My alarm clock sounded off at 5:15am. My stomach turned in a knot as I knew that I was leaving my host family behind. I felt a pang of sadness but wanted to continue my journey in Peru. As I packed my bags for the airport I knew that this might be the last time I might ever saw them again. We hopped in the car and drove to the airport. Everyone grouped together and said goodbye. As I left for security check My host family mom gave me the biggest hug I had ever received in my life. I said my goodbyes and waved.
During the plane ride I saw all of Peru’s beautiful landscape. The lazy plains turned into scraggly tall mountains. As I was looking out the window I couldn’t stop thinking about Arequipa and what I was leaving behind. A fantastic culture, people, and food. The plane landed with a thud as we arrived in Cusco. Everyone got off and grabbed their bags at baggage claim. We all packed our bags onto one bus and got in another. The bus ride was 45 minutes into Urcos. When we arrived two gates opened into a courtyard with grass and two adjacent buildings. Ours was to the right and everyone brought their bags up. We claimed our beds and headed down for food. We had chicken sandwiches. After lunch we had a church tour. We saw three different churches, each one becoming more ornate. The history and context was amazing to hear. After the third church we went to shop and to tour the town square.
The bus ride back was the perfect opportunity for a nap. So I took it. We came back and had dinner. The Papas Fritas mixed with meat and rice was outstanding. Following dinner was a meeting. We talked about the next two days and where we were going. Ari Anderson read six Pslams coupled with an article from Pope Francis. Curfew was 10:30pm.
I sat bolt upright in my bed to the sound of Mexican music and voices talking. I slowly got up and brushed my teeth. I walked down the stairs to freezing cold air. Breakfast was bread and butter. The breakfast was paired with a hour bus ride through the winding slopes of the mountain. We were headed to Canchanura, a small town which sat at 12,795 feet. The view was mesmerizing. We painted the local community church.
Midway through the day one of the locals brought us potatoes that she had cooked on some hot rocks, she also brought some Ahi sauce. I was a little bit nervous to try them at first but it was cool to see how she brought them up on her back in a blanket. They were actually really good. By the time we were done the white paint looked nicer. It was our hope that when the community gathered at church again the clean paint would give them hope for the future.
The bus ride back was a peaceful nap. I felt gross from the paint all over my body. I took a freezing cold shower. I layed in bed and wrote in my journal. Everyone and Mrs. DeLozier headed to downtown Urcos. We fueled our bodies with junk food as we walked back. Everyone talked and ate food as we got back. Lights were out at at 10:30 again.
The second day was even more fulfilling then the next. I again woke up to Spanish music. It was my favorite Amigos con Derecho. We drove up to a small village above the city of Urcos called Poblacion. It was over 12,000 feet high. We drove on a one lane dirt road up the side of the mountain where the bus driver honked at every curve. It showed how remote the community was. It was intense but our bus driver was amazing and very safe. Once we arrived, the view was incredible you could see for miles down the windy dirt road we had taken. Our job was to repaint a small church perched on the side of a mountain. After cleaning out the inside, removing benches and religious icons we began to repaint the inside white while another group sanded the inside before applying the paint. The painting was a little bit slow and tedious and boring at the time but once we finished it was amazing at what we accommplished.
After our work we hit the town of Cusco. It was exuberant watching the people and hearing the music. I bought sunglasses with my friends as we toured the town. We got on the bus and got back late to Urcos. We all went to bed by 10pm.
This was our last day in Urcos. We had to get up at five in the morning. I packed my stuff and brought it down. We got in the bus and had a three-hour bus ride to Pomacanchi. I slept for most of it. We arrived and had breakfast. It was frigid yet again. We all got on the bus and went up a plateu. The green hills hid the Peruvians on their hands and knees picking potatoes and sorting them. No tourist would ever see these people. More Natives were herding alpacas and sheep. When we got to the workplace we had to dig out land covering stairs.
Two hours of hard manual labor was tough. Next we had to paint, but not the normal way. We were given sheep skin, that we dipped in paint and splattered onto the side of the church. Me, Justin, Brad, and Aiden painted. We painted right next to pigs. The pigs would lick the paint and sniff it. As we painted we got drenched in paint and in fecal matter. It wasn’t pleasant in the ditch. But we managed.
After work we had lunch there as we saw the community surround us. We gave them hope by being there. As we finished lunch we handed out books, and notebooks. The kids were beaming with joy. I felt fulfilled yet lost. Why were these kids so impoverished and we weren’t? I contemplated this on the way back. I thought myself to sleep. Three hours had passed. We were back at Urcos. We then loaded another bus with our bags and headed to Cusco. We were finally done with work. The hour bus ride headed into downtown Cusco. Once we arrived at the hostel, we set our stuff down and showered. We watched Captain America Winter Soldier huddled in a room. We finally went to bed at one in the morning.
We were proud to make a difference in these communities. Here is a link for more information on the three communities.