I´m home alone tonight and not really feeling well, so I thought I would update with some details about what I´m doing here. This is going to be a very very long post... I hope you enjoy!
Every week day I volunteer at an orphanage for girls, San Judas. The girls at San Judas range in age from 5 to around 15. The orphanage itself is kept up pretty nice for Peru, though it would be considered pretty shabby if it was in the US.
Overall, the girls are very friendly and are excited to have some individual attention. They seem happy with the limited resources they have and seem to make the most out of a bad situation. A couple of examples: There are a limited number of books for the girls to read and look at, so many of the girls have their own notebooks in which they copy the stories and pictures from the books they do have. They´ll spend a whole afternoon trying to perfect all of the details just so they can have a copy to call their own. Another example: Yesterday, I brought a set of three princess bouncy balls for the girls to play with. They loved the bouncy balls but were just as entertained by the packaging, which they turned into a mask. They also asked a lot of questions about the Princesses on the packaging too. I guess Disney really does have universal appeal!
While I´m there I mainly play with the girls and help them pass the time between finishing their homework and supper. I usually bring something from my bag of treats every few days but I´m always sure to take it home with me. I know this sounds really cruel, but if I leave them there I will never see the toys again. I´m hoping to find a big box at a market to give to the orphange before I leave so that the girls can fill it with all of their outdoor toys and leave them in one place. Plus, the girls are so hungry for attention (and possibly for possesions) that it´s hard to know if they´ll share the things and I don´t want to play favorites.
There are probably 20 to 30 girls who live at San Judas. The sleep in big bedrooms, each room probably holding 10 or 15 twin sized beds. Most children in Peru wear uniforms to school, and I would assume the girls at San Judas are no different. The ones who are old enough leave every day to go to school and then return to the orphanage afterwards. Since I´ve been volunteering there (so for five days), the girls haven´t changed their clothes once. So I think they wear their uniforms to school and then put their ¨play clothes¨ on when they return home. I´m not sure how often the girls are able to wash their clothes, or themselves for that matter.
San Judas and its brother orphanage, I believe Libertad, run a bakery together in an upscale part of town called San Blas. The orphanages, especially Libertad, run the bakery and all the proceeds from sales goes towards the orphanages. San Judas doesn´t get any funding from the government so I think this is one of the ways they are able to make money. I was able to visit the bakery today, called Buen Pastor, and the food is very good.
From what I´ve been able to gather, once the girls turn fifteen they are no longer able to stay at the orphanage. The people who run San Judas, which is very understaffed, try to help the girls find jobs using the skills they learned at Buen Pastor but if they are unable to find work they are mostly on their own. I really hope I misunderstood this and that I find out in the future that I´m wrong.
My homestay house is very nice. Though, like all homes in Cuzco it is not heated and is subsequently very cold at night. I lucked out since my house has a computer and internet. I guess, this is rare at the other houses so I feel very blessed.
My homestay mom is named Yoni. She is very nice and reminds me alot of my Mom. She takes really good care of us and is very understanding. She always makes sure we are well fed and is very comforting when she notices that someone isn´t feeling well or is homesick. She doesn´t speak any English but we´re able to communicate fairly well and she has been able to give me some advice on what to see in Cuzco and where to find things I need.
Yoni´s daughter, Wendy, also lives here. Wendy is 19 and is attending a University in Cuzco. In a few weeks she´s going on vacation with her dad for three weeks so it´s going to be sad when she´s not around. Wendy speaks about as much English as I do Spanish so we´re able to communicate. Like Yoni, Wendy is very nice and helpful.
This morning I met up with Michelle and two other volunteers, Caroline and Reagan. We walked around town and found a really good pizzeria to have lunch at. We checked out an area of town where a lot of artists reside, San Blas, and were able to check out some very interesting, but touristy, stores. We also went to La Mega, which is one of the main grocery stores in Peru. I´ll have to take some pictures for Dad and Jay, though I was suprised how much it looked like an American store. I would probably have to say that it was nicer then the grocery store up north. The prices were reasonable and I´ll definitely be returning when I run out of Teddy Grahams and Nature Valley bars. We were going to return to school for salsa lessons (which are offered every Saturday) but I didn´t feel to well so I decided to come home instead.
And now, to reward those of you who read ALL of that, here are some videos. I´ve been trying to upload these for days so hopefully they´ll work!
This is the second floor of my school, starting in my classroom, going to the main room, and then showing you the snack bar and computer area that I normally post from.
I shot this video when I was up at the church on Thursday. Does it remind anyone else of Klompen Dancing windmills?
Hope everything is okay in Wisconsin. I hear there have been a lot of storms and I hope everyone is safe and sound. Thank you for all of your prayers and support.