Published: June 22nd 2011December 22nd 2010
Flat - The Dogs
The crazy dogs who lived in the courtyard of our building.
Initially we had planned to stay in Cusco for 3 wks to work at the Yanpany project and check out Maccu Piccu. After started the school, we both realized this was something worth giving more time to, so decided to stick about. Much to the annoyance of our travel agent (who had to yet again change our flights!) In the end we ended up there, just over two months and it was an unforgettable experience.
We thought it best to collect the whole experience into one post, instead of dozens of posts which would have become boring very quickly. I know, it’s very long (skip over it if you want!) but the below details what we did, with who and where over that time.
We arrived in Cusco just before Christmas and were thankfully able to get a room at the Hostel Magico, the hostel which is tied into the Yanapay project and helps fund it. It had crazy décor and balconies that over hung into its courtyard giving you cover from the rain. The rooms were nice with lots of space, tv’s and alcohol burning heaters. We stayed their throughout the Christmas and
new year period but unfortunately, the cleaner who came in everyday at 6am thought it was a good place to bring her vocal one year old kid so with the help of our Spanish teacher we managed to get a flat just down the road from the school.
When we were hunting for Spanish lessons, I asked on the off chance at one place how you go about getting a flat in Cusco. The next day, the owner of the school had found a place in the area and price range we were looking for and arranged a viewing after class.
Literally a 5 minute walk away from school and a stones throw from the San Pedro square, it was a second floor apartment, with a massive living room, well equipped kitchen, bathroom and two bedrooms. All for $300 a month between us!
Personally I really enjoyed living there and could always lose some time just by sticking my head out the window and watching Cusco roll by on the streets below. The Landlady Ena was wicked and could never help us too much, fixing any problems we had that day and helping us with our Spanish.
(U know your not in England when a landlord is helpful!) It was a really nice place to live and call your own for a short while.
After two months travelling South American and having encountered numerous language barriers, we decided it was time to arm ourselves with a better knowledge of the language so we could understand what people were actually saying.
Thankfully the search wasn’t too grueling, with it being low season the schools were running low on pupils and keen to take on students. After being offered a free taster lesson, we tried out Mundo Antiguo language school and decided to go with them for 20 hours worth of lessons.
We started out with the good intention of taking 4 hr of lessons in the morning then school in the afternoon. This was a bit too adventurous to start with, 4hr of a new language was too much to digest with school prep and homework to deal with too. After a very long day we switched it down to 2hrs, 9-11 every morning.
To begin with we leant the basic’s of greetings, numbers, weather, how to tell the time,
etc. Over the weeks this progressed into basic verb conjuration. and deeper conversation. Spanish has a ridiculous amount of rules that apply in seemingly thousands of ways to different words and terms.
Most lessons we left with our heads pounding from everything we’d learnt that lesson. Thankfully, into the second week things began to click into place and we began to develop a good (if still very basic) understanding of how things work.
This coupled with school helped give us a good enough grasp of Spanish to get us through the rest of our trip.
Cusco itself wasn’t the nicest of towns, it had the typical South American Plaza de Armas - A centre feature, in this case a water fountain surrounded by flower beds and public benches and hustled by the many street vendors. Boarding Plaza de Arms was the majority of the Tourist agencies, who mercilessly tried to hustle you whenever you passed by. North of this was the mountains, that contained the whole city, with buildings filtering up to the summit, the higher they went, the poorer they got.
To the east was rich and beautifully shaped San
Blas. Lined with little thin cobbled streets, a stunning square with epic water feature, numerous artisan and craft shops, a perfectly shaped tourist trap yet still very beautiful. This is also where we took our Spanish classes.
South of the plaza de Arms was Avenue de Sol, the main stripped strip, lined with banks, expensive electrical shops, tour agencies, etc. All very expensive and not worth much time.
To the west was where we spent most of our time, out of the plaza de arms this lead to two smaller plaza’s lined with shops and out onto San Pedro square, from here it was a 2 minute walk to our flat, 5 minutes to the hostel and 7 minutes to the school. Below the square was San Pedro Market where we eat and bought our shopping a lot of the time. The area and all around it became poorer the further you went out of it.
After a few weeks Cusco began to feel like home, we had our own corner shop, were close to our friends in the hostel, had made friends with the woman selling popcorn outside the entrance to our flat
and even had a guy at the end of the street who sold chippy style chicken and chips at the end of our street.
I have a lot of fond memories of Cusco, walking through the streets, hanging out the living room window, the crazy Irish bars, street sellers, cobbled roads, women with llama’s wondering the streets and seemingly endless amount of wild dogs running free. I was really sad to leave the place but it wasn’t until we reached Lima, that I saw how under developed it truly was and how much I had adjusted to that way of living. My heart goes out to the people that grow up there, although it’s a beautiful place it must be a hard way of life.
The Yanapay project was the reason we staying in Cusco for longer than the standard tourist Inca Tour trip. After spending many a hour online searching for a suitable project which was trying to charge us for the pleasure of giving up your free time, we came across Yanpany. The ethics and reason behind the project were something we both wanted to get involved in and it was
open to non Spanish speakers which was a must at this time.
We arrived at the hostel on the day before Christmas eve, after rushing through Bolivia, only to find the project wasn’t running until the start of January. O’well, we set made ourselves useful helping out with the Christmas show and it was time well spent getting to know our fellow volunteers.
School started and we were a bit apprehensive but we got stuck in has best we could. The school day was 4hrs long and was split into three. The first 2hrs we spent in one of four classes; Art - Where the kids built models, painted, drew and wrote usually about the subject that was being studied that week.. Games - where you play educational games with the kids, getting them to work on their spanish and English. Tutorial - where we taught the kids various levels of Spanish and English, grammar and numbers. Biblotec -Where we help the kids with their homework
This was followed by circle time, where all the kids got together and either Yuri (the founder of the program or Janek (the head of school one) talked
about various subjects with the kids. This could be anything from pokemon, to what they saw on tv, different culture, hygiene, respect and anything else. the aim was to get the kids talking and build up confidence and knowledge of things they wouldn’t learnt in school.
The last 60-90 minutes of the day was spent in the different family groups. The kids were split into various groups dependant on their age; Delphins - 4-5yr olds (God bless the people that worked with these kids, they were crazy!!), Tigres - 6-7yr olds (This was who I worked with and were an amazing bunch of kids, if not a handful at times.), Cielo - 7-8 yr olds, Uvas 8-9, Corazon 9-10, Sol 10-11 and Dinosaurios 11-13yr olds.
The school was split into two with one area housing the 4 - 8 yr olds and the second school housing the older kids.
Kjersti worked mostly in school two with the older kids and I stayed mostly with the younger ones. To begin with, we both started off in Games. Playing memory based games with the kids, attempting to practice our Spanish but rather being school by the
kids. After a few wks we moved to art, which really allowed you to be creative with the kids, putting together lessons centred around that weeks theme, it was important to keen the occupied throughout the whole lesson or they just ran wild. It was definitely more fun to do art in school one although the younger kids produced some of the worst smells!
It was after a month that I moved in tutorial which was definitely a big step for me. It was important to be really prepared for each lesson, if you slipped for a second the kids would loss interest fast. I found it really rewarding and good fun after the initial nerves had passed. I invited a couple of games to quickly figure out a childs skill level, then from there we would work on the games. Working on numbers, spelling or reading. Most of the time the kids would end up teaching me something which was nice and we’d often read books in Spanish and English, with the kids correcting my broken Spanish and I helping them with their English.
The school were the pinical of the week, once given the theme the
Friday before the coming week. It was important to found out who your group were, sit down with them and work out daily lesson plans leading up to the final show. Dependant on the class you were in, it could vary greatly. The best show we had in Tigres was the final week, were we produced a short song and dance about Switzerland. Other shows included dances or show stories with the volunteers helping to narrate. The older groups however, we’re able to produce much more detailed shows, with one of Kjersti’s group’s shows being a short Shakesphere play and a full tango routine.
It was always a interesting and full couple of hours watching everyone’s show and a bit nervous putting your groups on but it really helped summarize everything you’d been working on with the kids with the rest of the school and reinforce what they’d learnt.
Overall the Yanapay project was really worth wild, I felt we managed to do some good work in the school and definitely helped a couple of the kids out. It was really nice to be working in that group environment and we meet dozens people from all over
the world. I’m really glad we extended our time there and wish it could have been for longer. I think the pple on the project at that time definitely made a difference to it all and it wouldn’t have been the same without them. Janek the volunteer coordinator was amazing, so full of energy and friendly, his girlfriend Lucy too, Neil – another of the long term volunteers who was a good friends and the dozens of interesting, amusing and amazing people we meet along the way. Unfortunately, Yuri the guy behind the project turned out to be very fake and more interested in the girl volunteers than the project at times but that’s how it goes sometimes. Still I take my hat off to the guy for setting up such a amazing project and wish it all the best in the future.
There are more photos below