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Living and learning Spanish in Peru for 3 months

Living and learning Spanish in Peru for 3 months

Old Apr 24th, 2009, 10:49 AM
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Living and learning Spanish in Peru for 3 months

So after 3.5 years of working, I was ready for a change- drastic change. Making an impulsive decision, I quit my good paying job, moved back to my parents` house, and began researching places I could travel to. I knew I wanted to learn Spanish and live someplace for at least 3 months in order to learn the language. Mind you, I haven`t taken a Spanish class since high school, which was many moons ago, so I was starting from square 1. After a couple weeks of research I found an affordable school in Peru which offered me the opportunity for 4 weeks of Spanish classes and 8 weeks of volunteer work options. I was sold. The school is Amauta Spanish School located in Cusco Peru. There is also a school in Buenos Aires but I did not go (yet J). I want to share my experiences since all were good.

When I first arrived I was sent to live with a host family while I had classes, and I absolutely adored them. They spoke no English so it really forced me to practice what I learned in classes in order to communicate with them (what can I say, I don’t like uncomfortable silences). Needless to say, it took a few days, but I was so thrilled to actually carry on a conversation with them, and have them understand me by the end of my 4 weeks living with them!

I had signed up for group classes for 4 weeks (with 5 other students in my class) and they lasted for 4 hours per day, with 2 different teachers. I thought all of the professors were fantastic- all knew how to incorporate humor and fun with each lesson which made all of us want to talk and learn the correct way to say something. The school also offers opportunities to leave Cusco and travel to Manu (the jungle) or to Taray (in the Sacred Valley) for classes as well.

My volunteer project was really nice too- worked with some of the kids who unfortunately are required to work on the streets of Cusco to help make money either for their family to buy food, and/or to help them pay for school (as they are required to buy uniforms, books, etc.). Amauta organizes volunteer projects with all sorts of organizations around Cusco so students can do just about anything that interests them. I loved being able couple learning Spanish with doing a good deed while living in Peru.

Between classes and volunteer work, Amauta gave me the change to take free salsa lessons (sooooo fun!!), cooking classes so I can work on my Peruvian dishes when I get back home, and cultural classes (want to learn about Incan sexuality?), among others. Other than that, I met some great new friends from all over the world who I went out and explored Cusco and surrounding cities with. Even if my Spanish doesn’t last after I get back home, I know the friends I made at Amauta will.

Conveniently, Amauta in Cusco has a travel agency connected to it, so students can easily book all sorts of trips around Cusco, as well as airline and bus tickets.

Long story short, I had an amazing time living in Cusco and being a student at Amauta. I am impressed with the level of Spanish I learned being a student, loved the volunteer work, and meeting so many new friends from Peru and the world. I highly recommend Peru as a place to visit, and Amauta as an awesome school in which to learn Spanish (look at www.amautaspanishschool.com)

Trip to Manu:

So after living in Cusco for 3 months and deciding to stay longer, my parents were curious as to what all the fuss was about. They came to visit me for about 10 days so I was trying to think of cool things we could do while they were here, and I had been wanting to visit Manu for a while. We booked a 4 day trip just due to time (would have preferred 8 days) into the jungle. While the first day was spent just traveling, the journey was not without sites to be seen; progressing through the high Andean mountains and then descending into the cloud forest. It was fascinating to see and feel the gradual, yet noticeable change in plant life and temperature while descending into the jungle.

Our first night was in a lodge in a small town called Pilcopata, with nothing more to do than walk 2 blocks each way and be finished walking through the town. Me and a few other folks from the tour bought some beers and got to know each other over dinner. Our guide was fantastic; was bi-lingual, had an impressive knowledge of the jungle, and clearly had a good sense of humor as I was grilling him about the jungle`s psychedelic plant known as Ayahuasca, and seeing if he would show me what it looked like, and if we could find a shawman “real quick”. Granted I was a few beers in at that point, and thankfully my parents had no idea what I was talking about (as I was practicing my Spanish).

The next morning we woke up at around 5am, had breakfast, and began an early morning hike just on a local road. Here is where we saw a number of birds, mostly the green Macaws, who I found out always travel in pairs. I was so impressed just by the sheer beauty of the rainforest with its brilliant greens covering every inch of ground, and seeing some familiar looking plants like ferns, growing at 10 times the size as I have ever seen at home. After our hike we drove further into the jungle, hopped on a boat, and traveled to our lodge a small 7 room bungalow on stilts a couple hundred feet from the rivers edge, with no electricity and nothing else around it except nature. That afternoon and the next day, we spent our time hiking through the jungle with our rubber boots to keep our feet dry (the walks would have been impossible without them), while our guide was in front, carefully inspecting all plants in the path to ensure there were no snakes or toxic ants in our way. We learned about the trees, the plants, and the many different insects we saw. The paths were extremely wet and difficult to navigate, especially with big rubber boots, but it was an adventure I will never forget! The hotel was so relaxing, and so natural- there were only 7 tourists, our guide, and 2 cooks. One of the nights as I went to bed by candlelight, I remember listening to a pouring rain make its way through the jungle before finally arriving at the lodge, which was eerie, but beautiful. I have to say I was sad to leave the jungle and can`t wait to one day go back for a longer period of time.

Volunteer experience at Colibri:

After taking my 4 weeks of Spanish classes I was ready and enthusiastic to meet the kids who are part of a program called Colibri, in Cusco. Colibri is a local police run organization that gives poor and underprivileged kids a place to go to relax, play, do homework, and just be kids. I remember the first day going in there and all the kids` faces lighting up and running up to me saying “amiiiiiggggaaaaaaa” and grabbing my hand pulling me inside. Since my first day, I have been focusing on playing with the kids, some of whom I have to make the assumption of not getting a whole lot of attention at home since they are craving physical contact- wanting to be hugged, tickled, etc. The age range is from 3 years up to 16, so it`s hard organizing activities that can incorporate all of them, but I spread my time as much as possible to make it fair for all the kids. I play chess with the older kids, and even taught them how to play Texas Hold Em, which was very popular using monopoly money, and I organized a paper airplane competition with the younger kids which was also very popular.

The kids are always so happy to have me and other volunteers there with them, and it`s so rewarding. Some of the kids are especially cute- like little John, who is 3 years old, and always has a giant smile on his face, loves being tickled and being swung by his hands in circles. He only likes putting together puzzles by taking apart the puzzle a few pieces at a time so he can still figure out how to put it together. Also, Alexandra, who is the smartest 10 year old I think I have ever met. She can play poker with the older kids and knows how to take risks while understanding what the risks entail. She is also a star at monopoly. There is something special about all of the kids and I am constantly impressed with how well they play together (with a few exceptions, of course), share their toys, and look after each other. I have yet to walk out of Colibri without a smile on my face.

Night on the town in Cusco:

While of course Cusco and surrounding areas are known for their breathtaking views and mind boggling ruins, I would be remisce if I didn`t mention how fun the nightlife is. Beginning with a nice dinner out at any of the many restaurants around town, where you can dine on any of the delicious Peruvian dishes, or if you are feeling homesick, go to any of the many restaurants run, or influenced by ex-pats. Easily 90% of all tourist bars and restaurants around town have happy hour, which are generally better described as happy hours, so you can easily find some liquid courage before you tackle the nightclubs, of which a few of the more popular ones offer salsa lessons from 9-11p. Ladies beware though- trying to do some sweet salsa turns after a few cocktails is actually really difficult!

Salsa at Mythology and Inca Team have been my favorite places, especially since a few of the professors from one of the local salsa schools actually teach on Friday`s at Amauta for an hour. I have yet to get our night guard, Señor Mauro, to partake on Friday night dance lessons, although he always watches. If you really want to become a better salsa dancer, take some private or group lessons at one of the local salsa schools and fine tune your skills. Dancing salsa is a great way to get to know some local guys and gals who enjoy dancing, and it`s nice to catch up with them at the clubs. I have also enjoyed the times when I have been invited to go to a more local club where there are usually live bands playing salsa all night.

At about 11p is when the nightclubs really start coming alive, with old school favorites at Mama Africa`s, to hip hop at Mythology- and everything in between. The proximity of all the nightclubs around the plaza make it easy and safe to go from one place to another, and even back again if you so choose. The most fun is meeting fellow travelers to bar hop with, and just having a wild and fun night until whatever time you so choose, even if it is 5am!

There are also plenty of “local” places around the plaza where you can go and really hang out with the locals. For example, one night some friends and I from school decided to check out the pool hall on Calle Suecia, which was an interesting experience to say the least. We walked up to the second floor to see only old men milling around 3 pool tables, getting completely drunk off Pisco, and playing an interesting version of pool in which there are 2 players, 3 balls, with the goal of a player to hit one ball, have it hit the other side of the table while aiming for the opponents ball, and have the opponents ball then intersect and hit your ball. Very confusing and very hard to play, but these men loved that we were there and were enthusiastically explaining to us how to play while inviting us to drink from their pitchers of Pisco and 7-up.

All things considered, Peruvians and tourists alike seem to enjoy all the nightlife in Cusco has to offer, so make sure you explore this other side of Cusco while you are here!
Sudamtraveler is offline  
Old Apr 24th, 2009, 05:22 PM
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Sudam, I really enjoyed your trip report. I think it's wonderful that you decided to do this while you are young. ( I'm assuming you are!)
It sounds like it worked out very well for you and I admire you for studying Spanish and for doing the volunteer work.
Thanks so much. I enjoyed all of it.
kodi is offline  
Old Apr 26th, 2009, 09:14 AM
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Excellent report! we spent a couple of months in Peru last year and had a few weeks of Spanish lessons in Cuzco at teh Fairplay school which was set up by a Dutch guy who emplys unmarried mothers as teachers to provide them with a start in life. Really enjoyed our time there and around the rst of Peru. Your report has got me thinking we should return soon!
crellston is offline  
Old Apr 26th, 2009, 09:54 AM
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Really interesting report, Sudam. I'm going to Peru (just for a quick vacation) in 2 weeks. Can't wait! Sounds like you've had a truly amazing and worthwhile experience there.
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Old Apr 27th, 2009, 01:42 PM
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Great report!
mlgb is offline  
Old Apr 28th, 2009, 10:12 PM
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This is very interesting. Thanks for posting it. How would you rate your current Spanish ability?
WillTravel is offline  
Old Aug 24th, 2009, 06:27 PM
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I started reading your trip report to my mum and she thought I was reading her my diary! I too have just quit my job, moved home and planned a trip of which the primary purpose is to improve my Spanish. Ironically I have already signed up for Spanish courses at Amauta in both Cusco and Buenos Aires. Thanks for the review, it's full of great info and I am now looking forward to my trip even more!
Cubba is offline  
Old Aug 25th, 2009, 04:51 PM
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Great report thanks,
qwovadis is offline  
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