Days 65-74: Final Days Volunteering in Arequipa

Trip Start Oct 15, 2013
1
11
34
Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Peru  , Arequipa Region,
Friday, December 27, 2013

Our final 1 & 1/2 weeks in Arequipa were busy with Christmas time and a lot going on at the orphanage. The director left on December 22nd for holidays with her family which meant the orphanage needed a female volunteer to take on each night shift during the week while she was away. Most of the volunteers with TNT were happy to take on a shift. I got the first shift. It wasn't too difficult when I arrive at 6pm and played with the older kids for a few hours, then ate soup with the adults. Luckily they had a visitor who knew English well enough to translate all of the instructions for the night. I assumed it would be fairly simple, give the kid a bottle if they woke up. However the instructions were extremely detailed including which diapers to check at each hour, which bottle belonged to each kid, and at what hour to give it to them. They set up my bed (a mattress on the floor) beside the infant who needed to be fed every two hours in the night. They did say I was allowed to sleep but to make sure I was alert at all times. As I expected I didn't get any sleep that night. It wasn't because the kids were waking up crying constantly but more out of fear of not waking if they did. A lot of people joked that it was a true test for motherhood but I disagreed; I will never have 10 kids under 5 years old at once. Or at least I don't plan on it.

It seemed as though each shift during this period we would arrive at the orphanage and all the full time Tias were frantically running around getting the kids ready for another party. These parties were either celebrating one of the kid's birthdays, a child graduating, or a Christmas party put on by a local organization or wealthy family. Before we started at the orphanage we planned to buy each kid a toy thinking it was rare and would make their Christmas extremely special. However with each Christmas party the kids received at least a couple of toys each and sadly most would be broken within a day or two. The toy giver would often help them set it up and play with them for an hour before leaving. Within a few hours the kids would generally be playing and laughing with a volunteer, no toys in sight. We saw near the end that the excitement from the toys and presents lasted a few short hours but having the attention and hanging out with the volunteers and Tia's is what they really needed and enjoyed.

As Christmas got nearer we were really feeling homesick. We luckily got to FaceTime with friends at an annual Christmas party we have. We also got to FaceTime our families on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. In Peru most people celebrate Christmas late on Christmas Eve. This consists of a huge feast followed by fireworks and gift opening at midnight. We were really happy to be invited to our volunteer house owner's flat for a Christmas dinner where each person brought a dish from their home country.

On Christmas Eve we worked the morning shift. While we were doing laundry we were invited to join in on brunch with all the kids and full time Tias seated at the table. It was the first time we've seen everyone sitting down at once. It was quite the experience to be the only foreigners having a Christmas Eve meal with about 25 Peruvians. It felt like one big family. Matt and I got home from the orphanage at 1 pm and spent from then until the party at 9 pm in the kitchen with the other volunteers preparing dishes, sipping sangria, and playing Christmas music. At 9 pm we all got to the party and sat around meeting the host's family and friends while having lots of wine and beer. We ate at about 10:30 pm with 15 of us in total. It was interesting to see what each person brought, including an Aussie with a cold potato salad (she was shocked to see people bring and eat hot food at Christmas dinner...it's summertime where she is from) and a man from Spain who made a garlic soup with pieces of bread in it. It was also funny to see each Peruvian drinking the sweet Peruvian wine and making a funny face at others drinking the Chilean wine. A lot of the conversation around the table that night was in Spanish but we were able to follow most of it. The man from Spain was fluent in English so he did the translating whenever someone got lost.

Following supper on Christmas Eve, everyone went up to the roof top and watched the fireworks go off at midnight. Fireworks in Peru are not regulated and are very cheap to buy, so instead of a single fireworks show put on by the city, there were thousands going off at once from all corners of the city for 40 minutes. It was one of the coolest sights I've ever seen. After the fireworks everyone toasted with champagne. I decided I never want to spend Christmas away from home again but I feel grateful for getting to experience this Christmas Eve in Peru.

Christmas Day was much more low key. We simply sat around the volunteer house with some others and watched movies, ate lots of food, and had some drinks.

Other highlights during this period was a dinner downtown with the volunteers, catching a Christmas concert put on in the Plaza Del Armas, viewing the Christmas lights all over, teaching the older kids english, and sitting down at one of the locals' favourite restaurants, where Matt got to try Cuy (guinea pig) which is a very traditional andean meal. He claimed it was not the greatest but was happy he tried it (sorry in advance for the picture but we want to share all of our cultural experiences). I went for a safer dish which was basically cheese and corn stew. From being at the orphanage alone, we got to try many Peruvian dishes. Another simple peruvian dish we loved was corn on the cob with a piece of soft white cheese (choclo y queso).

Our last day at the orphanage was on Boxing Day. We were really sad to say goodbye to the kids and the volunteers but we were excited to head off to Chile the next day after a great 2 & 1/2 months in Peru. We ended our last night in Peru with the other volunteers and delicious cake.
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Comments

Mom on

Love your blog so happy to see pictures of you two , looks like your making memories to last a lifetime
Keep safe and make memories xo

linda on

looks like an amazing trip, and your pics are incredible.
Happy new year and safe travels

Denise on

Wow what an experience! Happy New Year and have fun on your next adventure. Can't wait to read all about it :-)

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