Friday June 28, 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.
After early airport pickups in Cusco, 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.
Our wonderful home base is called the Garden Lodge, the hospitable staff prepared our first meal for us, a Peruvian dish called Salpicón de pollo! It was delicious! At dinner we had Arroz Chaufa: a mix of “salsa de soya, vegetales, aji amarillo, pimentones, pollo frito and cebollita china” (yes, we all started to learn some Spanish!)
To close our first day, we had a fun game all together, called “Get to Know your Mentors” where students interviewed our team and had to answered fun but also meaningful questions!
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!
Stay tuned for the next blog!
The GLA Staff: Ale, Greta, Ila and Matt
Saturday June 29, 2019
We woke up on our first morning of our Peru trip. After eating a wonderful breakfast, we went into town for our first outside experience. There, we learned about the history of Ollantaytambo, the town we are staying in. we learned about the story of love that is embedded in their history. We then walked around for a while observing the people and the cultures around us. After that we headed back to home base split up into four groups and created different skits about safety. Then we learned even more about the Inka people and their impact on Peru and the place it is today.
After our delicious lunch, Aji de Frijoles con Tortillas de Quinoa, we headed back into town to do some market place exploring and buying. We went on to use this time to practice our Spanish and interactions with local. Earlier that we practiced communicating with people who may not speak the same language as we do. While I felt prepared going into town and interacting with people it is very different when you are faced with a real situation that requires you to do something that most of us had never done before. Although, after one or two interactions we got the hang of it and were confidant dealing with the rest of the day. After that we headed out to see our first ruins. It was amazing to experience the past first hand after hearing so much about it!
After getting back to home base we proceeded to play more team building and communications game. These forced us to communicate and rely on each other more than most of us though we would have to. Some of us brushed up on our soccer skills so that we can crush the game that will be played against the other GLA group, next Tuesday. In the evening, we played a game that allowed us to open up and get to know each other better. In my opinion I would say that our first full day was a complete success and I can’t wait for the rest of the week!
– Written by Audry
Sunday June 30, 2019
Today we woke up excited to start our first day of service out of five total on our trip. We had a delicious breakfast and headed down to our service site, which was a short two-minute walk away. We were introduced to the Sacred Valley Service Project, the organization that we were helping, by a volunteer named Lane. She explained that the organization helps girls from the ages of 11-18 get their secondary education by providing then housing during the week.
Without the opportunity to stay in these dorms, many girls would have a 3-10 hour walk to school each day which is neither sustainable nor safe. We started our service by moving heavy adobe bricks to a location where volunteer housing was going to be built, under the amazing view of the snow-capped mountains. After a delicious lunch provided to us at the dorm we continued with other small tasks. This was a very rewarding day of service knowing that we were helping out such an amazing organization and one that stands for female empowerment and we can’t wait to do more in the days to come!
After a short break at our home base we headed out on a hike to see some breath taking views and Incan ruins. The high altitude made it a little more difficult on all of us physically, at over 10,000 feet, but we all pushed through and it was completely worth it when we reached the top. We spent a bit of time talking in the incredible views and exploring the ruins.
We finished off our day back at home base having an intense debate acting as different organizations about whether or not to introduce more tourism into Peruvian communities. This was super eye opening into the pro’s and con’s of tourism as well as how many factors go into making government decision. We finished the day tired and excited to start the next leg of our Peruvian adventure!
Written by student Natalie
Monday July 1, 2019
To start the month of July, we took an hour bus ride to a small weaving community called Rumira Sondormayo. As we were introduced by the enthusiastic and friendly village families, they started the activities by showing us how they produce threads of alpaca hair, with natural dyes and wooden spinning tools. We also got to wear handmade skirts and ponchos. Next, we separated into groups, where we learned how to make friendship bracelets and watched the women making scarves.
After making our own colorful bracelets that we got to keep, they introduced us to their annual alpaca wedding ceremony! We danced with the villagers and got to participate in the ritual, which was very interesting. Along with the alpaca experience, we got to dig up holes in their potato gardens. Finally, we got to buy different kinds of bracelets, scarves, hats, bags, and gloves, after we ate an authentic homemade meal to conclude our morning trip.
After our return from the weaving community, we got some free time and later met together for an hour to talk about our personal values, as our mentor group activity. Although the schedule for today was filled with fun, the soccer game versus the other GLA photography group was the highlight of the day. We began the pre-game process a little hesitant, even though we made a special poster, team name, and songs.
But as the game went on, we pushed through our doubts and ended up winning the match 3-1! To celebrate our glorious victory, we walked back to home base and had a great victory dinner. Overall, we reached our goal of winning the game and had loads of fun all day. I cannot wait for tomorrow to come and the rest of the trip!
-Written by Lauren
Tuesday July 2, 2019
On our 5th day, we all woke up earlier then usually so we could make to rafting on the Urubamba river. After a long two hours and 45-minute bus ride, we were all ready to get up and start moving and rafting. Changing into our wetsuits, jackets, life-jackets, wet boots, and helmets we were ready to go rafting! Ensuring us that the rapist were classes two and three, we all got a quick training on what to do when in the water and what to do if we fell out. Thankfully, no one fell out. Breaking up into three groups, we all were reading to go rafting!
Once in the water, we all had a blast splashing each other with the water. During the rafting, we stopped at a deep and calm part of the river. Out tour guide pointed a large rock that we could climb and then jump into the water. A few of us decided to go for it and leaped right off into the water. Don’t worry, no one got hurt. Continuing down the river, we persisted in slashing one other whenever our rafts got close.
Coming out from the water, we all were freezing cold from the water. Taking shelter in the sauna, we all enjoyed warming up from the heat. Once changed we had a lunch and were ready to head back to home base. As the bus ride was long, most of us slept, but we were all happy when we had a little break. Stopping at the Pisaq market, we were able to shop for a variety of things, such as scarves, sweaters, alpaca dolls, and more.
Arriving back to home base, we had dinner and celebrated Natalie’s birthday! We sang Happy Birthday, in Spanish of course, and ate cake. We finished the day with a fun game of Mafia and excitement for the days ahead.
– Written by student Liz
Wednesday July 3, 2019
After breakfast at 8:00, we all participated in a surprise activity that led us throughout the town. We were split up into two teams. Each team competed to finish a scavenger hunt that made us talk to locals, explore new places in Ollantaytambo, and learn more about modern-day Peru and Peruvian history. Some of the clues were trivia-based while others required photos of various places.
However, we were not allowed to use our phones or mentors for help. To answer one of the trivia questions, we had to find out who the captain of the Peruvian soccer team was. Meanwhile, another question asked when Peru first gained independence. Another question allowed to learn a Quechua phrase. We all talked to locals (mostly in Spanish) and attempted to learn the answers.
For some of the other questions, we had to travel through town and take group selfies at various locations. Both groups went to the entrance to the ruins, the train station, and the main soccer field in the town. In the end, both teams tied (54-54 points). My team barely won through an intense tie-breaker question.
After a delicious lunch, the group split up. Some chose to go on a hike while others did yoga in the sun room. Those who were tired took a nap. I chose to go on a hike. We crossed the train tracks and then the river along a narrow bridge. Afterwards, we began to walk uphill along a dirt and stone trail. As the hike progressed, we rose higher and higher, gaining a better and better view of the town and surrounding mountains. After about an hour, we reached the peak of the hike.
From the trail, we could Mt. Victoria’s snowy peak in the distance. We could also see our town and “home-base” from above. Most of us were tired, and the hike down provided us relief from the sun’s heat. Soon, everyone was done with the hike, yoga, and naps, and were ready to go the chocolate museum at 3:15.
At first, we learned a little bit about how chocolate is traditionally made in Peru. Then, we began to cook out own cocoa beans. We peeled the beans, and grinded the inside of them. WE were able to try two different types of traditional hot chocolate and a traditional cocoa tea (made from the shells of the beans). Afterwards, we molded and flavored our own chocolate using templates.
While the chocolate cooled, we visited the store and many of us bought even more chocolate. When we returned to “home-base,” we had dinner and then watched a movie called Pachamama, about the Inca, Spanish, and small Peruvian villages. We all enjoyed popcorn and soon fell asleep.
-Written by student Andy
Thursday July 4, 2019
This morning after breakfast, we set off for the service site to help construct the foundation of a greenhouse. This involved leveling out the land and making piles of sifted dirt so that they could make bricks for the buildings. After about four hours of some intense labor, we had lunch at the service site which included wheat soup and a Aji de Gallina (chicken dish with a cream sauce and rice).
After lunch, we continued working on the foundation site for about 45 minutes and then returned to home base. We had a short siesta/shower break for about an hour and a half, and then returned to the service site, except this time we went to visit the girls living at the dorms. We introduced ourselves to them along with our favorite foods, and then played two games with them, the first being Sharks and Minnows (it’s like tag except there’s multiple taggers) and volleyball. I got a bit too excited accidently spiked the ball too hard and it went over the cliff, but fortunately Matt was able to retrieve it.
After that, we went back to home base to prepare for our next outing- going to the Wi-Fi café to relax and have some phone time. We stayed there for about an hour until it closed, and then went over to a shop next to it to browse around. We then went to a restaurant for a 4th of July pizza dinner, which we had all ordered the day before. The pizza was delicious, and our dinner even got a surprise visit from a street dog we had met a few days before.
After dinner, we went back to home base and did a “special activity” which was a salsa dancing session! A lot of us had a hard time at first since it was a little confusing learning the steps, but near the end a lot of us were starting to get the hang of dancing to the beat and doing twirls. Not me, though since I have two left feet.
Written by student Namso
Friday July 5, 2019
This morning after breakfast, we set off for the service site to continue the work at the girls dorms. Today’s tasks involved moving some stones that are mean to be used to delign paths at the garden area. We worked really hard and had all the stones moved by lunch. This took us around 4 hours, and then we had lunch at the service site which included wheat soup (with some amazing bread and pico de gallo salad) and Lomo Saltado (beef dish with some fries).
After lunch, we moved to the garden area and continued working on the foundation site for about half an hour and then returned to home base, were we had a short siesta/shower break for about an hour.
During the afternoon, we had the visit of a local chaman, who shared with us the “pago a la tierra” ceremony, a very traditional event in which people make request to the mother earth through an offering (paper bag filled with seeds, sand, coca leaves and other symbolic objects). After this, a local author came to share with us a short talk about Andean vision of the world, coming from the Inca heritage.
Dinner time was filled with some nice food (beef with soy sauce dish) and the day ended with a discussion regarding volunteering and the impact we’re having here.
We are excited for tomorrow!
Saturday July 6, 2019
Today we had service and it rocked! Even on Saturday, service don’t stop! We continued moving some stones that are mean to be used to delign paths at the garden area. We worked really hard and had all the stones moved before lunch. Then, we started varnishing wood to make the dorm look nicer for the girls that live there. We even got a special snack break today that included animal crackers! Our lunch at service was delicious, it included pumpkin cream(with some amazing bread and pico de gallo salad) and Quinoa salad, Grilled chicken and mashed potatoes. We went back to our home base after lunch to shower and take a break.
In the afternoon we piled in the van and headed to an awesome adventure! We went to El Jardin de Mamitas which is the studio of local Peruvian artist Alberto Lama. At his studio, we got to do many fun activities which included making ceramic works of art, using watercolors, and print making. We had an opportunity to try stop animation too! The afternoon also included a spontaneous concert from Alberto (who plays guitar and sings) and his friend Javier, it was beautiful. We got to support Alberto and his art by purchasing some of it after the workshop!
After we got back, we formed our shout-out circle and reflected on the exciting day that we had! We had a scrumptious dinner, some tasty Arroz a la Jardinera (Gardener’s rice) with some bread and side salad. We ended the night playing a round of telephone pictionary and we laughed until our hearts were content!
Really looking forward for the following days.
Tomorrow will be our last day of service!
Sunday July 7, 2019
To start off the day, we had a pancake breakfast before our last morning at the service site. We split up into two groups, one sanding wooden posts for the building of a fence around the greenhouse foundation, while the other group varnished. We worked for about an hour and a half, took a break and watched the US women’s soccer team win the world cup, and then continued to work for another hour. We ended our service work with a delicious lunch, corn soup and pasta with pesto, and said goodbye to The Sacred Valley Project dorms and staff.
Upon returning to home base, we had a trek briefing explaining the exciting Lares trek awaiting the next two days. Directly following the trek meeting, we had our final curriculum activity. We started off by writing down what we have learned during the trip and how we can apply that knowledge to “be the change” when we return home. We then filled out personal OMG (One Meaningful Goal) worksheets, where we each created a specific goal we are hoping to achieve when we arrive home. To end the activity, we created a OMGG (One Meaningful Group Goal) as a way for us to combine our goals into something we can all work towards. Our OMGG is to become more active in our community and causes we believe in, and the outcome of our goal is to understand the impact we are making in our community.
To end the afternoon, we headed to a Wi-Fi café where we could use Wi-Fi and buy food. We spent the time until dinner walking around town and shopping, some people got snacks for the trek! After a yummy dinner of quinoa salad, potatoes, and chicken, we had time to clean our rooms and finish packing for the hike. Because of the early start the next day, we were in bed early to rest for the trek and the last days of the trip.
Written by student Stephanie
Monday July 8 and Tuesday July 9, 2019
The day was finally here. The Lares Trek! Taking showers the night before, everybody wanted to get as much sleep as possible. My roomies set a timer for 5:30 in the morning, and people didn’t get out of bed until 15 quick minutes had passed. Breakfast was at 6, and we had to promptly get on the bus at 6:30. It was a 3 hour ride and luckily the seats were almost comfy.
We got there and had a quick meeting with our guides about what to expect. Then we were off! Already, maybe a minute in, I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath. It felt like I had been running for 30 minutes already. That’s when I discovered coca leaves. Coca leaves are a super food that help with altitude. After I left them in my mouth for a while, I was feeling energized and like I could actually breathe. That was the easy part of the trek though. The hardest part was still to come on the next day.
We ended hiking the first day feeling very tired. We still had to blow up our sleeping mats and roll out our sleeping bags, and the hopefulness of warmth was a great motivator to do so. We played mafia and quickly had dinner and were off to bed. It’s debatable that going to sleep was harder than the actual hike. It was so cold that some people didn’t get to bed until 11 when we had a full day of hiking to do the next day.
Nonetheless, we woke up at 6 to hot tea being offered to us. Everyone had to bundle up in their warmest layers to even think about going outside of their warm sleeping bag. For breakfast we had fruit salad, granola, and pancakes with an optional topping of dulce de leche (YUM!).
The first hour of hiking was steep uphill and very challenging on our lungs. But then we reached our highest point of the trek overlooking a snowcapped mountain (and many other mountains), and added our own rocks to an apacheta (those stacks of rocks that you see at the beach or on a hiking trail). The next hours of our hike were either downhill or on flats. This is when some of us got to know the pleasure of what is using an Inca toilet which is anywhere you can find. I think everyone should do that at least once in their life.
We saw many llamas and alpacas although I still can’t quite tell which is which. The time that we were hiking seemed like a lot when we were actually doing it, but when we were finally, completely done with the hike, it felt like we had just left home base 2 hours ago. After a well-deserved lunch, we traveled back to Ollantaytambo and took showers and rested before going to a buffet style dinner and catching the train to Aguas Calientes!
Written by student Chloe
Wednesday July 10, 2019
Hello GLA families! Today we woke up very excited for the best day ever: Machu Picchu! We had a good breakfast before the big day today. We finished eating breakfast at 7:00. Our Flower Power group walked 10 to 15 to the bus. Our bus was late but we got there on time. We arrived into the bus, and it was about a 20 to 25 minute drive to Machu Picchu.
When we arrived, we waited around 10 min because our Flower Power group had to use the restroom. After everybody used the restroom We all walked up to the entrance of Machu Picchu. When we enter to Machu Picchu we took an amazing group picture. Then we split into two groups. A very nice guy name David was our tour guide. David took us down around Machu Picchu and showed us the most important places in Machu Picchu. We were there for 3 hours and left around 12:00
When we left Machu Picchu we took a bus to go to lunch. The bus ride was about half an hour. When we arrived for lunch I had a delicious Soup with vegetables with rice and chicken on the side but for dessert we had pancakes with chocolate on top😊. When we all finished eating, we went shopping nearby where we ate our lunch and we had half an hour to go shopping. So after we all gathered together as a group and went to the train station!
We were waiting to go into the train for about 30 minutes. When our train came we gave them our passports and the train ticket. When we all were in the train ready to go back to the base, we had a great time hanging out in the train, playing cards and looking at the beautiful view out the window. The train took about 2 hours to get to our destination. When we arrived we walked for a good 20 to 25 min to go back to the base. When we arrived at the base we had 30 min to do anything you want in the base. Then we came to the main part of the base and had a fun shout out circle. After the shout out circle we all played a game Appreciation circle. IT WAS A VERY FUN GROUP GAME!
After we went to dinner it was a very good restaurant the food was super delicious. We walked back to the base after we were done eating. When we arrived at the base we had the BEST TALENT SHOW EVER!! Then lights out at 11:00
HAD SO MUCH FUN😊
-By student Jose
On our final morning together in Ollantaytambo, we got to sleep in a bit and have breakfast together 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 scrambled eggs and sad eyes, 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.
After lunch we packed into the van for the final time and headed to Cusco to go 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! Thank you for following along with us on this impactful journey in Peru, adios!
-by Greta, Ale, Matt & Ila