Sunday, March 30, 2014

Service Project

Students moved 2000 cinder blocks, made cement and laid rock in trenches to help build a retaining wall for the high school in Ollantaytambo. 

Machu Picchu

Students spent time journaling and reflecting during our visit to Machu Picchu. These were the final moments of our vision quest. What a day! 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

To the Summit

Post by Mary and Katie
This morning we officially set off on our hike up a mountain in the Andes, to camp near the Canterras (quarries), where we would stay the night. The plan was to hike all day to the campsite, which was just a few hours hike from the summit. We started walking at 9:30, and everyone was excited for the day. 

Hiking was breathtaking, not only because of the beautiful surrounding mountains, but also because of the high altitude. We had to stop often to catch our breath and snack to maintain our high spirits. We paused for lunch on a flat part of land on the mountainside, not expecting the long table and chairs set up for us. This was 5-star camping. We were spoiled with the caravan of donkeys carrying tents, food, our sleeping pads, and duffels with our dry clothes in them. Cooks and caretakers worked tirelessly to feed us and keep us happy and healthy. 

We reached the campsite three hours after lunch. We were exhausted, but so proud of our accomplishment. The view made up for all of the pain along the way. The quiet serenity of the mountain, away from civilization with our best friends, was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. After our delicious meal, the sun had set and the temperature dropped significantly. We bundled up and settled into our two-person tents. We couldn’t help but feel so lucky to be ‘on top of the world’.
We woke up early with the sun and a select bunch of eager hikers headed up to the Inti Punku, meaning the “sun gate”. This part of the hike was incredibly difficult and reaching the summit was absolutely amazing. We could see mountain peaks decorate the sky as far as the eye could see and the small towns inhabiting the valleys below us. Our campsite was just a speck in the distance beneath us, and although exhausted, we were so glad we took the energy and time to reach the top. Somehow the camera could not capture the view in front of us and we knew it would be something we would remember forever.

Sunday, March 9, 2014


Up, up, up we went into the altiplano to camp here. Incredible views. Incredible people. Incredible experience. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Home Away From Home

Post by Amelia Hall and Lindy Disman

The last few days have been a whirlwind of new experiences. We were both a little nervous about our homestay, but it has turned out to be one of the most rewarding parts of this trip. The generosity and hospitality of our family is so much more than we could have ever imagined. The second we came into their house which is on the Calle de Cien Ventanas we were greeted by the Latin kiss on the cheek from each of the family members (minus the eight month baby Lucenia), a three year old boy named Valentino, a nineteen year old daughter named Shura, Celestino the dad, and the ever-loving mother Anita. They have welcomed us with open arms, and we now know the truth behind “Latins show their love through food.” We are happy to now call them our “familia.”

Besides adjusting to the homestay our group has been doing a variety of activities around Ollantaytambo. For example, we have been doing service work in the mornings at the local school where we helped move 2,000 concrete blocks for the wall we are helping to build. We have also been going on different excursions, and this morning we were able to go to the Weaving Community in Patacancha. There were women of all ages, hand weaving all types of different patterns that would later become an array of wallets, tapestries, bracelets, scarves, belts, and hats. All their work is intricate, and takes hours to make. The whole group relished the unique experience. 

We don’t ever want to leave Peru!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Very Busy Day

March 3, 2014
Post by Jordan Martin & Maddie Assarsson
Today we visited the ruins of the ancient Incan Sun Temple. We climbed to the top of the ruins, and along the way we learned a little bit about the history of the Incan civilization. The ruins were built on a steep mountain, but carefully placed rocks and stones allowed us to successfully explore it. The structure of the ruins was very advanced and well engineered. During the 14th century, Incans built the ruins by taking rocks from nearby mountains. The ruins were fascinating and the views of Ollantaytambo were beautiful.
            After visiting the ruins, we had lunch in the main plaza in town. There we settled down and enjoyed a delicious meal, and were given comic relief by multiple dogs entering the restaurant during our meal. After lunch, we had free time; some people explored town, others went back to the hotel to rest. Later that afternoon we engaged in leadership activities led by Randall and Javier. We learned about the different types of personalities and how different people use different parts of their brain. The theme of the activities was to try to get people of different personality types to work together in order to have a good balance when trying to reach a goal.
            Our pizza dinner was followed by a despacho ceremony led by a local shaman. During this religious ceremony, we were lectured about the selfish mindset of North America. The shaman encouraged us to connect with our roots. Each of us then shared a wish  or a prayer with the shaman, and he responded with an idea of how that wish can be fulfilled. Our wishes were placed in the prayer bundle, which was then placed in the fire. The fire was built over a chakana (a religious symbol, like a cross, with the four directions represented); the women poured chicha (a local beverage) at the four corners and the men poured wine to complete the prayer. At the end of this religious ceremony, we sat around the fire for a Meeting for Worship. We reflected in silence about the experience. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Meditation Among Ruins

After descending from the Sun Temple ruins in Ollantaytambo yesterday, students stopped to listen to the sounds around them, meditate and journal. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

And So It Begins

Day 3 - Mandy and Alo

The day started with a spontaneous session of yoga led by Ajah on the lawn. All of us enjoyed Jordan´s commentary while he held his tree poses and downward dogs. After a break from our struggles, we began our group bonding activities with our leaders, Randal, Javier, Johann and Adela. We learned about trust through a games that forced to us to depend on our peers and identified our comfort zones.

At the end of the activity period, we began our scavenger hunt. Split into groups, we were given a list of tasks and places to visit. We began our hunt, unaware of the dangers approaching. As the team ventured into the town, we were met with buckets and buckets and buckets of water, due to the local carnival. Spraying people with water and foam is a long-standing tradition in Peru. When we first entered the town, we were amazed by the intricate irrigation system that ran down every street. Little did we know, this was every childs´ water supply. In panic, groups fled back to the hotel. We were drenched, being chased by seemingly every Peruvian child in Ollantaytambo. We made it back safely, only to hear that we had to return to La Plaza de Armas for lunch.

Alo was particularly peeved by the entire situation. After the scavenger hunt, he had a small conniption. "I´M COVERED IN [CRAP]!" After a break, we all found new motivation and prepared ourselves for the next trip. Shielded by rain jackets, ponchos and trash bags, we crept along the walls, peaking around every turn. Right as we approached the Plaza, a group of twenty, including teenagers and adults, appeared behind us just as we had all gotten dry. Our group sprinted for the restaurant. We had some casualties... they made it though.

After enjoying our delicious Sopa de Crema, we received our main course: chicken or beef. The vegetarians in the group, Lindy and Amelia had cooked vegetables. Lunch was over and we all headed in different directions to shop and explore. The group found itself the hotel very soon after, only to be reminded again that we had to go to the Plaza. At this moment we heard that there was a large group of kids with buckets surrounding the hotel. We were trapped.

Most refused to get wet again and with Alo, HIGHLY motivated, we crept out once again. Just as we left the building, Mandy spotted the group right at the end of the street. They began chasing us, screaming and brandishing their buckets of water. Our group ran like [heck]... We found ourselves trapped in a patch of grass surrounded by walls. Alo, focused on staying dry, leaped over the wall and disappeared into the trees. After Katie, Stephanie and Amanda clambered over the wall in desperation, the rest of the group refused to follow, doubting the decision and "turned themsleves in". Admittedly, as Mandy is telling me, it was the less pleasant way to go. This group arrived at the Plaza drenched and peeved. Meanwhile, the other four made friends with the people who had their home behind that wall after fully explaining why they suddenly dropped into their yard. They managed to find their way the rest of the group safely after using a cab to drive 100ft in order to avoid fifteen buckets filled with water. To say the least, Mandy was not happy to find me without a drop on my clothing while her hair was dripping with water.

Finally together, we headed up the mountain toward the carnival. After a group of us raced up the stairs for the last stretch, we were all greeted by five-year-olds with water balloons and foam spray cans. Nic, Keenan, Stephanie, Katie, Newell, Emma, Mandy and Alo dodged their way through the hordes of people and up the slope to evade what waited the others below. By now you can guess what happened. After the rest of the group fought their way through water and soap, we sat and watched the donkey races and soccer games, while Keenan hiked up the mountain further in pursuit of a cow.

After our descent, we got back to our hotel. Right away, Andy headed for the room to take a shower. Alo had the key, and with everyone watching, missed the balcony and threw the only way into their room onto the roof above. How we we got it down....well, just ask us once we have safely returned from Peru.

The rest of the night went smoothly with a nutritious dinner and a cake for MANDY´S 18TH BIRTHDAY. Just before bed, we had our meeting and did our ANCHOR (Appreciations, News, Concerns, Hopes, Obscurities and a Reading). Tomorrow we will start our day at 8am with breakfast and have new adventures, hiking around Peru.

                                                                                                                            -Mandy and Alo

PS: Excuse our mistakes, but at 10,000ft we´re a little loopy...