The South American Tour de USC


USC co-founders Angela and Veronica in Calca, Peru

I just got back from an exhilarating whirlwind trip down to South America. The sights, the sounds, the smells and oh…the food! It was a complete sensory overload of the best kind.

The first stop was Guayaquil, Ecuador to visit United Service Corps co-found Veronica Plua Rutkowski’s family. Leaving from Miami and landing in Guayaquil was surreal, not because it was so different but because it was so similar. That feeling ended as soon as we exited the airport and got on the road.

It’s an old city with modern advances like miles of six lane-paved highways around the entire area. Except that the people haven’t seemed to adapted to the orderly lines and traffic laws that come with the highways. So picture a freeway like you’d see in Los Angeles, but mad chaos, horns beeping, cars flying by at 100 mph and no one in lanes. What an adventure just trying to get to get to the house we were staying in.


Instructors at the Apulaya Andean Cultural School, Peru

Guayaquil is situated on the Guayas River and has a beautiful river walk they built not too long ago.  We strolled along, sight seeing, sampling the ice cream and taking in the river views.

Later in the week, after I headed home, Veronica headed north to Banos, know as the gateway to the Amazon to meet with the Shuar Indian tribe and to scout hostels for the USC volunteers.

After a few days in Ecuador we hopped a couple planes and traveled to a remote town in the Andes Mountains of Peru, an hour outside of Cusco. We met with a couple that started the Apulaya Andean Center for Culture.

Being there felt like I was removed from all time and Western civilization. It was serene and there is a quiet, unhurried way of living that appeals to somewhere deep inside, behind my hectic, frazzled thoughts.

We made a pit stop the next day to tour some ancient Myan ruins, because when in Peru, it’s a must see. Walking around the square in Cusco, though, I made a happy discovery. Nestled in an ancient building was a Starbucks! It was the only sign of back home that I found among the traditional dressed Quechua Indians and ancient cobbled streets.


Quechua women in Cusco, Peru

Before I headed back home, I hit the markets with a vengeance. It was refreshing to find unique items that did not have the MADE IN CHINA stamp across the back. In every shop, there were little ones running about while their parents worked the register.

I think I probably came home with enough Alpaca fur items to keep a small army warm for a winter. I’m totally obsessed with the soft luxury of the sweaters, socks and throw blankets I purchased.

Now to get to the work of finalizing trip plans for next summer’s volunteer trips and daydreaming about the next time I get to go back myself.