Creative Writing Major
International Development and Community Service in Peru
Summer I short-term, faculty-led
From the airport in Cusco, we left the mob of taxi drivers and started the last leg of our journey to Urubamba. In the city, the buildings have a unique unrefined style with slightly rectangular orange bricks and the cement that was smushed between them, sticking out, left to dry like too much mayonnaise in a sandwich. Another feature I saw regularly on the industrial-looking constructions were windows like one would see on a luxury high-rise; tinted black, reflecting a metallic blue sheen in the morning sun.
The next thing I noticed were the dogs. Stray dogs everywhere. Those that weren’t strays were let out in the morning by their owners to scrounge for food, fight other dogs, and take naps anywhere they feel like. The dogs are the guardians of the city. They keep watch on street corners and in front of shops, traveling in packs sometimes, to the next free meal. If you want to learn how to walk through a city, follow a dog.
The roads were rough and our bus let us feel every bump. We the climbed mountain quickly past homes stacked on top of homes and construction visible through every window. Our driver had no patience for anyone who wanted to take a corner with caution, speeding around them, into oncoming traffic, without a glance or a care.
As we began to reach the outer limits of Cusco, the mountains came into view. I could say that they were awe-inspiring and magnificent, but that wouldn’t do them justice. The Andes are too big for words. Pictures, a joke of a recreation. They are not mountains, they’re Titans. They exist in a place that can only be understand, never described. Every time a new mountain came into view, it would take me by surprise, and then I would remember that I’m already on a mountain that big. The Andes have a quietly dignity that interjects itself into every thought and conversation. Their presence is a constant reminder of their permanence, and somehow, gave me a sense of strength.
The descent into Urubamba is when I began to feel the grip of adventure. The tiny homes, made of mud bricks, lining the road, speckling the mountain overlooking the city, were like something out of National Geographic. Some had murals endorsing presidential candidates from twenty years ago. Some for the presidential election in just a few days. I could see parents walking their children to school and advertisements in Spanish, “Se Vende Cusquena.” [ I can’t get the accent mark over the “n”] The Urubamba River cuts through the Sacred Valley, and is lined by outdoor bathrooms, eucalyptus trees, and 5 star resorts. The homes in the city are a cornucopia of colors and styles with chipped stucco walls and old wooden balconies. They are ornate and antique, and command far too much attention for any foreigner trying not to get hit by a moto-taxi on the alley-sized streets.
28 hours in total from Grand Rapids, MI to Urubamba, Peru. I’ve already seen enough to last me a lifetime, and the story is just beginning.