In this article I will tell you the unbelievable and crazy experience I lived in Peru’, began 10 days after the end of my high school exams.
I left Italy the 12 of July without knowing what would have waited me in the next five months and a half of South America.
Since the beginning of 2019 I began to look for a volunteering experience in South America that, finally, could have got me out of my comfort zone and let me live, after five overwhelming years of high school. I needed new motivations and to feel me alive after a long time spent in my certainties and without having achieved nothing.
I just needed to start it and then see where I would have finished and what I would have done during these months. Because, if not now, when will I do it?
Even If it was so much difficult to organize and find a volunteering project in Peru’ without paying nothing, after five months, few days before my high school exams, I found the first one. Without thinking too much about how was organized and the volunteer’s tasks ,I accepted because I knew that I was so late that by just refusing this one I wouldn’t have had another option.
Even if the majority of the people towards me had a different opinion from mine about the my plan to take a gap year, I was just sure that this would have been such an important experience for my life that I would have never let no one to change my mind.
The thing that I hated the most was the fact that everyone was thinking to know my journey motivation and that, doing this year, I would have just “lost a year”.
Surely I have not been helped by the fact that in the previous months I had passed the entry exams of two of the most important universities in Italy. Because of that my family began to have great expectations regarding my future, that for just “this is not what I want for me”, just collapsed.
The next months I had the high school exams and because of that I did not have the time to sit down and reflect about where I would have been in few weeks. I just knew two things about this journey: I would have gone to the center of Peru’ and that It would have been a crazy and unbelievable experience.
Just after having ended my exams my head began to be overwhelmed by so many thoughts: “Is this the right choice for my future: refusing the university to go to Peru’?” “Will I regret it?” “And If I would not feel well there…”
I was hearing an inside voice who was telling me to remain and to what my family and friends were waiting from me: begin the university. I was suggested to do what “the people used to do”. But this way of doing things had not brought me to achieve nothing but just to remain sad and full of regrets in the previous years. Because of that I realized that was the time to leave my harbor and live.
Few weeks before my arrival in South America I just realized about two problems that I would have faced there, regarding the safety: I was alone in one of the most dangerous place in South America and I would have spent so many months in a little town at 3500 mt high and my body would have never been able to live that place (due to the lack of air). The last problem regarded the language: I did not know a single word in Spanish, I just began to study one week before my arrival there, and in the center of Peru’ the first language spoken is Quechua, derived from the Inka’s idioma.
Even though all these thoughts and worries, I just thought that It would have been a so crazy and unbelievable experience that would have been a pity not to live it and that would have never probably occurred to me in the future.
The only thing missing was the departure, and the 13th of july, after three flights I arrived in Huamanga, capital citiy of the Ayacucho Region. There I was picked up by the head of the project who, after two hours of drive with an height between 2700 and 4200 mt above the sea level, I arrived to Pampacangallo, the place that would have been my house for the next four months.
Since the time I arrived there, South America seemed to me a crazy place so far from the quietness of the Italian summer. The roads were full of cars that do not respect the driving law and ambulant sellers who try to sell me everything they could.
My work consisted on helping in the local canteen (El comedor), where all the morning together with Don Lucho and Bertha, I prepared the food for the students of the secondary school and for the old people of this little town. My tasks were cutting vegetable and meat in addition to serving to the tables.
I spent the afternoons organizing activities for the children such as Cooking lessons, where I taught them to do pizza or cakes through which they learnt to be patient and respectful of the laws, or sport activities, football and bicycle.
To settle in this wonderful town in the middle of the Andes was not as easy as I thought to be. Unfortunately this place had been a battlefield just few decades ago due to a twenty years fight between the terrorist forces of Sendero Luminoso and the governament’s one, who in few years brought to the death of nearly one hundred thousand people. Because of that, the population who live there see in a bad way the foreigners and thought the majority of them to be Traficant of human’s organs, calling them Pishtacos.
For sure, it did not help me to be unrecognizable the fact of being 1,90 meters high in a nation where the medium high is 1,7. Because of that I was always seen by the people with wide eyes as if I were an alien and each time I went to buy something they used to high of nearly 25% all the prices because I am an occidental man and so I am full of money (as they wrongly thought).
In order to maintain myself economically there, because I had already spent the majority of my savings to pay the expensive flights to get there, I decided together with some guys of the local agrarian institute to open a pizzeria in the center of Pampacangallo. Each Wednesday, the day of the local market, we did pizza in morning and then sold it in the afternoon.
From the first time I realized something that I would have never thought about: here no one knows what pizza is. This is why in the first three weeks we hardly managed to sell few pizzas and then all my colleagues decided to quit, leaving me alone to sell Pizza. I did not have other options: “Or I sell pizza or I sell it anyway…”.
After the first month when I managed to bring the Italian pizza culture there more and more people began to buy pizza.
All Wednesday I got up at 6am to prepare the thirteen pizzas that I would have sold in the market the afternoon. My weekly profits were just 6 to 10 dollars that for that place was quite a lot. With these money I managed to pay my phone bills and food.
I lived in a cozy house together with the local priest and two Venezuelan workers. They escaped from they hometown because of the state crisis. The characteristics of the house were tiny holes in the wall the let the freezing air entering in the house .
The most difficult thing for me was not the language, that I began to learn well from the time I arrived there, but the height: Pampacangallo stands at 3500 mts high that caused my tiredness because of the lack of air and also the food that did not respect the hygiene laws I was used to. In my first two weeks I was blocked two times in my bed with stomachache and headache.
In few weeks I began to immerge myself in this new culture really far from where I get used to. The majority of the streets were not paved and was really difficult to fine house not made of tar and straws. Here the development arrived late: until the beginning of the 21th century there was no running water nor energy.
Also the society was really different: the tradition there is that the mother has to remain in the house with the children and that man has to work to maintain his family. The family there could be really big and with lots of children, until 6.
I used to eat rice, potatoes and chicken nearly all the day and to drink mate de coca in order not to feel so much the high.
I ended this wonderful and unbelievable experience at the beginning of november and from that time I moved to Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil with a small backpack of 50lt with whom I had just the few things I needed.