The Many Blessings of Cusco

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We woke to a beautiful Sunday morning, setting the stage to write about the many blessings of Cusco we have all encountered in such a short time. Because there is so much to do, the team decided to break into two groups and experience two different types of Cusco culture. One team went to Rainbow Mountain to hike and explore the Andes Mountains and the other team decided to stay local and see what the wonderful city of Cusco had to offer.

The adventurist team woke very early to arrive at their departure sight at 4:00 am! Unfortunately, they ended up sitting on the bus for an hour waiting for the rest of the tourists to arrive. After stopping for a delicious breakfast, the bus navigated a very narrow dirt road to the base of the mountain. Temperatures on the mountain ranged from warm to cold several times, but all agreed the hike was worth the challenges encountered throughout the day. The team saw many indigenous  people, llamas and alpacas, and the mountain colors were a sight to behold. Dr. Drengenberg and Luke hiked the entire trail, but after making it two-thirds of the way there, Dr. Reckamp chose to join Katy and ride a mule!

The more rested Cusco city team began the day attending Cusco Cathedral, one of the many beautiful Catholic churches in Cusco. To say it was a moving experience is understated. With tears in our eyes we listened to singing, the Catholics partook of the host, and we all shared the peace with one another. Suzanne remarked that the host tasted the same no matter where you were and Dr. Nag later exclaimed, “yes, just like Mc Donalds!”

Leaving church we encountered another once in a lifetime experience as we witnessed several differently clad military teams carrying bazookas and marching down the streets of Cusco. With Wendy Sofolo’s tenacious inquires to the locals, we learned that it was part of the celebration of the brotherhood of Corpus Christi. Celebrations will continue throughout the next few weeks with the big celebration occurring on June 20th.

The Cusco cuisine has been absolutely amazing and our lunch with Dr. Nag and Naty, our volunteer guide, was certainly no exception. We strayed just a bit from the local cuisine and enjoyed burgers, fries and onion rings. Suzanne laughed as she noticed that Budweiser was listed as “Imported Beers.” The camaraderie among new (and old) friends, combined with the surreal realization that we were all living a lifelong dream of volunteering on an international mission, was one of the biggest blessings of the day.

Following lunch, Dr. Nag relieved us of the “first round” of our packages from the local markets and he took a taxi back to the residence to read his emails. This freed the rest of us to spend more sols to help the local economy and we once again hit the markets in search of just the right gifts for those we love who were not fortunate enough to be with us on this life-changing experience.

The final blessing of the day was that I was able to make it back safely to our residence in one piece. The large stone pavements, continual steps up to stone sidewalks and down into streets and markets, proved to be quite the challenge for me as I continually gazed around, in awe, at my surroundings. At one point, I walked right into a two foot high solid post that was situated right in the middle of the sidewalk, which definitely was NOT a blessing on my knee. I’m sure these are but a few of the myriad of blessings we will encounter throughout this week as we begin the medical portion of our adventure on Monday.

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