Sunday June 23, 2019
After a very long journey and several connecting flights, all fourteen of us made it safely to Cusco, and drove an hour to our beautiful Home Base in the Sacred Valley! Our orientation day was particularly special because we were invited by our Local Director, Yuri, to experience Pago a la Tierra, a traditional Andean ceremony where we expressed gratitude, set intentions, and honored the Earth. Today, we visited a nearby town called Pisac for our first day in a local city.
While in Pisac, we learned to bargain in the markets to get the best price for hand-crafted souvenirs. Our amazing guide Felipe helped with deciphering what was real llama, alpaca, or silver, from the fakes, so we found the best goods for the best price. We had a wonderful lunch at Blue Llama cafe, taking meal recommendations from Giselle, on of our home base caretakers, who is from Cusco.
After lunch, we drove to a llama and alpaca farm. Filipe taught us a lot about Inca culture and the animals, especially how to properly pronounce their names. Overall it was a great first day in the community!
-Christina West-Lucchesi, Teodora Nitu, Justin Lebeau
Wednesday June 26, 2019
On Monday, we trained to use the tools for the bathroom project, one of our service sites. We learned about the cultural differences that we might experience during service when with the community members. We also participated in leadership training and team building activities, led by our Local Director Yuri. Finally, we engaged in an intense debate activity about whether or not to a road should be built on the Lares trek, which we will be hiking this upcoming weekend.
Tuesday, the Leaders of the Day (Ei, Jasmine, and Adriana) began the morning by leading a group meditation on their own, in order to refresh and prepare their minds for the first day of service work of the trip. The day’s service consisted of one group shoveling and transporting materials and another breaking down a wall in a community member’s home, all in the effort to begin the construction of a new bathroom. We then came back to home base for lunch, followed by optional group yoga session, and then a pottery and traditional Andean music lesson, a perfect mix of fun and education.
Today, we traveled to Anyi Wasi in Ollantaytambo and learned about various wilderness medical protocols. We practiced splinting legs and arms, treating profuse bleeding, and stabilizing victims with spinal injuries. We also discussed the dangers of altitude sickness, lightning storms and how to prevent further injury. We have had a great few days close to our home base, and are now preparing for the Lares Trek!
Monday July 1, 2019
We spent Thursday learning more about health services in Peru through a tour led by MED LIFE (Medical, Education, and Development for Low Income Families Everywhere), which is the organization we will be serving with after our Lares Trek. We visited a rural school on the outskirts of Cusco and afterwards had a discussion about how education impacts health. Next, we walked through a hospital in Cusco and learned more about the healthcare system in Peru. The last stop on our Reality Tour was an Animal Shelter for abused or endangered wild animals. We were able to see condors, a tucán, and llamas. We finished off our day with a discussion on the social determinants of health. Overall it was a wonderful day full of learning.
On Friday, we woke up early and got ready to begin our drive to the starting point of the Lares Trek. We stopped at a snowy peak at over 14,000 feet on the way to take pictures, then began our trek with 4.5 hours of rainy and cloudy hiking (with a lunch break) before finally reaching the camp site. The view was amazing. We ate dinner, drank hot chocolate, and went to bed exhausted from the long day.
On Saturday, we woke up early, around 5 am, to eat breakfast at our beautiful campsite before we left to complete the second half of the Lares Trek! This hike was much easier than the previous day as it started with a brief uphill that led us to the summit of the hike and from then on, was downhill. The trek finished with lunch at the house of one of the men who guided the horses that carried our bags, cooked by our chef that completed the hike with us. After eating lunch, we journeyed, by bus and train, to the hostel in Aguas Calientes, where we spent the night.
On Sunday, we woke up to an early morning after spending the night in a hostel in the main tourist town for people visiting Machu Picchu. It was a refreshing, comfortable night after spending the previous night in the valley of the Andes in colder temperatures. Following wake up, we bussed over to Machu Picchu, translating to “Old Mountain” from Quechua to English, which was a much anticipated trip. We spent 3 hours at Machu Picchu, walking around the grounds to find the best spots for pictures and most historically prominent areas, all led by 2 incredible tour guides. It was one of the most beautiful sites most of us had ever seen, especially considering it’s history and significance to Peru. Following the day’s main attraction at Machu Picchu, we stopped in the town for lunch, and finally made it back to home base after a long but amazing day.
Written by Jasmine Gates (Hi Dylan!), Indigo Dubois-Greene, Anna Brown, Justin Lebeau, Jacob Petty, Christina West-Lucchesi, Eli Cowan, Maddie Buisch, Adriana Guzman
Monday July 1 through Wednesday July 3, 2019
Monday, we began our first day of service with MEDLIFE, an organization that provides healthcare to rural communities that don’t typically have access. We are each assigned to two health stations for the day that we rotated through this week. In a community of 400, we were able to help loca doctors treat 115 people of all ages and encourage 90 children to brush their teeth. Because we were just coming back from our Lares trek, we had a lax afternoon, followed by a movie night where we watch Emperor’s New Groove.
On Tuesday, worked with MEDLIFE for our second day, and were able to help another community. After our service, we came back to the hostel and had a relaxing afternoon. Some people did yoga, while others rested and prepared for the next day.
On Wednesday, we worked with MED LIFE again in the Chumpe community, serving about 100 people and encouraging 60 kids how to brush their teeth. After service, the community gifted us potatoes with salad and cheese. We ended the night with a group leadership activity in which we saved our “bucket of dreams” from “a volcano covered in lava” and with an incredible demonstration of light painting with our visitor, GLA photographer Matt.
-by Jasmine Gates, Teodora Nitu, Camila Goldszmidt, Justin Lebeau, Maddie Buisch, Christina West-Lucchesi, Roshan Desai
Thursday July 4 through Saturday July 6, 2019
Happy 4th of July from Peru! Today was our final day working with Med Life. We finished our week in our home base city of Lamay. It was extremely special serving in the community that we have been living in for the past two weeks! After a half-day of rotations with the dentist, pharmacy, ob-gyn, and other doctors, we were given great news that we had helped Med-Life see 400 patients from villages all over the Sacred Valley. After heading back to home base, we spent the afternoon playing volleyball and taking some much-needed siestas. Then we had a Global Health Charla in the beautiful Maloka where we discussed how cultural biases impact health care. We finished the night with some more late night light photography with our guest for the week, “Mentor” Matt, before he left to take some more spectacular photos of other GLA programs across Peru the next day. This is by far one of the most memorable US Independence Days many of us have ever spent!
On Friday, we finally had a “later” morning as breakfast didn’t start until 8:30, which was significantly later than the previous days. We had our second day working with the bathroom project, digging the hole for the septic tank of the second bathroom of the trip and moving bricks to construct the walls of another bathroom. We returned to Villa Magica to a bit of a break, followed by a group Salsa dancing lesson that we all loved.
On Saturday, we continued to work digging a septic tank and transporting materials for the construction of various bathrooms in the community. Our local director, Yuri, then taught us how to make traditional Adobe bricks and how to use them to create a house. After our work, we walked into Lamay to explore the local town. We finished the night with an activity about voluntourism and had a conversation about the sustainability of GLA.
-by Anna Brown, Eli Cowan, Maddie Buisch, Teodora Nitu, Camila Goldszmidt
After a Sunday spent rafting a section of the Urubamba River and ziplining across it, we stayed in the riverside lodge and had the earliest morning of the trip. We made it to Rainbow Mountain by sunrise, and climbed to 17,000 feet by 8am. It was spectacularly beautiful.Then, we had a relaxing afternoon as we prepared for the last few days.
On Tuesday, we had our final day of service at the bathroom project where we gave 100% to make another dent in digging the septic tank. Then Yuri led our final group reflection that led to us making a goal for the entire group for the next year. Later, we discussed reverse culture shock and how it will apply to us when we get home.
We began our final day in Peru with a late morning (we got to sleep in until 9 am!!), followed by the somewhat tedious chore of packing all of our clothes, souvenirs, and, for some of us, very large llamas into our suitcases. After packing was completed, we took one final hike into the center of Lamay and ate baked goods from a local panadería. Then we built earth ovens, “Watyas” with the local kids from Aldea Yanapay (Yuri’s school) to cook potatoes in the traditional Andean fashion.
While they cooked, we played a few rounds of volleyball, then went to the Maloka to eat our potatoes and sweet potatoes with cheese, salt, and tea. As we sat in a tight circle of Villa Magica staff, GLA students, and kids from the community, it hit many of us that this was our final night in beautiful Peru. We finished the night with an emotional appreciation circle, and a super special dinner that included much anticipated cuy (guinea pig!!). Yesterday was a wonderful ending to an amazing trip! We are now en route to the airport, sad to leave and excited to return home at the same time.
by Justin Lebeau, Maddie Buisch, Roshan Desai, Rigel Brown