Serendipity: A beautiful and unexpected journey in Arequipa

Living in and being a part of HOOP in Arequipa has been such a journey. Everything
over these last two months has exceeded my expectations: The lovely students,
volunteers, locals and city.

Coming from Melbourne, having worked with a lot of NGOs beforehand, I
thought I would be coming to Arequipa to be a typical volunteer. I expected to
be working a few hours at the school each day and returning to a relatively
calm hostel life. But oh how I was wrong. Working for HOOP and with HOOP-ers, I
have learnt to embrace much more than just teaching. For starters, there has been the lively and warm volunteer community. I
did not expect that the other volunteers that I have worked with and currently
work with, would become an almost family away from home. There are friendships I have made that I know will not end after our
HOOP experiences.

Then there is the myriad of things to do and places to go in and around
Arequipa. Whilst you have Cuzco and Puno as your standard weekend trips away
from Arequipa, there are also so many things do see in Arequipa. There is the
monastery, museums, the lovely eateries and cafes, and of course, the salsa
clubs! One of my favourite places in Arequipa is the Mirador de Yanahuara. It
is a viewpoint only 20 minutes walk from the Plaza De Armas, where if you have
good weather, you can see the sunrise in the most heavenly way. 

One of my favourite experiences outside of teaching the loveliest
students at Flora Tristan, took place in a quaint house just outside the
Arequipa centre. A local I was dancing with in my salsa class invited me to
join her and her theatre group in a rehearsal at their director’s house. I did
not know what to expect and until we entered the house and started vocal and
body exercises, I was completely in a state of curiousity. Michaela, an Austrian volunteer who I had persuaded to come with me, was
absolutely confronted as well. Here we were in a fancy lounge room of a
theatrical director’s house, singing, dancing and acting with the cast from the
Spanish version of Cats, the musical. It was an eclectic mix of people from
diverse ages too. I will never forget that day!

There is so much more I could say but I feel like it is better conveyed
through experience. I know everyone who comes to volunteer with HOOP will have
a unique time due to the most unexpected experiences that come about with just
having an open mind. Serendipity is a word that comes to mind. 

I urge you to have an open mind, come down to volunteer with HOOP and
experience exactly what I mean.


Ayes S.

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