We have spent the last week in the rural community of Coporaque. Located deep in the Colca Canyon, it is a far cry from Arequipa. We spent our remaining time there exploring Arequipa’s largest market on our day off. It’s an incredible spectacle of sound and smell: pig tongues hanging worryingly close to fruit stands, piled ten, fifteen feet high. The smoothie stands were pretty cool: dispensing smoothies to order, juicing fruit as you watch.
The trip to Coporaque was a four hour bus ride across stunning landscapes, where scrubby plains give way to steep mountain roads. Once we arrived, we played football with some kids in what I’m convinced is the pitch with the most beautiful views in the world. We took it more seriously once the adults arrived, and England managed to thrash Peru 5-3. We’re each living with local families: Alejandro and I with one, Robbie and Ben with another, and Katie and Izzie with the third.
For me, this is really important. Breakfasts force us to practice Spanish, and the families help coordinate our volunteering efforts in a town that isn’t all that organised. It seems to maintain its own timezone, which I have dubbed ‘Coporaque Mean Time’ (CMT.) One where events happen a little later than they should, or on different days altogether. It’s an important lesson for foreigners who are used to rather structured lives.
Our main volunteer project so far has been clearing the primary school’s football pitch of debris, and filling in holes. Ben and Robbie were best at this, being a little stronger. It was very gratifying to come back the next day and see they were already using it, with brick goalposts!
We have also helped with Holy Week preparations. We’ve carried saints from the Church, shelled green beans for a feast, set up a cross on which to crucify a wooden Jesus, and had our feet washed by a catholic priest in gratitude. The people here practice Catholicism, but with a Pagan influence. They cover traditional Christian idols in food to celebrate Holy Week, for example.
To relax, we’ve done a walk that offered spectacular views over Coporaque (with lunch costing less than a pound each,) and visited the hot springs about three times. They’re undoubtedly a highlight. Showers aren’t great here, and it’s a good opportunity to wash clothes.
We definitely feel part of the community here. Tourists came to watch and took photos of us as we helped set up a ceremony. Our families have been very welcoming, and we’re looking forward to another week’s volunteering.