1- How was the local ABV Coordinator/staff and the support provided in-country?
Maria Elena was amazing! She had all the right information and gave the most helpful tips. She gave me a quick tour of the city on the first day, which was nice. She also made sure that I was comfortable and that I had everything that I needed. She gave me her 100% support, and I really appreciated that.
2- What was the most surprising thing you experienced?
Host Family: The meals were very different than what I was used to. For example, lunch is very heavy here in Cusco. Breakfast and dinner, however, are very light. Drinking tea here in Cusco is much like a ritual. Everyone drinks tea!
Country: The people here are very welcoming and very personable. I was somewhat surprised when I was asked what my parents' names were. I usually don't get asked that back home. I also noticed that the people here are always willing to help out one another.
3- What was the most challenging thing you experienced?
Program: I think the most challenging out of all was the communication between me and the kindergarteners. The kids didn't know any English whatsoever, while I only knew little Spanish. However, the one week course I took for Spanish lessons helped me out dramatically. I was able to pick up on the language quick.
Host Family: There wasn't any challenge staying with my host family.
Country: The only challenge was probably the elevation. It's a bit harder to breathe, especially when you're going up stairs (and there's plenty of stairs around here).
4- Any tips for future volunteers… (clothing, travel, personal items, donations)
1. The weather here in Peru tends to fluctuate. It's cold in Cusco at night, but hot in the daytime. It's also humid in Machu Picchu. It really depends on where you visit. Just be prepared!
2. Get used to showering in cold water on some days.
3. Bring bug spray! Also, carry toilet paper and hand sanitizer with you at all times. Some public bathrooms won't have any of those.
4. Have enough cash and remember, the fee for a taxi is around 4 to 5 soles here in Cusco. If you plan on buying souvenirs, haggle! They'll probably catch that you're a tourist, so they'll sell things at a higher price.
5.1-Other things volunteers should know before coming here:
a. Don't be afraid to explore. You meet so many people from around the world who are volunteering as well, or who are just traveling and passing by.
b. I suggest knowing some basic Spanish. It comes in handy.
c. If you come to Cusco, try La Bodega near Plaza de Armas for the BEST pizza!!
d. Definitely take it easy on the first day due to elevation. I felt it right when I walked off the plane. It was just harder to breathe.
6- Personal Paragraph about the experience (ABV Program Testimonial):
Overall, my experience was life changing. I volunteered through ABV mainly because I wanted to help and contribute to the community. At the same time, I needed experience in teaching in a foreign country to complete my ESL teaching certificate. I've learned so much from the two weeks I've been here. It's been a pleasure working with the little kids, my Spanish teachers, and my host mom.
7- How would you describe your accommodation, meals, security, friendliness, quality others:
I had everything that I needed. I didn't have to worry about food because I was fed. I only paid for food when I went to a restaurant. I did pay for laundry, which was 5 soles per kilo. Not too bad. Overall, I felt at home being here.
8- What was your favorite memory of this trip?:
Program: I was playing with the kids during recess. They were trying to point out something, but I didn't understand it at all. I didn't know what a rock was in Spanish! Well, I asked one boy, "Que is piedra?" I even shrugged my shoulders to kind of hint that I had no clue what "piedra" was. Then, there he goes running to go pick up a rock to bring back to me. With a big grin on his face, he holds up the rock and says "piedra!" :) My heart melted right on the spot.
Host Family: I learned so much from the Peruvian culture because of my host mom. She took me to different places in Plaza de Armas and pointed out the must-go-to restaurants. I loved the fact that she always encouraged me to go out and enjoy my time before my two weeks are up. I got the free time that I needed. She was also able to help me with booking my tours.
Country: People here are very personable, as I've said. On my last two days, the laundry mat I usually go to closed an hour later than usual because they were waiting for me to pick up my laundry. I was having dinner with a couple of people in downtown that I totally forgot about it. The owner was apparently worried that I might not have enough time to pick up my laundry in the morning before I fly back to the U.S.
9- How was the ABV USA support prior traveling?
It was great! Everyone was very quick to answer my questions and respond to my emails.
9.1- What do you think about the reservation system online?
I didn't have any trouble, nor do I have any complaints about the reservation system online.
9.2- Who did you find Abroaderview website
I just googled volunteer opportunities.
10 – Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV volunteers?
Definitely! Ask me anything.