My first few days here have been very good, pretty much an injection of culture. For being such a small town, this is a pretty happening place. Yesterday, I went on a hike in the morning up half of one of the mountains and got some pictures, and then I went to the internet café in town to skype with Mom and Dad. After that, I went to the volunteer office and tried to find someone to go to lunch with, but one of the workers invited me to their host family’s place for lunch. The host family is hosting 3 people at once, 2 girls from the US and an Australian guy. I learned that the host mother threw a big party earlier this year and cooked 82 guinea pigs. That’s what I call a fiesta! Later, I found out that yesterday was my host mother’s birthday. So the two kids living in Cusco (1 guy who is 23, and 1 girl who is 18) came back. After dinner, we just sat around the table and drank beer and talked for a few hours. One tradition they have, which I think it funny, is that they often cheers (Salud in Spanish), probably every 5 minutes. Also something very different, is that they let the 2 year old drink beer. They gave him probably 4 ounces worth and I was surprised. I think it’s a pretty common thing here. Each morning when the roosters start crowing, I put my pillow over my head to try to go back to sleep, but I am usually woken up several more times before finally getting up. I need to find a more permanent solution to get decent sleep after 5:30. This morning, I went to the market with my host mother and the daughter. A few surprising things about this experience too. First of all, their outside dog followed us to the market and was just walking around with us. Keep in mind that a lot of the fruits and vegetables were in baskets 2 feet high so the dog could easily take it. But it didn’t. It just followed us around. Secondly, the host mother asked for some meat from one place there. The guy took a big hunk of beef to a little table, took out an axe, and started chopping until he broke off the appropriate size. After this, the daughter (named Aydme) and the 2 year old grandson (named Ismail) went to a big celebration for the anniversary of the high school. They have this party each year, and it consists of a lot of traditional dances performed by the kids, trucha (trout) with potatoes and a few other vegetables I wasn’t sure of, music, and beer. We watched all of the traditional dances and then my host mother (Tina) came with the 23 year old son (Jose) and we all got the trout for lunch. The dances were great. The whole setting made it just a great experience. On the main outside area of the small school, mountains in the background, kids performing traditional dances of the Incans, and full of Peruvians (There was only one other gringo (as they would put it) that I saw). To top it off, at one point a guy and a lady were walking around giving out chicha, which is the traditional corn beer. The lady would pour it in foam cups for everyone from a plastic pitcher. The best part is what the guy did. He had a big plastic bucket that he carried, a plastic bucket much like the ones Dad uses when doing construction or anything like that. He would fill this huge bucket up from somewhere (I never did see where from) and then refill the pitcher for the woman. It’s just a great scene. The whole scene just confirms my choice to take of work and come here. These kinds of experiences are what I enjoy most. I must say that living with a host family is the way to go. After the fiesta, Aydme, Jose, and I went for a hike up one of the mountains. Hanging out with Peruvians, although sometimes very difficult, is great for my Spanish. Being forced to talk and listen makes the learning process much quicker. I find that it’s very difficult to switch between Spanish and English. Yesterday, I was with my host family for a while and was doing ok with speaking, and then I went to the office and spoke English for a while. After that, it took a while to get into a rhythm in Spanish. Tomorrow, the organization is having a pizza party for me and another girl since we’re new volunteers. Then on Saturday and Sunday, I have my first shifts to run the store. The shifts are just 3.5 hours each, and I am required to do 3 or 4 of these per week. Should make for a pretty good 5 months!