Doing Good. Feeling Bad.

I woke up with a headache, still cold. The high altitude was now affecting me.   The coca tea would soon become my best friend because it would keep me warm and alleviate my headache.  After having breakfast we were taken to the Plaza de Armas which is in the center of Cusco.  We briefly went inside a church, the Catedral del Cusco, and I thought it was odd that dogs were allowed to enter.  Then we sat outside in front of the steps of this same church to watch a Sunday parade with marching bands as well as many schools showing their pride.   We must have watched for about two hours, and the best thing at the time seemed to be the warmth from the sun’s rays.  I felt a brief wave of happiness by the simple fact that I was finally warm!  I had a feeling, however, that my happiness wouldn’t last so although my ass was hurting from sitting on the hard steps, I endured the discomfort for the warm comfort of the sun’s rays.  After walking around for a bit more it was time to go back to the albergue to have lunch.  Then the first day of our volunteer work would begin. 

Our first assignment was to scrape the paint off the walls of two small bathrooms, varnish the wooden beams, plaster, and then paint.  We were given gloves as well as masks, and boy, did we NEED them.  Scraping paint off the walls produced so much powdery dust that it was hard to breathe.  The dust would get into our eyes, and some of us wore sunglasses which helped.  Having contact lenses was a bitch, though.  Now, to tell you the truth, this kind of work wasn’t what I expected.  I was surprised that the hazards of volunteering were exactly that–hazardous.  The ladders used were not quite safe, and the amount of dust (it was actually more like chalk) was too thick to open our eyes without the particles getting in them.  Breathing was actually difficult.  I kept having to leave the room so that I could take off my mask to breathe.  When we were done for the day, I looked at one of the other volunteers and I could see his nostrils which were completely full of chalky white dust.  I’m not sure how long we worked but I know it was at least two hours, most likely three.  The reward for our hard work would be a warm shower, and I couldn’t WAIT. 

The electricity as well as the water in the albergue where we stayed were all heated by solar panels.  When I turned on the shower, it was cold.  Not lukewarm but cold. Not cold but ICE.  As a result, I found out that I had to share and use the other girls’ (volunteers) bathroom which was downstairs.   The water warmed up, after all, but it took a long time to do so.  Finally, for about five whole minutes, maybe 7, I had a hot shower.  Although the water pressure sucked, big time, and the temperature was inconsistent, I was grateful that I took a shower.  But because I had to conserve the water for the other volunteers, I had to rush.  Of course, the bathroom had no heat so when I got out of the shower, I was freezing cold.  Again.  Damn.  When I tried to dry my hair with my own hair dryer, the outlets in the room did not have the three prong units required for my dryer so I needed to borrow someone else’s, except that none were available.  I was wondering why the hell I was volunteering in the first place while freezing my ass off.  I just wanted to go home…

Throughout the entire day I felt like a horrible person.  How could I feel so terrible about myself when my heart was in the right place by giving money to an organization to help the needy?  I felt terrible because I was totally miserable, and because the other volunteers seemed to be having a good time, and I wasn’t, I felt like I was a bad person.  I was there to volunteer and to do a good deed.  But I was constantly cold, and I thought that the work conditions were not safe nor good for my health.  I wasn’t enjoying myself AT ALL.  If basic needs are not met, such as warmth and safety, and I’m not feeling good about doing good, did this mean that I was a bad person? I certainly felt like it.  Or maybe I was just a spoiled brat.  But I can’t help the way I feel.  As I struggled, for days, on whether or not I should even post this on my blog, I am doing so because I am being honest.  Besides, it’s my feelings and my opinion, and the other volunteers might have felt the complete opposite.  It seemed like the rest of them enjoyed the experiences and I hope they did.  However,  I have never spent money, to do a good deed, and then felt bad about myself.  This bucketlist dream of a volunteer vacation was for shit.  I was seriously wondering what the hell I was doing, again feeling bad about…feeling bad.

That second night in Cusco I discovered a treasure in my room.  I found a little heater.  It was one of those small portable ones that looked cheap.  Because I was in fear that it wouldn’t work and when I turned it on and it did work, I felt like I won the lottery.  Although my room was so cold and too large for the little heater to warm up the entire room, I found some comfort as I could warm up my hands and stay near it for a bit before going under my covers.  I wished that I could have kept the heater on during the night but I dared not for I think it would blown up or started a fire, or cause a power outage.  So instead, after trying my best to be a little warmer than without the little heater,  I slept with my clothes on and with my socks on.  I also threw more blankets on my bed from the extra beds in my room.  If it wasn’t for my exhaustion, I don’t think I could have fallen asleep that night, again, because of the cold and the discomfort of trying to stay warm.  But somehow, I did…


The Plaza de Armas

About Blogatrixx

I took a solo trip to Istanbul in May, 2012 that changed me forever. It started my passion for travel, and it also ignited my passion for photography. This blog was created to express and appreciate the beauty of life through my travels.
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