One Week in Ollanta – A Visitor’s Perspective

Yo hablo un pequeño Español.

I wish I would have had time to learn (re-learn) more Spanish and medical Spanish!!

5/18 JFK à Bogota à Lima (4 hours of sleep)

Avianca Airlines is amazing. Can’t believe we’re actually going to Peru, especially with such a great group of people. One person, una persona, speaks Spanish. The rest of us: butchers of some mix of English, Spanish and French (Franglish??). Many of us have only been to Europe, the Caribbean, Mexico. This is an experience. For instance, in Bogota Airport our bags are searched for drugs. Everything was smelled, touched, and in my case stuck with an implement and thrown away (I didn’t want that granola bar anyway). Finally in Lima! It’s dark and foggy. The trip around the coastline, beautiful. The hotel is fantastic and we finally meet Keri (many of us hadn’t) – and to steal from Bethenny Frankel, she’s our “Coordinator of Chaos”. Without her, this would not have been possible.

5/19 Lima à Cusco (4 hours of sleep)

Up early, again. It’s ok; we’re too excited to sleep. A quick, one-hour flight to Cusco, many many feet higher than we’ve ever been. How are we going to deal with the altitude? Should we find the “monk” as recommended for the coca tea? Half the group is already there – are they ok? After we leave the plane and find the group it hits a little. A little short of breath, a little sinus headache but we’re ok. No monk needed – there’s coca tea at the hotel! Not nearly as bitter and nasty tasting as what was described!  Our day in Cusco took us to the plaza, with traditional dancing, to an amazing lunch, the market, the chocolate museum (yum, especially the chocolate fondue!).  Then back to the hotel, uphill, up the stairs. Wow, not only do I not speak Spanish, I am OUT OF SHAPE. The altitude got to me on the climb up. Short of breath, tachycardic, dizzy. Two breaks on the way up the stairs. I made it. Where’s my water!?! The ibuprofen 600 mg every 6 hours seems to be working; it’s time for more. Then to top off the night an amazing dinner! Stuffed avocado and a “sampler platter” like I’ve never seen at home (NOT mozzarella sticks, potato skins and medium buffalo wings). Papas, tamales, rocotto relleno and alpaca. Yup, we had alpaca. It was good – a mix between pork, beef, and venison. I’ll try the alpaca, but I’ll stay away from the “cuy” (guinea pig). The traditional Peruvian Pisco Sour, similar to a whiskey sour, was great. Highly recommended to all. But now it’s time to get some sleep. We need a good 8 hours, but again…the trip of a lifetime and it’s difficult to sleep. Oh, and happy 26th birthday little brother, sorry I missed it (again).

The main plaza in Cusco

5/20 Cusco à Ollantaytambo

WHAT A RIDE. An amazing view of patchwork quilted fields on high peaks. Fields of papas, maize, etc. We’re hoping the pictures taken through the windows of the van come out. A windy, but not treacherous drive makes a couple people carsick but despite this everyone is in awe of the scenery. When we arrive in Ollanta, we meet our host families. Jenn (Yenni) and I are extremely excited to be with Julia, another volunteer and at Pancho and Balbina’s home.  I couldn’t have asked for a nicer family. These caring, kind, funny, amazing cooks seem just as excited to have lunch with us as we are to be with them. Thank god for Julia and her Spanish – Jenn and I aren’t doing so hot in that area. Julia takes us for a walk on a trail through a horse field and over the bridge. What an amazing sight, but damn it I wish I wore my sneakers! I wasn’t prepared for the dust, or the little hike around town. That’s ok though, I’ll take the dirty, dusty feet and sandals for this walk any day. We meet for our first Spanish lesson and it’s starting to come back a little from high school. I’m happy to be paired up with Jamie, who is much more advanced in the language than I was. After the lesson, off on a little tour to explore, followed by dinner and bed. Exhausted at the end of a long day and we’re in bed by 9 pm. I am thankful for our family, the warm alpaca wool blankets, and mostly this experience.

The lovely Ollantaytambo

(to be continued…)

Written by Visiting Assistant Professor Tara Sacco, MS, RN, CCRN from St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York

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