A Week of Celebrations

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This has definitely been our best week in Cusco, and we have a plethora of pictures to prove it. In the past eight days, we attended two school celebrations, one surprise parade, DJ’d our first South American show, and celebrated a day off by attending a chocolate-making taller (workshop). It’s definitely a week to remember.

On Tuesday we arrived at Pacca ready to play our first real basketball game with our younger group, but as our moto-rickshaw chugged towards the end of the dirt road, we began to hear firecrackers. Unclear on what exactly was going on, we opened the door to the school and were completely surprised to find a full on school anniversary celebration underway. Our enthusiastic students gave us front row seats, and we got to watch several of them dance and sing. When we saw plates of food coming our way, I was convinced that it was cuy (guinea pig), a traditional Peruvian dish. Larkin and I have yet to try it, however, because the plates had extremely tasty chicken.

Before heading to teach at Santoni, some of our girls pulled us into the center of the dance floor to join them in dancing to cumbia music. Although we didn’t exactly know the steps, our enthusiasm was all that was really needed. Later that day, we ran into a parade full of dancers and musicians. We never figured out what it was for, but we were definitely “a sight to be seen” as we tried to weave through the crowd with our big bag of basketballs.

On Thursday, we were thrilled to celebrate our first South American DJ show. After a week of email correspondence with a local hostel/Irish pub, we were given our first show! We practiced all week and performed for a very enthusiastic crowd. They had so much fun, and we ended up playing for an hour and half longer than planned. We will be making it a bi-weekly event, and the best part is that we are using the money we’ve made to begin our FUNdraising for the year. It’s not much, but definitely a start!

On Sunday night we attended a school anniversary celebration at Los Nogales. Our girls were really excited to see us, and even the boys from our English class were excited to show off their dance moves. Larkin and I really liked that everyone has to learn the dances, and both the girls and the boys take pride in showing off what they’ve learned. The parents, siblings, grandparents and teachers were involved, so in total we ended up watching twelve different dances. It was really wonderful to see entire families get involved, and it definitely made me think that we should have more celebrations back at home. They give people a reason to get excited and dressed up for all different occasions, and to me, we could use a lot more of that kind of community engagement.

Lastly, Larkin and I had a celebration of our own today. Los Nogales has the week off so we celebrated by attending a chocolate-making class in Cusco! Our instructor Gladys had a lot to say about how cuy is the secret ingredient in chocolate, but we were relieved to find out that she just has a great sense of humor. Larkin turned out to be a mortar and pestle expert, and won a bag of cocoa tea for being the best at grinding beans. We learned about the entire cocoa bean harvesting and roasting process, and then ended the class by molding chocolates into fun shapes. My fish-shaped chocolates are filled mostly with sea salt and nuts, while Larkin got creative with her dinosaur chocolates and coated them with chili powder and ginger. Overall, we had an awesome week and are looking forward to more DJ shows and surprise celebrations in the weeks to come!

— Caroline