It is 9:15 PM in Cusco. I’m sitting in my bed in my new homestay. Today was probably the busiest and most stressful day of the trip so far.
After breakfast and packing our bags in the hotel in Urubamba, the group started the drop-off. We were divided into three teams with a specific set of tasks to complete in nearby towns, in the style of the Amazing Race. Katy, Riya, and I were assigned the city of Yucay. We had to find a temple, take a picture of it, take a picture of whoever gave us the information about the temple, and buy 3 different types of corn in the market. We asked the receptionist at the desk how to get there, and we were told to take the colectivo there. These were tiny minivans crammed full of people that cost 70 centimos per person. After jamming into one of these by the gas station (it wasn’t too hard to find), we began the 10-minute journey to Yucay. There, we quickly found the temple we were looking for. It was a massive, colonial-style Spanish catholic church with a service going on inside. Since we didn’t want to disrupt the service, we asked a shopkeeper for information about the temple. She told us it connects way back to the Incan-Spanish conflict, where the church was essentially a symbol of Spanish conquest. The shopkeeper also didn’t want us to take a photo with her. I was not that surprised. I think she didn’t want to be seen as partaking in tourist activities, so we understood. Multiple people told us there was no market in Yucay, however, so we went back to Urubamba in another crammed colectivo to go to the centro comercial. We bought three types of corn (most notably a beautiful purple one) and returned an hour ahead of schedule, putting us in 1st place. We were promised a reward, but we still haven’t gotten it. Hmm…
During the reflection session, we talked about cultural perceptions. Most notably, our group in particular learned that we were charged more than double the value of the corn than we should have paid. Bartering is acceptable in Peruvian markets and we certainly learned our lesson. After lunch (a delicious egg and meat soup and kebobs), we left Urubamba and drove about an hour to Cusco. There, we arrived at the SIT office and met our homestay families. Marianela is my host mom. I have a host brother, Eduardo, and a host sister, Daniela, who are both slightly older than I am. There are also an assortment of dogs that live with us. Draco, a 5 year old smaller dog, is watching me write this blog right now.
The only issue is that one of our dogs is missing. Baruna escaped from Daniela at a park and became lost. After dropping my stuff off at the house (a small yet cozy space right behind a coffee shop) and eating an early dinner of chicken, soup, and rice, we spent 3 hours driving all over the city looking for him but to no avail. We will continue looking for him tomorrow.
I really like my host family. They have been incredibly accepting and willing to go to any lengths to help me. I really appreciate their sacrifice. I still request score updates from you all, so feel free to leave any pertinent scores in the comments!
Looking forward to what my first full day in Cusco will bring.