Wednesday June 12, 2019
Bienvenidos a Peru! Welcome to the Service in the Sacred Valley blog!
This will be our opportunity to share our adventures and learning in the Sacred Valley of Peru with all of you! And this will be your opportunity to travel and experience with all of us throughout the next two weeks.
The majority of our group has arrived safe and everyone is settling into their new home in Ollantaytambo (Ollantay). We are looking forward to having the entire team together when Alexander arrives on Thursday. After a couple of delays and long days, almost everyone is here showing optimism and enthusiasm!
Throughout the day 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. They even showcased initiative and their leadership abilities by deciding to rearrange the dining room tables so that everyone could sit together for lunch.
In the afternoon, we jumped into our orientation activities, such as an introduction to the Peruvian culture and Valle Sagrado history, personal safety and hygiene, and community agreements. With a perfect mix of icebreakers and games, we introduced our International and Local staff and went over our adventurous itinerary including service, rafting, cultural activities and last but not least…the Lares Trek and Machu Picchu exploration!
We all shared dinner at our home base, having our second taste of delicious Peruvian cuisine. Our chefs prepared arroz chaufa, a traditional Peruvian dish. We spent the evening playing all together and getting to know more about our backgrounds and what we are excited and curious to experience throughout the trip.
With a mix of tiredness and excitement, everyone went to bed. But not without first stopping to admire the tremendous starry night we can see perfectly from our home base!
The GLA Peru Staff
Thursday June 13, 2019
Day 2 of session one of Service in the Sacred Valley began in the lovely surroundings of the staggering mountains. We were happy to welcome the final member of our group to arrive, Alex, to Ollantaytambo! The group first began with breakfast which was shortly followed by games outside which completed our orientation. Everyone broke into three group with their mentors where they did different activities. Lunch followed orientation…it was estofado de frijoles con pollo frito and was super yummy!
Afterwards, we went with our mentor groups to explore the town where we are staying! It was so cool exploring the streets and visiting different stores. We especially loved being able to experience a bit of Peruvian culture. Everyone had the chance to meet and try their best to communicate with locals in Spanish. We enjoyed our time in the town and can’t wait to explore more!
Following exploring the town, we did more activities in our mentor groups to get to know each other better. Everyone also had the chance to meet one-on-one with their mentors individually. Before dinner, about fifteen members of a group started a pick-up soccer game outside of our home base. Even some of the mentors joined in!
For dinner, we had spaghetti with a type of Peruvian sauce. Everyone is looking forward to our “surprise activity” tomorrow, and we can’t wait to see what the next two weeks bring!
Elle, Julia, and Tom
Friday June 14, 2019
Today was our third day here in Ollantaytambo. We spent the morning having breakfast and learning about our surprise activity. After much suspense, we learned that the surprise activity was a town-wide scavenger hunt. We were given a list of everything we needed to collect and ask for, all in Spanish. The language barrier was the most difficult part of the activity as we needed to write down and even memorize words and phrases of a foreign language. We were able to further explore the town while also connecting with our group in a positive and encouraging manner. The winners of the activity enjoyed some Inca Kola and Coca candy.
After lunch we went on a short, scenic hike in the Pinkuylluna ruins close to our home base. The steps up the mountain were very steep and difficult to climb so when we got to the top, the wind was a really nice relief from the heat. We learned that the Incas used this to keep their crops cool and preserved them for years at a time. At the top, we did an activity to explore the different greetings of various cultures and how they interact with each other. It was a way to understand the different communication skills even with a cultural barrier.
After the hike, we participated in a symbolic activity exploring current issues involving tourism in the Sacred Valley. We explored different perspectives of various companies on their view of the construction of an alternative route on the Lares trek. Out of the 4 groups, two were against and two were for the construction of the new road which caused for huge debate between the companies. This made us reflect on the true impact of tourism in underdeveloped countries and how small changes could be greatly beneficial or detrimental to the affected community.
We are really excited about our first day of service, which is tomorrow!
Stay tuned for next blog to know more about our adventures
Written by students: Tati, Tina and Sofi
Saturday June 15, 2019
Hola y bienvenidos to our day 4 blog! Today was our first day of service, and everyone woke up very excited to get started and help the community. After a hearty breakfast, the GLA team walked to the volunteer site, which was a school for girls that were otherwise not able to get a proper education. These girls come from very rural communities that are a very long distance from any school, so this site provides room and board as well as schooling for these girls. Although we have yet to meet these girls, we started work on the project!
We got to work breaking up the ground with pickaxes, shovels, and rakes in the hot Peruvian sun. Others in the group were able to extract glue from cactus to use with the dirt to construct the wall. During our break, we were treated to a traditional Peruvian meal presented by Gaby, the director of the Sacred Valley Project. The meal consisted of quinoa soup, chicken, rice, all topped with a delicious Peruvian sauce.
After a long day of construction, we were able to connect with our families and friends when we went into cafes with WiFi. In these cafes, we treated ourselves to desserts and relaxed. Later, we went into town and shopped in the market. Many of us bought goods like sweaters, keychains, and jewelry.
Overall, we had a very busy and fun day, and are looking forward to tomorrow!
Adios for now!
Written by Vita, Katie, and Kennedy
Sunday June 16, 2019
Today we woke up bright and early ready to embark on our first Peruvian adventure! Despite being very tired, everyone was excited to go white water rafting. For a lot of us it was our first time trying it! After a long but picturesque 3 hour bus ride, we arrived at a lodge along the Urubamba River, where we were given wetsuits, windbreakers, lifejackets and helmets. From there, we waddled onto the bus for another quick ride in our ridiculous gear to our starting point of the journey. After learning about the safety rules and rafting terminology, we divided into five groups of six and met the guides. Before we knew it, we were paddling in sync down the river, approaching the first rapids.
If you’re a rafting connoisseur, you are probably familiar with the six classes of rapids, ranging from a calm one to a more intense six. Luckily, today we encountered only classes 1-3 rapids. The rocks and waves proved to be a challenge for us to navigate, but by working together, we were able to stay afloat and get the group back to the lodge. Everyone was having such an awesome time that we didn’t mind the freezing water splashing into our faces. Many of us even decided to jump into the water and experience the Urubamba River at its fullest. Even one of our mentors, Ale, took a swim, although his wasn’t voluntary. But don’t fret! His fateful fall was captured on GoPro.
At the end of the journey, we pulled the rafts ashore and quickly ran up to the welcoming sauna, where we thawed ourselves beside a fire. After our fingers gained feeling, everyone changed into dry clothes and sat down for an amazing and warm lunch prepared by the lodge’s friendly staff. Once we finished a delicious meal of quinoa soup and chicken, we piled back into the bus and made our way back to Home Base, all the while admiring the beautiful views of the Sacred Valley just outside our windows.
Be sure to stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog post about a traditional weaving community that’s in the rural Peruvian highlands!
.Written by Allison, Aly, Katy.
Monday June 17, 2019
Buenos Dias! Give us the chance to visit a weaving community and we say “alpaca my bags.” Today started off with a ride to a local, traditional weaving community that was filled with gorgeous views of the Sacred Valley. Upon arrival, we were welcomed by the locals who were dressed in their brightly colored traditional garments performing music and dance rituals with flutes and drums.
Once welcomed, they dressed us in their traditional clothing and began teaching us their ways of creating and dying alpaca yarn as well as how to create bracelets out of it. We then participated in an alpaca wedding, throwing chicha and flowers into the crowd of alpacas to bless their future agricultural output. After this, we learned how to cultivate their crops, before shopping at the community market and settling in to eat lunch. For lunch, we had Merienda, a meal of vegetable salad, potatoes, and the local specialty of Guinea Pig.
Next, we played soccer with the girls from the dorm we are helping in our service project. “Team Domenick” was lead to victory in a crushing 6-1 defeat by Tom and Domenick (the team Captain) against Team Victory, who’s solo goal was scored by Team Captain Jordy and Alejandro…who was launched into the rapids yesterday. (OUCH) Notable goals were scored by Abby, Kenzie, Domenick, and Tom. Pedro the Dog was also a big factor, always willing to chip in to help either side (or get in the way).
Finally, after a delicious dinner of spaghetti with pesto and widely cherished OREOS, we were treated to guest speaker Professor Ronald Castillo Espinoza, a notable children’s book author, who taught us about differences between the local Andean culture and our western culture, as well as how they impact how we all see the world.
Written by: Domenick, Julianne, and Jordy
Tuesday June 18, 2019
What happens when alpacas take over the world? An alpacalypse!!!
We thought we were in an alpacalypse when we found out that we got pancakes for breakfast this morning! After breakfast we went to our second day of service filled with more pick-axing, shoveling, raking, and even throwing some mud at a wall to reinforce its stability. We worked hard under the sun while singing some top hits from High School Musical, more specifically, “Not gonna stop till we get to the top!”. We ate a delicious lunch at service which consisted of a cream corn soup and spaghetti. After lunch, we powered through another hour of service before returning to the home base to rest and shower!
At 3:00 pm we loaded two busses and headed to an art studio owned by local artist, Alberto. We took a brief tour of the studio before separating into four groups to work on various art projects. There was one station for ceramics where we got to practice our molding skills and play with some clay, another station where we made a stop-motion video, a station for water color painting and another one for mono print. We got to keep the masterpieces we made at the water color painting station and the mono print station. We got to support the local studio by buying some awesome, hand-made souvenirs before taking the bus back to home base again.
We had some great shout-outs in our shout-out circle before dinner and then feasted on some rice with corn, peas, carrots, and meat alongside some plantains. We got to enjoy some popcorn after dinner while watching an animated movie about Peru called Pachamama. Overall, we had a really fun day and the leaders of the day would like to make a special shout-out to Greta’s dad (the father of our awesome mentor) who very much enjoys Peruvian coffee all the way from Delaware!!
Written by: Abby, Kenzie, and Jordan
Wednesday June 19, 2019
Rise and grind Kings! Today started off with a usual breakfast at
8:00.On a beautiful day in Ollaytaytambo we stated sevice pomptly at
8:50. Everyone was especially enthusiastic about work today since we
began the painting part of the project. Although only half of the goup
was able to paint in the morning, the other half was promised the
exciting job of painting in the afternoon. Even though painting was
fun, when lunch was called we all ran to our seats to enjoy a
delicious meal of corn soup with tender, savory, and delicious
After lunch the first group was excused thirty minutes early to be on
time to the chocolate workshop to learn about the tedious process of
making chocolate. The second group left at two in the afternoon.and
enjoyed the chocolate workshop after the first group finished. The
British lady fom Surrey explained the pocess of making chocolate. We
were also given the opportunity to taste Incan and Mayan hot chocolate
(with cocao, honey, chile and water) and the Spanish Conquistadores
hot chocolate (with cocao, cinnamon and milk). We then were able to
choose our molds and pour melted chocolate inside and add our flavors
to it. Everyone was satisfied since they were all finally able to eat
the chocolate that they created. After all the days excitment, we all
gathered for dinner at six fifteen to enjoy a delicious meal.
-by Deja, Nickolas, and Grace
Thursday June 20, 2019
Namaste/Ni hao from Team Asia (we’re still in Peru don’t worry!)! Welcome to our Day 9 blog! Today was our fourth day of service, just one away from the last one. During service today we continued working at the dig site with the end goal of building a greenhouse in order to decrease one of their primary costs, food, and improve their overall health.
We split into different groups to accomplish the various tasks that still needed to be done; the tasks included removing the grass roots still left in the field, compiling rocks for the pathways, and tearing up a mattress to make plaster for the walls of the home. After a few hours of work, we took a lunch break with a delectable vegetable soup and chicken salad. After lunch we had a bit more work and continued to work on the dig site.
After a long morning of service work, we were able to take a break and some much needed showers. Then we went to town to get WiFi to connect back with our family and friends. Afterwards, we went shopping for warm alpaca wool clothes to prepare for the cold of the trek tomorrow. Upon returning from town, we got a lesson from our very informative leader Matt on the history of Peru. We had a delicious dinner afterward, featuring the famous Peruvian dish Lomo Saltado, consisting of stir fried beef and assorted vegetables. It was fun writing this, but we’ve got to get to bed now so we can wake up on time for the trek!
We will back in two days from our trek with more news… don’t miss us!
Adios for now!
Ashtin, Selia, and Ya$h
Friday June 21, 2019
Happy birthday Tina! We started our early morning by having breakfast at 6 am followed by a 3-hour bus ride around 6:40 to Lares which is 10,695 feet (3,260 metres). When we got to our destination, our guides were waiting for us with the mules to carry our duffle bags. Since we got off a three hour ride everyone needed to go to the bathroom so we used the Inca Toilet (AKA the bushes!) (3/10 would recommend). At around 11:00 we began the hike, starting with a lot of uphill, so we took our time. The weather was quite warm and the sun was shining and there was so many Alpacas!!! We dressed for the cold winds of the top of the mountain, so we had to take off layers.
We started at a slow pace, taking frequent breaks as needed. We arrived at Wakawasi for lunch at around 12:30 for a nice meal of soup, guacamole, rice, chicken, and vegetarian options. After we finished, we continued the hike uphill until we reached the campsite at around 5:30. We were assigned tents, sleeping arrangements, and given sleeping bags for the night. We ate dinner at 7:30, finished with a couple card games (scum and tounges), and afterwards many went to observe the beautiful night stars that were visible on the mountain. Once back in the tents, we desperately tried to warm our freezing toes with extra layers of socks and whatever else we could find.
Despite the freezing temperatures and cold toes, we woke up the next morning stronger from the experience and ready to take on the tail end of the hike.
Saturday June 22, 2019
The local staff and chefs on our journey woke us up with coca tea. Our breakfast consisted of sweet bread, pancakes, fruit, yogurt, jam, tea, and hot chocolate. Right before we started hiking again we cleaned out our tents and were given a few snacks. Although some of us got altitude sickness we still made it to 14,800 feet (4400 meters). The view was amazing and it was quite windy. As we headed down we saw the mountain sides freckled with alpacas and llamas. We stopped to take a break in front of lpsaycocha lake. We kept walking and saw the beautiful landscapes the Andes had to offer. It was a pretty long stretch until we got to Patacancha for lunch.
After lunch we got into the vans and went on the bumpy hour ride back to Ollantaytambo. When we got back to the homebase we unpacked our duffels, packed for Aguas Calientes, and took showers!! We went and had dinner in town and from there we walked to the train station. At 8:45pm we arrived at our hostel in Aguas Calientes and tomorrow we go to Machu Picchu!
Sunday June 23, 2019
Today was the day all of us were looking forward to! We spent the night at a hostel in Aguas Calientes, and woke up bright and early for our Machu Picchu adventure. First, we walked through the plaza to the bus stop. Then, we took a winding but picturesque journey through the jungle surrounding Machu Picchu – it was absolutely stunning! Finally, we arrived at our destination and got the long-awaited Machu Picchu stamp in our passports. As we walked towards the ruins, we could see glimpses of the ancient Incan city through the trees. We took a group photo at the top overlooking the Machu Picchu ruins – all of us were amazed and couldn’t believe we had finally arrived at one of the seven wonders of the world!
We split into our three mentor groups to explore the ruins’ history with our guides. We learned about the ancient Incans and how the city came to be. Some of the highlights included their three temples, Incan houses, and walking streets that have experienced millions of visitors before. Just as beautiful were the surrounding mountains of Machu Picchu. It did not even seem real!
After our Machu Picchu adventure, we returned to Aguas Calientes to have lunch and do a little shopping. Then we took a train ride back to Ollyantaytambo – the views of the rushing river and lush green mountains were gorgeous! After settling into our rooms for an hour, we walked into town to enjoy a pizza dinner. It was delicious and reminded us of home. This was a day so many of us were looking forward to throughout our trip, and it definitely exceeded our expectations! Tomorrow will be our last full day here and we are eager to see what it brings!
Written by students: Julia, Katy, and Grace
On our final day in the beautiful Valle Sagrada we woke up to the Peruvian sun shining and the local birds pecking on our windows! We needed a bit of extra Peruvian coffee though to get ourselves moving, but once we did we could not be stopped! We started the day at service, the students used great teamwork skills and showcased their leadership strengths as they formed a plan to move adobe bricks from one field to another.
The bricks will eventually be used to build a volunteer house for volunteers of the Sacred Valley Project. Other students painted walls inside, it was a fulfilling final day at the service site! Before lunch our International Director, Ila, led the group in a discussion surrounding responsible service. Students engaged in the discussion and shared their own opinions on what they believe responsible service is. After a delicious lunch at our service site we all headed back to home base to shower and rest before heading into town for the last time!
After our last minute souvenir purchases were made and we visited our beloved Chocolate Museo for the final time, we headed back to home base to participate in a traditional Peruvian ceremony called “Pago a la Tierra”. This ceremony was performed by a local Shaman and we learned about how Peruvians celebrate and give thanks to Pachamama (Mother Earth) and nature. We all were included in the ceremony and the Shaman wished us well on our travels. It was a very cool experience.
Before we headed out for our last dinner together, we met with our mentor groups for the final time and reflected on what we had learned during the program and what we are taking away. We also gathered as a large group and shared appreciation for each other and got all warm and fuzzy on the inside! We went out to dinner in town and talked about the memories and moments that we have shared together, it is always hard to say goodbye but we are grateful for these two weeks that we had together! We ended the night on a high note (literally!) with our group talent show, who knew we had so much talent???
We went to sleep dreaming of our safe and healthy flights home while feeling a bit of bitter sweetness about saying goodbye to each other and Peru.
And from all 28 of us teens, we say thank you to our awesome mentors; Ila, Gretta, Matt, and Ale, and to all of the staff that has helped throughout these two weeks.