The last day. We break our backs on our last attempt at shoveling mud, pickaxing the earth, and carrying rocks. But every moment, we enjoyed. We enjoyed the work because while we all desperately wanted to yell at mentors for putting us through this, we knew it was for a great cause. At the school, we could see the smiling faces of young school children, and understanding that our service was for a better community allowed everyone to pull through. The children and school staff prepared for us potatoes, cheese, and sauce as a goodbye and a thank you. And as we finished shoveling the last scoop of dirt, we decide a good departing party would be a 5-minute mud fight, caking most of the group in mud that would take a good hour to clean off (was it really worth it in the end?).
The most difficult part of today was knowing that the faces we have come to know would soon be on a plane, bound for their own homes. Saying goodbye can be one of the most painful experiences of our lives. But life doesn’t have to be this way. Goodbyes are only forever by choice, by absence of heart. We choose to keep in contact, knowing well that some people we have met on this journey are equivalent to the relationships we spent years building. We sat together as a group, likely the last time we would, and sang songs while Erik played on the guitar. At the end of it all, we gathered together for a large group hug. Some shed tears, and some played it strong, but a general consensus was that we would all miss each other. I guess that was a fair goodbye. Yes we do leave, and while the experience was only for two weeks, the impact on our lives would last a lifetime.
Getting More Acquainted With Cusco
¡Hola! Today we went on an adventure through the city of Cusco, Peru. We began by venturing into the colonial sector of Cusco, where we saw Qoriqancha Cathedral. We next got to see Incan ruins and finally saw Sacsaywaman.
It started out with us arriving in the Central Plaza where we met our tour guide who was eager to show us around the historical sites. We began to walk around and see the Incan ruins. The Incan walls were created in a slanted pattern. The Incans built this way because in Cusco they have earthquakes very often and the slanted walls prevented the structures from collapsing and destroying the town. Our tour guide then began to take us to the Qorikancha Museum, where we saw how the Incans constructed their temples. Afterwards we made our way to the Basilica where we got to see amazing works of art and many Jesi (Jesuses). My favorite work of art was the painting of “The Last Supper”, which featured a cuy as their last meal. After we saw the Basilica we begged Miguel to take us to Starbucks, and he did. After Starbucks we hopped on a bus and went to eat lunch. The view from the restaurant was spectacular. It was so beautiful that I think I am just going to have to name my first born child Cusco because of its beauty. After a delicious lunch we made our way to Sacsaywaman where we learned that Cusco is shaped like a puma. Sacsaywaman is the head of the puma. After a long day of exploring we made our way back to home base. At home base we got to watch the most intense soccer game of our lives. We watched the Netherlands vs. Argentinia game. I would like to point out that I picked the winning team which was Argentinia. I also got to eat jello for dessert which was awesome. I hoped you all enjoyed this blog. ¡Adios!
Musical Festivals of the Incas
Today we continued our service from where we left off last Thursday and managed to start creating the foundation. In the afternoon we had a musical workshop consisting of our instruction of many different traditional Incan flutes and learning a Peruvian song on the pan flute. Our day started once again at 6:30 and we were all back to our normal routine. After coming back to home base from an exciting camping weekend some students found it hard to wake up this morning as I repeatedly knocked on my peers doors trying to get them to wake up. We all headed off to the bus in the chilly morning weather and were greeted excitedly, as usual, by the children at the preschool. Picking up where we left our before the hike, we finished up the digging of the ditch and began to place enormous rocks in the foundation. In addition, we sifted continued to sift the huge pile of dirt and began to use the fine dirt to make clay that would act as cement between the rocks. The process of making the clay included three GLA students rolling up their pants to get down and dirty in the mud as they walked in circles to get the water and dirt mixed together through a dirty and rigorous process. We were all glad to have the pick axing and shoveling done and we were all excited to get the actual construction underway. During the break period of the service the students collecting rocks came upon an enormous tarantula that was greeted with awe by some and disgust by others. The break was also accompanied by an adorable musical performance by the preschoolers who showed off their dance moves and singing to all of us.
Some of us exhausted from service took a nap in the free period after lunch, including myself, while others washed up from being all muddy. Then at 3:00 we headed off to an open rural area with a multitude of horse and sheep to do our musical workshop with a local Peruvian musician. This talented man in traditional Peruvian garb showed us at least 15 different types of Peruvian flutes varying from ones used in the jungle to ones used in Inca times and ones made out of bamboo, plastic, metal and more. He showed us samples of traditional songs played all over the countries for all different festivals and activities. Afterwards, we all got to try out the instruments for ourselves. It was pretty entertaining to hear the clashing high-pitched sounds coming from the students struggling to imitate the noise on the flutes. He also went on to show us more gruesome instruments such as a maraca-sounding instrument that was actually many sheep toenails tied together. In addition he showed us a traditional Incan drum and told us of how the Incans made the drum skin out of the skin from the stomachs of their enemies and attached the decapitated arms of the their enemies so that the drum would beat on its own with the wind. This tactic was used to scare enemies and made Incans one of the more successful war heroes of their time. On a happier note, the instructor then proceeded to give us all our own pan flutes to play as he taught us how to play a short Peruvian song. Though there was some struggling with this, the instructor was kind enough to help all of us individually and then we continued to all play the song as a group which actually turned out pretty well. We ended the day with a great bonding leadership activity that brought us altogether as a community.
Another Day, Another Story
Day eleven. Three full days left, and for some of us only two. Everyone is already talking about how sad it will be when we depart. Conversations are getting deeper, the comfort level around each other is at a max. We are practically a family and the mentors are our ancestors who have shown us the way through their words of wisdom. Unfortunately, this will all be over in less than 60 hours. Everyone is trying to make these last days their best, happiest, and forgiving so we can all leave on a good note and maintain the accumulated friendships we have developed in under two weeks.
Anyway, today was a good day! We continued to work on filling the perimeter of the greenhouse with massive rocks being carried by bodybuilders and mud being mixed by the feet of dancers. Apparently, music really sets the mood and helps get these jobs done? After a “chill” mornings work, we came back to base to relax, eat, and enjoy each other’s company. We later departed to a weaving/textile community home to learn the different ways the women there make and dye their clothes, hats, bracelets, napkins, blankets, table cloths, etc. Everyone was in awe when seeing these beautiful colors of yarn be carefully and precisely woven within each other by the delicate hands of the women. Again we have had the opportunity to see the cultural wonders of Peru. Another day, another story.
We woke up around 6:00 to tea being brought into our tents (talk about camping in style!!) We all then sluggishly went into the dining tent for a breakfast of pancakes, and a little breakfast cake in honor of Katy’s birthday. Then, we were off on a 4 hour hike, which was a tricky one, due to the easy downhill path at the beginning which drastically morphed into a never ending uphill battle. However, I am very pleased to announce that we did all make it to lunch alive (just slightly out of breath,) on the top of a scenic mountain. For lunch, as an appetizer we had some sort of cream of corn soup, followed by bread with guacamole, and for our actual meal, we ate fish that resembled the taste of a fish stick and potatoes. Our lunch was followed with tea, and then we were en route to Aguas Calientes, the city affiliated with Machu Picchu.
After a 3 hour bus ride, and an hour long train ride, mostly spent catching up on some shut-eye, we made it. After filing into our hotel and using the long awaited and well earned wifi, we went to a small resturant (which also had wifi, I might add) and had the option of eating either steak, or ham pizza. The food was delicious, and after we finished eating, we had oppertunity to walk around and see what the city had to offer. There were many live bands playing and dainty shops to sit in which-you guessed it-had wifi (clearly my priorities are in order).
Back at the hotel, we all sat and talked, exchanging instagrams and whatever else kids do these days. It was also nice because hot water was finally available, so we experienced the hottest showers in what felt like years. Then we got-what is necessary for most teenagers-our beauty sleep.
Today marks the first encounter of a great wonder of the world for many, if not all, of our group. Personally, our hike/campout was the single most rewarding experience I’ve had yet. After a nearly impossible trek that pushed every last one of us to our limit, we were granted today with a warm hotel bed and a scenic train ride to Machu Picchu. This trip was everything I expected and more. Personally I am fascinated by ancient civilizations, the Incan civilization being one of the most alluring, and found nothing but wonder within the mountainous village. The tour guides were charming and professional, giving us tidbits about the different architecture that kept us captivated the whole time. Walking through the hallways and passages once stepped on by supposed demigods is extremely humbling. The thought, care and precision put into this architecture is centuries beyond its time and will forever be appreciated internationally.
After such an eye opening event, a meal fit for royalty was in order. A lunch of quinoa or tomato soup and grilled chicken or spaghetti left us satisfied and hungry for more adventure. The gorgeous tourist destination we wandered was bustling with life and creativity.
The amount of work put into the souvenirs and local products, as well as the food, was simply amazing. A train ride and bus ride later, we made it back to home base at dinner time. I noticed that when we reached our destination, many of the kids cried “We’re home!” which made me realize just how comfortable and at home we are at GLA and just much it was missed after only 2 days away.
Living the High-Life during a Hair-Raising Hike
The first day of our hike provided us with some incredible views as well as a great opportunity for exercise. Upon reaching the campsite, we enjoyed “tea time”, a great dinner, and a surprise that the mentors kept hidden from us until the end of the night.
“Wake up!” I yell as I excitedly bang on the doors of each of the students’ rooms. My excitement stems from the fact that today will be the first day of our adventurous hike near Machu Picchu. We had already packed the night before, so we ate a quick breakfast and embarked on our journey at the ripe time of 6:45 in the morning. The trip began with a lengthy drive towards Ollyantambo where we would be dropped off. On our drive, we all noticed to our amazement that we were driving above the clouds during some parts of that foggy morning. Finally, we arrived at our destination, but it was not quite the arrival that we were expecting. Those reading who might think that we were dropped off at a hiking trail with a grand entrance, bathrooms, and concession stands would be mistaken. Rather, we were dropped off on the side of a highway and just began walking with our backpacks.
Following in the footsteps of our fantastic guide Richard, we trekked over many hills. We had to take many breaks as the lack of oxygen in the high altitudes of the Andes did not complement the high-energy climbs well. As we were walking, it seemed like we were approaching a dead end. But, what we saw as a dead end, Richard saw as a casual climb up an incredibly steep, twelve-hundred foot climb. We painstakingly meandered up the mountain following a loosely-defined path, but our work paid off as we were met at the top by locals who gave us a great meal of soup, pasta, and garlic bread. Not a bad meal for one that was prepared in the middle of nowhere at 14,700 feet.
But, as we all know, “what goes up, must come down”, which meant that we had to begin our descent towards a valley that would serve as our camping location. This descent provided impeccable views as well as a significant amount of knee pain, which was to be expected when having to climb down such a steep mountain. Despite our pain, the sight of our blue tents provided us with the motivation to continue moving forward and eventually, we arrived at our campsite.
Once settled, we were called into a large tent for “tea time”. While we expected to find simply some hot water and coca tea bags, our expectations were once again exceeded by GLA and the locals. In a seemingly endless delivery of tasty treats, the students were brought bread with jelly, popcorn, corn nuts, wantons, and hot chocolate to enjoy. In between this snack time and dinner, we got to witness a fantastic sunset while among the clouds. One hour later, we enjoyed tomato soup, chicken, rice, and potatoes for our dinner. While the students were surrounded in such a peaceful environment, we still remained restless. The mentors had mentioned a “surprise” that they had in store for us. With guesses from fireworks to the coveted WiFi (which was definitely not a possibility), we were utterly clueless as to what our leaders had in store. But, when we left the dining tent, we discovered a blazing fire accompanied by all the mentors holding marshmallows, chocolate, and vanilla cookies serving as graham crackers (who knew that Peru convenience stores didn’t sell graham crackers??) After enjoying these treats, some students enjoyed a rousing game of Hot Seat before bundling up in a tent and ending what was just another amazing day in Peru.
“Wheel of Fortune”
Hello readers of the Peru blog this is Julia Pene and today is the 3rd of July.
Today we had an early wake up at 5:50. At the service site, we finished digging the ditch and collected numerous rocks for the foundation. We made enormous progress of the sifting and adobe clay/cement will be made soon from the dirt. After our Machu Picchu hike we will continue building the foundation for the greenhouse.
In the afternoon we visited the local Shaman. He performed the Pago Earth Ritual which consisted of a prayer to the mountain spirits and an offering to Mother Earth. The offering consisted of different herbs, colors, and lots of sweets (since Mother Earth is a woman). He then burned the offering so it would reach the mountains. Afterwards we were given the chance to have the Shaman individually give us a fortune. Almost everyone took the opportunity and were surprised at the accuracy. First he gave you a personality based off the placement of some coca leaves. You were then given a chance to ask him three questions regarding the future and he predicted based of the coca leaves again. Overall it was a very tiring and magical day.
Como te Llamas
Hello parents and readers of the GLA blog my name is Sam Ross and I am the leader of the day for June 2nd.
The Blurb- Today we continued our dig for the foundation of the green house and managed to make a significant improvement. The dirt sifters were set up to prepare the next step and the large rocks were transported closer to the trenches we’ve poured our heart into for the past few days. The afternoon was spent in the company of hungry llamas and alpacas.
The body- Llamas and alpacas are a gift unmatched by anything else. The phrase como te llamas in Spanish means what do you call yourself and I’m certain if you asked a llama that they would just say “cute” because that is what everyone calls them. We arrived at the llama preserve eager to at least see the wonderful creature we’ve come to know and love. We entered the area with the enthusiasm of a child of Christmas. Right away we were engulfed by the snuggles of several llamas. We were proved with a grass to feed them and they proceeded to rip them from our hands. How rude. They were fairly friendly but also had some upsetting moments. We learned a ton about llamas thanks to the lovely Katie. Did you know alpacas manure is great because they have three stomachs? Or that the llama is used as a pack animal but alpacas travel in packs to ward away predators? It’s amazing to think that the ancient Incans utilized these fluffy huggable beasts to advance their empire. If I could pack one of the baby alpacas in my bag I totally would, no doubt. I would train that gorgeous little beast and name him “Juan.” We visited the llama shop as we informally called it but much of the items were in a justifiable price range many of us were not ready for. It’s genuine llama or alpaca fur. We literally just fed the glorious creature that made these sweaters. It made sense but I’m sure llama gear will be plentiful on many other adventures. Very productive and dare I say it adorable day.
The Never Ending Ditch and the Orphanage
By: Katy Carlson
Today was the earliest day yet. We awoke at 6, preparing for 5 hours of continuous hole digging as we continued our service project in creating the foundation for the green house. Today’s service was different than the work we had done before. For starters we began right away continuing the ditch we had begun the past day, no time for a soccer game to warm the muscles. Instead we quickly did some group squats followed by an interesting game of human knot which not only entertained and frustrated many students in our groups but also succeeded in entertaining many of the local children getting ready for school. We put in tons of work today, creating a larger and larger pile of dirt as dug out more of the foundation. Todays motivation was definitely to dig out the largest rock. Proving how competitive teenagers truly are, we spent the hours pounding into the ground hoping to find the perfect large rock. At the end of our service time progress was definitely evident in the new dept of our ditch, many parts now past the 1 foot mark on their way to reaching its final depth of 2 feet. After a quick break for lunch we had the opportunity to visit an all boys orphanage. Some brought gifts for the boys which then turned into a coloring session for the younger boys and multiple intense games of soccer for the older boys against GLA. We soon tried to intermix the teams with both the boys and GLA participants. Never had I had such a great time playing soccer. Although communication was difficult and often times we didn’t even know each others names we were still able to play in a way where everyone was involved and had fun. After the rousing games and interactions with all the boys we got the chance to walk through the the local art market which houses floor to ceiling of many colorful and soft items ranging from sweaters to flutes to little llama statues. Finally walking home we tried to find updates of the USA Belgium game, we ended our day peacefully with the documentary on Machu Picchu, which although wasn’t as good as the one on mummies I’m sure, it was still definitely an excellent source of information.
Soccer, Charades, and a Little Bit of Service
By: Lauren Butler
We woke up bright and early to start our first day of service. I had my usual breakfast of mostly bread and the butter that is better than anything in the States. After getting off the buses at the school where we were going to build our greenhouse, we had to wait for the engineer to approve the area. So we went to another school and took a tour of their greenhouse. We later talked with and taught some kids at the school numbers in English. They were all very cute and loved seeing the pictures we took of them.
We then went back to the school that we were going to build on and it still wasn’t ready so we played soccer for a while and as per usual got very intense about it. Most of us have acclimated to the high altitude but it is still hard to run around. After tiring ourselves out a bit it was time to start the real work. With an outline for the foundation of the greenhouse laid out we all learned how to use the tools. The tools we used were pick axes, spear type things, shovels and other pointy things. We made a decent dent in the foundation and some of the guys got really into breaking apart really big rocks. We took a recess break with the kids at the school and played more soccer at which we saw the amazing talent that all the kids had. After about 2 hours of working it was time to head back to home base and get some well deserved
We later went to a town square and relaxed there for a bit. We then went to a supermarket where some of us went a little crazy on food. When we got back to the home base it was time for some Spanish class! We learned the basics and practiced talking with each other and it was a pretty fun time. At the end we sang a song way off key and mostly just let the teachers sing it. After singing our hearts out it was time to eat again. The food included amazing tomato soup and better than life
The leaders let us have some free time to relax after dinner but we soon realized that it wasn’t relaxing because we got into a very heated game of Charades. After the game we had out first presentations about community service, greenhouses, and the pyramid of motivation. They were all very interesting and we all learned something new. And we learned that some people are VERY afraid of spiders and others are spider murders. Overall it was a great day as usual in Cusco, It was a great start to building the greenhouse and fun times playing with the kids and exploring the city a bit.
Exploring Patabamba and Enjoying the View
All 19 adventurous travelers made it safely to Homebase today and completed their exciting orientation day. Tomorrow early morning our much anticipated 20th explorer, Julia Pene, will arrive and we will all embark to a Quechua community activity together.
Photo of the whole group to come tomorrow!