Today we explored the captivating city of Cusco for the first time!
Yesterday was a recovery day from the 8-hour layover in Lima and the dramatic drop in oxygen after rising to Cusco’s 11,000+ ft. We have maté (a tea drink) to smooth our bodies’ transition to the altitude. The clouds and sun are closer than ever in my life. Lovely hills wrap around the city, creating an optical illusion that causes us to forget that we are actually nestled among lofty mountains.
After settling into our modest, but delightfully purple apartment in the neighborhood of Quispicanchi, our group hit the local supermercados to buy food for future dinners. I was surprised by the stores’ aisles of… cooking oil. Haha.
Today, we caught cabs to the Plaza De Armas, one of Cusco’s most iconic locations. It was stunning, to say the least. I can let the pictures speak for themselves, but I will say that I am excited in future weeks to explore the area further. During our time in the Plaza a mini-protest was happening, not too wild, but interesting to witness. Adults and children marched with signs and white flags saying phrases like, “Abajo corrupción.” My supervisior said such protests are an everyday thing—or at least a festival or some activity always seems to be ensuing in the Plaza. I’ll have to document what’s going on every time I go there.
The rest of the day was filled with introductions to the touristy parts of Cusco. We visited multiple plazas, stopped by a market to drink freshly squeezed juice (I had an orange and strawberry mix) and stare in horror at the array of animal organs for sale, bought temporary cellphones, wandered on cobblestone streets, and admired the local kids’ fancy school uniforms complete with hats. I was personally in awe of the many cathedrals, the vibrant colors of buildings, and the brilliant blue sky overhead. We also saw many Quechua people, the indigenous group of the Inca, in person for the first time. Dwelling on the outskirts of Cusco, they are easily spotted due to their bright traditional clothing and short stature. We may interact with Quechua mothers once we start working in the clinics for the Alma Sana study.
So far, my favorite part of Cusco is its surrounding landscape and complementary architecture. Houses are stacked upon the hills and edifices line little roads… this is the first time I have seen anything like it, although I know similar settings exist around the world. It is as cool as I imagined, and in stark contrast to Visalia, CA, Ithaca, NY, or NYC.
Overall, my first impression of Cusco was extremely pleasant and inviting. I can’t wait to improve my Spanish and dive into the Peruvian culture.