The fifth and final two week program is upon us. The season so far has yielded more adventure and curveballs than we could have ever imagined and has been immensely rewarding and inspirational. Expecting no less from this final group, we woke early, guzzled back a few cups of coffee and waited in anticipation of the students’ arrival.
Unseasonably overcast and rainy, it seemed as though the day was off to a not-so-fortuitous start. But as the students started to arrive from Naples, Portland, New York, Pennsylvania, San Francisco and Denver, we were taken aback by their maturity and eagerness to wander the streets of Cusco and soak in as much Peruvian culture as possible. And so, that’s exactly what we did. After a hearty lunch, and despite the constant drizzle and sullen clouds that loomed over the city, half of the group took to exploring the neighborhood while others took the time to rest and acclimatize. In the afternoon, everyone in the group proved to be stellar nappers, falling fast asleep until dinner time.
After a delectable dinner of kebabs, french fries, salad and rice, we introduced ourselves, sharing quirky traits and little-known facts. As we got to know each other better, we discussed why we were here and what our goals were for the next two weeks, namely to finish a greenhouse being constructed for a local elementary school. We also got to know the local staff and discussed the role of Leader of the Day. Every day, individuals will volunteer to take on additional tasks such as waking up the other students, helping serve meals, leading warm up activities at the community service site and writing the daily blog. Tomorrow’s brave Leaders of the Day will be Bishop & Kelsey!
Early tomorrow morning we head out to Chocco, a community located in the outskirts of Cusco where we will continue to work on a greenhouse started by GLA students 9 weeks ago. Here’s hoping the rain abates and the bold Cusqueño sun makes an appearance!
– Written by Bianca, one of the brilliant mentors 😉
Today we started off our day at 6:00am followed by breakfast. Then we headed off to our first day of service. When we first got there we warmed up by playing a fun game of “ninja.”
Afterwards we visited the school and the greenhouse we will be working on for the next two weeks. We got right to work stripping bark from three big eucaliptus logs for the columns of the roofs, pickaxing the greenhouse floor, and sifting rocks out of dirt.
Around 10:30 we took a break to interact with the kids by playing soccer and “duck duck goose”. Interacting with the kids was really cool because they were so energetic and fun to play with. After our break we got back to work, putting the beams of the roof up and leveling the dirt on the ground. We also had fun teaching Kelsey how to speak Spanish – she can now say “I want to give you a cookie”! :).
After the day was over we put the tools back in the shed. Once we got back to home base we had a delicious meal and played some fun games such as “mafia,” “PB&J” and “toxic river.” After diner, a local nurse came to give us a very informative talk about chronic malnutrition and other health issues in Peru, and how organizations are working on these problems. Finally, we had a good talk about technology and how the happiest times in our lives don’t always invlove technology. We had a great day playing games, working hard, learning a lot and getting to know each other better. Can’t wait for our second day tomorrow!
Written by Bishop and Kelsey
This morning started out bright and early when all volunteers struggled to rise to the leaders of the day singing (more like screeching) and playing “Dancing Queen.” After breakfast the group headed off to a strenuous morning of work. The group split into two, one group working on the roof of the main greenhouse (you can see we started the struts coming off the beams from yesterday, almost finishing them!), the other moving bricks to the side project—another greenhouse for a local kindergarten. During the midmorning break, although the air was frigid and damp from rain, we still managed to get in a game of soccer with the elementary schoolers. The whole group also got nicknames for our new squad, Los Vatos Locos. After completing a few more hours of service, it was time to make our way back for lunch.
This afternoon, we headed off to learn about Peruvian music. We took a bus up into the mountains and sat down outside to explore the historical value of Peru and listened to a Peruvian music specialist discuss and play traditional instruments. After listening to the discussion, we all had the opportunity to play the instruments, and then learned to play a song on an instrument called the “siku.” Some of us picked the “way of the music” up quickly while others struggled. Whether or not the skill of playing music was present, everyone enjoyed and had fun exploring the different music they could make. With rain on the horizon, we made our way back to homebase for free time and dinner.
Spoons has been the card game of choice the past few days, and several intense games took place before dinner. After dinner we finished our game of “toxic river,” and with several tries eventually made it across the “river” to the other side. After the game, we wrapped up our evening with a discussion of our goals and expectations for the rest of the trip. We are excited to see what the rest of this trip has to come!
Written by Milan (Flaca) and Makayla (Apu)
This morning, the leaders of the day woke everyone up by singing “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey as loud as possible. After a delicious breakfast, we set out to our worksite at Chocco. To warm up in the cool morning air, we played “hug tag” and “machine charades.” All the group would agree that this was the most challenging of days so far. After we wheelbarrowed most of the adobe bricks down to the second greenhouse site, we had to carry them up steep steps. Our teamwork showed through when the group formed an assembly line up the steps so that no one had to carry a brick up all the steps. We made a lot of progress on the second greenhouse, getting the walls to almost chest high.
We came back either numb or sore from a very successful and productive work day to a warm yummy lunch. We washed off the layer of dirt and sweat on our skin and took well deserved naps. After napping, we were all very eager and excited to go and explore downtown Cusco. We visited several gorgeous plazas. At San Blas Plaza we stocked up on alpaca clothing and souvenirs. At Plaza de Armas – the main square – we split into teams and went on an epic scavenger hunt where the winning team was treated to ice cream by the mentors.
The group took a beautiful, scenic, and leisurely walk through Cusco to get back to home base, where we enjoyed a scrumptious and well needed dinner. Everyone was so full after their dinner, many people gave their desserts to Ro, who ate 7 pieces of pie!! After the antics at dinner, we watched a TED Talk called The Danger of a Single Story. The talk related to the way we perceived Cusco/Peru and how some of the people in Cusco percieve the U.S. Tomorrow we’re off to Patabamba, a mountain village where we will spend the morning with different households working and eating alongside them, and learning about life in rural communities here. We can’t wait!
Written by Mary (Misky) & Rose (Tika)
This morning our leaders of the day woke our fellow students up with a pillow brawl and “Roar” by Katy Perry, as well as a musical performance to get the day started. After an eggy breakfast, we packed and left to take a gorgeous drive to the village of Patabamba. We spent the day doing community service with the locals. Though we were split into three different groups, every individual experienced what it would be like to live in a Quechua family for a day, similar to a homestay. We shelled beans, carried firewood, and cut and sorted cilantro to sell to the market. For brunch we had boiled potatoes and cheese, and for lunch, quinoa soup. There was also a guinea pig farm in each home that we visited.
Despite the language barrier between us English, Spanish, and Quechua speakers, we managed to have a productive, successful and all around fun day. After the work was done, we played the locals in a game of soccer (the field has an incredible view of the mountains and Incan ruins across a mountain gorge). The odds were against us, being faced with incredibly skilled soccer players, but after an intensely close game, Los Americanos won (7-6!).
The rest of the day was relatively quiet, given that most of the students were pretty spent from working in the sun and playing an epic game of soccer. On the way home our group got to see the end of not one, but TWO rainbows ( admittedly lacking a pot of gold). After dinner, we participated in a group activity called Tamale Caliente, or en Inglés, “Hot Tamale.” In it we discovered what kind of leader we are, as well our strengths and weaknesses as leaders. To help reflect on our group activity and settle down for the night, some of the students meditated with Bianca.
Also, yesterday we watched a Ted Talk that discussed the danger of telling only one story of a culture, of not knowing the many sides that a culture may have. Having spent the day with a Quechua family, we were able not only to grasp more of the story of Incan & Peruvian culture, but also to actually partake in it, which was wonderful. With that, we bid you an Allin tuta 🙂
Written by Michaela & Ro
This morning we got to sleep in a little (up at 8) before going on a tour of Cusco . After breakfast we packed and left to take a gorgeous ride to the Incan ruins near Cusco. We made our way from one site to another, ending in the impressive Sachsay Waman site. We also walked to a big statue of Jesus similar to the one in Rio but smaller. We also got to see a great view of the city of Cusco. At the ruins we got to see the awesome architecture of the ancient Incan empire.
We ate lunch at a restaurant overlooking the city of Cusco. The majority of us ate alpaca steaks and they were delicious. We also got to hear some authentic Peruvian music while we ate. After lunch we went downtown to see some colonial Spanish cathedrals. There was lots of gold and silver within the church. Outside of the church in the main square we were able to see part of an outdoor pageant/parade where elementary school kids dancing while being judged. Then we came back and ate dinner. In the evening we also began planning for our trek, what to pack etc. Tomorrow we are back at the project bright and early, we hope to finish the greenhouses soon!
Written by Brigham and Daniel
Today was an informative and fun packed day. Our wake-up call consisted of country music and knocking on doors. We got off to an early start heading to our work site, where we worked on building the walls of the second greenhouse and the detailing of the first greenhouse´s roof. We took a break in between and went to the convenience store next door, where we were able to buy and try many Peruvian snacks. After some down time with the kids during recess, we headed back to work on both greenhouses. Though a little behind schedule for progress, we ended the service day on a good note.
After lunch, we conducted a bag check of everything that needed to be in our daypacks for the trek. We then headed to a farm, where there were llamas, alpacas, vicuñas, and guanacos. Forfeiting most of our grass, we had a fun time feeding the alpacas and llamas. Only one of us got spit on, and that was Dan. After we finished at the farm, we went next door to a textile exhibition, where we saw traditional Peruvian weavers and many varieties of potatoes. From there, we went to Orion (a local supermarket) to stock up for our trek. In there, we found many different types of candy and interesting foods, such as squeezable peanut butter.
After dinner, a speaker came to talk to us about the socioeconomic realities of Peru, focusing on Cusco. He discussed the local traditions, such as on the 25 de Diciembre, people of the Cusco region fight for a few minutes in order to settle the grievances that accumulated over the past year. He talked of the differences in poverty, whether that be poverty of living without basic necessities or being at a disadvantaged local environment. We learned that in many places in the Cusco region, it´s considered common to marry at as young as fifteen. The information seemed hard to swallow, being so different from our cultural views, but it definitely helped to give us perspective on the hardships and rewards of living in the Cusco region. The day ended with goodies from the market, cute photos from the llama farm, and fresh clothes from the laundry done the day before. Allin tuta!
– Written by Michaela & Sam
Cloé explaining to everyone the importance of layers for the trek 🙂
Following a delicious breakfast we began our journey back to work at the greenhouse. After playing a few warm-up games we began work at both greenhouses. At the larger greenhouse we started cutting sheets of plastic to place over the roof. We each took turns holding and pulling the sheets of plastic in place while our greenhouse building expert, Edgar, nailed the plastic to the cross beams.
At the second, smaller, greenhouse we began to level the ground and sift the dirt on the inside. However, just down the stairs the group used pick-axes to peel bark off of the eucalyptus trees so that we may use them as the main beams for the roof of this, smaller, greenhouse.
After returning to home-base for lunch the group took some time to relax and gather the towels that we then brought to the foster home. While visiting the foster home we all played soccer with the kids in intermingled teams. The foster-home houses children between the ages of 7-18. These children come from many different areas, including regions of the jungle outside of Cusco. We took a tour of the foster home and saw the multiple bedrooms and the library where the children study and learn during the afternoon when they return from school.
The people who felt up to another adventure went to the market. After exploring the market and not buying anything we passed a fried dough place we stopped and treated ourselves to this dessert which we then were served again as a dessert after dinner.
After all of the these adventures we watched two videos that helped us figure out more about ourselves and how human interaction and human biology is responsible for our happiness and ability to be good leaders.
Written by Nick
After a very long streak of eggs for breakfast, we once again headed off for our 6th day of service. Today we spread dirt and fertilizer in the greenhouse and planted all the vegetables! We also sifted dirt and rocks out of the kindergarten greenhouse and started building the foundation for the roof. We were invited to eat potatoes cooked in spontaneously made mud ovens with the kindergarten students (a Peruvian picnic called a Watia), and had a good time interacting with the kids.
This afternoon we visited a medicine man. We were able to learn about and perform the traditional Incan offering to Pacha Mama (Mother Earth). Following the offering some of us were able to sit one on one with the shaman and have our coca leaves read. We all enjoyed sharing the stories the shaman told us. Finally, after dinner we packed our duffels and had a last minute trek debriefing because we leave for the trek tomorrow morning!!! Up at 5 AM and leaving at 6! We are all excited to begin the journey to Machu Picchu!
Written by Kelsey & Milan
Waking up at 5 am is supposedly awful, but we had a good time singing along to Waka Waka. The group set out at 6 am for a three hour drive to a small village just an hour and a half away from the start of our hike. We arrived at the start of our hike, unaware that we would be scaling so many mountains the next two days. From the bottom of the mountain to our lunch break on a snow covered ridge, we hiked about three hours. In between, we had the opportunity to reach a record 15,000 feet! The views from the hike were absolutely breathtaking. All of us were so excited to stop for a delicious and piping hot lunch.
When we set out again, it took us about three more hours to reach our cozy campsite. Being up in the mountains and seeing no other groups of people, only animals, was a great experience. Seeing our campsite at the bottom of a snowy ridge made a few students slide down the icy surface. We were welcomed with delicious hot chocolate and continued to have a well needed dinner. Our tents were very tight and cozy, though at one point the pounding hale made it hard to rest. We were extremely tired and happy to be going to bed under a blanket of the most amazing stars!
– Mary and Makayla
We woke up this morning in our campsite freezing cold. The girls were four in a tent though so that made us a little warmer. One of the groups of girls accidentally switched tents with one of the groups of boys so they only had two sleeping pads for four girls where the boys had four sleeping pads for two boys. The people that went ahead of us and set up our campsite had piping hot coca tea at the ready as everyone woke up and had to leave their tents to go out in the slightly colder outdoors. As we emerged from our tents ready for a warm pancake breakfast, we were all in awe of the beautiful sunrise on the snow capped mountains. Almost everyone stopped for a picture. Right after breakfast, we were in a bit of a rush to get a move on so we all had to quickly repack our daybags and duffels and get ready to hike again. After a bit of hiking the group split up a bit and one group took a shorter downhill path to reach the van for the ride to the jungle. After a nearly three hour drive to the jungle, we finally arrived at the train tracks that we hiked along for about three more hours to reach the town Aquas Calientes, where we all had a fancy dinner and got to sleep in warm beds in a hostel!
Written by Rose
Today we went to Machu Picchu. Some of our group took the stairs all the way up, whereas others took the bus. We got there all the same. Once we reached the top, we could see the mountains and ruins in a panoramic view. We had some down time to enjoy the view and then soon after we were led on a tour by our charasmatic guide, Patrick. He talked to us about the history of Machu Pichu, as well as the secrets that it holds. Despite knowing much more about Machu Pichu then we did, he agrees that many details are left to the imagination. Picture´s don´t do Machu Pichu justice. Going there is an expirence that we will carry with us for a lifetime.
After we left Machu Pichu we had lunch at the same restaurant we had dinner at the night before. That was great. Then, we had a couple hours of down time before our train departed. Most of us stayed in the hotel and watched Transformers, but a few of the girls went to an internet café and roamed town. The train ride was hilarious, with funny faces and air guitar solos, and it was also beautiful. The day before we had hiked a significant amount of track on foot to get into town, so the view looked both different and familiar. After the train we were pretty tired out, just hoping on the bus and heading straight for the hotel. Now, we sleep and prepare for tomorrow, our last day. Allin Tuta!
We woke up like this ,flawlessat 6:30 am. After breakfast we got ready for work- the usual routine. Thegroup played ultimate frisbee as a warm up which Ro, Nick, Clint, Bishop and Kelseywon (with an epic comeback). We then finished both greenhouses for the pre-school and the elementaryschools. In order to finish the kindergarten greenhouse we placed the plasticroof and leveled out the ground so that we could then plant – beets, lettuce, oregano, and mint to get the greenhouses started. After we finishedboth greenhouses we returned back to home base to talk about the rest of theday. Later we went into town and went to several markets to buy souvenirs and spend the afternoon and evening in the old town. After that we had a nice walk around the main square, and took lots of pictures, before going out to our farewell dinner where we enjoyed entertainment,buffet food, and teary eyed speeches. Oh, and as you can see below, we also enjoyed participating in a
variety of traditional Peruvian dances! Ro & Nick
PS we all got on our flights ok! This is us at the airport in Cusco.
All students have departed and are on their way home!