More than anything I'm so grateful I was chosen to be part of this project. Not knowing what to expect or what I would encounter on my experience, I prepared for the worst conditions. What I should have been doing is studying sign language, or at least bought some notes for quick reference. I had a wonderful time on the trip. I felt I was able to give what was most needed, my valuable time. There were too many children but not enough staff, too many wet pants and dresses not enough hands. When some of the other volunteers freaked out at the smell of urine, I smiled at the opportunity to use my skills as a babysitter and now soon to be mother walking the kids up to the nursery and changing their clothes. I sometimes think I took my responsibilities of enforcing health and hygiene a bit too far. In my backpack everyday, I carried a pack of baby wipes I kept with me at the hotel and sought out the kids with dirty, boogery faces. I soon came to be called the ''moco-monitor'' by colleagues, the equivalent of the booger patrol. I enjoyed going out every night, and running up those dreadful steps to get into the hostel by curfew time.
One time Jimbo and I totally missed the curfew and got locked out, so we went and sat by the church and saw the city transform beneath the rising sun. It wasn't so much fun having to work that day but at least we started the day off rightÊwith a complete breakfast served upon arrival-thanks Betty. I loved exploring the off-limits sites around Machu Picchu and eating strawberries grown on sacred land (one of the guides let me try it). I was also proud of the fact that despite my exhaustion I still managed to climb up Wynapichu and have a fun photo session.
The one moment that doesn't escape my mind is my first 15 minutes inside the orphanage: the moment when all the kids run up and grab at your watch, steal your water and go through your bag. It has never been more difficult for me to say hello. I'm in Peru, I speak Spanish, I'm great with children and I can't communicate beyond a smile and a wave. I'm a Gemini, communication is my strength and at no other point in my life have I felt more disabled. The kids weren't the ones with the handicap; I was. They can communicate with each other but I can't understand.
Each day I came to learn a little more and I learned how to ask, to say ''How do you say?'' So in my bag I began to carry what I needed, along with a pen and paper pad.