Last Day of Service
Today, we got up early, ate breakfast, and made our way to the service site. It was our last day of service, so we had to complete the greenhouse. The frame of the roof was complete, but we needed to add the plastic to the roof. We had to use scaffolding in order to pull the plastic tight across the whole roof of the greenhouse. Once the plastic was on the roof, Eric, Edgar, and Peter got up onto the roof and nailed the plastic onto the roof’s frame. While we were finishing the greenhouse, we also took turns going into the school classrooms and hanging out with the kids. We played games like Simon Says in Spanish and gave them piggy back rides. They were really cute! They were extremely grateful for the greenhouse, and it felt good to see the finished product.
In the afternoon, we went to the market and spent many soles on gifts for ourselves, our families, and our friends. We got a full two hours to spend bargaining and buying alpaca sweaters, blankets, and trinkets.
When we returned to the home base, we had an awards ceremony and compliments activity. It was really nice to see the nice things that people wrote about us. After dressing up and “getting pretty”, we were on our way to a nice dinner at a restaurant. We ate a ton because it was buffet style for dinner and dessert. At the restaurant, there was a band and dancers. We headed home for the last night at home base. 🙁
Service and Culture
Today we woke up at 6:45 and all went down stairs at 7:00 for breakfast. We had fried eggs again for the 12th day in a row. We went to the service site to continue our work on the greenhouse. When we arrived Edgar was already working. Edgar is the person who was the main builder at the site. He lives in the village that we were working at. The greenhouse did not have any part of the roof up. We had half the group work on the roof while the other 15 played team building games and activities. We had our first break and switched the jobs and after that at the second break the school children wanted us to play with them. So I sent 16 of us to play while 14 of us worked non-stop for an hour and a half. After service we went to an authentic weaving center to understand how the Andean culture is shown in their weaves. After that we returned to dinner and had a movie night while the three weekers were out at dinner.
Today was the day that we had all been waiting for. The day in which we followed the path of the ancient Incas, Hyram Bingham, and thousands of tourists everyday to see one of the wonders of the world. Today was Machu Picchu day.
We began our morning in a hotel in Aguas Calientes, the town closest to Machu Picchu. After combating a scary bus ride up the side of a mountain and long lines for the bus and to enter Machu Picchu, we finally arrived. The trek up the numerous stone stairs would well be worth it as we came across the beautiful view of Machu Picchu. Situated in a valley between mountains, these Incan ruins looked just like how they did in the pictures. After taking pictures at the top, we split up into groups and toured the site with tour guides. We got to have a close-up look at the structures within the ancient city and learned more about Incan ways, religion, and lifestyle. It all ended in free time where we could explore the grounds more before boarding the bus bound to Aguas Calientes.
Arriving back in the town, we had a lunch that specialized guinea pig heads for a snack. We were then allowed to go around Aguas Calientes on our own. People went to get dessert, try alpaca burgers, and go to the market to buy souvenirs.
After that, our weekend trip was done. We got on the Inca railways train and had an hour and a half train ride before getting on our buses back to home base. Upon arriving at the hotel, everyone was tired and had dinner, unpacked, and went to bed, excited for another day of service the following morning to come.
Today I Woke Up Above The Clouds
I wouldn’t describe myself as a morning person- I like my sleep more than I like most things. But today? Today, we woke up on a mountain, in a wet tent, with heavy fog blanketing everything. It was cold, it was windy, it was desperately uncomfortable. But I was still excited to get up.
We planned to hike to lunch (depending on the weather conditions), drive to the beginning of the Inca Trail, and finally finally finally hike about 2 hours to a small town called ’Aguas Calientes’, at the base of Machu Pichu. Really, who wouldn’t be excited to get up for that? Once in hiking clothes, light makeup applied, and in an ample layer of determination, we met for breakfast, consisting of tea, pancakes, and general exhaultation at warmth.
Due to be off at 9:40, the next hour after breakfast was a blur of ’Can you help me with my sleeping bag?’ and ’Thank you Lauren. You’re an awesome Leader the Day’ (trust me, I know).
Up and out, we were off. Since it was raining, the only option was a light hike to the buses, that would take us on a 2 hour drive to our lunch spot. Now normally a 2 hour drive would be less than thriller- but, as they say, This is Peru, and everything seems upside down. The drive was beautiful, and the transition from rainy, foggy, icy breezes to warm, humid, and heavy air was practically magic. I almost couldn’t believe we were in the same country.
After arriving at our lunch destination, snuggled behind a cute tropical restaurant, we dried our wet clothes, and several of us took a teensy trip to ancient Incan Sacrifical grounds…where we did yoga. Add that to the list of things to scratch off my bucket list. After yoga, we ate a light lunch, full of guacamole, tuna, salsa, cheese, and tomatoes. Now I might just be speaking for myself, but that guacamole was the bomb.
After lunch, we were on the road, again- another 2 hour drive through the tropical mountains, to the beginning of the Inca Trail. While the last drive consisted of downhill tropical conditions, this drive consisted of cliff-hugging, anxiety-inducing drops, off mountains that didn’t seem to end. Honestly, I don’t know how we didn’t fall off. But I’m not complaining.
Even with imminent death seemingly inches away (ok that’s slightly an overstatement. To the parents reading this- your kids are alive and totally almost didn’t die) the view of the river below us, and the beauty of the mountains above us were breathtaking. Before I had never thought of Peru as a beautiful place. I thought it was jumbled, and chaotic, and aged, and maybe a little barren. But every time we venture out, every time we try something new, that opinion changes. In some ways, it looks like home. In some ways, it looks like Costa Rica. But in every way it’s fantastically different and unique and heartbreakingly wonderful.
And finally, after hours on anticipation, we arrived. Train tracks and tourists greeted us at the beginning of the Inca Trail. For those who opted to walk (the strong willed), a 2 hour hike through tropical conditions awaited. For those who opted to take the train (the weak willed), an hour wait and 45 minute train ride awaited. Either way, it was strenuous. Will I ever feel as 100% done as I did when, an hour into the ’2 hour hike’, we were told we had another hour and a half? Perhaps not.
But I will say this- the thrill of looking up a mountain side and seeing a tiny tiny tiny sliver of Machu Pichu pushed us onwards. I could go into detail about how sweaty and tired we were on this seemingly easy hike. And yet, I shall not. Fast forward. We arrive around 6 at the hotel, greet the (slightly smug) train-goers, get ready for dinner, and head out. The town of Aguas Calientes is small, touristy, and has a raging river running straight down the middle. In other words, it’s adorable. It’s the type of town you want to take home to your parents.
After a easy peasy dinner at a lovely restaurant, we had an hour of free time. How did we use this time, you may be wondering. Good question. Some of us got pizza. Some of us got dessert. Some strolled, some shopping, some wandered. I, for one, spent my time trying to entice cute stray dogs to love me. I also strolled down the cute, touristy, cobblestone streets with my fellow GLA-ers. After meeting back up to count off, we finally headed back to the hotel to relax, use internet, and go to bed.
Our day was jam packed, from start to finish. From the fog within the Ande Mountains to the bugs within the Tropical Forest, all of it was hard work. All of it was determination, and group effort, and constant movement. But it was also completely new and exhilerating and somewhat scary in a way you kind of like. Our reward? Machu Pichu. We out.
We woke up at 6 o’clock and we ate breakfast that was really good since we had pancakes. The bus was loaded with our nightpacks for camping and we hit the road. When we arrived at the beginning of the trail, we began what will be one of the most incredible, tiring, painful but rewarding experience of our lives. It rained a lot and we were soaking wet, the road was really muddy so it was hard and most of us fell a lot but stood up quickly everytime. We arrived at the tent when we had lunch that was delicious. We had a nooddle soup, spaghetties with veggies and hot tea. It warmed our frozen bodies. Then we went on again but we hiked downhill this time which was easier but the hail and the snow invited themselves to the party. Some of us thought about giving up but never did. We achieved a long hike in hard conditions and I was really proud of all the group. We dit it all together and supported each other! We arrived at the camp site and we changed into dry clothes which made us feel better. It was a long tiring day full of emotions so we all went to sleep early. This is a day we will remember for the rest of our lives and we will look back to it with great pride.
Newly Adopted Friends
Today, after some hard work and service, we went to the orphanage. And this was an awe-inspiring experience. We went into this situation expecting a sad experience. But for most of us, it was nothing but that. Right when we walked through the door, young children started giving us hugs and praise. Even though we didn’t speak the language, everyone gave us a handshake or a nice fist bump. Now this is when we see through the illusion that we thought the orphanage would have. Immediately, we started playing soccer, learning each other’s names, communicating in a weird mix of Spanish and English, which helped us make new friends. It was cool to see how people who we’ve never met before were able to become teammates and help each other score a goal. It was amazing to see how kids who have known each other for a week and already established strong relationships could establish friendships with completely new people. The donations that they received gave off the vibe of a child receiving the perfect Christmas present. Overall, we established links via friendships across 2 different continents that will affect both the GLA students and the children at the orphanage.
Selfies with Alpacas
Today, we continued our Peruvian adventure by doing more service at the greenhouse and hanging out with llamas. We began the day bright and early, as usual. We ate breakfast, and soon we were off for another day of fun building the greenhouse! Our group was split in half at the beginning of service to be more efficient and to distribute the jobs. One half was working inside the greenhouse. They pickaxed, helped get the greenhouse’s foundation sturdy, hauled dirt, added fertilizer to the dirt, and attempted to make the greenhouse’s surface level. The other half did a leadership activity to figure out what kind of leader each of us is. It was really cool! The activity helped us realize that everyone is a leader, but in different ways. After that, the group went to a spot nearby that used to be a storage space. It happened to have great fertilizer underneath the grass! We took that fertilizer and wheelbarrow-ed it up to the greenhouse. It was awesome to see the fertilizer used in the greenhouse. Halfway through, the groups switched jobs. We have made a lot of progress and we are soon to finish!
The best part of the day was visiting the alpaca/llama farm. There were a bunch of different species of alpacas, llamas, and vicuña. We were able to feed them, take “selfies” with them, and interact with the funny animals. After, we went to the gift shop, and some of us bought very warm objects made of the fur of these animals. It was an awesome experience for all!!
We returned to home base and listened to a guest speaker who talked about public health in Peru. We learned some interesting facts about malnutrition and the importance of a balanced died while young. After having a really fun birthday celebration for Spencer (complete with cake!), it was time to pack for our hike to Machu Picchu. We are all so excited for the adventures that await us on the hike!
Another Exciting Day!
Today was another exciting day in the wondrous Peru! We had a nice breakfast of eggs and some were lucky to have a taste of the now foreign American chocolate cereal that was brought towards the end of breakfast! After that we headed to the worksite and unlike most days, it stayed pretty cloudy and cold for the whole time. We thought it was going to rain but it just remained cloudy. Our main goal for today at the worksite was to finish the floor of the greenhouse. So we had to use a lot of the pick axes to physically lift the ground. (Some of your children may complain as it is very hard work but it’s doable and needs to be done for the children haha). We also had some people bringing fresh dirt to lay on the ground and some people picking up trash. As the days continue, the progress on our greenhouse is starting to come together and I can’t wait to see the final product! Alsoas per usual, we had many local children coming to help and it was honestly very adorable to see a five year old carrying dirt with her hands to our dirt pile to help contribute. I’m sure you will you hear much more stories from your kids when we get back J After that, as some of you may have noticed, we went to a internet café and were able to talk to some people back home which was nice! We also went to a market were many kids were able to buy the food they have been craving for the past week! After that we came back and had another amazing dinner! We are all starting to come together as a group and becoming family to one another. So you can rest assured that your son or daughter is having an amzing time! (By the way, we all have to shower in really cold water but sometimes if you are lucky you can get lukewarm water)
Also Mary, Natalie, Tedra, Rajya, and Taylor say hi!
A Civilization Somewhat Lost
Day 4, by Matthew Merrill
It felt great today to sleep in an extra hour, and we needed it. After getting in the bus, we realized that we had a new guest, a tour guide. We drove to Saksaywaman, the most important part of Cusco. Our guide explained how Cusco was the center of the Incan world, but Saksaywaman was the capital of Cusco. The views were breathtaking; we probably took a few thousand pictures combined, and no matter where people pointed their cameras, they usually could capture a breathtaking photo. The walls contained some stones that were over 120 tons, and cut so well that they did not use mortar and a knife cannot fit between the stones! After taking some selfies with alpcacas, we slid down a slide made out of lava rock, which proved more dangerous than we believed. There were 2 casualties; Casey rolled her ankle and Spencer hurt his thumb, along with the other light cracked nails and throbbing feat. We explored some caves and ate some lunch. We even had wifi at the restaurant, and there was a huge scramble for service. After, we took a tour of a Catholic Church and an Incan temple, where we learned that the Spanish and Incan traditions combined, so the legacy of the Incan Empire stills lives on. Even though Spanish is the official language and Catholicism is the official religion, the legacy of the Inca, no matter how small, is here to stay.
Everyday Life for Peruvian Natives
Today we went to the village of Patabamba to learn about how everyday Peruvian life is lived. The villagers took us into their homes and explained what they do, their chores and such. They then showed us how to do those chores ourselves. Most of us de-kerneled corn while another group moved a large pile of rocks and tilled the soil. We did this for four to five hours and got a couple of breaks where we ate potatoes and soup that the villagers made for us. Afterwards we were pretty tired, even if we were just de-kerneling corn, our hands were pretty tired.
We then hiked to the soccer field and went to the mountains and took a bunch of group selfies and created a bond within the group. After taking selfies, we walked down to the soccer field we ate our lunch which was sandwiches and fruit. The local kids started playing with the soccer ball that we brought and we decided to join them, causing a bunch of chaos. We kicked it out a bunch of times but we won anyways, the score being 3-1.
We then took a shortcut down the hill to get to the van, once in the van and we sang along to the Peruvian radio station that played American top 40s hits.
When we came home we had a couple hours of rest, some took showers and miraculously got warm water, others were not so lucky. Then we ate ravioli for dinner and had a guest speaker who talked about the ecosystem and culture of Peru. He described tourism in Peru, native legends about how the capital was chosen, the population of Cusco, and the types of plants are found in the different climates of Peru.
We are all currently heading to bed, excited about getting to sleep in tomorrow morning. The next leader of the day, Matt, will tell you about how our day tomorrow goes!
-Toria Knox, over and out
Our First Service Day in Peru
Our first full day in Peru was a ton of fun. Everybody was tired at breakfast due to the 6 AM wakup, but the general sleepiness soon dissappeared as we loaded onto the buses to go to the greenhouse we are building. We were surprised to find only one paid worker at the site, Edgar, but he is more than up to the task, able to begin constructing a slant roof with only a string for angle measurments. One thing that stood out to me was the independence we are given at the construction site. After being divided into groups, we were given a job and a quick tutorial but not a lot of further supervision. I think this allowed different groups to work in their own ways, helping to bring out the best in everyone and allow everyone to contribute something to the jobs at hand. What was great about the group was that even if we were assigned to difficult tasks, like carrying 35 pound bricks the length of 1.5 football fields, we all found a way to keep the mood fun and encourage each other. This included anything from “would you rather” questions to group sing-alongs. After another great lunch, we took a bus ride through Cusco to a music workshop. There we learned about the music history of Peru, and were shown demonstrations of various instruments. The highlight however was when we were given the opportunity to play some of the instruments ourselves. This resulted in many of us learning we have a dim musical future and a ton of laughs. On the way home we stopped at a grocery store, as many students (including me) were craving cold Cokes and Oreos. I know I speak for the group when I say this first day was great, and we are all looking forward to another day tomorrow!
All students have arrived in country and are ready for an amazing program! Stay tuned for blog updates and photos!