Tag Archives: Dogs

Peru, Week Two

This blog is a little bit back to front, chronologically, but as my weekend exploits dominate this post, I’ll start there. 


On Friday I met up with Paula and Emmanuelle (she’s volunteering in another local project) at lunchtime and we each bought a Boleto Turistico that’s valid for ten days and 14 sites. 

We booked on to a guided tour for that afternoon, which started at Qorikancha (an extra S/15) in the town centre and then took us by bus to four other sites: Saqsayhuaman, Q’enqo, Puka Pukara and Tambomachay. 

View from Qorikancha on to Jardin Sagrado and Av El Sol

Our guide, Carlos, explaining that Cusco is the centre of the world

Shapes in the night sky

View from Q’enqo over a cloudy Cusco

Sunset from Puka Pukara


On Saturday I joined Emmanuelle, a keen hiker, on a trip to Tipón. After the 40 minute public bus journey from Cusco to Choquepata, most people get a bus or taxi up to Tipón itself, but we decided to walk up to the entrance to the Parque Arqueológico. Once there, we took our time exploring the site, as opposed to the organised tour groups who had to rush around. 

The view as we walked up to Tipón

On Sunday, I met up with Emmanuelle again and we made an early start as we set off for Pisac at 7am. We were at the entrance to this Parque Arqueológico for 8:15am and barely saw another person on the hike until 11am. It was a beautiful walk in the Sacred Valley and made me think I should do this sort of thing more often. 

This little guy joined us for nearly four hours

Once we got back to the town, we had lunch in Pisac’s famous market and then found a bar to try the local speciality, chicha morada, before heading home for a well earned rest.


Unfortunately, there isn’t much to say about my volunteering at Arariwa in Cusco yet. Paula and I haven’t really got started and it’s hard to see how it’s going to change much – even though we’re here for nine and three months respectively. 

Still, on Monday we were invited to a talk about food and healthy eating for the office staff (most of whom I hadn’t seen before). It lasted for two hours (a good challenge for my Spanish ear) and it seems like it’s the third talk of six – so I know what to expect on the next few Monday mornings.

On Wednesday I took the opportunity to go with Paula and Rosario to visit a potential new client. Nothing really happened but it was good to be out of the office for the first time and interesting to see where he lived.
Paula and I spoke to Mila – who’s helping to coordinate our volunteering project – about our first couple of weeks and we’ve arranged a meeting with el jefe for next week. Fingers crossed it helps!

Spanish classes

This week I had three 2-hour classes: on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. I really like the classes here – they’re varied, challenging and the teachers are both good (Maria and Laura alternate by the week). 

For the linguists out there, I’ve been working on three different forms of the past tense as well as direct/indirect object pronouns.


I ran to and from Mila’s office for Wednesday’s meeting and it was a little traumatic because I was chased by a group of dogs for about 100m! I’d seen them before and they ignored me, but this time a little one didn’t like the look of me and got excited, then all the others joined in. 

On Saturday, I joined about 15 guys (including some from Arariwa) at 7:30am for their weekly 5-a-side football game. We started with two teams of 5, which increased as more people arrived until we had enough for three teams of 5; then the winning team stayed on the pitch, while the losing team replaced was replaced by the resting team.

A lot of the players were, how should I say, past their prime (my 40 year old colleague was calling them papi), but there was some reasonable talent on display. My team finished unbeaten (and therefore didn’t have a break), even though I consciously didn’t break into a sprint during the 90 minutes (I figure my 20 year head start was enough of an advantage). 


My first week in Cusco, Peru

I think it makes sense to start by answering this question: 

What am I doing in Cusco?

I’m in Cusco for 12 weeks (until 2nd December) to volunteer on a microfinance project with an organisation called Asociación Arariwa. There are two things in that sentence I want to address:

1) Microfinance. I became interested in this field after discovering Kiva in 2014. My simple definition of microfinance is it’s the provision of financial services (such as the facility to borrow or save money) to those who don’t ordinarily have access to them (usually, but not always, in developing countries). 

If you want to know more and have a spare 16 minutes, I encourage you to watch this video, which talks about microfinance in action. 

2) Asociación Arariwa. The volunteering agency I registered with works with this microfinance organisation, which also happens to be partnered with Kiva. You can read a bit about Arariwa here

My first week in Cusco

It’s been a change of pace in Cusco and in some ways it’s been back to square one – meeting new people, getting used to new surroundings etc. 

After I arrived in the middle of Sunday night/Monday morning, I was picked up by Mila and Marilyn and taken to my new home. I’ll be living with Marilyn and her 22 year old son Guillermo until December, whilst Mila is my new volunteer coordinator. I was exhausted so I just slept for the rest of the morning. 

Marilyn served lunch at about 1pm, something I’ll get used to as three meals a day are included in my homestay package. I can’t remember what I ate, but I remember having seconds. 

In the afternoon, Guillermo played the role of tour guide as we took the bus into the city’s historic centre. I think he showed me plenty of the important landmarks which helped me to get my bearings, although there were times when he may just have been chasing Pokémon. 

We covered quite a lot of ground and when we returned and had dinner I was ready for an early night. 

On Tuesday morning, I had my orientation at 8am for my volunteer placement. Marilyn accompanied me to Mila’s house (five minutes on the bus), which doubles as the office of Pro Peru Service Corps. The orientation consisted of a 45 minute PowerPoint presentation, led by Mila and assisted by Nico the accountant (and the tech guy I think). Mila gave me an overview of Peru, Cusco and the projects Pro Peru supports and she confirmed I’d be working with Arariwa. I’ll have to wait and see how I’ll fit into the organisation, but my provisional hours are 8:30am-1:30pm, Monday to Thursday. 

After that I was free until lunch so I went into the centre and joined the 10am walking tour. Walking tours are one of my favourite things to do when I visit a new city and I’m constantly impressed with the guides. This one was no different as Marco gave an interesting account of Cusqueñan history. 

My walking tour group


Casa Cartagena, where Che Guevara allegedly stayed

On the way home I stumbled across this protest march

To give you an idea of the geography of the city, here is a map with a few places marked:

The blue dot is my homestay (next to the airport), the yellow star is Pro Peru’s office, Asociación Arariwa is where I’ll be working and the Centro Historico is the area that all the tourists go when they visit (Plaza de Armas is the main square, about 5km from my new home)


I was back home for lunch at 1pm and then excitedly turned on the TV to watch my first City match of the season. Unfortunately the match was postponed instead (and the rescheduled game the next day wasn’t shown on the three sports channels we have). 

At 4pm I was back in the centre of town for my first Spanish lesson, but unfortunately my teacher, Laura, was about 45 minutes late. When she arrived I did a quick test, which proved I’ve only learnt the most basic Spanish grammar, and then we talked until 6pm. Laura confirmed my subsequent lessons would be one-to-one, rather than with Paula, the other new volunteer at Arariwa, because my level of Spanish is higher. 

On Wednesday, I arrived at the office with Mila at 8:30am as arranged, but we had to wait in reception for 45 minutes before Freddy arrived. He explained that the man I would be working with was on holiday until the following day, so I should come back then. 

I took the opportunity to have another wander around town, before going home for lunch and a siesta! 

My first proper Spanish lesson was at 5pm with Maria, the school’s other teacher. Her approach was very different to all my previous lessons because we spent almost the whole two hours chatting. It’s probably exactly what I need, but I felt quite fatigued afterwards. 

On Thursday I returned to the office and was introduced to Sankiyo Sanchez. He gave me an overview of how the communal banking groups work and what his role is – exclusively in Spanish, so I didn’t understand it all – but he didn’t really say what I would be doing. The people in the office seemed very nice and they liked the fact I was able to help them with the printer.

At 11:30am Sankiyo said that we were done for the day, so I decided to go for my first run in Peru. 3km was enough to shake away some cobwebs and then it was time for lunch and another siesta. 

At 5pm I had another Spanish lesson and this time there was a specific grammar focus within the conversation.

After the class I ate out for the first time because I was staying in the centre to meet up with Jasmine and Lizie from the Globetrotting for Good group I met in my sixth week in Bolivia. 

Jasmine, Lizie and me

It was great to see them both again – Jasmine was coming to the end of her trip, but Lizie is from Cusco and we agreed to meet up again. 

On Friday I had a rare lie-in and lazy morning. After lunch I met up with Paula and we talked about our first impressions of Arariwa, amongst other things. We also visited Real Plaza (a mall/shopping centre) and Museo Inka, before retiring to a bar in Plaza de Armas where we got a window seat to watch the parade around the plaza. 

For some reason, my weekend was all about dogs. On Saturday morning I was out and about early to help Lizie vaccinating dogs against rabies (a government initiative). I wasn’t sure how I could help, but went along anyway. 

I joined Lizie and several others at 8am in a small park in the middle of the Zaguan del Cielo neighbourhood. There were lots of dogs around, but we needed ones with owners. The first hour was very quiet, so some people left to knock on some doors. The pace picked up and we ended up vaccinating 80 dogs by 12pm. My role was solely to take the owner and dog’s details down after the vaccinations had been administered. 

On Sunday I accepted an invitation to a dog shelter in Chimpahuaylla, which is where Paula’s housemate Steph has been volunteering. I arrived just before 11am, but had to wait 45 minutes (a familiar feeling) before Paula and Steph showed up. 

I learned that the shelter had only been set up a month before and Steph has worked tirelessly in that time. Sunday was the official opening so at about 12pm they had a small ceremony in which they said some nice words, took some pictures, smashed a bottle of champagne and cut a ribbon. 

And that was my first week. I’m hoping that I’ll get more involved in the microfinance project soon, but so far my first impressions of Cusco are really positive.