There are two Original Volunteers sponsored orphanages in Cusco, a boys one and a girls one. The girls one can only take female volunteers, while the boys one can take both male and female, so there are generally more here.
At the time of writing, there are four of us here at the boys, but two went to Machu Picchu this morning, two are currently there, and one is in Bolivia until the weekend. However by this time next week we’ll actually have been reduced to two of us here at the boys: me and a guy from Essex who arrived last week.
This kind of exemplifies the nature of volunteering here. Very much relaxed, allowing people to do their own thing. It means that activities for the kids are usually pretty spontaneous, although I hope we can do some lazer tag with them, and maybe I’ll be able to do a mini movie, although thinking about it that will be pretty hard. Yesterday we did have a pretty action packed day. It was the last day of a couple of Sundays of carnivals to mark lent. On the last one, me and the guy from Essex, Marc, went into town and came out covered in silly string and water after a city wide water fight. This time more planning went in to targeting the boys, and with more of us here, we filled up two bags of about 60 balloons with water, and 20 bottles, covered them in glitter and waited for the boys to leave. The result was carnage. Both on the way out and coming back in, it was like a water version of Stalingrad. We got them, they came up and got us back, so we got them again. I have video evidence which I’ll try to upload, although it’ll be a pretty big file.
A few from the trip to the hot springs
A healthy green
A local striking a seductive pose for me.
Angel, the youngest…
… Hasn’t earned a reputation for nothing.
Later we also went and played football against some locals. Although we put up a fight, they managed to win overall, probably due to far superior fitness… and skill.
The boys themselves vary from 9-17 (they usually leave when they’re about 17 or 18, or whenever their parents – yes many have parents – request for their return). The youngest, Anhul is also the cheekiest and cutest, so gets a lot of attention from the volunteers, as does Moises, the second youngest. Both of them look incredibly young for their age (as all the boys do), probably because of a past of poor nutrition and emotional issues at home, and the fact that the national average must be 5ft 5in. The reasons they’re in here vary from person to person. Some were involved in gangs and drugs (I’ve never seen any real gangs though, and we live in one of the poorest areas of the city), many were just neglected at home. You wouldn’t know it though, as they are pretty much all the chirpiest, friendliest, most inquisitive and happy bunch of kids you’ll meet. While it sounds a bit racist, it’s quite easy to mix up people of a different race when you first meet them, especially when they’re all roughly the same age and height. But now I know them all by face, if not name, and can see their different personality characteristics, it’s far easier to interact and have a good time with them.
On Wednesday last week we also took a day long trip to some hot springs up high in the mountains. After waking up at 4 to leave at 5am, we packed 45 or so people into a 35 seater coach and set off on a 9 hour round trip which involved many hyperactive and vomiting children. Once we got there we enjoyed 3 or so hours of hot springs bathing and an anthill volcano before making the return journey. One advantage of this was I met a friend of one of the volunteers who works in film, at home and in Argentina/Chile or had lots of advice and some work opportunities for when I return. Also a very funny Northern guy who ripped into us on the following night out (he says it’s because he hasn’t managed to have English banter in about 5 years.
Generally days where we do a lot with the boys are followed by days of doing not much. This is partly because we’re so exhausted, partly because Marc and I are doing Spanish classes which start from 8am and run until 12, followed by lunch and sometimes a trip to a good gym I’ve found. The Spanish classes are really well taught, much more interactive and well thought out than the ones I had in Utila, which were just from the text book. They also come with an opportunity to do traditional cooking, which I’m doing tomorrow (Marc: “there’s no way they’re gonna force me to cook anything.” Strange man) and Salsa, which we’re going to do on Friday.
I’m hoping that soon I’ll be able to take the opportunity to get up one of the mountains surrounding the city (Cusco is situated in a valley) to visit the Cristo Blanco (a smaller Rio Statue of Jesus), Saksaywuman Inca temple (yes that’s it’s actual name) and look down on the city from above. I also need to start planning my coming travels, as I want to go back up to visit a friend in Central America, but also want enough time to travel South America. I’ve now been told (by Oscar, the Northern film guy) that going down Patagonia on the Argentinian side then going back up through Chile is the most breathtaking scenery in the world (New Zealand has to be up there, but it’s so expensive!).