March 2019, a month I’ll definitely remember. Within 14.03 – 21.03 I took a part as a participant in an Erasmus+ youth exchange project called “Women get back” in Peru. The combination of the venue, topic and the multicultural environment was extremely attractive to me and back than I knew this is a great opportunity I should not miss. So I took the journey along with four other great Bulgarians thanks to whom I had even better time than I supposed.
The trip to our final destination was quite long, crossing almost the entire world. Switching among several flights and a huge amount of stay on the airports was kind of exhausting but having a great company along the way made it fun and easier to handle.
From the very first hours spent after landing in South America I was able to see and feel the enormous difference than what I am used to have in my own day-to-day life in Europe. It is indeed a great continent which has a lot to offer. An ancient culture, hospitable people, interesting traditions, good food, breathtaking nature and many more were about to be experienced and it was more than exciting.
We, the Bulgarian team, decided to dedicate some time before the start of the actual project. This turned out to be a great idea as we managed to explore the culture and different places of Peru even further. The first place we visited in Peru was Cusco, a mid-size town located in the Andi Mountains. Being on 3500+ meters above the sea level is something I’ve never experienced before, for instance the highest place on the Balnaks is the Musala peak 2925m high. From the beginning, being that high, makes you feel strange and dizzy because of the lower oxygen level in the air but after having some coca tea (a traditional Peruvian hot drink made by coca leafs) and about three hours of body adaptation all was fine again. Of course, we didn’t stop there but decided to go even further by visiting a beautiful place called the Rainbow Mountinte, located on 5500+ meters high. It was challenging both for our bodies and minds. Our trip started at 4:00 a.m, taking a private all-wheel-drive jeep. We traveled about 4 hours on the main road before going for off-road for about an hour more. It was beautiful – high peaks, small mountain villages with local people wearing the traditional Peruvian clothing and llama herds everywhere. Once we arrived at the hiking starting point we had to walk another 7 kilometers. It was hard, not able to fully breath and feeling your heart pumping in to your head all the way to the peak but it was totally worth it.
We also managed to visit the ancient city of Machu Picchu and spent some quality time with nice food and sightseeing in Cusco.
After our self-organized trip we took the plane to Lima, we were the last group arrived at the project venue, it was late in the night so we didn’t manage to met all the other participants but we caught up quickly on the next day. There were people from Peru, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Spain, Romania and Bulgaria, an interesting culture mixture between South America and Europe. The project itself was organized very well with just the right amount of activities and free time so we didn’t get bored or tired most of the time. First days of the project were filled up with team and trust building activities so we got to know each other and became more connected and close very easily. The transition to the more serious topic of human rights, in particular the role of the women and their inequality was smooth and steady. Through variety of non-formal educational methods such as role playing games, creativity, discussions and self-reflection, I believe we got into the topic and became more aware of the current situation in the different countries. Even though we knew we can not solve the problem globally just for one week, it was a huge step towards a very right direction. The most valuable thing, personally for me, was the opportunity to connect with other young people, getting to know their problems and on the other side the tools and approaches they use to solve them. Sharing my own perspective and thoughts was invaluable, it made me think and self-reflect for things I’ve never thought before. Along the way we had great fun and became closer to each other even though our national, cultural and language differences.
Me was being part of this is a great honor and experience. Even though I am back to my normal life I still get the nice thrills of that journey every day. Most importantly I’ve managed to gain some new knowledge and awareness which I brought back home along with some great new friendships.