All students have arrived safely!
¡Bienvenidos a Peru! The majority of the group arrived a little tired but safely to the home base in the city of Cusco. We are still eagerly awaiting Iva who will be joining us tomorrow morning! Today, we began getting to know each other as everyone trickled in from different flights and ate a good lunch to re energize all after the long day of travel. In the afternoon most students went on a walk around the neighborhood and visited a market and park, some helped make a calendar, others played cards and most everyone of course took a nap to catch up on some sleep.
In the evening, before dinner we discussed the community service project we will be working on throughout the two weeks in Peru. Most mornings, we will be waking up early and heading to the village of Chocco just outside of Cusco to help lay the foundation for the greenhouse we will be building. The greenhouse will be made out of mostly mud bricks with a plastic roof – so everyone should be ready to get muddy!
Finally, we reflected on our expectations and goals for the entire program and then left time for journaling and getting an early night’s sleep. Tomorrow we head to the service site at 7am! We are all excited to get started!
– Daniele, Mentor
– Photos taken by Max Sands
Tuesday marked the first day of work on the greenhouse. We headed out at seven to begin leveling ground in the Chocco community near the local school. During our break, we had a chance to play with the children that attend the school. We played soccer and volleyball and taught a few of the kids how to play duck, duck, goose (they were really good).
After returning from service, we ate lunch, relaxed for bit, and then some of us decided to go on another walk around the neighborhood. At five we had the opportunity to listen to a speaker explain the basics of socioeconomic realities in Peru. The presentation was informative and grounding and opened a lot of our eyes to the lives of the Peruvian people we will be spending our two weeks around. Two of our GLA participants, Sharon and Marvin, acted as translators for the speaker and for the other participants in order to ask questions. Afterward, we ate dinner, met with our mentor groups, and prepared to get some sleep after our long first day of work.
– Natalie Craun
Wednesday was our second day of work and included another 5:45 wake up call. Navi, Max, and Megan were our leaders of the day and helped organize and take care of everything for the group. Our time at Chocco school was spent digging the trenches around the greenhouse and trying to level the ground inside. At the end of our time working, it was amazing to see how much we accomplished in such a short time and made us even more excited to get to work again. During our break, we had the opportunity to teach the kids kickball. They had so much fun and were naturals at it! We were also lucky enough to have the kids teach us some games that they play at school.
After returning from the work site, we had a delicious lunch and then attended a music workshop with a wind instrument professor from the local university. We had the opportunity to see and play many instruments from the Incan and other Andean cultures. It was very informative and such a fun experience while learning more about the culture of the people in the Cusco region.
We ate dinner after the workshop and had time to get into our mentor groups and discuss our highs and lows of the day. We also did an activity to learn what kind of leadership style every person has, which was very interesting. After the mentor group meeting, we picked the leaders of the day for tomorrow and went over the schedule for the next day. By this time, we were so ready to get a good night’s sleep and prepare for work tomorrow.
– Iva Reckling
We also celebrated Carson’s 17th birthday! The leaders of the day decorated his door with balloons. We gave him a crown and cake at dinner and practiced the Peruvian tradition of cracking a confetti egg over his head at each meal!!
Another day of dealing with the 5:45 am wake-up call, to drive over to the Chocco community to continue on our greenhouse. The greenhouse is still currently mounds of dirt, piles of rock, and a semi-constructed trench. Up to our first snack break at 10:30 am, we were almost equally divided into two groups, one responsible for carrying the heavy rocks from uphill down to the site, the other deepening the foundations for the greenhouse. During the snack break, some of us walked down to a small shack that sells Peruvian snacks and enjoyed packs of “picante” nachos and something like cheese puffs. This is when Bianca, one of our mentors, introduced a Peruvian fruit whose outside resembles a type of pomegranate, but whose inside resembles amphibian eggs or brains. After the break, some of us played soccer with the school boys while some played some catch games with the school girls. Our bonds are becoming tighter, and we are starting to learn each other’s names. When we got back to work, almost all of us were carrying rocks to build the foundation. The conversations that flow uphill and downhill during our rock carrying trips are extremely fun, and at times, incredibly insightful. By lunch, our foundation was almost 70 cm deep. We leave the site each day with a sense of pride and accomplishment.
After lunch, we drive to an orphanage that houses 36 boys. After a few minutes of getting to know each other, we started a friendly but intense soccer game that players of all levels could enjoy. We clapped for the professional soccer players (most of them were the boys there) and laughed at the lighthearted attempts of the amateur soccer players. We were always supportive, took victory with spirit, took defeat with laughter. After capturing a few pictures, we drove back to home base for dinner. After dinner, we enjoyed a short video from UNESCO and a lecture from a guest speaker about the health conditions of children in Peru. The lecture opened our eyes to such grave issues that we never knew were so close to us.
After an insightful discussion in the mentor groups, we either went to bed, watched a Tedtalk on leadership, or practiced emotional meditation.
And that is the end of a great fourth day with GLA.
– Fasai Phuathavornskul
Today was our fourth and final day of service. After our early wakeup call, we headed to the work site and started our day with an awesome Zumba session led by Emily for warm up. So much progress had been made on the site, but we still needed to deepen the trenches surrounding the greenhouse and collect more rocks before we can start filling the foundation. After working hard all morning, we were happy to get a break to play with the kids. One group played a big game of duck-duck goose while another learned how to throw the Frisbee. The kids are really starting to connect with everyone and had so much fun taking pictures and just hanging out with us. As their school day ended, they joined us in working on the greenhouse. They were happy to help shovel dirt and carry rocks for us, and we were definitely happy to have them around to entertain and make us smile. The work day ended with lots of hugs as we said adios to the kids for the weekend.
We headed home for lunch and showers before getting to go to the city center of Cusco for the afternoon. We started in an art district and really enjoyed looking at all of the little shops. Many students left the shops with wool sweaters, socks, or hats. We walked through the beautiful alley ways that still contain original Incan stone and ended up in the beautiful Plaza de Armas. Everyone was amazed by the beauty and excitement of the square. We continued on to the San Pedro Market that featured everything from wool clothing and souvenir shops to stands that held full dead pigs. Everyone got the chance to walk around, shop, and take everything in the market in. After the market we walked through the city some more and were lucky to see a procession that goes along with the many fiestas and festivals of the month of June. Our time in the city ended with a trip to Starbucks where everyone was eager to get some internet. Unfortunately, the WIFI was very slow and many students were unable to connect. We may try to find another place to get internet in the coming days. We had a long walk back from the city center to the home base for dinner. Everyone really enjoyed their time in the city and loved the beauty and energy of it. It was an exciting day, and we look forward to spend tomorrow visiting Patabamba, a small rural town.
– Megan Bechtel
Today we woke up and got to enjoy some exhilarating Zumba classes led by our friend Emily Choi, which made the 5:45 wake-up much more enjoyable. After that, we departed for a one-hour road trip to Patabamba for an authentic experience with host families. We divided into four groups to work with different families and follow their daily work schedule. Each group had different tasks and stories to tell when they finished. Whether it was picking lima beans, taking care of “Cuy” (guinea pigs), plowing, or separating quinoa for a delicious soup, each group enjoyed both their work and an amazing meal afterward. At the end of the day, hard work payed off as everyone got to participate in a friendly game of soccer. Although everyone was worn out by the end, being able to learn so much about Peruvian communities made the whole experience worthwhile.
In the evening before bed we discussed the similarities and differences we saw between the Patabamba community and our own homes. We then watched a video called “The Story of Stuff” which highlighted consumption in the United States and then reflected on the differences we saw in the self sustainable community.
Tomorrow we get to sleep in till 7:45!
– Leaders of the Day: Carson Fechter, Emily Choi, Sharon Olguin
The first day waking up at 7:45 was extremely satisfying. All of us trotted down to breakfast at 8 am, acknowledging how rested and energized we feel. By 9 am, we left home base to a sight-seeing point in Tambo Machay. Our tour guide, Cesar, met us at the bottom of the hill and started introducing Incan history. Up at the top, piles of perfectly irregularly-fitting rocks mark the beginning of the Incan trail. We gaze towards the blue sky dropping against the landscape of partially arid hills and snow-covered mountains in the distance. After enjoying the landscape for a while, we advanced to Puca Pucara, where the view was even more overwhelming. We were standing on the edge of a cliff, acknowledging the wise ways of the Incans, listening to how the seasons and the sun and the moon defined their lives. Then, we arrived at Q’enko, where huge piles of rocks formed an abstract monument. Cesar explained that during the summer solstice, June 21, the positioning of the sun will allow the rocks to cast a shadow of the puma, a symbol of the present. Here, we learn the 3 significant animals of the Incans: the snake, signifying the past; the puma, signifying the present, and the condor, signifying the future. Cesar then led us into the rocks. After enjoying the rocks, Cesar surprised us with a maze. The entrance foreshadowed how dark and narrow the space between the rocks would be, almost encouraging some of us to back out. It was indeed pitch-black, with the four sides of rock squeezing us in. We were scared and anxious, but pushed past our limits of fear and finally appeared on the other side of the tunnel, where a beautiful amphitheater made of rocks and a wide field of grass waited for us. Up against the blue sky was a beautiful rock with a striped pattern. We were excited when Cesar told us that we could use the rock as a slider. Without hesitation, we climbed up and slid down the rocks together, 2 at a time. By the time we were done playing, Cesar led us to Sacsayhuaman, where three layers of huge rocks and an amazing landscape waited for us. We climbed up to the top and enjoyed the view of Cusco. It was a city in a bowl of mountains; we could see the stadium and traced the path on which we walked the other day. By the time we were finished with photos, it was lunchtime.
We went to a traditional Incan restaurant, where we danced to a live band of Peruvian instrumentalists. Some of us enjoyed Alpaca, but all of us opened our eyes to more exotic dishes. After finishing lunch, we ventured down to Cusco City to tour the local religious sites. Cesar showed us around Cusco’s Cathedral and explained the effects of the Spanish culture on the implementation of Christianity in Peru. Next, we followed Cesar to the Qoricancha, or more commonly referred to as the Sun Temple. In the temple, Cesar showed us a multitude of paintings and a single stone that wrapped around fourteen corners- not one, but fourteen! Following the temple, we lively engaged with locals to buy everything from paintings and sunglasses to selfie-sticks and Inca Cola! Noah even battled the selfie-stick seller to see which one of them could get the better selfie. For the win, Noah took a whole group selfie!
After a full day, we all gathered around the dinner table to enjoy family style dining. From our gluten free to our vegetarians, we always have a wide variety of foods. Once we were all full, we gathered upstairs for a bonding game. After lots of laughing and sharing, we said “Buenas Noches” and went to bed.
Your Aspiring World Travelers,
Noah, Fasai, and Christina
P.S. Christina sends a shout out to Mom, Dad, Nana, and Josh! Love you! Miss you!
P.S.S. Noah sends a shout out to Mom, Dad, Justin, and Evan!
Hi there, parents of our friends. Today we had another early morning, waking at 5:45 am, and started our day with some caramel pancakes. We then headed out at 7 am to our service site. To warm up we did some Zumba and a round of Ninja. Then we started work moving rocks and shoveling dirt. After we began to mix mud using our feet. We started the first layers of our foundation just before the rain. By the end of our work we were all covered in mud. After reaching back to home base we ate lunch then headed out to visit an Alpaca and Llama farm. It was so cool to be able to feed and pet the animals. One even spat on Marvin. We watched some traditional Peruvian weavers and visited some Peruvian shops on our way out. We then visited the market to buy any final trekking gear. We also stocked up on animal crackers. To finish the day we had a great dinner and had some free time before bed.
Lots of love from you’re favs Remy, Charlotte, and Farah.
Today we woke up at our usual 5:45 and went to work at the service site. We participated in a furious game of ninja and some masterful mud-stomping to form the base of the wall for the greenhouse. Sadly, today was the last day to play with the kids at their recess, so we said our goodbyes. We came back to the home base for lunch and were greeted by the 21-day group. We departed for the Shaman at 2:30. The Shaman’s job was to make an offering to Mother Earth and read our fortunes through coca leaves. Afterward, we went to the market to buy food for the hiking trip tomorrow. Then we went back to home base and prepared for our trek and got our duffel bags packed full of camping supplies. We also prepared our day bags with sunscreen, extra layers, snacks, and water. Everyone went to bed early, excited for the upcoming days of hardcore hiking through the breathtaking Andes Mountains.
– Carson, James, Camrin
Today consisted of another 5:45 a.m. wake up and the beginning of our trek through the Andes. After breakfast, we rode the bus for about two and a half hours to the beginning of the route we would take. On our way there, we were able to stop the bus at an absolutely amazing view point. The sky was totally clear and presented a great opportunity to see two of the major mountains in the area. At the end of the bus ride, we all bundled up for trekking near Mount Veronica. The hike was hard, but the views were spectacular. At the top of the first pass, we were already at 14,900 feet, and a few people went up higher to get to 15,000. We ate our snack by a beautiful lake and continued on to have lunch later in the day. After lunch, we hiked mostly uphill for another few hours until we arrived at the campsite for the night. We were greeted with hot chocolate and popcorn by the porters followed by another great dinner. Afterwards, we were all ready to get some rest and get ready for another day of trekking.
– Iva Reckling
After getting to sleep in a little bit before the next leg of our trek, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast up in the Andes. There was a long way to hike before catching the bus to our next location, so we got started right away. We trekked along for about 6 hours through the muddy mountains and valleys and then began our drive to Santa Teresa. About two and a half hours later, we arrived and were ready to walk the rest of the way to Aguascalientes at the base of Machu Picchu. Although it was dark and people were getting a little bit crabby, the walk was very nice and flat. The jungle and the river provided a very unique ambience and made for a great trek. We arrived a little bit later than expected, but still enjoyed an awesome dinner and were all ready for a good night’s sleep to prepare for Machu Picchu early tomorrow morning.
– Iva Reckling
Today was met with a bright and early wakeup call at 4:00 in the morning for those who wanted to hike up to Machu Picchu. Bianca led sixteen students and Clint up the 1,669 steps that lead to the ruins. The hike was very challenging, but definitely worth it. After getting to the entrance of the ruins, we wandered around for about an hour before meeting up with the rest of our group and the tour guide. The early morning was very foggy and the view of the ruins wasn’t great, but throughout the day the sun came out and made for a beautiful tour. Learning about the history of the city and the surrounding area was very eye opening into the cultural history of Peru. Getting to see one of the Seven Wonders of the World was probably one of the coolest things that I, personally, have ever gotten to do. Being at the site of so much history was a very unique experience, and the views are some that we will never forget. After a long day at Machu Picchu, we took a train from the city of Aguascalientes to Ollaytantumbo along the same tracks that we walked next to last night. From Ollaytantumbo, we took a bus back to home base. Many of us were so exhausted after a long day that we spent most of the rides catching up on our rest. After getting home, we enjoyed a quick dinner and had one of our last mentor meetings before going straight to bed.
– Iva Reckling
Today was the last day at our service site. We all woke up at our regular 5:45am time to eat breakfast and get a full morning of work in before lunch. Some of the children from the community came to school to spend one last day with us. Some of them helped us work while others played ultimate frisbee and the human knot during our break. We continued to line the perimeter with rocks layered with a mud paste in between. Navi, Cristina, Iva, James and Marvin were the fearless volunteers to get knee high in the mud to help mix the straw and dirt. Although a little messy, we all had a lot of fun. Even after a rigorous few days of hiking everyone was working hard to get to a good stopping point on the project before the next group arrived. Max filmed a few clips of everyone working in order to compile a video for future groups of students to understand the process of building an adobe greenhouse. We played music as we worked and spent a really awesome last day together with our shovels and pick axes.
After coming home from an arduous and bittersweet last morning at the work site we all tucked in to a hearty meal at home base. As always, the kitchen crew outdid themselves, serving up a plate of asado, tarwi and rice alongside the usual kaleidoscopic salad buffet. Afterwards, the group quickly took showers and donned their best outfits before sitting down for one last ‘huggle’. The last two weeks have been inspiring, rewarding, enlightening and life-changing and together we discussed the future, how to use this experience to benefit ourselves as well as others, and the myriad of ways that we can be the change. Hosting a fundraiser for a cause we feel passionate about, continuing our paths as ambassadors of change through organizations like Peace Corps and AmeriCorps and helping out a friend in need are just a few of the ways we can continue to make a difference. After watching a few inspirational TedTalks and enjoying a meaningful discussion on leadership, we took a moment to vote for our program ambassadors and reflect on the traits that we appreciate and admire in each other. The group has grown tremendously close in just 14 days and the kind and heartfelt words of admiration brought a few of us to tears.
Then, it was off to go shopping! Fun and games aside, everyone had some serious last minute shopping to do for their friends and family at home, so we hastily took off to the San Pedro market located in the heart of downtown Cusco. The cavernous market sells all sorts of goods from cow snouts to handicrafts to fresh cut flowers and the entire group took some time to stock up on Peruvian chocolates and other oddities. Afterwards we walked through the lively and crowded streets of Cusco, past some impressively constructed floats and towards the handicraft market. Here we spent an hour and a half walking from stall to stall, buying the perfect gifts for everyone awaiting our return back home.
Shopping aside, it was then time for our farewell dinner. We headed back towards the center of Cusco where we enjoyed a generous buffet of old and new Peruvian dishes such as alpaca steak, trout, causa and the infamous guinea pig (or cuy, as they call it here). As we enjoyed our meal, Felipe (Phillip) gave a moving speech and we then announced our five program ambassador nominees. Though there have been so many strong leaders in the program, the group decided that Marvin, Kennedy, Iva, Adam and Felipe had gone above and beyond and should have the opportunity to act as program ambassadors in the year to come. We wish them the best of luck in the application process!
Dinner was also accompanied by traditional Peruvian music as well as a show of several customary Peruvian dances such as the festejo and marinera. During one of the songs we all got up and started a conga line, snaking through the many tables as we shimmied our bums and howled with laughter.
Back at the home base we checked in one last time with our mentor groups, reflecting on our highs and lows of the day. During this trip we’ve met and bonded with a slew of talented and inspirational characters and it was tough processing the fact that this would be our last evening spent in the presence of each other. After some lengthy and tearful group hugs we all headed back to our rooms to pack and try to get a few hours of sleep before the early morning departures.
P.S. You guys are absolutely brilliant and it was a pleasure to have met you all! Remember that with determination, discipline and a positive outlook you can follow that dream and be the change! Love you all!!
Today is a bittersweet day as everyone is heading home. We all woke up at the early hour of 3:10 to say our farewells to Carmin. After some hugs and tears we went back to bed for a few hours before waking up at 6:00 to send off Marvin, Phillip, and Fasai, and then Christina, Emily, and James shortly after. Everyone else will be hanging out at home base and enjoying our final moments together before we head to the airport later in the afternoon. We were all such a close knit group, so the goodbyes have been hard. We have all written numbers and social media names so that we can stay in touch. Although we are excited to return home to see family and friends, our incredible experience in Peru will surely be missed.
All students have departed safely and are on their way home!