Thanks for your question about homestays Isabel. Homestays are hands down one of the best ways to improve your Spanish and to really connect to the people of Bolivia and Peru. Our main homestay will be in Tiquipaya Bolivia, a small agricultural village outside of the major city of Cochabamba. There we will spend a couple weeks really settling into every day Bolivian life. Aside from our Tiquipaya time we will have 2-3 other short term homestays. One in Tocaña, Bolivia (in the Yungas region) and one in Boca Parimanu, Peru (in the Amazon). We will also stay with different families during our trek through Nacion Q’eros. Each night we’ll stop in a different community and stay with families. As our itinerary flows and adapts we may find more homestay opportunities present themselves as well.
Many of you may be wondering how many homestay gifts to get and what type of gifts would be appropriate. We understand that you want to be good guests and show your appreciation for the incredible hospitality that these families are showing. With that being said its important to take a moment to talk about why everybody (you and the homestay families) have decided to partake in this exchange. First and foremost you all and your homestay families are looking for an opportunity to learn about different cultures. This is not a job for them. Its as much of an exchange for them as it is for us. These families have volunteered to open their houses to you and are so excited to meet you!
We do not feel it is necessary to bring gifts for our Tocana, Boca Parimanu or our Q’eros homestays but you may want to bring a small gift for your Tiquipaya time. For all of the homestays the best gift you can give is your time. Spend time with your family, help cook meals, work in their fields with them, go to the market/church with them. In addition to your time perhaps a small, inexpensive gift that represents the place you are from. I (Zack) like to bring small bottles of maple syrup. (real) Maple syrup is very unique to North America, its delicious and it creates great cross cultural conversations.
We don’t know which families you’ll be with yet because we want to get to know you better before matching you with a family. Each family ranges dramatically in size. Some are a single parent with one or two kids, while some are huge families with grandparents, cousins, aunts/uncles, lots of kids, cats/dogs/cows/pigs/chickens… Once we’re all together in Peru we’ll ask you about your homestay preferences and try to match you accordingly.
Long story short focus less on the material gift and more on the gift of time. Some of you may be nervous but know that these families are so excited to meet you and share this experience with you.