On Friday evening, we coasted into Cusco for our first night in the sprawling city. Our hostel, Wara Wara, had beautiful views of the city and a cozy feel. Dinner was had at the hostel, and we settled into our rooms in preparation for a long day.
The next morning, we had a delicious breakfast prepared by the hostel owners. Then, we were released into Cusco to explore and familiarize ourselves with the city. Our first impressions were of a busy and fast-paced city; people everywhere and lots happening at every moment. Many of the cobblestone streets in the city center are very narrow and barely have enough space for pedestrians and cars to share. Often, walking along the streets required stepping into street-side doorways to dodge incoming traffic. Many shops and restaurants line the roads, along with very insistent street vendors trying to sell their wares. The day was fun; spent wandering around and checking out the various parts of downtown Cusco.
The downtown area has several distinct features. One of those - arguably the most prolific and important - is the Plaza de las Armas, the central plaza of the city. Thousands of people cross through here every minute on their way to shops and restaurants, or even just to sit on a bench or some steps and hang out. Flowers fill the plaza and add to the beauty and charm of the downtown center.
Another feature of downtown Cusco is the number of museums all within walking distance of each other. One that particularly stood out was the Museo del Arte Precolumbiano, which has beautiful art and hundreds of artifacts belonging to pre-Colombian societies. Some of the pottery and woodwork in the museum dates back to over 3000 years ago!
On Sunday, we met with our host families for the first time and were exposed to the lives of native Cusqueñans. The host families have been working with Pacific Discovery for several years, so they were familiar with the experience of having host children. They were all very kind and welcoming!
For the next week, we attended the local school San Blas to learn Spanish in a classroom setting. All of us benefited from the classes throughout the week and were able to practice our Spanish at the local market, Mercado San Blas, with our host families, and in the free afternoons exploring the city. - Stephen Berg
Our Home Away From Home
This past week was an unforgettable adventure. We did activities that were all out of our comfort zone, but we pushed forward and accomplished things that in the moment seemed impossible. Mountain biking, hiking in the hot sun, camping in the jungle, and trekking to the world renowned Machu Picchu were all activities that each of us will never forget.
We have only been together for two weeks, but it feels like we have all known each other for years. Bonds are forming and memories are being made that will last a lifetime. We are supportive of each other in every way and get through the challenges together. No one is left behind. The adventures that lie ahead will make us stronger, independent, young adults, both individually and as a community on this South American journey. - Elle Francis