This blog is for the Peru split session starting June 16, 2019, which includes both the 14-day and the 21-day student groups.
Tuesday July 16, 2019
A message from our leader of the day, Meredith:
After months of preparation, the day finally arrived for everyone to set off to Peru. We all couldn’t wait to experience the great culture of Peru, some of us coming from as far as Asia to participate.
After hours of traveling, we finally arrived in Cusco, Peru. Leaving the city, we traveled through the countryside to the beautiful town of Ollantaytambo, our home for the next 14-21 days.
On the first day, we were already able to begin forming new friendships and bond as we explored the cobblestone streets of Ollantaytambo. After today, I am very excited to see what is to come during Service Through the Lens.
A message from the Service Through the Lens mentors:
Welcome students of GLA’s Service Through the Lens program in Peru! From all of the staff here, we are so excited to share these next few weeks with you and show you the beautiful country of Peru. Sadly, we are still missing several of our participants due to flight complications. Isabella and Acacia, we can’t wait to meet you and we’ll see you super soon! A little bit more about us mentors: we’re Tona, Erin, Sam and Brooke.
All of us have at least year of GLA programming under our belt, and varied backgrounds in adventure education, archeology, language education and social work. We’re here to care and serve as a resource for your kids throughout the program. You can expect an update from us each day, so stay tuned for more stories, photos and shenanigans from our Service Through the Lens program! Thank you for trusting us with your kids; we are going to have so much fun, and we can’t wait to see how our participants grow and learn in the coming weeks of service and adventure!
– Tona, Sam, Erin and Brooke
Wednesday July 17, 2019
Today we woke up at 7AM to eat breakfast— heaps of eggs, pancakes, pancito, and fresh fruit. After, we went to the nearby soccer field to play some games. We started with an icebreaker, and then sharks and minnows, a human knot activity, and lastly, a team-building activity that involved blind-folding people and collecting water bottles. We had a lot of fun and had the chance to bond with everyone. Specifically, the human knot was really funny and challenging.
We then came back to Home Base and started orientation. We were happy to welcome Acacia and Isabela to our program shortly after! We had a lunch of rice, potatoes and pork with some type of sauce. After lunch, our National Director, Manuel, talked about the service we will be doing in the highland communities above Ollantaytambo. After we discussed the program rules and how we all want to be treated as a group; we also did a skit to demonstrate these rules.
We went back to the soccer field afterwards and played a game to find out our similarities and differences; the differences part was fun because we got to find out weird facts about each other and learn more about one another.
In the late afternoon, we walked around town and checked out the markets and local stores of Ollantaytambo. We had dinner and then the Peru Service in the Sacred Valley program came over to listen to a social media presentation by Erin. After, we broke out into mentor groups to discuss the presentation. We’re so happy that everyone is here and that we are getting along and connecting more.
Thursday July 18, 2019
We woke up early to the sound of roosters, had a delicious breakfast and then loaded up into vans to go to our service site at 8.
We took a one-Hour, beautiful ride to reach the highland community of Patacancha, where we will be doing our service.
At the school, we learned that we will be making a reading lounge for students who live at the school, Monday- Friday. These kids come from even higher mountain communities, reachable only by foot, hours away.
There is a large shed on the school grounds we will be using as a base for our lounge. So, we first had to clean out the shed, which was filled with wood.
We worked together to carry pieces of wood out of the area and we made good progress.
Then, we played a soccer match with some of the school students. Although we lost, everyone had fun. Then we drove back to the home base and had lunch.
After lunch, we had our first photography lesson from a local photographer, Carlos. We reviewed camera basics and took pictures of llama key chains that we had been given. It was fun to think of creative ways to place the llama.
Then, we ate dinner and had a cake for Ali’s birthday. Finally, we had a Spanish and Quechua lesson in which we learned phrases in each language to help us communicate with the locals.
Friday July 19, 2019
Today we woke up at 7:00 and had a delicious breakfast of eggs, pancakes, fruit and fresh squeezed juice. After breakfast was finished we headed to do our service where we split up into two groups. One group who leveled the ground and the other cleaning out the area for the reading lounge by taking the wood down. Half way through service we took a snack brake and had potatoes and eggs as a normal peruvian snack. We then played soccer and lost again but it’s ok because we tried. After that we went back to
Home Base and had lunch of avocado, rice and chicken. We then had a break and got to hang out with one another, until it was time for photography class. Where we went to the Incan ruins and took our class there. We took several pictures there and had them critiqued by Carlos. We went back home and had dinner of fried rice, it was delicious ;). Finally we headed to the WiFi cafe for our mentor groups and to call our parents. It was an amazing day!
Saturday July 20, 2019
Today we woke up to breakfast at 7:30 (30 more minutes of sleep, yay!) and then headed out to service at 8am.
We made a lot of progress in the library, the greenhouse, and the future greenhouse. We are almost done clearing wood from the deposit, which we will turn into a library. We also leveled some ground that will serve for the future greenhouse.
We came back to home base and had a nice lunch, and then got to explore Ollantaytambo through a fun scavenger hunt. We had the opportunity to talk with locals and take photos. We tried new treats in the local store, “tienda” and met vendors in the town market.
Finally in the evening, we had dinner and a friendly debate about creating a global code of journalism ethics.
Happy birthday to Madie (from Nick)!
Sunday July 21, 2019
We started today with a great breakfast and then a walk to the Incan ruins in Ollantaytambo. We met a Peruvian tour guide who showed us around the ruins and gave us detailed information about the ruins and the Incan times. Then we got to walk around the Mercado to look at all the Peruvian pop-up stands and merchandise.
After that, we hopped into the vans and made our way to the archaeological site of Moray, circular terraces used for agricultural experimentation. Apparently, the Incas constructed this space from the crevasse made by a meteor. We then got to talk with Carlos, our photography instructor, and we took lots of pictures of friends and our mentors.
Following that, we hopped into the van and drove down to the Maras salt mines where Carlos gave us another challenge, creating movement in the front and in the back of a steady subject. After we got a hang of this, we got some cool photos. We visited the salt mines— thousands of white salt cools on the hill, active since Inca days. We then visited another Mercado where they were selling cool salts for very cheap!
We traveled home and prepared for our GLA Service Through the Lens vs GLA Service in the Sacred Valley soccer match. We got decked out in all black (including face paint) and sadly, besides our war chants and intimidating look, we lost.
To finish the day we ate a delicious dinner and then got to hang out before it was time for lights out.
Monday July 22, 2019
Today at service, we finally finished moving all the logs, wood and rocks out of the shed! This space will be repurposed as a reading lounge for the students of Patacancha. It took four days of service and a lot of sweat and hard work, but it’s on the track to being complete.
After lunch, we set out to make advertising photos for Artisans of Inti. Brooke showed us videos on how to make a mood board for our projects. Photo shoots were held outside and one group got lucky enough to have a Peruvian join in on the photo shoot. Students got very creative with their photos, and it was fun to learn more about this less thought of, but important and challenging style of photography.
After dinner, all of us learned Salsa, a type of Latin dance. Sometime, we bumped into each other, and sometimes, we were completely out of sync with our partners, but we were having
fun all the while, through the bumps and hurdles.
Let’s have just as much fun tomorrow too!
Tuesday July 23, 2019
Due to rain, we were unable to go to our service site up in Patacancha today. After breakfast, we loaded into vans and drove 2 hours through the majestic, Sacred Valley to Awanacancha, an authentic market located above the valley town of Pisac. Here, we got to see and pet different breeds of alpacas and llamas. We also learned about the wild, Vicuña and Guanaco, from which domesticated llamas and alpacas have descended.
At Awanacancha, there are also many weavers that come from the surrounding provinces and communities to teach about the traditional way of dyeing wool for weaving textiles. We learned that plants, minerals, roots, tree barks, and even baby’s urine can be used in the tinting process to extract bold, earthy colors.
When we got home, we ate lunch before embarking on another amazing trip just down the road at the Choco Museo. There, we got to create our own chocolate creations while learning about the chocolate-making process, from bean to delicious treat.
After dinner, we got to go to a wifi cafe with our mentor groups, so hopefully you received a check in text from us!
Wednesday July 24, 2019
Today the GLA students and I got the chance to meet some children of Patacancha. We were given the chance to take their photos and got to teach them how to take one! We left service early today due to rain, and upon returning, we walked around the beautiful square of Ollantaytambo.
In the afternoon, a local film director, Hugo Pepper, visited our group to show us his new short film, Darikiken. His short is shot entirely in the Amazon jungle, inside the Manu National Park. He casted indigenous people from the Machiguenga tribe, and the whole film uses natural light and is in the Machiguengan language. All to say, we were left feeling inspired about the artistic possibilities in film.
We ended the day with an awesome night photography class. We learned how to adjust our cameras to capture the light of the stars and played with our apertures to compose some great photos!
Thursday July 25, 2019
The GLA group had an amazing day today. We started out with breakfast at 7:30am. The pancakes are always the best.
After breakfast, the group took the usual trek up the mountain for service. We worked as a team today, moving rocks and bricks for the local community to use as building materials. It was such a beautiful day up in the mountains.
After service, we went straight to the town of Pisac where we met our local photographer teacher, Carlos. He led us to the artisanal market, teaching us the basics of street photography and how to capture the history of this very old market. After the lesson, we had some time to explore the market before heading back to home base.
When we got back to Tumy house, Zoila, our housekeeper and cook, surprised us with the meal of a lifetime. We all had the chance to try guinea pig for the first time.
That night we sat in mentor groups and had the opportunity to share our life stories. Today was definitely one of the best days of our trip so far.
Friday July 26, 2019
The GLA staff and students were ecstatic to have breakfast at 8:30 today compared to the typical 7:30 wake up.
In the morning, our photography teacher, Carlos, came to teach us our final lesson for the 14-day students; we learned how to edit pictures using the Lightroom app.
After, we walked to the Ollantaytambo train station where we boarded the PeruRail for a scenic, two-hour train ride to Aguas Calientes, the town that sits below the ruins of Machu Picchu.
Between 2:30pm and dinner we had time to explore the city in mentor groups. Some groups chose to explore the local market while others took a scenic hike along the river with views of Machu Picchu.
We later had an amazing dinner buffet at Inka Wasi. The night was finished off with a salsa dance party in the town square. We used our new moves from our recent salsa lesson and then sang along to a few pop favorites before turning in for tonight.
Tomorrow we visit the legendary, Machu Picchu! Stay tuned!
Saturday July 27, 2019
Today on this GLA journey we embarked upon the mighty Machu Picchu. We started our day at 6am with a hardy breakfast and then we were on our jolly way.
The ride was meant to take half an hour, however the trip was more accurately 10 minutes. After the bumpy bus ride we arrived at our destination. The air was thick and moist and it was hard to see due to the fog. However, when the fog finally cleared, the sight was breathtaking.
With guides we took a 2.5-hour tour of Machu Picchu and learned about the Inca civilization and culture. It was interesting to hear our tour guide’s perspective on the Incas, given his own Incan heritage. One fun fact was that the Inca empire fell before the arrival of the Spanish, due to a civil war.
Afterwards, we got fresh, wood-fired pizza to celebrate our accomplishment. The alpaca pizza was especially delicious and different from the usual pizza flavors available to us. We collected our belongings from our hotel and made our way to the train station.
When the train finally arrived to Ollantaytambo we walked home and were met with a delicious dinner, made by Mama Zoila.
Following dinner, we divided into mentor groups to further develop our photo concept ideas, which we will be presenting to the group tomorrow. We had the opportunity to flesh out our ideas and edit photos.
-sending love from Peru, Isa and Ruben
PS: (Te amo y extraño mami, isra and papi)
Sunday July 28, 2019
Today we woke up, ate breakfast and went to service. Today was a make-up day, due to rain in previous days. As it was a Sunday, the community members in Patacancha (our service site) were attending church, so there were a lot of families out and about.
We continued collecting rocks and started building adobe bricks with mud and straw. The people in the community helped us a lot. They were really friendly and we were all working together which created a great, empowering atmosphere. We also got to play with the kids which was really fun and entertaining.
We came home and after lunch, we partook in an appreciation circle where we were instructed to anonymously tap on the back those who had impacted us during our trip.
We then split into our mentor groups where we reflected on our experience in Peru and talked about the lessons we want to apply to our lives and communities back home. After, we came back together as a big group and created a collective goal— to “take initiative to improve ourselves by collaborating and learning with others”. Before dinner, some of us went to get snacks and we tasted banana fritters which are really good.
After dinner, we presented our photo concept projects. It was really insightful and we got to see everyone’s pictures through their perspective. This is the last day for the 14 day students so lights out is at 11pm as we get to spend more time with each other before they depart.
We sure are going to miss those going home!
Monday July 29, 2019
Today started of with hugs and tears as we said goodbye to all of our friends in the 14-day program. After saying our last goodbyes, the remaining eleven of us in the 21 day program went off to service. As we were driving off our friends waved goodbye but we had forgotten our lunches! We went back, grabbed our bagged lunches, and said our final words.
Service started off low energy as we were all sad but luckily early 2000s music came to the rescue. We continued making mud to use for adobe bricks and began putting a bathroom together. Some of us even decided to take our shoes off and hop right into the mud pit to mix it up. Adam was the Adobe making master today and ended up making over 20!
After service we drove to Pumamarca, a pre-Incan ruins site where we explored and had a photography class about portraits. The hike up was a bit hard for a few of us but we stopped for photo shoots to break it up.
After dinner we played a few rounds of cards and then celebrated Isabela’s birthday! Later in the evening we learned about the history of textiles in Peru, specifically how knots connect us. Later, we put into practice what we Lesmes and made friendship bracelets.
Despite many of our close friends leaving this morning, the day was filled with exciting adventures and challenges.
Tuesday July 30, 2019
Today we were blessed with an 8:30 breakfast. Then, at 9:00, we drove to Patacancha, but instead of going to our usual service site, we went up into the heart of the village. There, we had the opportunity to experience their culture. We were great with traditional clothing and we were taught a typical dance. Nick was selected as the alcalde, or mayor and had to dance with a dead duck on his back (don’t worry they didn’t kill it).
Later, they showed us how they spin, dye, and weave textiles. It was truly amazing and intricate. We learned the history and the long process behind these textiles. We got to make our own bracelets too!
Back in Ollantaytambo, we stopped at a chocolate café and had some great bonding time eating these delicious crapes. Later, we had a great discussion on David Griffin’s TED talk and how a great photo should incorporate a visual narrative: (our definition) a visual piece that expresses emotion, tells a story, and provokes thoughts through it’s subject(s) and composition. Everyone gave some examples of photographers and photographs that they admire and we discussed the story they gave off.
Then, we got burgers for dinner!! They were amazing as all the food here thanks to Mama Zoila. And before bed we had a photography class with Carlos going over our portraits. Our homework the night before was to take a portrait of our partner, record the questions we ask them, and take a self portrait of ourselves with a description. Carlos has helped us a lot throughout our time here, and we are going to be sad after our last class tomorrow.
Wednesday July 31, 2019
Today was a more chill day. We went through out normal morning program of breakfast and service. At service the group continued on our task to help rebuild a dilapidated wall of a building. They helped strengthen the remaining rock wall by filling the spaces and cracks with mud. Another smaller group helped with building a roof for the newly constructed nearby bathroom. With not many locals around and lighter tasks, the vibe was much more laid back than previous service days.
Most importantly during service, we later found out that Manuel, in charge of the small organization we were working with, had met with both the mayor of the local town and with a businessman involved with Peruvian charity work, both of who approved of his work and our help, and wanted to help him out. This will allow Manuel to continue providing support to Peruvian highland communities.
Next we drove to have lunch at a local restaurant in Urubamba. We started with a salad made of mostly of edamame beans, tomatoes, some cheese and a light watery sauce, followed by a meal that looked like fish and chips, but was actually fried chicken accompanied by rice and coalslaw. There was also an ongoing debate as to whether the provided sweetened or unsweetened tea tasted better. I personally thought both were lukewarm and underwhelming.
Next we drove to Manuel’s house/hostel for a photo editing class with local photographers Carlos and Natalie. We spent time preparing for our upcoming exhibition, by picking photos and receiving one-on-one advice to edit them. It was very relaxed, and we spent a few hours going over our photos and hanging out.
The highlight of the day was pizza-making. The mentors brought out all of the ingredients: dough, tomatoe sauce, small cuts of beef, mushrooms, cheese, basil, mint leaves, cut up bell peppers, cut up jalapeño peppers, and cocoa leaves. At first it was a bit chaotic as all the groups were fighting over one rolling pin, but it soon mellowed out as the team found its groove. We cooked the pizzas in a fire oven for a few minutes, brought them back, ate them, then made some more. The pizzas were delicious.
Afterwards we set up around a fire pit and enjoyed some smores, music and conversation together. We stayed up relatively later than normal, and ended up leaving for home base around 10:00. Overall it was a chill and fun day.
Today in the life of the 21-dayers, many things were accomplished.
First, we went to service at the regular time in the morning and finished a wall we have been working on in a soon-to-be kitchen. Everyone was very happy and the community helped greatly alongside us. The local kids were very cute and loved to play with us.
After service we headed back to home base and cleaned ourselves up after a muddy day. The showers were especially cold today as everyone showered at the same time.
Afterwords, we headed out in small groups to pass out flyers for our photo exhibition. It was very interesting interacting with tourists and locals to get people interested. New Spanish phrases had to be learned to spread the word. At 6:00 PM we began our exhibition at Templo de Wow and had pizza for dinner. Our exhibit was a huge success as we had many locals and tourists show up alongside another GLA program group.
We ended the day with Tracey’s birthday celebration and cake and happiness. Tomorrow we will be headed to the town before Rainbow Mountain where we will be rafting. zip-lining, and resting up before the big hike. It’s been a fun day but there are still more to come in the remaining days left.
Today we are going to a new base for only 1 night. It is near rainbow mountain and it’s a 3 hour drive. I am really excited and scared to hike rainbow mountain.
We arrived at the cabins. We all got rooms and then we got ready for the zip line. The zip line was really fun because it went over the river. We then got to go rafting. It was a little scary in the class 3 rapids but we all had a ton of fun. We got stuck on so many rocks. After, We got to all warm up in the sauna; and for lunch we got really yummy bread and chicken.
After lunch, we had the choice of either going out in town or take a relaxing nap. I chose to rest in the lodge, but I heard from people who visited the town that it was super authentic and the pictures they took were really pretty.
At 6:00, we started a bonfire and cooked marshmellows. We told some scary stories and Isabella screamed over a “surprise attack” from Alex. It was funny.
We had delicious pizza for dinner and went to bed early since breakfast is at 4:00AM for Rainbow Mountain tomorrow.
– Rachel & Tracy
Saturday August 3, 2019
This morning started very early with a wake up time of 3:30 am so we could get to Rainbow Mountain before the rush of tourists. We ate breakfast at 4 and then loaded on the bus for a hour long ride to the site.
The hike was, to say the least, very physically taxing but we all managed to make it up to the top by around 8 am. Tracy led the pack of us and was the first to the top. After taking pictures and enjoying the view for a while we slowly trudged back down the mountain and even ran into a 14 day camper, Francis, with his family heading up the mountain.
After that we all headed back to the lodge to eat lunch and pack up our things. Soon after eating some soup and spaghetti we loaded onto the bus and headed towards Pisac to do some shopping. Once we got to Pisac we split into groups of three my group specifically went to a little food shop and got smoothies and a sandwich.
Once we got back we headed back up into our small van and headed back it was about an hour drive then we were home again we had a great homemade dinner of spaghetti with a mushroom sauce and then we went out for some snacks and ice cream and cane back to watch Mulan and chill out after a long day!
Sunday August 4, 2019
The time has come where we spend our last full day here in Peru! We had breakfast late, at 9am, which was nice. Pancakes, eggs, and bread with loads of syrup of course. We all got ready for the day and spent the morning talking and laughing with one another for the morning at home base. Afterwards we hopped onto the bus heading towards Urumbama.
When we arrived at Urumbama we participated in a ceremony called Pago de la Tierra- and met a Shaman(An Incan/Peruvian man who performs spiritual ceremonies) named Toribio, who’s 49 years old and has been performing these ceremonies for 29 years. He lives in a town called Caros, one of the last true Incan rooted cities. It’s only 800 feet above sea level and has no hotels,pharmacies, shops, etc. and is all natural. It was interesting learning about his Incan roots and history.
We then started the ceremony where he blessed us with floral water, and lots of it. The shaman then offered many things such as cocoa leaves,beads,Llama fat, and cookies. All of which represented harmony, health, love, and many other things. After all the offerings were laid out on the paper, he wrapped them up and blessed all of us with all the offerings by tapping us with the bag. To end the ceremony the shaman and us burned the offerings to give thanks to Mother Earth and for this beautiful ceremony.
We then headed to downtown/more city area of Urumbama. There we got ice cream, looked around a bit and relaxed for a few.
Heading back to Ollyantaytambo took a while, but when we got back we got another delicacy here in Peru. Ceviche was what it was called. Basically it’s raw fish, served with rice, sweet potatoes, and spicy sauce.
Afterwards we started packing up for the travels back home and got to hang out for a bit. For the final time, we walked into the plaza of Ollantaytambo and went to the WiFi-cafe and the markets. We got to call family and friends as well as get last minute gifts for ourselves and others. It was a somber yet fun walk there and back to home base. When we got back to home base we packed a bit more and just talked with one another until dinner. Our last supper was alpaca steak, quinoa, and 2 delicately placed potato chips. It was delicious.
We finished the night with a sweet ending to the trip, a closing ceremony. We went over the trip day by day and then lit candles to represent the new light in all of our lives. It was very emotional yet needed and I think we all appreciated it so much as it brang us closer together.
Last day messages-To everyone on the trip I love you all so much and am gonna miss everyone. It’s been such a blast experiencing life-changing moments and just laughing and having fun. This whole trip has had its ups and downs but in the end we’re gonna remember every great thing we did for the rest of our lives no matter how small the moment. Goodbye Peru. Till next time<3