It is impossible to divide the time that I spent in the Sacred Valley into highlights. It was a trip constantly lit up by laughter, language, adventure, chocolate, and new friends. So instead I will tell a comparative story:
On one of my visits to the Calca dorm Carmen and I were helping to prepare that evenings dinner: fish with rice and vegetables. Without hesitation Carmen picked up a decapitated fish and began to scale it. Swallowing, I picked on up next to her and tried to mimic what she was doing, not wanting to admit that I had never attempted this before, nor that back in the States, I may well have left a room containing a bag full of dead fish. But Carmen was nonplussed, chopping and scraping away, the calmest 12 year old I had ever seen, deftly maneuvering her kitchen knife. And herein lies a contrast.
Peru is strikingly different from my home base of Colorado. Some are obvious: moto-taxi’s, a three wheel motorcycle contraption that will transport you down just about any road for 5 soles ($1.50) do not exist in the States, stray dogs roam Peruvian streets like pigeons do in the US, children sell Churros on the street or sit on the road with a scale in front of them, waiting for a curious passerby to pay them to learn their weight, these and many more are striking differences between the average Peruvian verses US sites.
What interests me more are the subtle contrasts: a school day that ends at one pm instead of three, a child walking home alone where in the States they would most certainly be accompanied by an adult, a designated “tourist police officer” patrolling the plaza, or an American adult who is more squeamish and unsure of her knife skills than the little Peruvian girl deftly preparing dinner, with little to no instruction, for her fellow dorm mates.