My first week was intensive and exhaustive. It was also an immersive adventure, and I am lucky to say that I have 5 more after it. I signed up for the Intensive Spanish portion of the program for the first two weeks. This means 6 hours a day of one on one Spanish Lessons. My reasoning was that the intensive session would jumpstart my absorption of Spanish. It has definitely been a course in rapid immersion. I did not realize how tired my brain would be from constantly trying to translate what was going on around me. The first few days I found myself coming home during the lunchbreak and napping. Tired out from the altitude, travel, 2 hours of daily walking and the classes, I was sleeping a great deal. This is normal for people who are getting used to the altitude of Cuzco, 11,400 feet, and language classes. I was physically and mentally exhausted. This experience helped me realize that taking it slow when traveling can be a good idea. I am here for 6 weeks, there is no need to rush and wear myself out. Leaving extra room in my schedule allows for more intuitive exploration which is one of the best things about travel.
It is a magnificent adventure and despite, the exhaustion of the first week, I am having the time of my life. I spent the classes conversing with my teacher about a multitude of subjects. Most of the class is conversation with about a third focusing on grammar and logical instruction. It is amazing how difficult holding a simple conversation can be in a new language. But despite my many mistakes, I persist. Language is like life and yoga, a continual practice. Though I feel the struggle every step, I am secure in the knowledge that each step is moving me forward and improving my personal ability. The classes give me confidence to practice my Spanish around Cuzco. I try to talk to the cab drivers and the vendors in the shops. Learning a language is an active exercise, and I try to avoid English, unless it is absolutely necessary, or when my brain desperately needs a rest.
I have gotten used to the coming home at lunch and napping lifestyle here and I have to say it is something I would like to keep in the coming years of my life. Much more welcome then the ½ hour lunch at my previous job.
Despite being tired, I have still had plenty of time to explore. My friend from Portland visited Cuzco a little over a year ago and he told about this great Israeli restaurant. He didn’t know the name, but could only tell me that it was at the end of the alley across from the giant cathedral north of the Plaza De Armas. Following his vague directions and my growing hunger I wandered down two of the alleys. At the end of the second one I found it, Sueño Azul, Blue Dream. The food was massive and was at a great price, about 15 soles, including one beer and a pineapple juice. I have to admit that it was weird eating Felafel with French fries, but the hummus and felafel more than made up for it. This is an example of letting the adventure guide the way.
I also found a fantastic Chocolate shop that is on my way to the school. My teacher told me about it. The chocolate is Peruvian and is made only a few hundred miles away, and it is so good. I consider myself pretty lucky for this find. I ran out of my stash of dark chocolate at the end of the first week and I desperately needed to replenish it
More importantly I found a yoga studio and went for the first time on Friday the first week. I am used to hot yoga, but I know that any kind will help my body deal with the pain of traveling. Inbound Yoga Studio in Cuzco is amazing. It is very meditative and focused on the inner experience. I don’t usually do shoulder stands, but I was able to do one during the class. The classes are one and a half hours, which is nice, because it is the same amount of time as Hot Yoga. In one hour, I don’t think there is enough time to connect with oneself fully. I will write more about Yoga in Cuzco in a later post.
Part of my program also includes Salsa lessons. This really is a way to immerse in the culture of South America. To let the tightness of my gringo upbringing melt to the rhythm of Salsa. I am currently taking 3 classes a week, and I am hoping to continue it when I get back to Portland. I will also write more about this experience in a later article since it is such a huge part of life here.
It was a busy first week, getting used to Cusco and trying to immerse myself in a new culture. It would be easy to just relax and go on excursions, but that is not why I am here, on this trip or in this life. I am here to experience, break the barrier of the safe little bubble and be one with the world around me.
Stay tuned for part 3