Tuesday July 31, 2018
Today was an excellent arrival day! The GLA Service in the Sacred Valley Team rolled into their fourth and final program of the Summer 2018 season. The day began with an uncertain feeling upon learning that the flight from Lima to Cusco with 80% of our students, was cancelled. However, the skepticism took a sharp turn for the best. We picked up all of our students AND all of their luggage from Cusco!! (Way to go savvy travelers!) This is the first program of the summer to accomplish such a feat so we will continue to keep optimism and positivity in the air.
The group of 30 students arrived at our Home Base in Ollantaytambo in time for a late lunch. After taking some time to get settled in and rest a bit, we jumped into get-to-know-you and orientation activities. As you can see in the photo, we caught the sunset over the snow-capped peaks of the Sacred Valley. Our little sanctuary sits in a agriculture-filled valley with thousand-foot mountains jutting up from each side. It is a truly beautiful place for the students call home for the next two weeks. Energy is high and the whole team is excited to work with this promising group! We have an action-packed itinerary with service, rafting, cultural explorations, and all the adventures in between.
Here’s to a Peru journey with new friendships, unforgettable memories, and pauses to enjoy the brilliant stars in the night sky!
Service in the Sacred Valley International Staff
Wednesday August 1, 2018
Hi parents, here are your leaders of the day, Chen Chen and Dylan! We along with our team are having a wonderful time in Peru!
Today, we awoke from slumbers fully rested and ready to go. Our first adventure was visiting the Awamaki office, the NGO that we will be working with for the next two weeks. We will be learning about fashion products that combine traditional Incan textiles with modern trending styles, as well as constructing a weaving center for the local women. After being briefed on our mission, we were sent off on a scavenger hunt around the town, in which we took pictures in various hotspots (chocolate museum, ruins etc.) and enriched our knowledge of the local culture (and of Quechua, an indigenous Incan language).
Later, after we had lunch, we engaged in discussions about cultural immersion with Ariel and Raquel, the head of our home base. We also did an exercise in which we took a few items from our rooms, each representing American and Peruvian culture. This exercise was aimed at defying stereotypes and embracing cultural differences.
During our free time, we first had one-on-one health checks, then teamed up to explore the town some more. We enjoyed ourselves with souvenirs, snacks, hot chocolate, cool pictures, and many, many cute dogs.
After dinner, we divided into our mentor groups and had meaningful discussions about first-day experiences, leadership, and goal-setting. Aside from the serious talks, we didn’t waste any time connecting with each other through jamming to our favorite songs and playing card games and mafia before bed time.
Even though it gets pretty chilly at night, the alpaca blankets and our excitement are keeping everyone warm. We all look forward to our first service day tomorrow.
Dylan & Chen Chen
Thursday August 2, 2018
On the morning of August second, GLA students headed downstairs for breakfast. Half an hour later, we left for our first day of service. When we arrived we were greeted with necklaces made of Cantuta flowers, the national flower of Peru. Soon after, we began our service. The students were divided into small groups and assigned tasks. One group leveled the ground with picks, another carried wooden planks, and one was tasked with carrying Adobe bricks. The work wasn’t easy, or clean, but everyone still enjoyed helping out the community, and working together. The students carrying Adobe bricks even formed an assembly line, which made the job far easier. After about two hours, we went back for home base for lunch.
After lunch, the students left home base to hike the Incan ruins. We stopped at the local market and explored the foods the locals were selling including jewelry, blankets, and alpaca hats. When our tour guide arrived we entered the ruins. We began by learning about their methods of communication and the counting system through rows of colored ropes and knots, and we learned about how they warships the sun and moon among multiple other gods. We climbed up the ruins and learned about the agriculture of the Incans and their food storage. We then hiked to the top of the ruins and learned about the Spanish colonization. We learned about the Incan rebellion and their methods of fighting through swinging and shooting rocks at the speed of a bullet. Once we made it down we split into two groups. Some left to head to home base while the other group continued to explore the ruins. We hiked up to an Incan structure in the mountains and explored the seemingly endless amounts of staircases. After returning to home base and having dinner, we had a game night. Split into our mentor groups, we had to run when our number was called, collect a shoe, sit down, and throw it to knock down a water bottle. Overall, it was exciting second day in Peru.
Friday August 3, 2018
On the morning of August third, we set out to our service from base camp. For the entire morning, we worked on continuing the construction of the weaving center. After being assigned into groups, students were given various tasks including: Carrying adobe bricks, transporting wood, and sifting dirt. After a tough few hours and a couple snack breaks, it was time to clean up the service site and head back home. At base camp, everyone enjoyed a nice warm lunch and discussed the morning’s activities.
We began our afternoon with a leadership activity. Everyone paired up and took turns leading their partner around the town while their eyes were closed. This was a great way to develop leadership skills such as giving accurate directions and also having trust in others. It emphasized what it means to be a good leader because each person was responsible for every action that their counterpart did. After this activity, we had a chance to go to wifi cafes to catch up with our parents and try local beverages and snacks.
Later we walked to a large soccer field surrounded by the Andes. Our team was able to play a friendly game of soccer where we got to learn more about each other and get to meet more people. We ended the night by splitting into our mentor groups and discussing the TED Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story,” about the importance of multiple perspectives in modern society.
Overall, we had an exciting day in Peru and look forward to the many exciting adventures ahead!
-by Kaitlyn & Sofia
Saturday August 4, 2018
‘Twas an early morning where the entire group was required to eat breakfast at 6:15. We enjoyed a great balanced meal consisting of eggs, bread, and more. We then proceeded to board one large and one small bus on our lifelong journey to the rafting area. Games were played, music was heard, and friends were made. After a quick change into the most flattering wet suits and a safety briefing, we made dynamic groups of 6. We then embarked on our rafting adventure. Paddling to our hearts content down massive rapids… however gaining athleticism wasn’t the take away from this activity. It was the core idea that if a team is united they are more efficient, staying in sync and pushing for each other was the true idea behind it. After getting soaked and returning to the main area we were greeted with a delicious lunch consisting of soup, chicken, and some banana bread. We then got the opportunity to experience some zip lining over the river. For some it was easy… others, well… a bit more exciting…. we then boarded the buses for our return to Ollantaytambo. Once bace at Home Base, we chomped on some food and a Quechuan author came and spoke to us about his writings and the meanings behind them to give us some insight on the Andean world. Afterwards we winded down from a long day and went to bed.
Sunday August 5, 2018
Today we took about an hour long ride to one of the neighboring towns called Pisaq. Here we toured an Alpaca farm to learn the process in which you sheer, clean, thin, and then dye alpaca fur as a foundation to create the beautiful hand woven coats, bags, tapestries, etc. we see today. After, we drove in to the town for a delicious three course meal lunch with some authentic Peruvian cuisine. From lunch, we had a short ride to Incan ruins where we saw firsthand how the agricultural system worked and some of the traditional Incan ceremonies. We were each given three coco leaves to make wishes on and throw into the pit. From there we drove back into town to explore the Pisaq markets. The markets were beautiful and we got a chance to buy souvenirs and negotiate the prices in Spanish. While heading back to base camp we got the chance to try the Peruvian delicacy known as Cuy or Guinea Pig. We finished the day with a surprise bonfire from the mentors.
Monday August 6, 2018
This morning we woke up to pattering rain on the roofs of home base, and headed to breakfast, ready for our a full day of service. After a delicious breakfast of pancakes, we all grabbed as many waterproof pieces of clothing as we could find and headed into the town square to board the buses to Huilloc. The rain was relentless as we drove up the one-lane gravel road into the mountains. When we reached our service site, we got to work on several different tasks. One group got busy digging a trench for a sewage pipe alongside the building. Then we confronted with several large rocks and had to work together to pull them out. Another group continued to work on a rock path for people en route to and from the village of Patacancha, which is up the road from the service site. The goal for the path was to make it stable, welcoming, and easy for people to travel on foot to and from the village (as is a common form of travel in Peruvian villages. Other groups completed tasks such as transporting wood planks, cutting metal wire for the frame of the building, and more. Although the rain made the work very trying, we all pushed through and did our jobs the best we could. After a delicious lunch made by women in Huilloc, we headed back to home base in Ollantaytambo.
Our first step when we got back was to begin cleaning all of our outerwear, which was covered in mud and dirt. Soon after, we all settled in to the dining room to watch “Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade”. Our director, Sheila, explained that Indiana Jones was based off of Hiram Bingham, who was the man who discovered Machu Picchu. Although we enjoyed the movie and fun afternoon it was also an introduction to the adventures that lie ahead later this week at Machu Picchu!
In the evening, we enjoyed our dinner of fried rice and tequeños (fried Peruvian cheese sticks). Before meeting up in mentor groups, we all participated in an interesting activity that generated meaningful conversation. All of us wrote a statement on separate pieces of paper starting with “I believe…” and the mentors read most of them aloud, asking us to stand in the dining room on a spectrum according to our opinions about the belief (“strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”). After we were all in place, some of us raised our hands to explain our stance on the topic. Statements varied from “I believe that pineapple belongs on pizza” to more controversial topics such as “I believe that freedom of choice should be legal and safe”. Afterwards, we met in our mentor groups to have more intimate discussion about the statements that affected each of us most. We realized that it is ok to have different opinions and the importance of standing up for what you believe in.
After mentor groups, we tried to enjoy the stars (even though it was still cloudy from the rain) and headed to bed. As we fell asleep, rain continued to patter on the roof but we all hoped for a sunnier, more enjoyable day of service tomorrow.
Luke, Emma, and Krishna
Tuesday August 7, 2018
Today was our last day of service! After breakfast we got in the vans and headed to the construction site in Hullioc. Luckily the weather was great today unlike yesterday’s disastrous rain. Once we got to the site, we divided into groups. One group worked on digging a trench for pipes and another worked on building a stone path. At noon we went to one of the women from the collective, Marta’s house for a filling potato soup. After lunch we returned to the work site where we formed an assembly line to carry buckets of concrete. After a couple hours of hard work, we headed back to Ollantaytambo for a delicious pizza dinner at Pizza Quinoa. Following dinner we split into two groups – one to get ice cream and one to get baked goods. After the dessert excursion, we all returned to home base for a talent show where both the mentors and the students showcased their prowess in song, comedy, and magic.
Jacob, Gabe, and Stavan
Wednesday August 8, 2018
Today we went to the city where we did service and learned about the historical structures. We learned about the terraces that were used for agriculture. We also visited an old Church where we learned that many people converted from Christianity. We later met the women that we helped build the weaving center for. They taught us their weaving techniques and natural ways of dying their yarn. The women and their children were very kind and welcoming despite the language barrier. We made bracelets and enjoyed lunch together while learning about their cultural values and the importance of helping others.
Your Service in the Sacred Valley Leaders
Thursday August 9, 2018
We left early for the lares trek we had a three hour bus ride to the trail head in the town of lares. We met our trek guides and got our gear ready. Then, we started the trek we hiked for two hours and ate a gourmet lunch. We hiked for about three more hours and arrived at base camp witch was at 14,000 most of us had never been that high in elevation! We had hot chocolate that night and had dinner. The stars were amazing!!! We had a awesome and challenging day.
Ryan & Clara
We started our day by splitting into two groups. One went into town to go shopping and get WiFi first, while the other went to the chocolate museum to take a chocolate making class. During the class we made multiple types of chocolate tea in three teams competing to make the best. After that we were given either milk or dark chocolate and candies to mix into it. We poured the chocolate into molds and let them freeze.
After the chocolate classes and shopping, a Shaman (spiritual leader) came to home base and performed a ritual honoring Pachamama. All of the students participated in the ritual and learned why and how it is done.