all walked down the street in our matching Eagle Condor Humanitarian shirts. Our hotel was the nicest one we would be staying in on this trip. The beds where tiny but pretty comfortable after the upright seats of airplanes and buses, and the bathroom was decent but you couldn’t flush toilet paper. I didn’t have much time to worry about that though because we were immediately put to work. After all, it was a humanitarian expedition and we were there to give service to the people of Peru.
My first assignment was to Vanessa’s house, a lady who basically would walk around the city and pick up garbage and then put it in her house with the hopes of organizing it and sending it to the recycling plant for money. The whole house reeked of garbage and after sorting through the 10 foot high piles of stuff we found that there were actually dead animals in the piles too. I am glad to report that not all of our projects were as full-blown as this one. I was able to do some really enjoyable tasks as well. We did a lot of painting. The first house we painted was basically made out of mud, and we painted it a very appropriate shade of peach that went well with surrounding lime green, hot pink and sunshine yellow houses on either side.
My favorite projects were done in the high mountain village of Salkantay located about 45 minutes from the city of Cuzco. This is the Peru I had imagined when I first decided to go on this expedition. All the villagers wore traditional colorful attire; the little kids ran around with their knit hats and chapped lips and absolutely loved us. We played many games with them and sang songs when we weren’t working on big projects like hauling rocks to build up supportive walls or spreading dirt to build a community court yard. I loved it there and loved singing and dancing with all the little children. I wanted to take home little baby Ruthie who was only 10 months old and had no idea that the life ahead of her was going to be a tough one or that we were there to try and ease some of the struggles that the people of her village faced daily.
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