1.4 Los Neños


Well, everything turned out better than expected. On Monday we went with much trepidation to the Spanish school in the centre of Cusco. (This is a twenty minute walk from our homestay, and runs a residential program for foreigners to come and learn Spanish.) There, we met a very enthusiastic lady named Horty (“Or-ti”) who seemed very pleased to see us. Fantastic.

Before this, however, we walked into a courtyard full of students of all ages, were immediately approached and talked at by a scary Spanish lady, and were then herded into a classroom and given a test. A test. I nearly had a massive ‘reliving-my-A-levels’ panic attack. This test wasn’t even vocabulary or simple conversation, it was tenses, conjugations and direct and indirect address. Needless to say, I sulked, guessed and panicked (in that order). Anyway, it turns out that the test is a standard procedure, and it doesn’t really impact us. We are based at the language school and we have two hours of one on one Spanish lessons each afternoon this week, but we are volunteers and not students so we are not doing the full language programme.

It was then that we met Horty and things started looking up. She explained that we would be helping out in a street children project up in the mountains. It is a day care centre for three to five year olds who would otherwise be left alone in their houses while their parents go to work. I didn’t even listen to the rest of the presentation, I was just so happy. This is my ideal job, I adore kids, and looking after them is one of the only two skills that I am sure I have. (The first is downing Jaegerbombs. The two should never be mixed.)


Sofia and Me

After that, I was completely chilled out and excited to get started. I believe that the school is a base for a number of volunteer programs, including similar day care centres for older children, hospices, and young offender rehabilitation. Horty showed us how to get the bus up the mountain, and introduced us briefly to the children, and then, to my dismay, we had to leave los neños and sit through a very long presentation about how to be safe and sensible in Peru. This included advice about how not to upset your homestay family. Advice that would have been very useful on Saturday; before we upset our homestay family.

Anyway, the feud with Lourdes continued until the next morning (I don’t even know what we did this time!) and when we went down for breakfast I found that instead of the usual rice which I eat for breakfast (yay, allergies) there was, in fact, nothing. I tried to look hungry and malnourished but that only seemed to encourage her.


We got the bus, (think hit and miss, jumping haphazardly on and off, sitting next to a chicken, missing your stop because the time it takes you to step from the bus to the pavement is apparently too much time.) Anyway, we were the first to arrive at the day centre, which is a small enclosed patio with a dilapidated school room (pictured above, I am standing in the door of the school room to take a photo, the opposite building is somebody’s home). One little boy was delivered through the gate, and, as he skipped happily into the courtyard he suddenly turned, saw us, stopped in his tracks and then looked at us with a look of such mingled fear and disgust that I became quite disheartened. Luckily, lots of his friends soon turned up (to sit in the corner and look at us suspicously) and then the actual teacher turned up.

Camilla and Emily

Camilla and Emily

We will be spending mornings at the project and most mornings we play table games (blocks, colouring and puzzles) and then the kids go and eat snacks before circle time. The teacher is great, she reminds me of a teacher that I used to have in primary school. The children, once they got over their initial disgust, are very cheerful and affectionate, and chatter away to us in incomprehensible spanish and we nod and smile.

A girl with an unpronouncable name (I call her neño) and Kati

A girl with an unpronouncable name (I call her neño) and Kati

Lots of other things have happened including Salsa lessons (I can either move my arms or my feet, and even then, only when I concentrate) but this blog has gone on long enough.

Because sitting in a dirty internet cafe blogging about my life is genuinely my idea of fun, expect plenty more updates and photos if I can get them.

Cusco continues to be beautiful, and warm.



p.s, I tried to explain the English Easter traditions to my non-english-speaking Spanish teacher. The best I could do was;

Me: “we celebrate by getting a rabbit to hide eggs in our garden.”
Spanish prof: “Real eggs?”
Me: “No, Chocolate ones.”


Spanish prof: “But why?”