This blog is for the Peru Service Through the Lens split session starting June 23, 2019, which includes both the 14-day and the 21-day student groups.
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.
Today, most of us are settling into our new home in Ollantaytambo, an Incan town located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. We’re relaxing after our long travel with coca tea, some traditional Peruvian food, and a few icebreaker activities to get to know one another, but not everyone. Sadly, we are still missing several of our participants due to flight complications. Ava, Lucas, and Philip, 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 for for you 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! From all of us here, we’d like to 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!
Welcome video below! 🙂
Monday June 24, 2019
Today we explored Inca ruins, took lots of photographs and visited the artisanal market of Ollantaytambo. We had a full orientation to our program, which included lots of team-building activities and a briefing about the service we will be doing in the highland communities above Ollantaytambo.
We’ll be working with a non-profit called Chimpay which focuses on helping victims of abuse and giving primary prevention education to children in the schools, as a way to de-normalize violence in Andean communities. Our focus is to help Chimpay to be present in the community in other ways as well, such as constructing a new kitchen for the school. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and practice our newly-learned Quechua phrases with the people we encounter. We can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!
– Penny Brackin
Some other special highlights from today:
– Philip and Lucas arrived in Peru! We are thrilled to have them join us!
– We celebrated the birthday of our house manager, Juan!
Tuesday June 25, 2019
Today, the group was introduced to our service project: building a new kitchen in Huilloc Alto, a highland community above the Sacred Valley of Peru. Each day, the mothers of the village cook lunch for the school children. Due to poor ventilation in the kitchen, the mothers put themselves at risk of respiratory issues each time they use the wood burning stove indoors. But this kitchen project is only a snapshot of the bigger picture of helping this village. Manuel, the head of the NGO that GLA is working with, aims to solve the problem of culturally-ingrained domestic abuse. But one cannot just force a culture to change. First, the village needs to understand we are here to help, thus the kitchen.
Still, not all of this GLA expedition is hard labor; the entire group had plenty of time to snap pictures of the mountains surrounding us, of locals in their intricately woven traditional clothes, and of our little llama puppets. Our photography needed a little help, so we now have a professional photographer, Carlos who will be giving lessons for anyone and everyone who has room for improvement. We reflected on another aspect of photography when our mentor, Erin, gave us a thought-provoking presentation on the ethics of photography, especially when taking photos of strangers, vulnerable people and endangered animals.
Tomorrow we’ll head back to Huilloc Alto for another morning of service, followed by a photography workshop in the afternoon! Stay tuned!
Wednesday June 26, 2019
Today we continued on to our second day of service. While building on the progress we made yesterday, a challenge arose in the form of a giant boulder that had to be moved. With the help of our GLA group and the community, we managed to move it in light of its immense size. It was a challenge that we had to solve together.
In the afternoon we headed over to the nearby ruins. Carlos, our photojournalist instructor, provided the group with some essential tips and tricks for setting up our cameras. After his informative lesson, we put this new knowledge to work as we captured photos of the beautiful landscape and surrounding sights.
We ended the day by breaking into our mentor groups. After anonymously making a list of our hopes and fears for the program and talking through them as a group, we came to realize that our overall outlook for the next 2-3 weeks and our currents mindsets are more similar than different.
We also made a trip to the nearby grocery store where many of us had our first experience trying Inca Kola!
– by Elyse Null
Thursday June 27, 2019
Today at service we accomplished a lot. During service we proceeded to drag boulders across the school grounds (while the school children mocked our grunts and groans) as well as digging up what felt like mountains. With all of this hard work, of course we had to play a bit.
During our breaks many fun things occurred. We kicked a soccer ball around with the kids and shared snacks like potatoes and popcorn. We dug up grubs to feed to the chicken and played jump rope to pass the time while waiting for boulders to be unearthed. Overall, we were very productive today, and we definitely had fun doing it!
~Jaci A. Johnson
Other highlights from today:
We enjoyed a photographer’s rally (scavenger hunt) across Ollantaytambo, which included connecting with town locals to learn more about Ollanta’s history and culture.
We went to an Internet cafe to reconnect with you, amazing family and friends!
We had a structured debate on setting an international standard for the ethics of photojournalism.
Friday June 28, 2019
Today was a very normal day, or so we thought. Breakfast started with a display of eggs, pancakes, fruit, and coffee. Definitely Coffee. After a quick breakfast, we all got ready to go up to mountain for our last day of service. At 8am, we loaded into our buses hoping we would make it up the mountain. The previous night presented a rain fall that left us to question whether the road would allow us to pass. Without a hitch, we made it to our final destination ready to work. We got right to work making the mixture that would soon be used to make the adobe. This then will he used to make the kitchen. A few issues were thrusted upon us. There was a boulder that had to be moved.
A group of the willing, jumped to work moving the rock ending in triumph. The adobe mixture was almost ready, but it had to be mixed a little bit more. A crew consisting of Siena, Audrey, Jaci, Brendyn, Charlie-Joe, and myself, hopped into the pile to finish mixing. This left us with cold feet but a huge smile. Once this was completed, we started to make the adobe before we had to back to home base. After a calm descent of the mountain, we all headed to our rooms for a quick rest before lunch.
After a hardy lunch, we had a photography lesson where we learned about framing. We roamed the town using our newly acquired knowledge to further our photos. Dinner soon followed. We all shared laughs and lots of food( Myself and Philip). Dinner was followed but a very cool short filmed shown to us by a man by the name of Hugo. He explained the story behind the film as well as answered our questions. We learned about his favorite shots before crashing from a long day of work.
Saturday June 29, 2019
We started our day with pancakes and fruits for breakfast. We then headed towards Ollantaytambo’s famous ruins and learned about their history. We hiked and took pictures of the mountains, the city below, and of each other as well.
After, we hiked down the ruins and began waiting for Ollantaraymi to start, an annual festival that accounts Ollantaytambo’s Incan history. At 10:30, it began and we watched locals in colorful dress do traditional dances.
At 12:30, we decided to divide up into our mentor groups and walk through the market to buy gifts for our friends and family, and gifts for ourselves as well. There were so many colors and traditional clothes to look at!
We walked back to home base and ate cuy (aka guinea pig ). Some people enjoyed it and some people didn’t, but it was something new to try, and definitely something that is not offered in the states!
At 3pm, we headed towards the Choco Museo and made our own chocolates! We made two types of hot chocolate— Mayan and Conquistador. Mayan was very rich and spicy, and the Conquistador was more like a regular hot chocolate. After hot chocolate, we started to make our own chocolate and shape it with stencils that were given to us. We waited for about an hour for them to harden, and while we waited, we ordered sweets, like hot chocolate, ice cream, regular chocolate.
We headed back to home base for dinner and ate potatoes, beef and rice. At 7pm, we started our dancing lesson led by the one and only Manuel! He taught us several moves that we worked on for about 2 hours. We ended the night feeling encouraged with our new dance moves and very excited about leaving for Machu Picchu tomorrow. We are looking forward for what comes next!
Sunday June 30, 2019
A change in our wake-up time from 6:45 to 8:00 for the day proved to be a huge relief for some of us needing to catch up on lost sleep and energy used in service.
Departing from our home base, we visited some ruins across from our house. Hiking up the nearby mountain Pinkuyuna, we discovered an old Incan grain storage and a glorious view of Ollantaytambo.
Returning to home base, we packed for our trip to Machu Picchu. After a 2 hour scenic train ride to the town of Aguas Calientes, we found ourselves surrounded by sheer mountains, covered by trees. Most notably, people in this town are nicer to dogs. A trip to the hot springs wrapped up the day, preparing us for our trip up to legendary Machu Picchu tomorrow.
– by Lucas Tian
Monday July 1, 2019
Today was an earlier start for the group, we woke up at 6:15 for a quick breakfast before we got on the bus for Machu Pichu. Although we missed the comfort of the Tumy house, we enjoyed sandwiches and juice or coffee in order to gain energy for the day ahead of us.
We met our guides, Patricia and Evelyn, who were dedicated to giving us explanations and information about the historical monument.
The bus ride was about 30 minutes, which consisted of everyone listening to music and enjoying the views of the mountains. Upon arrival at Machu Pichu, we were surprised to have to pay 2 soles to use the bathroom, but it was all worth it when we finally got to see what was ahead of us.
After applying too much bug spray and removing layers, we began our tour of Machu Pichu. As we went higher up, the views became more and more beautiful, the shades of green and incredible architecture stood out in my eyes. It only got more interesting as we walked through the lower valley of Machu Pichu. We learned lots of new things like how the trapezoid shape of the roof protects the structure from earthquakes. Something I thought was very interesting was the different temples for worship, for example one for the sun and one for the moon.
We returned back to Carpe Diem, for a much needed pizza lunch. I was pleasantly surprised that i actually liked the alpaca meat pizza, always good to try new things.
For the remainder of our time we walked around the market and got delicious ice cream. The train ride back to Ollantaytambo was very relaxing and a good break because all of us were very tired. I listened to music and looked out the window as most other people slept soundly.
We returned to the Tumy house and got prepared for our very anticipated soccer game against the other GLA group. Although we lost 3-1 we put in a great effort and had a fun time. I was proud of myself for almost scoring and also met another Greta, which is only the third other Greta I’ve met in my lifetime.
We parted ways with the other group and had dinner which was rice with a squash and corn sauce. To conclude the night we will be stargazing and taking pictures on the terrace. Today was definitely my favorite day, full of beautiful views, good food, and lots of laughs. I am sad to acknowledge that I only have a few more days with everyone, but it’s not over yet!!!
Tuesday July 2, 2019
Today we started our second week of service, once again working towards building a better-ventilated kitchen for a school in the nearby community of Huilloc Alto. We spent the morning building the structure with adobe bricks, clearing out rocks in order to build an even floor, and excavating the land. We spent our break eating the classic meal of hard boiled eggs and potatoes, as well as taking a group nap in the sun.
After service, we ate a delicious packed lunch that consisted of sandwiches, fruit, and, as a special surprise, chocolate! We then hopped in vans and drove two hours on a very bumpy road to Moray, terraces used as a testing ground for different crop varieties during the Inca Empire. There, we had a photography lesson, focusing on landscape photography. After exploring and snapping pictures to our hearts’ desire, we drove to Maras. We got to see the legendary, ancient salt mines, take even more pictures, and some of us finished off by buying delicious chocolate.
Tonight, we are going to be having a product photography competition with our mentor Brooke. We will be taking photos for the brand, Artisans of Inti, which works with artisans in Cusco to produce handmade shoes and bags. Today was super fun and I am looking forward to making the most of the next three days I have with these great people!
-by Parker Murane
Wednesday July 3, 2019
Today started out normal enough with our 7:00am breakfast. We have quickly adjusted to the new plan of waking up ourselves, without the daily wake-up-call from our mentors. We had our usual breakfast to give us the energy necessary for our day of service. After everyone was prepared, we left for service.
At the schoolhouse, we continued building the kitchen with adobe bricks while simultaneously making mud and washing dishes of the old kitchen. Everyone worked hard, only taking breaks for water, sunscreen, and occasionally, to play with the local children.
Afterwards, we met with some locals who brought their livestock to become very cute models for a wildlife photoshoot. We refilled our energy with bagged lunches and returned to Ollantaytambo.
When we returned, we wrote a letter to our future selves to be delivered to us in a few months. Since we had a lot of free time between this activity and dinner, and we also needed to download the Adobe Lightroom application for the following day, we hit the local cafes in our respective mentor groups to rest up and log on to some wifi.
After dinner, our photography teacher, Carlos, came to give us a lesson on nighttime photography. With the new tips and tricks we learned, we took some amazing photos of the stars and headed to bed, ready to embrace the few days left.
-by Philip Chen
Thursday July 4, 2019
Happy Fourth of July!
This morning was nothing out of the ordinary. We had the delicious breakfast buffet prepared by Mama Zoila, and we loaded up in our vans to go to service once again.
Today at service, we split into two different groups. One group continued sifting the dirt, and the other used the adobe blocks to continue building the kitchen. There has been a lot of progress on the kitchen; we are more than halfway done!
After we finished with service, we went back to home base. Today for lunch, we had a delicious meal of a traditional Peruvian dish known as ceviche. The raw fish was a bit of a controversial subject, but it was nice to see everyone trying it with an open mind!
After lunch, (the people staying for the two weeks), had our very last photography class with Carlos. We practiced editing our photos on an app called “Adobe Lightroom.” We learned tips in editing such as adjusting the temperature of a photo and altering the colors.
After saying our goodbyes to Carlos, we had a celebratory dinner of hamburgers and fries for the Fourth of July.
To finish up the day, we presented our photo concept projects. It was interesting to see the different perspectives and ideas coming from our peers. Everyone did very well!
With the last day creeping closer, we are sad to leave, but excited to share our new experiences with everyone back home!
Friday July 5, 2019
Sadly, today was the last day for the 14-day students. Despite our time together coming to an end, we all have made the most out of every moment.
At service, we accomplished our goal and built the kitchen walls. We were successfully able to break past language barriers and build something out of nothing! As a result, our service in Peru will have a long-lasting positive impact for the mothers and children of Huilloc Alto. We can now say with confidence that we are all wildly capable of anything we work hard for.
After such a rewarding day of service, we headed back to home base and spent the afternoon laughing hysterically and reminiscing about embarrassing childhood moments. To say the least, we were all quite interesting and particular children!
After lunch, we thought deeply about how knowledge isn’t power unless we utilize it. This idea spurred us each to create a personal goal— to identify one lesson from Peru that we could apply to our lives and community back home. In addition to our personal goals, we also came up with one group goal to work on. We committed to using our social media to spread positivity and influential messages.
Our final activity revealed to each of us the true impact we had on one another. Because of these 19 students, I will come home tomorrow with new eyes, a stronger self-awareness, and a mind open wide to possibility. They are my Peru family and they will forever have a place in my heart.
Other notable happenings today:
• While at service, each GLA student got to take a portrait photo of one of the Huilloc Alto students. We have since compiled these photos and will be presenting a framed yearbook photo that contains all individual child photos and a 2019 class photo for the Huilloc Alto school.
Saturday July 6, 2019
Today we lost twelve students and our mentor Brooke. RIP Always remembered.
We began with our last breakfast together as a whole group. It was very sad but everyone was trying to make the best out of their last moments before departure. After breakfast, the people staying for 21 days had to leave for Rainbow Mountain.
Everyone definitely cried at this point for several minutes. The 14 day students went around Cusco on a tour and departed on their flights.
The 21 day students drove two and a half hours to the lodge by Rainbow Mountain and got to go white water rafting. There was a noticeable difference between the first and second raft, which could be heard screaming much louder.
Tona encouraged the people in the second raft off the raft into the cold water. The first raft all got in and it was a really entertaining experience.
After we finished rafting, most of us went ziplining for about half an hour. Then we hit the town nearby, and picked up six bags of trash and plastic along the way.
Once we got back to the lodge, we had a bonfire and got to know each other better. Turns out, we’ve got some pretty interesting stories.
Shoutout to the 14-day kids and Brooke for an awesome two weeks!!
Sunday July 7, 2019
Today some of our group got up for a bright and early 4:00am breakfast. At 5:30am we arrived at rainbow mountain to start our climb. After an hour of hiking we arrived at the summit.
We then descended and drove back to rejoin the group at the lodge. We ate lunch together while Tona took photos of hummingbirds.
At 11 we piled into the van to make the trip back to home base. But, before arriving there we stopped in Pisac to take pictures of and buy souvenirs at the famous textile market.
After arriving at home base we were greeted by 19 set places at the table to our 7. We were sad to see our friends go, but excited to continue on the rest of the day.
Ellie’s room then walked upstairs to the sight of dirty clothes that they forgot to bring downstairs for laundry.
Later that night we ate dinner and had cake for Mama Zoila’s birthday! We got to see some of her family and sang happy birthday 3 times in 2 different languages. Then finished up the night with a presentation about traditional weaving and learned how to make friendship bracelets.
Monday July 8, 2019
Today we woke to the gracious and rare gift of a 9:00am breakfast which proved essential from the previous day’s 4:00am wake up call. After gathering our essentials, we filled our single van and started the journey to the village of Patacancha.
After our journey up the mountain, we were greeted by warm smiles, big hugs and joyful music by the community. We then dressed in traditional vibrant Peruvian textiles and joined the locals in a fun traditional dance. Juan, the leader, took us through the entire process of turning alpaca and sheep fur into the yarn they use in their textiles. We watched fur being spun, an activity that we all tried ourselves but I think it is safe to say that they are way better than we we were, and then dyed. A color specialist laid out all the flowers and leaves in which they extract the colors from and showed us the salts they use to do so.
After enjoying Mama Zoila’s boxed lunch each student was paired with a local to make a bracelet together. They weaved the strings effortlessly as we watched in awe.
Quickly following our bracelet making session, the locals laid out all of their designs in the field. It was our own little market of authentic artistry. Your student probably bought something from today as it was an offer too good to pass up.
Carlos wasn’t able to come to our excursion today for our photography lesson on portraits (we hope you feel better!) but nonetheless we explored and took our photos among the intricate village.
Now, today was no ordinary day as it was our very own Audrey’s birthday! She turned sixteen today so the mentors and Tona pitched in to surprise her with a lovely orange cake. We sang, in English, and she blew out her candle with her beautiful, bright smile.
Finally, we spent the last bits of our day taking pictures under the star filled sky. Plenty of constellations were out tonight and it was a lovely way to conclude the day.
Tuesday July 9, 2019
Today we woke up at 7:30 and headed back to Huilloc Alto to continue service. We mixed more barro to finish up the kitchen and added the final adobes!The community all gathered together to help finish the roof of the kitchen. After we finished, we got back into the van and had our boxed lunches.
We drove to Pumamarka for our portrait photography class with Carlos. The ruins were beautiful. We got to work on portraits with each other. After taking pictures, we sat down with Carlos to learn more about taking portraits. Carlos taught us techniques for taking better pictures that use bokeh. The llamas came over to us and we all had a lot of fun taking pictures and posing with them. After a long day, we headed back to the home base.
We relaxed a while and chose pictures for Carlos to look through later on. After dinner at six, we showed our pictures to Carlos. He helped us narrow them down to about 10, and now we have to chose three to be shown at templo de wow on Thursday night for our exhibition. Tomorrow we are looking forward to doing a tour of Urumbama with Manuel and our last photography class on editing with Carlos. Another great day in Peru!
Wednesday July 10, 2019
With yet another much appreciated late breakfast, we ate then set off for the day’s activities.
We took a short drive to Urubamba, an small city with an authentic Peruvian feel. It was the perfect opportunity to take some photos and get to know a more authentic Perú. We explored the vast markets of the city, ate delicious ice cream of authentic Peruvian flavors, and relaxed in a café where we had cake, chocolate mousse, creme brûlée and brownies.Through the many clothing markets, Savannah decided to buy a pare of nock off Off White sneakers.
We then parted ways to explore and experience the city on our own. Later, we regrouped and made our way back to home base. Once back we had our last photography class with Carlos on editing. We worked on our final three photos that we will present at the show and said goodbye to Carlos.
After the class we decided to spend some time at the market. And to end the day we spent the night singing karaoke to an incredible repertoire of songs such as Hey Yeah, We Built This City, I’ll Make a Man Out of You and Hamilton.
– Josaphine Green
Thursday July 11, 2019
Today was a day for the books, let’s be real. Our little group of 21 day-ers made their way up to Huilloc, our service sight, one last time. Though we didn’t partake in much physical service today, we celebrated with the villagers, and lovely children. The kids were open to playing a couple of games we had showed them in the previous weeks, and simply bouncing a lot. The look of their mouths opening as wide as possible when we spin them around is unforgettable.
Not only did we enjoy our time with the cuties, we had a lovely brunch made by the community. We each got our own fish, caught in a nearby lake, along with a “garden salad”. You can’t tell me the best part wasn’t seeing Sam eat a fish eye. Lastly, we left the village with a bottle breaking ceremony that I personally got to break with Manuel and a woman from the village with a hammer decorated in beautiful flowers. We left Huilloc with a hurt in our hearts, and something that is indescribably unforgettable.
The afternoon held a bit of setting up for our photo exhibition that took place within the last couple of hours. We printed out three of our favorite photographs, not just from this trip, and then handed out flyers amongst the town of Ollyantaytambo to spread the word of our show. Manuel and Tona set up our photographs with short descriptions of each picture in a nearby restaurant called Templo de Wow, and had an amazing pizza dinner.
Unfortunately, only two of the two HUNDRED people we handed flyers out to actually made an appearance. This was no disappointment as Mama Zolia did surprise us and stayed to watch an aggressive game of pool, where Audrey may have lost her mind in the end. Though I did not play in the game, I can promise you it was much more amusing to watch Audrey’s extreme reactions every time she didn’t hit the ball (which may have been every time).
The night ended with the group crowding around Tona playing some soothing guitar, and i’m not going to lie, I may have teared up to “Hey There Delilah”. Tomorrow is our last full day in Peru. It hasn’t hit many of us yet, but the second we’re home, I’m assuming we all will be wishing to be back.
Friday July 12, 2019
The last full day our trip has come upon us. We awoke to an 8 am breakfast and at 8:30 we set out for Ñaupa Iglesia, a sacred Inca site for a ceremony called Pago a la Tierra. Before we left Ollantaytambo our shaman met us at home base.
After a short drive we arrived at where we would start our hike. After climbing through old Incan ruins and stopping in multiple sacred locations (old spirit houses) to pray to pacha mama (Mother Earth), we arrived at the site of our ceremony. Once there, we prayed with coca leaves for multiple different things like people we wish good health to, good luck, a harmonious life, and various other things.
After the ceremony concluded we hiked back down the mountain and came back to Ollantaytambo and explored the streets with our mentor Sam until 2, which is when we typically eat lunch. We stopped in both an “am/pm” and a coffee shop to get smoothies. After lunch everyone had to do a survey about the trip, and then we went on a goodbye walk around the city.
After the walk we came back for dinner at 6 o’clock. Everyone gathered back downstairs after dinner to do a goodbye ceremony to each other and pass around a tiny llama to symbolize a gift of saying nice things about each other. Once we had finished we went upstairs to the terrace for one last time watching the stars together.
Tonight is our last night at home base, and tomorrow we begin our journey home.
Today we bid farewell to our seven 21-day students–Siena, Ellie, Savannah, Audrey, Brendyn, Josephine, and Charlie Joe. It has been such a pleasure to help you explore Peru and have front row seats as you developed your photos, your leadership skills, and your Selves.
After a tearful last hug with Mama Zoila at Tumy House, we boarded the bus for our final journey with Ruben to Cusco. We explored the city a bit before a special lunch at Tunupa, where a couple of our braver foodies had a meal of papas y alpaca and we got to reconnect with our mentor Brooke.
We were sad to see Siena go, she was the first of us to fly out, and more tears were shed. The rest continued on to tour the city with our local director Manuel, until they too had to head for the airport.
Just outside the security checkpoint, we had one last salty group hug and the students said their individual goodbyes to the mentors.
Thank you all for joining us here and sharing your incredible gifts and some incredible experiences with us. We know you’ll excel wherever your next journeys take you!