Wednesday July 31, 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. We are still eagerly awaiting three students to complete our group – they will arrive early tomorrow! However, the rest 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. We also took our first visit into town and did a bit of exploring – we even saw some Guinea Pigs which are a Peruvian delicacy!
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!
Greta, Ila, and Ale
Thursday August 1, 2019
Waking up for the first time in Peru was a breathtaking experience. After eating our breakfast, we began our leadership activities which included ice breakers and team building games to get to know our team better. Later on in the day we began doing orientation where we learned the rules. Next on the schedule was lunch followed by some team building skills where we had to work together to move a box outside of the circle using only two ropes. We all had our own restrictions and capabilities when it came to the box game which made the simple task very hard. We also had a debate on the idea of building a road that is shorter than Inca trail, the debate was to decide if it was a god idea or not. These team building activities really made us connect with each other and understand one another.
After lunch we went for a hike to Pinkuylluna which really showed us the effects of the altitude difference. Other than the tiring trek up the mountain, the ruins were beautiful and really took us back into the rich history of Peru. We learned about the storage methods on the ruins and took in the beautiful scenery around us. Once we got back to camp we had a delicious dinner and got closer to all of our new friends.
Our final activity of the day was looking at the photography taken by another GLA group. Some of these pictures really captured the raw emotions of the locals. We got together with our mentor groups for the first time and discussed our memorable objects that mean a lot to ourselves. This got us closer to our peers and really got us to understand each other on a deeper level. After a great first day in Peru, we have all learned a lot about the culture and each other, making the first day one to remember.
Written by student Taylor
Friday August 2, 2019
Today was our first day of service. We started working on further developing a garden for the Sacred Valley Service. This project involved a dormitory for woman that live too far away from the high school, so they can expand their education. Most of these woman live 3-13 hours from the nearest high school. Therefore, it warms our hearts to be able to help them receive some of the things we take for granite.
After service we had the most delicious meal that we all devoured. When we got back to base camp we did a leadership activity that taught us our individual leadership styles.
Then we had our first Wi-Fi time which we all enjoyed. Once we arrived home we talked to two guest speakers. The first was one of the woman who lived in the dorms we worked on earlier today. The second was an author who wanted to teach the community about the Incan culture that has been lost. The day was wrapped up by everyone watching stars in the sunroom.
Written by Ally
Saturday August 3, 2019
We started day 4 off bright and early at 6:30am, after our delicious breakfast we quickly packed all of our things for rafting and piled into the van for our 3 hour ride to the perfect river with class 3 rapids. Everybody went back to sleep on the bus seeing as everybody was exhausted from service the day before. After the long bus ride we got to a cute lodge where we saw all of our equipment set up and ready for us.
We all changed into our bathing suits and were given wet suits, water shoes, life jackets, and paddles. We got into the van and drove about 15 minutes to be launched off the perfect spot with our rafts. We broke up into 2 groups of 6 and made team names and team cheers, (it was a race). The length of our rafting trip was about an hour and a half until we got back to the lodge for an amazing lunch. The rapids were much bigger than anyone expected, and we got SOAKED. We also did a 10 foot jump off a rock face into the freezing water, which was refreshing. After everyone finished their chicken and rice, we journeyed back to home base.
After our trip back home, we headed into town to exchange money, had some free time, then a yummy dinner consisting of fried fish and potatoes. After dinner we had mentor groups, then some more free time and lights out! My favorite day so far😊
-Written by Lauren
Sunday August 4, 2019
Day 5 was an eventful day in the Sacred Valley. Many of us started off with yoga today and it was really relaxing and calming. We had pancakes and omelettes for breakfast along with many other food options such as bread and fruit. Right after breakfast, we hopped on a van to go to the local weaving community.
At the weaving community, we danced to music with the weavers and were able to see the process of making the string/yarn. The weavers went through how they washed, dyed, and spun the yarn. The materials came from alpacas and llamas that the weavers raised. We were able to weave our own bracelets with the help of the community and the bracelets ended up looking very nice.
Later in the day, we witnessed a llama wedding, a celebration done only once a year by the weaving community. It was one of the best experiences and was definitely something new for all of us. We also helped plow the land to prepare for planting potatoes and harvested potatoes grown months ago. For lunch, the women in the community prepared potatoes and rice with vegetables on the side. In addition to this, they offered us cuy, or guinea pig. Most of us agreed that it tastes like chicken, but is chewier. Before we left, we were able to support the group of weavers by purchasing their hand woven goods such as scarves, hats, and blankets.
We also got to learn how to salsa dance today. It definitely pushed a lot of people outside their comfort zone, but ended up being very fun and lively. We went to town to shop in a huge market as well and were able to catch very good deals for souvenirs and different items. Most of us bought a poncho as it was warm and the patterns were beautiful. When we arrived back at the Garden Lodge, we had arroz con pollo, a traditional Peruvian dish.
At the end of the day, we headed to a small cafe to play games and have some desserts. We were able to bond as a group during this time and share many laughs and smiles throughout the activity.
Written by student Liny
Monday August 5, 2019
Day 6 started off with a warm and delicious breakfast at 8 o’clock. After breakfast, we quickly packed our gears, put on sun screen and filled up our bottles to prepare for our service at the Sacred Valley Project. We walked for about 5 minutes to the service site and after a short preparation, we started working. There are three “stations”, one is pick axing, one is mixing dirt and one is sanding. We had our work gloves, masks and tools, and because we have worked on this site before, we were able to get a lot of work done in this one day.
After service, we enjoyed an amazing lunch, showered and prepared for the hiking in the Ollantaytambo Inka Ruins. We had a short walk from home base to the site. When we arrived at the site, we had a local tour guide to show us around the ruins. She showed us how the people of Inka Empire built the site to make offerings and show gratitude to mother Earth and Gods.
Also, we checked out the food storage house. The smart design and placement of the building was eye-opening. Also, the scenery that we were able to see from the ruins is BREATHTAKING. Because the site was built on a mountain, we were able to see historic buildings on the ground, the new Main Square of Ollantaytambo and the tall mountains that surrounded us.
After the hike, we had a small rest and set off to town for the pizza night. Everyone got their own pizza and the pizzas were all very delicious. During dinner, we discovered the birthday party of a nice lady who is also in the restaurant, so we celebrated her birthday by singing “Happy Birthday” for her. She was very kind and decided to share her birthday cake with all of us. As for return, part of the group decided to put together some fund and bought her a nice desert. This encounter was unexpected but heartwarming. It is definitely the highlight of the day.
After dinner, we went back to home base and had mentor groups, then some free time spent by playing Mafia and lights out. What a memorable day!
Written by Zhiyang (George)
Tuesday August 6, 2019
For some people, the schedule began with an early rejuvenating yoga session at 7:15 am. Celi confidently contributed to this experience by leading the group with some efficient stretches to get the day going. With this fresh awakening, then followed a quick and energizing breakfast which included a warm beverage of chocolate. Transferring from breakfast, the group then quickly prepared for service work by filling water bottles, packing some sunscreen, and grabbing some snacks. After happily walking about couple of feet to the service site, we allowed ourselves quickly settle down while simultaneously gearing ourselves up for work.
Fortunately, today’s service had a slight alteration as our service instructors introduced painting! In the beginning we all attempted the artistic yet tedious work of painting a wall. Then after about an hour or so we enjoyed a restful 15minute break. During this time we refueled and hydrated our bodies for the next portion of service. At the start of the second portion of service, work was divided into two different groups. One group was to work specifically on re-polishing the existing coated wall while the other group was designated to mixing fertilizer with shifted dirt.
Each group was instructed to work for an hour before switching roles. While some enjoyed both stations, it was opinionated that painting took the higher more enjoyable task. Just at about 1pm, the group ceased work and headed back indoors to eat some extremely good food. Lunch was as followed: Soup of the day (not too sure what it was tasted like a mix between chicken and lentil soup), a special type of chicken dish (famously prepared in Peruvian style), and some classic bread.
Finishing off the morning part of the day, the group thankfully got some time to relax and enjoy themselves for a span of 1 hour and 15 minutes. During this time, a common activity that most of the kids participated in was a nice shower. Due to the messy and somewhat satisfying experience of painting, a majority of the kids had their clothes completely wrecked with splotches of paint. Showering however was not the most exciting activity during the team’s siesta, in fact one of the counselors (ILA) graciously gave up their precious time to take some of the team members on a quick stop-by trip to make some worthwhile purchases on food.
Just around 3pm, the group would make a trip to see a local artist took about 25minute bus trip from home-base. After arriving at the home and workshop of the local artist the team was introduced to assortment of art stations located throughout of the house. Hand-printing was first demonstrated to the team as our fantastic artist nonchalantly applied black paint to a black backboard, which was then spread with a small paint roller. It was only after a simple drawing was made on a piece of paper on top of the distributed paint that a marvelous image of an ancient villager was revealed on the opposite side of the paper.
The group also explored pottery, stop motion animation, and water color painting. However, with the fun-filled and distracting hands-on activities, time just seemed to fly by. The gang ended the visit at 5:00pm which also consisted of a picture with the local artist. After heading back to the home-base, a delicious dinner was served at 6:20pm. Dinner included: Pesto pasta with meat, bread, fruit, and some salad. A quick transition was made to a Movie at 7:15pm which allowed the group to bond and eat some healthy popcorn. As the slowly rapped up, the group headed back to the rooms and lights out happened at around 10:00pm.
— documented by Ethan
Wednesday July 7, 2019
Today after breakfast we went to Service. Todays service included putting a second coat of paint on a wall. We sanded down wooden furniture and varnishing it. And putting a fresh coat of paint on it. After lunch at service we had time to shower before our hike.
We took a hike by the river for an hour. We had an activity specifically designed so that everyone would greet each other in a different manner. Which was a metaphor for meeting different cultures and new people with different languages. After returning from the hike we went to a cafe for Wifi time.
At the cafe some spent time connecting with family or using the internet. Some bought food and drinks in the two hour relax time. After wifi time we went back to the lodge and ate dinner.
Written by student Damon
Thursday August 8, 2019
We started with breakfast and after we did our last day of service. We started by filling the flower beds with the mixed soil for two hours. After we finished we took a break and did an activity where we recapped our service experience and everything we’ve learned since we started the trip, after break we sanded and varnished some chairs and benches. Later we had our last meal at the dormitory and said our goodbyes to the staff.
After getting back to home base we had our free time before going to the chocolate museum. At the chocolate museum we learned about cocoa and how its harvested and how different types of chocolate products all contain a different percentage of cocoa. After we roasted cocoa beans for 15 minutes and then we separated the beans from the shell. After doing that we crushed up the beans using stone mortars to create 100% cocoa which was later used for two types of hot chocolate and the shells were used for cocoa tea.
After we all chose which type of chocolate and what mold we wanted to use to create our own chocolate. After they gave us toppings and then the melted chocolate to pour over the molds. Marshmallow was a favorite among the group and it was nice to see everyones crazy combinations of toppings. Then the guides took the molds to put into the fridge to harden. While waiting we ended up in the shop where we bought an assortment of chocolate products.
Finally, we came back to home base and we did our daily shout-out circle and ate dinner, after we were briefed for the two-day Lares Trek and what we should pack. Then we all collected our duffel bags from reception to start packing. Since it’s going to be an early morning we have an early lights out and not much free time.
Written by student Nick Q.
PS: we will back from our trek in two days, have a nice weekend!
Friday August 9 and Saturday August 10, 2019
We started the day very early by eating breakfast at 6:00 am. Most of us were very tired, but extremely excited for the trek! At 6:30 am, we started our three hour drive to the Lares Trek. The view was gorgeous and we were able to take a lot of photos. As we hiked on the trail, we were able to hear the sounds of the river and were surrounded by massive mountains. We were followed by horses that carried our duffel bags which contained clothes, a sleeping bag and sleeping mat for the stay overnight.
After two hours of hiking, we arrived in a small town called Wacawasi and we were able to have lunch there. For an appetizer, we were given avocado stuffed with potatoes and bell peppers and vegetable soup. For the main dish, we had chicken with rice and roasted or mashed potatoes. Everyone was required to drink a warm cup of tea at the end of the meal to help with digestion.
At this point, some of us departed back to the home base in Ollantaytambo as the altitude and trek was harsh and were not feeling well enough to continue the trek. Those who continued hiked up a steep trail for two and a half hours to get to the camping site. The camping site had the most breathtaking view, where the remaining members took pictures and enjoyed the view. As soon as the sun set the camp site got cold fast so we all bundled up and got ready to play card games in a tent. After lots of card games and delicious food we all feel asleep from the tiring hike we embarked on.
In the morning we started to prepare for the hike to come. This hike was almost 15,000 feet making it a very intense work out! Once we reached the peak of our hike it was all downhill, making it very easy. About 45 minutes of going downhill we all took a nice break at a breathtaking pond. This pond has many legends of Incan treasure sitting buried at the bottom. On the way down we encountered llamas, alpacas, and sheeps. Finally, we reached the bottom of the mountain where we met the rest of our group to enjoy lunch.
At night, the whole group went to the train station and we all embarked on a train to Aguas Calientes. In this town, we stayed overnight in a hotel and prepared to head to Machu Picchu in the morning.
— documented by Lynnie and Ally
Sunday August 11, 2019
Today’s adventure was kicked off with a breakfast buffet in the morning in the Machu Picchu Pueblo. The group then proceeded into town to board the bus to Machu Picchu and met a few adorable dogs along the way. The bus ride was occupied by another branch of GLA Peru, the medical project.
The group then entered the astonishing Machu Picchu. The students were then split into two groups of five with each being led by either Santiago or Marisol. The groups toured through these historic ruins for nearly two hours, absorbing the views and history that surrounded them. The mystifying ruins were scoured by the students wanting to take in all the information that the guides had to offer of the Incan people and their history. When the tours concluded student trekked down the mountain, in lieu of taking the bus down the mountain.
In the conclusion of the afternoon festivities, students were taken to a café for lunch and were fed foods varying from sausage pizza to quinoa soup. Students were also treated to the movie Captain America: Civil War while they dined. After lunch, students then said their goodbyes to the Pueblo and boarded a train destined for the basecamp in Ollantaytambo.
Written by student Nik.-
At night the students enjoyed Creps and some desserts in a local cafe, where they shared pictures and also made a plan to visit each other next summer!
Monday August 12, 2019
Our final, full day together started like many others, with a small morning yoga session. We had a later breakfast leading to a group activity. In this activity, we created our individual one main goals. After our activity, we had two hours to go into town. Many of us chose to use this time to shop in the market and others spent the time in a cafe with WiFi.
Once we got back to home base, we enjoyed the Peruvian version of hamburgers and fries. After lunch, we were each able to participate in a ceremony to the Pachamama, Mother Earth called Pago a la Tierra done by a Shaman living in a local community. Following the ceremony, we took a final visit to the service site where we met many of the girls, back from winter break, living at the dormitory and played sharks and minos, as well as volleyball. When we came back to home base, we had our last mentor group activity, leading to our large group activity. Our last self-reflecting activity was about appreciation for the family we have found here.
Before leaving for dinner, we had our last shout-out circle, admiring everyone’s great qualities. Our last dinner together was at a restaurant in town. After enjoying the good food, we had our group talent show. The night of laughs and songs came to an end as we finished watching the movie Shrek and had our last lights out.
Written by student Celi
Today was our final morning together in Ollantaytambo! Feeling a little bittersweet, we started our day with our daily yoga lead by Celi! After it, we had a late breakfast 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 huevos, pan, mantequilla, avena, mucha fruta 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. Before packing, we headed into town for our last taste of Ollantaytambo! Half of the group went to the market, others had the last Arepas. We packed up our bags and donated our extra clothes and snacks to the community.
After lunch all of us packed into the van for the final time and headed 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! Definitely they ARE the change!
Thank you for following along with us on this impactful journey in Peru, hasta luego!
Ale, Greta, Ila