Today was a very vigorous day! The GLA team and I had to work for seven hours and thirty minutes on the foundation of where we are making the green house. What stood out to me today was how every person worked as hard as they could and gave it their 100% and more! A unique lesson I learned today is that an alpha wolf is only as strong as its pack and the pack is as strong as the alpha wolf. This means that the leader of the day can’t just be doing everything; we have to work as a pack to get things done. After a long day of working hard, everyone got ready for the night out. We ate at a traditional Peruvian restaurant and tasted some of Cuzco’s finest. Some of the food included guinea pig, alpaca, and various vegetables. After I filled myself with delicious food the restaurant put on a performance for the audience. All kinds of costumes with ornate dancing were involved. A girl in our group, Gracie, was pulled up on stage by the singer of the band to show off her salsa moves. Everyone from our group got up and danced together. We encouraged our guides to dance with us too. Filled with amazing desserts and happy spirits we left the restaurant to go walk around the town square to see what El Dia del Cuzco was all about. We saw crowds waving their flag in the air and marching bands playing Peruvian music. All of us were pretty tired so we went back to the hotel and chilled with each other for the last time. It’s been an amazing trip full of many first times and I couldn’t wish for a better group to spend it with. Especially Brian, Nathan, Eric, Leila, Julia, and Gracie!
To be Honest Lucas
A Fun and Exciting Day
Today we woke up at 7 AM, which was a nice change from our earlier wake up times over the past few days. We then jumped right back into service going full throttle. Everyone came back working even harder than before. As a thank you for the greenhouse project, the Director of the school where we are building the green house prepared potatoes in an adobe oven called a watia along with cheese and a sauce. Although we enjoyed the potatoes, their preparation was even more intriguing. Cesar, a man who is helping us build the greenhouse, and one of his friends built the oven out of adobe this morning. The blocks were carefully placed and formed into a dome shape, after, the potatoes were put into the fire inside of the oven, the top of the oven was collapsed so the potatoes were covered with hot adobe. I have personally never seen an oven built so quickly and effectively!
After our snack and playing with the kids at the school we headed off back to home base for some lunch. Later in the afternoon we listened to a public health talk given by a speaker who works with many malnourished children under the age of five. Some of the most interesting things we learned during the talk were about problems we knew of, but didn’t know of their full impact. One of the most exciting events of the day was ordering pizza because, so many people had been craving it throughout the trip. The pizza did not disappoint, and we still have a few more slices left to snack on later. Following dinner we played the second part to our Double Jeopardy game. It quickly became loud with people fighting to answer the questions. I am sorry to say that my team lost but we did get into positive points after relentlessly trying to surface above zero. All and all today was a fun and exciting day for everyone.
Today marked a particularly special event on our trip: the visit to Machu Picchu. After an early wake up and breakfast in the serene town of Aguas Calientes, we criss-crossed up the mountain by bus en route to our destination.
Machu Picchu is a truly unique wonder. It remains mostly hidden from view as you walk the trail until it emerges into view. Then it hits you. Everything you have seen of the site in books or on postcards only conveys a fraction of what you actually experience. They can’t show the vastness of the mountains surrounding the ruins, nor can they force you to contemplate the sheer effort and ingenuity that must have been involved in its construction
After, reluctantly, descending the mountain, we embarked on a long yet beautiful trip by train and bus through rural peru back to Cusco. After a long weekend of hiking and discovery, it feels nice to be “home”, as many of us have come to call our home base.
– Joseph Walker
Arriving to Aguas Calientes
Today we woke up at 5 am and commenced travel to our 3 day hike at 6 am. We headed to our trail head which we began to hike at 9am. The hike started with two hours of ascent. This included walking on frozen water falls and visiting a highland farm. When the group reached the peak of the mountain we were met with breathtaking views, 14,725 ft of elevation, as well as a hearty and delicious lunch. GLA members then began the one hour descent to our campsite; during this we saw wild llamas, horses and bulls/cows. When we finally arrived at our campsite we found it all set up, so we chose our tents and got settled in. While everyone settled in, my colleagues (Justin Penn and Jeff Bell) and I decided to explore a nearby mountain and came across two waterfalls and another great view. When we returned from our treacherous climb we came to tea time ( Yes!! They have it in Peru) and the whole group stuffed their faces with popcorn, crackers and of course tea. That night we had a dinner of chicken, rice and frost potatoes which we had learned about during our hike. I think the whole group was very intimidated by the hike, but the whole group completed it very efficiently and I think enjoyed all of it if not some parts of it.
Learning the Tradition of the Pan Flute
Today we woke up at the normal time of 6:00 and went down for a great breakfast of pancakes (more like thick crepes with caramel). After that we took a journey to the community service site and worked there for 4 hours. Today there was no school because of the holiday known as, Corpus Christi, which is where 15 saints and virgins arrive in Cusco to “greet” the body of Christ.
After we ate a lunch of salmon and potatoes, we made some final preparations for our adventure to Machu Picchu. A few of us went to the supplies market and grabbed some gear that we might need for the hike.
Our final destination of the day included a visit to a new cultural insight. We met with a guy who specialized in the instrument of the Andean region including, the pan flute. After he taught us all about the different instruments, we learned a native song on the pan flute.
We ended the day with a fun game of Peruvian Jeopardy provided by our mentors. It was another great day of bonding and working in the hospitable town of Cusco.
– Justin Penn
The universal tongue was spoken. No, it wasn’t like the awful horror film The Orphan where an orphan gets adopted and it turns out that the adopted girl is really 33 years old trapped in an adolescent’s body. It wasn’t like that at all. Today, we went to an orphanage filled with abandoned children and ones placed there by the government due to domestic violence. It was today that we learned the importance of sports. Just a few thousand miles east, countries from all over the world are competing together in the game of soccer. From all different cultures, speaking all different languages, bonding with the universal language of sport. Today, 17 American kids (most of which don’t speak Spanish) went to an orphanage and brought a smile to the faces of 40 Peruvian orphans through the language of soccer. It is the smile that is hard to get. I thought that the children would smile the second they saw us, but these children have had some rough lives; and while after four years of Spanish I still don’t know how to say, “What’s wrong?” I can most certainly kick a soccer ball.
Seeing the Shaman
Today we woke up at 6:15 and got ready for the day. We went to our community service project and worked until noon. We have an awesome location for our greenhouse because it is right next to a school. The kids can benefit from learning about it, and we get to create relationships with the children and the community.
After we worked we went to see a Shaman, a traditional healer. I was a little apprehensive to go, but mostly excited. I was afraid he would tell me an awful fortune, and that I would have a hard future ahead. I was relieved when he told me that I would just have to wait 4-5 years to meet my future husband. The cultural difference is, instead of going to a doctor and telling them what hurts, the Shaman predicts what hurts, and predicts what could happen in the future. A unique lesson I learned today is that you should respect all cultures, and their practices. The Shaman was different from my usual encounters, but that doesn’t make it bad, it makes it unique and cool. Being in Peru, where I am immersed in new culture, it has made me more open-minded to trying new things and embrace others ways.
Work in Tikapata
Today, we got to sleep in until 6:45 (a luxury!) and then headed straight to our service project in Tikapata, where we are building a greenhouse to benefit the school there. It was a hard four hours of work interspersed with water breaks and recess with the ten kids that attend the school regularly. One of my favorite parts of today was playing catch and practicing my Spanish with them, since I’m at their language level. I love being with kids here in Peru because they are so open-minded and excited to learn, and that excitement helps motivate me. It is amazing to me that some kids are willing to walk two hours to and from school every day just because they’re so passionate about education. I feel as if in the United States, kids wouldn’t dream of walking more than a few minutes to school, so this passion about education is truly inspiring.
One thing I’ve enjoyed about our work so far is that I feel like I’m accomplishing so much. This was my first time doing hard physical labor, but seeing the results made my aching muscles worth it. It was great to see that in just a few hours, the grassy hill we were working on had evolved into flat ground. I believe we accomplished this so quickly because of our interconnectedness as a group. Since Day 1, I’ve felt a special bond with my peers. Everyone is unique and adds to our group to make a perfect mix. During our work today, we became closer, all struggling and sweating for a common goal.
An interesting cultural aspect is the territory struggle we’ve faced during construction. The people of Tikapata want to reclaim what they consider their land, though it is considered school property. In fact, some of the school’s territory has been squatted by locals. These locals are protective of their land, which some have lived on for generations, so I can see why they may be territorial. This helped me realize that we are not the “great white hope” by any means, and we are not the answer to all their problems. Instead of service learning, this is a project of learning service, in which we learn throughout our cultural immersion. Today was really inspiring, and I can’t wait to go back to Tikapata tomorrow to resume our project!
Llankay, Yachay, Munay
Today we visited sites considered several of the biggest culminations of human achievement. These historic sites ranged from the ancient Incan capital of Saksaywaman to the Spanish cathedral that is Santo Domingo.
We started the day off with taking a tour around the Incan ruins that lie on the outskirts of the city of Cuzco. Our first site, Saksaywaman, threw us all into a state of shock and awe as we gazed at the perfectly cut stones that create the walls to the fortress. We also took a visit to Q’inqu, which is a holy place where mummification and sacrifices were said to of taken place as rituals to the Inca gods.
Afterwards, we went to the colonial part of Cusco. This area of the city differs from the rest in the sense that it has more of a touristy and wealthy vibe to it. It is in this part of town where we journeyed to Santo Domingo, a Spanish Cathedral. We sadly were unable to take pictures of the beautiful interior, but I’m sure that we all left with fantastic mental images and a better understanding of Spanish influence in Peru.
To finish it off, we visited the market where we all enjoyed haggling with the locals and accumulating Peruvian goods. It was another fantastic day of bonding for the group and I’m sure we all look forward to the next day.
Cross-Cultural Interactions at Patabamba
Today we traveled to the village of Patabamba, where we interacted with villagers and helped them with their daily work. We shucked corn, peeled potatoes, and milked cows and were rewarded with both a fabulous homemade stew and a soccer match!
This day-trip was our first experience connecting with the local Peruvians. As our van traversed the Andes Mountains to reach the village, I couldn’t help but wonder how similar these people would be to us. We had previously learned about the economic hardships of the local villagers, and I wasn’t sure I would be able to relate to these people with an upbringing entirely different from my own.
Of course, once we arrived in the village, all my worries vanished. Our group had a great time with our host family. They let us ride on their ponies, gave us tea, and told us about their lives. Even though I don’t speak Spanish or Quechua, I was able to understand and relate to them. During our soccer match, we all had fun together, and we all rejoiced when Edouin, a local boy, scored the final goal.
We ended our day with a trip to the market, and had an interesting experience when local stray dogs seemed intent on following us back to our hotel. After our experiences in the village today, I can’t wait to learn more about Peruvians and their culture.
From the moment our flight landed, we have all had a great time bonding with each other and observing the vibrant city of Cusco. Making friends, of course, was not the only purpose of our trip. This region of Peru faces not insignificant socioeconomic issues, which we learned from a local economist; nearly half of the population lives below the national poverty line. With this in mind, we began our service project on Friday.
For our project, we will be building greenhouses at a school just outside of the city, to enable the students and teachers to grow additional food. In doing so, we will be addressing the issue of malnutrition, which affects many children in this region. What really made an impression during our first day of work was the lack of resources that most of us take for granted, such as running water and electricity.
I believe that it is really important to acknowledge that nobody has all of the answers to a problem as complex as this. We are not going to end poverty in the region with two weeks, a good attitude, and some shovels. However, with all of the problems present, I would not describe Cusco simply as poor. In fact, it is rich in history, art, and culture. The Peruvian people posses a deep, unique heritage that goes back thousands of years, which I cannot wait to explore more deeply over the next two weeks.
Welcome to Peru!
Nerve-wrecking was how I imagined my travel to Peru. Leaving my home and family and departing out of the country by myself for the first time was a huge leap for me. Apprehensive about traveling alone, I was anxious about the new and exhilarating experience that was to come. Luckily, that quickly changed when I met all of my new, interesting program members!
Once in Miami, I met many other fellow GLA students like me. They were all very outgoing and immediately introduced themselves, breaking the nervous tension we had all been feeling. The fun directors have already united the group into one single pack, creating a cohesive bond that will allow us to help one another as a family would.
Overall, the juxtaposition of fear and excitement in every student along with the love and care of the directors has allowed us to quickly seek the feeling of safety that we all have back at home. We’re all looking forward to our time in Peru!
Have a GREAT time……….wish I was there for the adventure!
Wendi, Emory, Todd, Jackson, and Bridget (Emo says
I love the picture! It is so great to see Gracie with her new Peru friends. We can’t wait for more posts and will be looking forward to hearing about your adventures. Have a great time!
Wendi Bergdoll says
Great picture Gracie, and what an experience! Congrats on your good news from the Shaman!
Caroline Lee says
What an experience. You have inspired me to make this trip. Looking forward to hearing all about the ‘non published’ details