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Andean priest and spiritual leader, Don Fabian Champi Apaza. Photo by Tom Pablo, Andes & Amazon Semester.

Weekends with Families

As we expand on our experiences here in South America, we also expand our community. At the beginning of the program, we spent the majority of our time together. However, since arriving to Urubamba, that “togetherness” has shifted to include our hosting community and families. During the past two weeks, students have been studying in their Spanish classes and working with their mentors at their ISP’s. However, some of the biggest lessons and learning moments come from home.  Every evening the students return home and get to spend time getting to know and bond with their families. They become one with the family as they are introduced to rituals, family gatherings, dinners with new foods, board game nights, and weekend trips! Here are some of the activities a few of them got up to last weekend!

This past weekend was our first time spending time apart from the group, it was a unique experience. It offered us lots of time for reflection, personal growth, and interaction with our host families. Although our experiences shared commonalities, we each had distinct adventures. Here are each of our brief reflections on our weekends.

Will – My weekend was relatively low-key, but still offered lots of opportunities to engage with the town and my host family. On Saturday, I ventured out to a nearby mountain for an afternoon hike with my host sister, Sara. We had a great view of Urubamba and I was in awe of how beautiful the Sacred Valley was. On Sunday, I went to mass with my family at the local church. As someone that isn’t Catholic, nor is fluent in Spanish, it was quite a humbling experience, as I had to simply observe the procession. Overall, the weekend afforded me the opportunity to immerse myself more deeply into the culture and daily life of my host family.

Alex – My weekend began with a trip to a nearby museum in a neighboring town to Urubamba. The museum’s premise was a history of Peru before the Incan empire. It was very cool to be able to learn about this often understudied period in the nation’s history. After leaving the museum, my host father, host sister, and I went on a hike in the neighboring town of Yucay, during which I was able to see some of the region’s large agricultural plots of land. This experience enabled me to see the sacred valley in a different light than in the very urban town of Urubamba. That night, I accompanied my host sister to a poetry reading that she participated in. On Sunday, we went on another similar hike, this time culminating in a large extended family lunch, which allowed me to meet and converse with family members I had not yet met. On net, my weekend was a great opportunity to reflect and see new parts of this culture.

Serafina – My weekend was peaceful but full of little joyful moments. On Saturday, I enjoyed a morning walk through the exterior of the town with my host mom, which was very beautiful. I especially enjoyed seeing the mountains and the tranquility of the path. Later, we had a bonfire, roasted marshmallows, and I played a bit of guitar. On Sunday, I went to Cusco, which was exciting! We walked around town and I learned about the combination of Incan and Colonial architecture there. Later in the day, I enjoyed some quiet time and reading about the hobbit’s adventures in my book.

Kashius – This weekend I went with my family to their corn farm on the outskirts of Yucay. I had a relaxed day of walking the fields, talking with local families, and learning about local plants and agricultural customs. On Sunday, I  had lunch with the family of my host brother and got to know my 8-year-old host niece. We then went to my family’s other farm, where my host mother was raised, and walked around the property. I got to see their small two-room house, and fall asleep under the avocado trees as music from a festival in the city floated to our farm. All in all, I got a needed break from our busy schedule and got to know my homestay family better.

Alex, Will, Serafina, and Kashius