The amount of weird connections Mom and I had with our fellow trekkers is amazing…first it was randomly being on the same trek as Jeff and Marra from San Diego. Then one night over dinner when I was talking with Andrea and Chris from Colorado they started to tell me this amazing story about an orphanage just outside of Cusco that they are donating money to and helping out. Apparently someone they know from CO had adopted a Peruvian baby some time ago. When little Ana was 15, her adoptive mother Judy decided to bring her down to Peru to learn about her native culture and roots. Ana was so touched by her trip that she decided to open her own orphanage! She raised (initially) something like $45,000 and bought the building and opened the orphanage a few years ago!
The whole time that they were telling me this story it was sounding more and more like the exact same store my mom had told me on the busride up a few days earlier. Sure enough, it turns out that Judy, the adoptive mom, does consulting work for the CDA school district and we had actually planned on visiting the orphanage ourselves! We made plans to meet up with Andrea and Chris later in the week to buy food and cook dinner for the 20 girls living in the orphanage in Anta, just 30 minutes outside of Cusco.
Due to a miscommunication (and what we later found out to be a broken down) car we weren´t able to meet up with the couple in Cusco. David from out trekking group wanted to come along, and met Mom and I with four big bags of new towels for the orphanage in tow. We went to a minimart and bought some simple pasta and sauce along with some candy and fruit and what we thought was hot cocoa for the girls (turned out it was some weird coffee/malt thing). We were sure that we would be meeting up with Andrea and Chris at the orphanage later though, so just bought very basic supplies that would keep for another date.
We unknowingly got ripped off by a cab driver. The first few we asked refused to drive all the way to Anta, so we just hopped in the first one that agreed and when he quoted the price (50 soles) we didn’t think twice, we were just happy to be on our way finally. At the time we couldn´t figure out why he was so talkative and friendly, stopping in several places to help us find the orphanage and making sure we made it inside safely…but after we found out the ride should only have cost us 10 soles it made sense why he was in such a chipper mood.
We were immediately swarmed by very grubby, but very happy little Peruvian girls upon entering the sprawling compound of the orphanage. The Madre immediately disappeared, but we were so caught up trying to answer questions, give hugs and kisses and simultaneously hold 20 pairs of hands that we didn´t really notice at the time. Several of the older girls gave us a full tour of the buildings, answered our questions about their daily lives, and asked us many questions about where we were from and what we did as well. Later David and I played some silly games with a volleyball in a big dirt field that’s part of the property while Mom took pictures and journaled. One of my favorite girls, Rosa, braided my hair and I lent my camera to a few others who were entertained all evening by taking pictures and looking at pictures of my previous travels in Ecuador and Peru. Dinner time was fast approaching, but we were too busy singing and dancing and helping with homework to notice that it was getting late—still no sign of Chris and Andrea with the food.
We finally decided that the simple pasta and sauce we had bought was better than letting the poor little things go hungry, so with the help of a few of the girls we made a very basic dinner and then had to set off. It was getting late, the Madre was not being very helpful about travel arrangements back to Cusco, and we were all a little nervous about wandering around town after dark. Fortunately Rosa and her friend Amelia offered to walk us into town and help us find a cab back. Rosa insisted we exchange email addresses and asked when we would be returning, letting us know that their doors would always be open to us. The Madre was too busy talking on the phone to thank us or bid us farewell as we said our goodbyes to the girls, gave lots more hugs and kisses, and took off despite their pleadings to stay longer.
The whole experience was rather odd, firstly because we were so worried about the disappearance of Chris and Andrea, and secondly the lack of hospitality from the Madre. We still all had an amazing time, and were each touched by the gratitude and graciousness of the little girls. The buildings are very spacious and clean, with immaculate bathroom facilities and a kitchen. However, it seems like the girls are very self-reliant, with the Madre there only in principle and not really providing too much nurturing or help with meals, cooking, cleaning, etc. It´s so wonderful that through the determination and hard work of a 17 year old American/Peruvian the lives of more than 20 girls have been changed already, with many more to come in the future. If anyone is looking for a good charity to give to let me know and I can give you contact information about the orphanage.