All the kids have arrived, pictures and post to come
¡Bienvenidos a Perú! After both buses arrived at our home base in Coya, we were treated to a delicious traditional three-course meal. We even tried a new fruit, a tree tomato which tasted like a slightly sour peach. Then, we settled into our rooms and meeting our new roommates for the next three weeks. Later that day, we were given a tour of our town featuring an unexpected parade celebrating La Fiesta de San Juan.
The next day, after a good night’s sleep, we headed out to see our project sites for the first time at 7:30 on the dot. After a very scenic drive into the Sacred Valley our first group was dropped of at a primary school in Maras, and the second group continued on to a school in Umanes. The students performed traditional Qechuan songs and played sampona (indian flute) to greet us, as well as bracelets, marbles, and many hugs! Later on, we played games with them such as pato pato cuy (duck, duck, guinea pig). After hours of fun, we were fed a traditional Andean snack of potatoes cooked in an underground adobe oven called huatia. We also learned our service projects consisting of building bathrooms, kitchens, and new gardens. Finally, it was time to say goodbye, and we returned home while snacking on granadilla, which tasted like passionfruit, and the seeds looked like fish eggs, yet was housed in a hard shell. We made a quick stop in the market to pick up necessities in Urubamba, and made our way back to home base. The rest of the day we had free time and bonded with our peers, took Spanish placement tests, ate dinner, and met with our mentor groups where we discussed our hopes and concerns about the trip.
Blog for June 30th and July 1st
Blog collaboration by Shefali, Hallie and Lucy 🙂
Thursday was our first day of service! Though we were split into two groups in order to help out at two different schools, both groups started similar projects.
At the primary school, we learned that we would first have to level the ground before any building could be done. The local parents were kind enough to come to the school in order to teach us their traditional ways of building. It’s amazing how much work can get done using rather simple building tools! Our first task was to level the ground on which we will be building a small kitchen. As the cheeky children looked on, we went at it with pick axes and shovels! We also had the opportunity to get to know the kids and help with smaller beautification projects around the school including planting the garden and making traditional necklaces and bracelets.
Similarly, at the primary-secondary combination school, we dug a lot of holes to lay the pipes for the new bathroom. We were also put to work in beatification activities, which included gathering heavy logs and rocks. Even though we were supposed to be the ones working, we felt the altitude in full effect and the 9 year old boys beat us in strength by a long shot. They laughed as they sped past us with 40 pound logs, eager to show all of us up. In fact, all the kids eventually had to shooed off to let us do the work! Additionally, we got play with kids and practice our Spanish over lunch.
We continued work on Friday, but took the afternoon to take a hike up to the local ruins (because we have those here!!) Our dear, dear mentor Patrick told us that it would be a simple hour long hike to the top of the mountain and then a short while down. But lo and behold it was one of the hardest hikes most of us have ever done! Save the super speedy cross country runners, we struggled up the steep, rocky incline taking breaks every few minutes due to the altitude. Despite the struggle, we all made it to the top! As of now, we can say that we have successfully hiked the Andes Mountains! The ruins had a view of the entire City of Coya, and all of us were (extremely tired) proud of our accomplishment!
Today, we took a break from service to go into the City of Cusco for some shopping in the local markets. We got a chance to practice our Spanish as we bartered with the shopkeepers for authentic llama wool goods. Pro tip: ask for a yapa! We were also assigned to find various vegetables for lunch! We helped cook a delicious meal of causa and lomo saltado!
After lunch, we made our way to the scenic Saqsaywaman ruins! We had a chance to slide down the natural slides and learn about the Incan Empire and its communication system from the guides.
We made it back to the base just in time for dinner!
All in all, it’s been a truly rewarding trip thus far
4th of July Blog– Lauren, Mia and Safi
Sorry for not sending this update sooner – we lost wifi connection for a couple days and then left for the craziness of Machu Picchu!
On Monday, after a long morning working on our service projects, we returned to home base for lunch. After a traditional Peruvian lentil stew for lunch, the staff challenged the students to a friendly game of volleyball. Despite their valiant effort, the staff beat the student team (Safi, Todd, Hallie, Gabriella, Avery, Ben and Jack) 2-1.
The next day, students left their service site 15 minutes early to visit the town over, Pisac. There, students not only enjoyed high-speed wifi but were also able to shop for snacks for our upcoming excursion to Machu Picchu. After, students returned to home base to celebrate the 4th of July.
Before our 4th of July celebration, students and staff were treated to a tradition Incan music performance. They explained the instruments (some are up to 2,000 years old!) as Shafali and Maya translated. They then proceeded to play various songs, including one of their originals. After, students got the opportunity to try their hand at Incan instruments, but, it doesn’t seem to be a promising career path for any of us.
The festivities started with a dinner of asparagus soup and a Peruvian attempt at french fries and hamburgers. Afterwards, we all went into the plaza to enjoy sparklers and fireworks. Some bought ice cream and we even attempted a human pyramid!
Soon after we went inside for a dance party featuring crowd surfing and lifting each other up on chairs (similar to a Bar Mitzvah). The dance party also including a disco ball and dancing to various American classics such as the Cupid shuffle and Super Bass.
We’re all having a great time and are making serious strides at our service sites. At the first site, (just a lower school) students have laying the foundation for a kitchen and clearing the land to create a garden. At the second site (the lower-middle school) students have been hard at work digging a 500 foot trench to lay the pipes for the school’s new bathroom. In addition, they have been painting signs and gardening to beautify the school.
July 7-8, 2017
What an exciting weekend! On Friday morning we packed our bags and set out for our day-long bus ride to the Machu Picchu region. During the ride, we made several stops to grab snacks and admire such sites as a glass hotel built into the side of a mountain, reachable by only by rock climbing. Later on, we stopped at the top of a mountain peaking at over 14,000 feet, the highest point we will reach during the entire trip. Following that, we partially descended into the Amazon basin, where we stopped for lunch at a small tea plantation. After a short tour from the lady who runs the plantation, people also had the opportunity to pick fresh granadilla fruits from several trees. For the next several hours, we enjoyed more scenic driving until we reached our hotel in the town of Santa Teresa. Once we dropped our bags off, we headed to a local hot springs to relax for a few hours. Friday night concluded with a buffet dinner near the hotel, and then lots of rest to prepare for Saturday’s hiking.
After a quick breakfast at the hotel Saturday morning, we took a short bus ride to the trail and began the hike. The trail followed train tracks and was mostly flat, so it wasn’t particularly difficult. Along the way, our tour guides, Andy and Tulio, pointed out many different birds and trees that are native to Peru. As it turned out, we could also see part of Machu Picchu mountain throughout the day. After about two hours of hiking, we took a break to explore a botanical garden and have a short swim near a waterfall. Once we dried off, we had lunch at a restaurant along the trail. We then got back on the trail and walked for another hour and a half until we reached the tourist town of Aguas Calientes, the site of our next hotel. The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing at the hotel and at various WiFi cafes around town. For dinner we were treated with pizza, which was a nice taste of home, and break from Peruvian cuisine.
July 9, 2017
On Sunday, we all woke up around 4 a.m. so that we could get in line for the bus to Machu Picchu as early as possible. After standing in line with hundreds of other tourists, we boarded the buses that took us up to the ruins in time for the 6 o’clock opening. Although it was initially foggy, we were greeted with stunning views of the ancient city and the surrounding Andes. Following a short history lesson from Tulio and Andy, we split up into groups to explore different parts of the ruins. Many of us began by hiking up to the Sun Gate above Machu Picchu, which marks the end of the historic Inca Trail. Others chose to take a different hike to view the ruins of an Incan bridge, while the rest began exploring the main site immediately. The ruins were fascinating, and we all had a wonderful time learning about all the history behind the city. When our tickets ended around midday, we went back to Aguas Calientes for lunch and a restful afternoon of exploring the town. At night, we took a train back to Ollantaytambo, and from there a bus back to the home base in Coya. We are looking forward to our last week of service and exploring in the Andes!
Written by Ian Rackow
July 11-14, 2017
Hello, Todd and Leo here, and we’re going to describe to you the past four days.
Wednesday – We started the day late with scrambled eggs, sausage, and toast. Then, due to the strike, we went out into Coya to pick up trash for the municipality. We used latex gloves and trash bags to pick up plastic bottles and other rubbish. Then, we went back for lunch before having a Spanish class and free period. During free time, we went out to play volleyball and soccer.
Thursday – In the morning, we had a breakfast of quinoa porridge and toast. Next, we went to the municipality to get tools and salt water for scraping posters off of the light posts in the town square and by the river. During this work many locals stopped to ask what we were doing and they were very grateful that we were helping their community. Afterwards, we had lunch and then got a visit from a group of traditional Peruvian dancers. The dancers put on a performance for about an hour, and then they taught us all how to dance with them. Following dance lessons, we had Spanish class. Once Spanish was finished we had dinner and then free time until bed.
Friday – Finally we were able to return to our school worksites because the strike had become less intense than the two previous days. We worked for about half of the morning and then played games with the kids because it was our final day together. Then the GLA students working at the primary school and some of the local students got on a bus and went over to the bigger school where the rest of the GLA students have been working for three weeks. Here we had a closing ceremony where various people spoke and ate lunch together. Once the ceremony finished, all the GLA students and the students from the primary school got back on the bus to bring the little kids back to their school. After dropping them off, we returned back to our home base in Coya, and had an amazing talent show featuring various musical and comedic acts. The night closed with a delicious cake made by the kitchen staff to celebrate our talents.
Saturday – Today, we woke up to eat breakfast at 7:00 and left for the lake. Once we got to the lake, we were given bikes and started our ride along the lake in the highlands. All the way, the views were amazing and we could see snowcapped mountains in the background. We went on for about an hour and a half before we arrived in Moray, the archaeological site with circular terraces used to acclimate and adapt potatoes and other crops. Then, we took the bus back to the home base for lunch and free time before we went out again to Pisac. Once there, we shopped in stores and watched the parades for Dia del Carmen. For dinner, we were treated to a non-Peruvian meal at a local café before heading back home.
Final Blog Post