Cusco at 3400 metres!

7 Sep

We arrived in Cuzco early Saturday morning after a grueling 21 hour bus ride from Lima. The ‘puke bus’ was true to its name and a few people were quite sick throughout the journey. Thankfully with the help of two doses of anti-nausea and a lot of water, Stefanie and I managed to avoid vomiting – although there were a few close calls. To pass the time, I watched 4 movies, played Bingo and slept and then FINALLY we reached our destination.

Our first day in Cuzco was spent napping, reading, and drinking coca tea. Coca tea is nature’s remedy for altitude sickness, headaches, temperature sensitivity (it’s cold here!) and pretty much anything else. Coca tea is brewed from the same plant they make cocaine from – so, apparently if we need to take a drug test anytime soon… we’ll fail! You don’t experience any sort of ‘high’ though. We’re also drinking plenty of water.

By nightfall, I was feeling much better and had a great night’s rest. Stef, on the other hand, was vomiting all night. Poor girl. It took her an extra day to adjust, but she is feeling much better now. I feel pretty weak and tired, but the fresh air is quite nice. Walking around Cuzco will take your breath away – literally!

On Sunday, I moved into the volunteer house and checked out the Maximo Nivel Institute. Maximo Nivel is the volunteer organization I’m working with. Stefanie and I are also  taking Spanish lessons here.

The volunteer house is clean and friendly but very, very cold! No central heating. Thankfully, we have hot showers. Everybody in the house is great. We’re all so diverse. Some people are here taking Spanish lessons and others are volunteering or doing both. There are people in our house from Poland, USA, UK, Australia, Brazil and Belgium. There are cooks who prepare all of our meals and cleaners who even make our beds. I feel so strange setting my dish on the counter, instead of washing it – but they insist! The meals have been very tasty, too. You can even request a bagged lunch for when you are out of the house. It feels like I’m in elementary school!al

Last night, we went to a hooka bar with our housemates. I had one strong mojito and that was enough. I was utterly exhausted and the altitude affects your alcohol tolerance quite a bit.

Today was my volunteer orientation. I walked to Maximo Nivel with some housemates and we separated into classrooms with coordinators who explained everything and anything about Peru, Cusco, volunteering, safety, housing, Spanish lessons, tours etc. After orientation, I took a Spanish placement exam. Stefanie and I ended up in the same class – High Basic. After the test, a bunch of us walked over to the Plaza des Armas, a beautiful square surrounded by colonial architecture and churches. It’s funny because each of us had our backpacks and bagged lunches. We looked too cute.

After lunch, we walked back to Maximo and those of us who are teaching English had this crash TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course. It was helpful, but I hope I can apply it in the placement. Two hours later, Stef and I had our first Spanish class. It was difficult, but I am up for a challenge. There are only three of us in the class, so participation is required. Maximo also offers tandem conversation opportunities, where they will pair you with a Peruvian learning English and you can help each other out. We are thinking about setting one up in between our placement and Spanish class… BUSY BUSY!!!

Overall, it was an overwhelming day. Tomorrow, I’m visiting the placement and receiving my schedule. I am excited, but nervous to see where Stefanie an I end up. I hope we can make an impact, even if we are only here for two weeks. Wish us luck!

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6 Responses to “Cusco at 3400 metres!”

  1. Joe September 7, 2010 at 4:02 AM #

    Hey Melissa,glad to hear u are recovering from the climate change.I hope it is not too cold there and that the weather is good.You should be able to pick up on the Spanish pretty well.I hope u achieve all of your goals.Can't wait till ur next blog!

  2. Jess September 7, 2010 at 4:43 AM #

    Sounds like you both will be super busy!!! ps. tell stef she better get on writting in her blog too!! :)Teach me some spanish when you get home.. I need the lessons for costa rica haha!<3

  3. Jenny :) September 7, 2010 at 7:00 PM #

    HELLOOO LADIESS i am excited your safe and enjoying yourself!!! i cant wait to read more blog posts of your journey in Cuzco! i really enjoyed this one. Melissa let me know how the lush shampoo thingy works lol stay safe and warm!! ehehe xo!

  4. Fatima September 8, 2010 at 12:04 AM #

    Sooo glad that you are blogging again! Looking forward to reading your posts.

  5. Sarah September 10, 2010 at 10:51 PM #

    Hey lady!!Sounds so awesome … Im glad that its going well so far! I hope that you brought enough warm clothes lol … Miss you and thinking of you often! Good luck with teaching English, Iknow that youll be AWESOME! Love ya

  6. Brad September 11, 2010 at 6:27 AM #

    I'm glad you're feeling well…The bus ride sounded like the ride from hell…LOL….I'm sure you will do well teaching English and learning Spanish. Take care and be safe.

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