Arriving in Cusco, Peru was overwhelming. The airport in Lima was confusing due to everything being in Spanish and the confusion of checking my luggage. Once I arrived in Cusco it was quite beautiful. The sun was shining by 7 a.m. and quite warm in the sun. Due to the quantity of people staying in The Amauta Spanish school I was placed in a Hostel near by with 10 other volunteers. The Hostel is quite beautiful and has an amazing terrace overlooking the city. The Hostel is more spacious and clean and I am glad I was placed here.
When I first arrived to my room I was feeling overwhelmed. UBELONG leaders took everyone tthe Amauta school and took only me to the Hostel. After I unpacked my luggage I seen another student across from my room. She was friendly and I felt more at home. After that I met tons of other people from all over the world (Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, Germany, etc.) We explored the city for the first couple days and became friends.
Everything in Peru is cheap. Clothes, taxis, food, etc. I love how I can eat out multiple times and only spend about $3-5 dollars each time in U.S. dollars. So far we explored the city, markets, Inca museum, and chocolate museum. I absolutely love the city of Cusco. The indigenous people are extremely nice and friendly. The markets are crowded with fruit, meats, nuts, spices, clothes, little gifts, etc.
Volunteering at the Mental Hospital
My first day working at the mental hospital was a culture shock. I thought I was going to be working with children, but it ended up being adults. Most of the patients there were diagnosed with Schizophrenia, Bi-Polar, Depression, Autism, etc (Schizophrenia being the leading diagnosis). The patients are mostly outside for the day and have a daily routine. I start at 8:30 a.m. and finish around 1 p.m. When I arrive patients are just waking up. They all go to breakfast and eat two pieces of bread with this mushy drink. Some patients can eat by themselves and others need help. After this the patients all brush their teeth in this big sink outside and bathe with the help of an assistant. There is a gate that blocks off the aggressive from non-aggressive patients. I have been on both sides with the nurse I met. He has showed me the diagnoses for each patient and the drugs that each patient takes. Some patients have greater mental problems than the others. The patients with Schizophrenia walk back and forth outside and enjoy singing and talking. Other patients will refuse to talk and lay on the cement by themselves. I met one lady who I was told is Schizophrenia, but seems quite normal. She can talk to me in Spanish for hours, shows emotions, play volley ball, etc. Most of these people do not have families and it is quite sad. I really enjoyed playing sports outside with all of the patients and it seemed as if they could operate more efficient when doing these types of activities. The first day was overwhelming, but the patients quickly started to grow on me and I became friends with the other workers. I only have one picture so far of the patients because I am not sure if I am supposed to take pictures of the patients due to confidentiality. All the patients are ages 30-80. Most of them have the brains of a 6-10 year old. They do activities like drawing, learning numbers, words, animals, etc.
Speaking spanish: I have taken two years of Spanish at U of M and some in high school. My spanish has improved significantly since I have been here. I have been using mostly spanish except to the other students who speak english. At my job I speak 100% spanish and I already feel like my accent, grammar, and putting sentences together has improved rapidly. I really love the Spanish language and culture.
Downfall: However, yesterday I had food poisoning. The worst food poisoning I have ever had. The doctor seen me twice and gave me medicine and a prescription. She even came to my hostel because I was too ill to go to the Amauta school. The Spanish ladies here at the Hostel took great care of me. They brought me extra pillows, tea, soup, etc. I felt right at home. I am starting to feel better today.
I plan on going to Sacred Valley this Sunday with a big group of people as long as I as better. Next weekend we plan on going to Machu Picchu or a Jungle tour. I am very excited!! We also plan to visit all the museums and markets.