Sunday July 14, 2019
Bienvenidos a Peru! Welcome to the Service in the Sacred Valley blog!
This will be our opportunity to share our adventures and learning experience in the Sacred Valley of Peru with all of you! And this will be your opportunity to travel and follow along with all of us throughout the next two weeks. Over the next 14 days students will be taking turns writing this blog so you can experience the journey through their eyes!
After airport pickups in Cusco, students had the option to rest and recuperate from their long travels as the last of the group arrived. However, most of them were so ready to start the program that they participated in a variety of fun activities that our incredible team of Mentors led to get to know each other.
Our wonderful home base is called the Garden Lodge and it is located in the historic town of Ollantaytambo, the hospitable staff prepared our first meal for us, a Peruvian dish call Arroz Chaufa! It was delicious!
After an exciting but exhausting day, we headed to bed a bit early to get ready for our first full day together! Tomorrow we will be having orientation and continuing to get to know each other better and explore Ollantaytambo!
Thanks for following along!
Monday July 15, 2019
This was our first morning in Peru. After waking up, we were welcomed with a delicious breakfast buffet and drank coca leaf tea and Peruvian coffee. We followed with some more ice breaker games to get to know our GLA family more. These were name games, buddy system, and more. Then, Matt gave us a mini history lesson on Peruvian culture and the Incan Empire.
Next, we took a short walk to the service site to learn more about the project we’re working on. We learned about the girls’ school and the farm that we’ll be building in the days to come. Then we had lunch and some free time. After that we had a scavenger hunt in town that made us step outside of our comfort zone and help us conquer the language barrier by using hand signals and broken Spanish.
The last activity we did today was have a debate about a road that goes through the Lares trek route and how it affects the economy, community, and the environment. The other half of the group worked on team building skills and communication.
“That’s all folks”
Written by students Zoe, Sara and Marco
Tuesday July 16, 2019
We woke up with a nice breakfast to get us prepared for our first day of service. We walked a quick five minutes to our service site and learned about our project and who we were doing it for. We are helping a girl’s dorm whose girls don’t have easy access to school and school supplies. It also gives them access to tutors. Our main goal is to make an organic farm so that the girls have access to healthy food and they can make money on the side by selling the food.
At service, we split up in two groups. One group moved a pile of compost from the road all the way to the farm site/dorm. We did this by using wheelbarrows and an assembly line with bags of dirt. The other group sifted dirt and used shovels and pickaxes to make large plant beds. While playing music, we learned that our mentor Matt loves Ke$ha. After service, we had a fantastic lunch made by Carmensita, who is the housemother of the dorm.
After service, we went on an extreme hike up the mountain Pinkuylluna in preparation for the big boy trek we will be doing in a few days. Both the hike and the view at the top were breathtaking, literally. Later, we stopped at a market to buy souvenirs and knickknacks. Then, we walked to a nearby convenient store / bakery and bought snacks and tons of pan (bread)!! Finally, we wrapped up the day with some fun mentor activities and a lovely dinner.
From the koolest kids,
Ella, Zane and Sonam 😊
Wednesday July 17, 2019
This morning we woke up and ate our delicious breakfast, which consisted of eggs and fruit. After breakfast, we headed off to our second day of service. We split into groups to do our different tasks, which consisted of hauling wood, sifting dirt, and digging trenches that will soon be vegetable gardens! The group that was moving the wood found many bugs and other animals.
After a long morning of service, we had a traditional Peruvian quinoa soup and pasta with meat sauce (with vegan options) for lunch. We headed back to home base for siesta, where some people napped and others played cards or braided hair. We had to rest up for our exciting afternoon activity! We took a short, scenic bus ride to a local art studio- El Jardin de las Mamitas. After a tour of the studio, we participated in multiple activities, like creating stop motion videos, ink printing, colored pencil water coloring, and clay. We were greeted with dogs and live music!
After our time at the studio, we came back to home base to enjoy some free time before our pizza outing in town. It was a nice change to have a little taste of home. After dinner, we went to the home base of another GLA photo program to listen to a presentation about responsible use of social media, which was very enlightening. We came back to our own home base to discuss the presentation, have some free time, and went off to bed.
The queens of GLA,
Gwen, Abby C., and Abby B.
Thursday July 18, 2019
We woke up this morning in time for breakfast at 7:30. Our amazing chef, Vidal, made omelets, and we also had bread, fruit, cereal, and oatmeal. We then made our way to the service site where we painted, sifted through dirt, dug trenches, and mixed soil. Thanks to Zane, we had some awesome music to keep us all going!
By the time lunch came around, we were all more than ready to eat our rice and vegetable soup, followed by chicken salad. After that we packed our stuff and headed back to home base for showers and siesta before heading into the market to get ice cream, snacks, and bread. We then quickly got ready to head back to the service site where we met the girls from the school. We played fun games like duck duck goose, sharks and minnows, and volleyball. Everyone had fun meeting and interacting with the girls and it definitely improved our Spanish skills!
We then met in groups to debrief and talk about how we felt about our service so far and meeting the girls. After that, we had some free time before dinner. For dinner we had chicken with rice and pasta salad. Tonight’s activity was movie night! We watched a movie about Pachamama and the history of this beautiful country. After our movie we had free time until it was time for bed.
Written by Ava, Aby and Cam
Friday July 19, 2019
We woke up to the early Friday morning sun to a hearty breakfast prepared by our amazing chefs. We feasted on delicious pancakes, fruit, fresh bread with jam and butter, and cereal. Everyone packed their belongings and we headed to service. We split up into two groups excited to tear mattresses to make pillows. We also continued our service project of building the farm for the school. We dug trenches, shoveled and mixed dirt, and pickaxed. We get one step closer to the girls being able to plant their own vegetables every day.
With our hearts full after service, our stomachs were hungry. We enjoyed a filling lunch of pumpkin soup, chicken with mushrooms, and mashed potatoes. Leaving the service, we were happy to go back to home base for a short siesta to prepare for an afternoon full of activities. While half the group went to enjoy a chocolate making class, the other half indulged in some down time at a local café with WiFi. Everyone was very excited to get coffee and connect with family and friends. After time at the café, we enjoyed getting to shop at the local artisan markets.
Back at home base and very tired, we sat down for an amazing dinner. We have been eating healthy meals like quinoa and grilled chicken to prepare our bodies for the upcoming Trek. We met with our mentor groups to end the night. We discussed the trip so far and gave feedback to our mentors about how much fun we are having. Everyone is tired and ready to get some rest before our early morning rafting trip!
-by Reese, Sarah Katherine, and Isabelle
Saturday July 20, 2019
It was an early rise today in Ollantaytambo, with a wake up of 6:45. The campers enjoyed a hearty meal of eggs, bread, and oatmeal, prepared by our local chefs. Once finished we all grabbed our packed bags and were on our way to our rafting adventure on the Urubamba river (a verrrryyy long three- hour drive!). Welcomed by kind guides, we immediately jumped into action with our first activity of the day, zip-lining!
Today we were joined by the GLA Global Health and Wellness campers on our excursion, with a small group of six we integrated our numbers making about six boats. As a group we were tested with levels one, two and three rapids. The two-hour long rapid journey caused few to remain dry. However, in the end there were only smiling faces and new friends made. Our stomachs were filled by a homemade lunch on site, that consisted of a generous portion of quinoa soup, chicken, salad, and rice, finished off with a dessert of strawberry flavored jello. After saying good bye to our newly made friends, and supportive guides, we yet again began our three-hour journey back to our home base.
We took advantage of our long drive to catch some sleep and prepare for the ending of our day, along the way taking in the beautiful views we passed. When we finally arrived at home base, our local chefs prepared us a meal of fried trout fritters, sliced and baked potatoes, and mashed squash. Immediately after we began our late night cultural activity. Our cultural activity consisted of a visit by a local teacher and writer, in this demonstration we learnt about his many books and the teaching style he uses for the children of the Andes.
Riley B, Ethan P, and Hank (the Tank)
Sunday July 21, 2019
After waking up and having a healthy breakfast of croissants, eggs, and fruit (and of course our favorite chocolate cereal), we rallied for our final day of service. At service, we were tasked with making glue from cactus, cutting hay, and continuing to work on the garden for the girls. Although extremely messy, we all had a memorable experience making face masks out of the aloe and getting covered in cactus juice! For lunch, we had a delicious meal of vegetable soup and quinoa salad, as well as some amazing meat that resembled beef jerky (la carne). After bidding a bittersweet goodbye to our friends at the dorm (especially our favorite, Carlos), we headed back ready for a new cultural experience of salsa dancing!
Our friend Manuel and leader Ila helped teach us the basics of Cuban salsa and got us dancing like professionals. As we moved our hips and spun in circles, we had a blast bonding with each other even though some had a difficult time coordinating their dance moves. The music was upbeat and we had the incredible privilege of learning something that is very important in many Latin American cultures.
As the evening came upon us, we started getting hyped for the soccer game against the GLA photography program. After we reached the field, many cheers were formed for our team, the Auto Parts (Oh oh oh, O’Riley’s Auto Parts). As the game started, our starting six players were killing it and after many subs were made, our team was up 3-0 by halftime. Even though the Photographers had some questionable soccer moves, the Auto Parts maintained a steady lead and good spirit. The final score was 3-2 and our team was extremely cheerful to come out victorious! We finally finished the day with shoutout circle and a wonderful dinner of pesto pasta.
From your favorite cheerleaders and players,
Stella, Joy & Cate
Monday July 22, 2019
We started the day with a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs,bread,
cereal, and fruit. We quickly got ourselves ready to leave for the
weaving community. After a long windy ride, we were graciously
welcomed by a group of locals with smiling faces and warm hugs. We
were quickly intoduced to the local culture with vibrant attire. We
learned a lot about their local traditions through lessons regarding
their daily life. We learnt how to make bracelets and even got to
practice making our own! Many of us found it difficult to keep up with
the locals weaving abilities. Many of us engaged in conversations with
the locals despite the language barrier. We then got the pleasue of
attending an annual alpaca wedding ceremony. The alpacas were so cute!
After the ceremony, we learnt about the local agricultural practices
and the long standing traditions.
We were served a heartwarming lunch in the weaving community that
consisted of rice, potatoes, vegetables, and some of us were brave
enough to try cuy (guinea pig). We were then given the opportunity to
buy some of the locals textiles. After dancing and lots of warm
goodbyes we piled into the buses and started the bumpy journey back to
home base. At home base, we discussed the details regarding the Lares
Trek which we will be leaving for tomorrow morning.
were visited by a young girl from the Sacred Valley Project, looking
for opportunities to gain a higher education. We participating in a
raffle to help support her tuition to attend a university in Cuzco. We
then went into town and spent time at the cafe, drinking coffee,
eating, and connecting with people at home. We shopped around in the
markets and were able to buy more souvenirs and gifts for loved ones.
After a long day, we all headed back to home base to have dinner and
rest up for our busy day tomorrow!
We all finished off the night by packing for the trek and resting for
tomorrow. We are all excited and anxious for a big day tomorrow!
Until next time.
Salonee, Chloe, Ethan B.
Tuesday July 23 and Wednesday July 24, 2019
It was an early rise at the Garden Lodge on Tuesday morning as students woke up for a 6:00 a.m. Breakfast. After breakfast we boarded the vans and began the long drive to the Lares Trek. About an hour into the drive we stopped in the city of Calca and visited the market to get some refreshments and snacks for the trek. After that, we were on the road again headed up the steep and windy mountain roads to the trailhead. Unfortunately, the road that lead to the trailhead was covered in snow and the vans were unable to pass. At this point our resourceful guides found an alternate trek and we were on our way. When we arrived at the new trail, lunch awaited us. As always the food was DELICIOUS and there were many options for everyone.
After lunch we began our hike. It was a very scenic route that paralleled a river and then sent us up into foothills of the mountains. After about a three hours of hiking we reached our camp. The guides had already pitched our tents and the chefs had started to make a post hike snack. Yes, we had chefs. We soon coined the term “glamping” meaning glamorous-camping to describe our experience. We settled into our tents and then had dinner and desert that was of course delicious. After dinner many of us stargazed or played cards before going to sleep.
The next morning, we were awoken by the sound of our kind guides offering us hot coca tea through the tent door. Yes, our “glamping” experienced offered room service! After some warm tea we packed our things and ate some breakfast. We then began our hike by visiting some pre-Incan ruins that were breathtaking. It is unbelievable that they were able to build such strong buildings that lasted so long. After visiting the Pumamarca ruins we hiked about two hours to Ollantaytambo where we had lunch and headed back to our home base. After about two hours of free time we headed out to town to visit a WiFi café. After basking in WiFi for an hour we headed to a restaurant for dinner. Following dinner, the group headed to the crowded train station and boarded a train for Machu Picchu!
From your favorite people,
Hank, Riley, Isabelle & Salonee
Thursday July 25, 2019
It was another early rise today at our hotel in Aguascalientes. It was easy to get up today because we knew we were headed to MACHU PICCHU! A delicious breakfast was served to us and we were on our way to the bus stop. We boarded the bus and drove up the steep and windy mountain roads. Once we reached the top, we got off and went through the gate Machu Picchu.
The mountain scenery was breathtaking. Our amazing guides took us to a great young spot for pictures. After a long picture session our guides started the tour. We spent two hours learning about the history of the hidden city and the people that lived there. We then left and took the bus back into the town.
Following our visit we had lunch at a restaurant in town. The nachos and guacamole were incredible! After lunch we all got ice-cream and went to the market to pick up some souvenirs. Then it was time to board the train and head back to Ollantaytambo.
We arrived back to the home base after a long and relaxing train ride. We had some dinner and then some free time.
From a lucky kid,
We started out the day with a hearty egg breakfast. Then, we split ourselves into mentor groups and talked about our goals for the future. We went to town after that to do some last minute shopping for souvenirs and snacks. Some of us loaded on snacks from a café and couldn’t eat lunch. For those who could eat lunch, we had a wonderful lunch consisting of rice and beef.
After lunch, we split into our final mentor groups and we played Pictionary telephone and others went into town. After mentor groups, we all came together in the dining room to participate in a ceremony called Pago a la Tierra. A local shaman came and showed us how he makes sacrifices to Pachamama to achieve different goals, like making money, finding love, and living a harmonious life. We each got to make our own sacrifice and wished for our own health and the health of our family members.
The shaman will burn our sacrifices and bury them to connect us to Pachamama and secure our wishes. We had free time until our final activity as a group which was an appreciation circle. All of us sat in a big circle facing out with our eyes closed. Then, our director selected small groups of people to come to the center of the circle and we showed appreciation for each other by tapping each other on the shoulder when read a prompt by our director Ila. Some of these prompts consisted of who do you trust, who taught you something valuable, who do you believe in, etc.
After this activity, we went into town for a buffet style dinner that consisted of chicken, pasta, rice, and veggies. We then walked home and had our fantastic talent show. Some of the acts included yodeling, drumming, and eating bananas. After our talent show, we had free time until midnight and many of us watched scary movies, wrote letters to each other, and spent the last few ours of our trip together.
The goodie good boys,
Zane, Ella, and Chloe 😊
Saturday July 27, 2019
On our final morning together in Ollantaytambo, we got to sleep in a bit and have breakfast together at 9am! It was a long and exciting day yesterday, especially after our riveting talent show, so we needed a bit of extra rest!
With plate fulls of pancakes and heavy hearts we shared memories from the last two weeks and reflected on the meaningful time that we spent in the Sacred Valley together. We’ve learned a lot of Spanish, the impact of our service, and even more about ourselves as leaders. We packed up our bags and donated our extra snacks to the team and some of us headed into town for our last taste of Ollantaytambo!
After lunch we packed into the van for the final time and headed to Cusco to go to the airport. Many hugs were shared as we parted ways and said our goodbyes! We have loved getting to know and working with these students, they’re awesome! Thank you for following along with us on this impactful journey in Peru, adios!
Greta, Ale, Matt & Ila