Friday August 2, 2019
Hello, everyone! We are so excited to have welcomed all the students to homebase in sunny Cusco and are so happy about all the positive energy and excitement we have already on day one. We are beginning our student blog and photos and hope you enjoy following along on our journey in Peru!
Lauren, International Director
What’s poppin’ parents,
Today we all arrived in Cusco, Peru, and had lots of fun as we adjusted to the homebase and altitude. A lot of us were coming off a hectic and tiring series of flight connections. After arriving at the airport we rode the bus to home base, took a walk through one of the historic streets, and arrived to the rooms with the large kitchen and garden. We took tours of homebase and some of us slept while some just spent time outside enjoying the view to the cool sun.
More and more students came as the day went on and our group turned from 5 kids to 27 kids as we all got to know each other. Lunch was amazing and the crackers with the mystery sauce was great. We played so many name games and met the staff and got to learn about the history of Peru and its culture. We also celebrated Oona’s birthday! Now it is free time as we are waiting for dinner and I am writing this blog, all of us are so excited to visit the San Pedro Market in Old Cusco tomorrow.
Saturday August 3, 2019
We started our day with orientation where we discussed the code of conduct which involved group discussions and a “get to know you” snowball fight. We participated in skits in small groups that helped us understand how we should behave during the trip. We came up with our community guidelines which will help our community grow and thrive during these next 2 weeks. We had a delicious lunch at a Peruvian restaurant in Cusco, where many of us tried alpaca burgers. They were deliciously unique!
Our review of the burger is as follows: We were pleasantly surprised by the gouda and caramelized onions as they complimented the lean and well-cut alpaca patty. (9.5 out of 10)
Then we broke up into small groups and explored Cusco. We went to a Peruvian market where we were challenged to buy three Peruvian foods for only one Sol (33 US cents). After that, we tried lots of new Peruvian fruits and bought some souvenirs (like fuzzy alpacas and alpaca sweaters). We were all challenged to use our Spanish skills in order to communicate with the locals.
Upon returning to home base, we had some free time where we had a quick photo shoot and hung out. We had a delicious dinner of chicken and rice. After dinner, the group participated in a heated game of Jeopardy. Shout out to the winning that is Suhas, Sarah, Annika, Ryan, Jessica, Maya and Abbie. There were questions on health, code of conduct, culture, and security. After the game, everyone was awarded with Peruvian churros. They were so good, and quite different than American churros.
Team Vazzy (we ended with 2 points)
Aka Jess, Jenna, Joey, Adam, Julia, Maddie & (feature the extra writing support and editing expertise of Zoe & Kayla)
Sunday August 4 and Monday August 5, 2019
¡Ymaynalla! (Hello in Quechua)
Sunday we went on a reality tour where we explored Cusco and saw the communities where we would be working. Some of the stops included a kindergarten, an elementary school, a hospital, and an animal shelter (with alpacas!). We learned a lot about Peru’s history and culture and their way of life. We learned about the fun traditions as well as the hard lives that Peruvians face. For example, one hospital that was made from an army camp served all 500,000 people of Cusco yet only had 150 beds and two ambulances.
At night we divided into our mentor groups for the first time where we all split off into different cafes and learned more about each other. We also stopped to enjoy lunch with a gorgeous mountain view of the Sacred Valley!
Monday was the first clinic day. We traveled an hour and a half on a bus to a Peruvian community. There, we split up into different groups that each focused on their own tasks. The stations included triage, education, pharmacy, toothbrushing and hygiene for the children, OB/GYN, dentistry, and general medicine.
Each person got a chance to help out at two stations today, but we will get to experience all of the stations during the next few clinic days. The memories we made today with the patients and with each other we will never forget as we are super excited for the upcoming two clinic days in different communities.
By Jess B, Julia, and Suhas
Friday August 9, 2019
We had the last day of clinics! The bus ride was a grand 2+ hours each way, much of which was spent driving along winding roads, always with a scenic view. At the end of the ride, we all agreed our bus driver deserved a multitude of awards for his skillful maneuvering of the huge bus on the small, twisting roads in the Andean mountains.
Once we arrived on site there was already a line of people waiting to be seen! It was a super packed day, patients streaming in nonstop, every station doing their best to keep up. We all worked together with the medical team to efficiently see everyone who came to the clinic and, although chaotic at times, it was a perfect way to spend our last day. At the end, when we were packing up, the community members laid out a snack complete with potatoes and homemade cheese. Describing the food as delicious would be an understatement!
Saying goodbye and thanking the medical staff was bittersweet. As we were all standing in a cluster, reflecting on what the staff had taught us, as well as the impact we were able to have on some of the rural communities in Perú, it hit us; this part of our journey was over. The three days of clinic allowed us all experiences we never would have dreamed of. Connecting with community members, gaining insight into the medical field, and learning things about ourselves that were just waiting for the right moment to be uncovered. Next, with much enthusiasm, we will be moving to the Healthy Homes project after a “relaxing” day of white water rafting.
P.S. There may have been a dance party that night 🙂
For rafting, we woke up early and took a 2 hour bus ride to Cusipata. The bus ride went by quickly as we listened to throwback songs. When we got to Cusipata we had the opportunity to go zip-lining. Most of us took that opportunity to get our adrenaline pumping. Afterward, we got split into groups and headed down the stream with our instructors. We passed through rapids of class 2 and 3 and we even got an opportunity to go cliff jumping. The water was freezing cold but it was an amazing experience. After rafting, we headed to the sauna to warm ourselves up and had lunch. We then headed back to home base for dinner. After dinner, we all huddled up for a movie and celebrated Ryan’s birthday with music and cake!
Yesterday was the day! Healthy Homes project time! We traveled far out to a house owned by a woman named Antonia in the community of Secsencalla. We arrived and she greeted us warmly. The group was split into different teams. We had people painting (interior and exterior), making furniture from fruit crates, and setting up the corn dryer. All the home improvements were health related, in the wholistic sense, and help to improve the quality of life, as well as preventing long term illnesses. Everyone worked together, people even helping out other teams once they finished their own task to make sure everything got done on time. After a long day of work we celebrated with more potatoes and cheese, plus some homemade chili sauce, provided by Antonia’s family! (It was just as delicious as on the last of clinics). Feeling accomplished we headed back to Cusco for a short history lesson by our very own mentor Matt.
Today is just as exciting as we are heading to Machu Picchu! We also have a lot of activities planned out. One of them includes a hot spring! We are so excited and of course we are listening to music. Ber is currently playing Un Poco Loco from Coco.
-by Anaka and Jess M
Monday August 12, 2019
Our group just got back from our two-day Machu Picchu excursion where we explored both the towns around the wonder, as well as Machu Picchu itself. To start, we took a bus ride to a local artist’s house. The artist specialized in creating art based on the mamitas, local women, in his village. Here, we learned printmaking, stop-motion, watercolor, and pottery. The group especially loved the artist’s dogs (Casa and his puppies). After, we took a 1.5 hour train ride to the city of Aguas Calientes, which is at the base of Machu Picchu.
We arrived at our hostel and quickly changed into bathing suits to go to the town’s namesake: a natural hot spring. Many people enjoyed this and some even made Peruvian friends! Following the hot springs, lots of us went to play soccer at a local field in the mountains. There, we met some little kids and were able to work on our team skills and sharing abilities. That night, we went to a buffet dinner at a local Peruvian restaurant. The food was delicious. We returned to the hostel for a restful night of sleep to woke up bright and early to explore Machu Picchu.
After a 30 minute bus ride that zig-zagged up the mountain, we finally made it to Machu Picchu! Upon arrival, we met our guide Freddie who joined our other guide, Patricia. We were blown away by the amazing views and architecture of the city, which we were able to enjoy during a silent 20 minute meditation session. We learned lots about the ancient city, such as the fact that many of the buildings were left unfinished as a result of the Spanish invading and the Incas evacuating. We stayed at Machu Picchu for about 3 hours (plenty of time for all of our touristy pictures).
After, we returned to Aguas Calientes for a delicious Italian lunch where many of us finished entire pizzas. We then split into groups for some shopping and gelato. After shopping, the group boarded another 2 hour train ride back to where we met our bus for a long ride back to home base in Cusco. We returned tired, but ready for our next adventure!
Maddy and Zoë
On Monday we started the second day of the Healthy Homes project. We spent the day painting, making corn dryers, and building food crates. We were able to see the effect our work had in this one family. In the afternoon, many of us were entertained by a concert performed by paint room 2. After service we arrived back home and we took an excursion to a local chocolate museum. There we part took in trying “guinea pig milk”, a pretend blood sacrifice, and making our own chocolate. We were able to go shopping in the chocolate museum gift shop where many of us bought chocolate scented items. We ended the day in our mentor groups recapping the events of the day.
On Tuesday we started the last day of our Healthy Homes project and the last day of it service. During the service, many of us had experiences with many different farm animals including puppies, kittens, cats, chickens, goats, cows, and turkeys. After we arrived home, everyone was given time to prepare the for GLA Peru Talent Show. There were many notable talents such as whistling the national anthem, origami, Dutch tongue twisters, extreme athletics, a drum show, a rap, a comedy show, an amazing synchronized swimming dance, and a fiesta from the boys room. We ended the day with having our own free time and spending it with each other.
Wednesday August 14, 2019
What is cracka lackin parents,
Today is our final day in the country as we all head back home on our flights. We all really enjoyed this trip as it has made us all grow as people and many lives were impacted by our work and presence. Over these last two weeks we have all grown closer together and formed strong bonds between each other and we have made lifelong friends. Two days ago we had our last day of service, the healthy homes project finished up as both Medlife and GLA completed their last project in Secsencalla after two years of work in that community. Yesterday was program wrap up day and we did many appreciation activities including an anonymous appreciation circle as well as compliment sheets filled with notes from each other.
Then a Shaman from an UNESCO protected native community came to our homebase and we participated in a religious ceremony. After that we had more free time where we chilled out before going to our mentor groups where we talked in different parts of Cusco. Dinner was at a restaurant in Plaza D’armais where we ate a buffet and took part in lots of dancing to the music of the live performers. We then came home and had a fiesta before hitting the hay. Today is mostly saying our goodbyes and having fun before we depart back to our homes. Thank you guys for following this blog and our adventures.
Suhas, Tu-Trinh, and Ryan