Thursday, July 21, 2011

Too Many Amazing Things, Too Little Time to Write

July 11-17, 2011

There is just no time to write! Sorry for the long delay in information.

Monday was mountain biking and river rafting. We did the same bike ride as before. We started at 11,400 feet in Huilloc and dropped down to 8,600 in Ollantaytambo. We stopped for many pictures and it was a beautiful day. Rafting was a blast, and for the first time ever I got pulled in by a student. Alex (Chicago) crept up behind and got me when I wasn’t paying attention. Punk. We did manage to throw all the girls out of their boat, however. Haha, that’s right Grace. We finished by bridge jumping and having a few Sublime candy bars brought by Allen.

Tuesday morning we went to the school first. I was very excited to see the school in Palomar and get an idea of the educational system in the outlying areas. I was sick this day on the last trip and didn’t get to see the school. My first impression was that it was pretty nice. The classrooms had lots of posters on the walls and the students were quiet and working. (Every classroom has “I love you Jesus” written above the whiteboard.) Every classroom seemed to have a teacher, Raul was mildly surprised. We did notice, however, that as the grades went up, the number of students went down. First grade had 25 students, sixth grade had 13. Apparently some students travel into town for the higher grades because the education is better there. I also noticed a complete lack of any sort of technology or textbooks. But, it wasn’t terrible and learning seemed to be taking place. I have so many more questions and would love to observe a few times. Hopefully that can happen later. The kids played soccer and volley ball at recess then it was back to camp and a visit to the kindergarten classroom. In the afternoon we started peeling the bamboo and beginning work on the roof. That night was an amazing talk with Clare, Carlos, Milan, Grace, and Madison. We talked about important things that had happened in our lives. Several have had their mothers fight breast cancer, experience suicide at school, and I talked about my four rules of life in the context of some of the things I have experienced. We laughed, cried, and shared about our lives. It was an amazing night. Thank you to all of you who came in to chat. I will remember that night forever.

Wednesday we finished the galpones. This meant a long day for many but the kids worked really hard. That evening we had local musicians and people come in and teach us the traditional dances for the party the next day. The guys dance La Chumpa. They actually brought a real whip and Oliver got in a couple good shots. I knew revenge would be mine the next day. We did have an epic game of President that night, we stayed up late and were very loud. Who knew how competitive everyone would be? Asmita’s British accent was definitely a highlight.

Thursday was inauguration day again. We started by watching the women prepare the feast for later that day. We actually got to watch them kill and skin the guinea pigs. They kind of pull and twist the neck, it happens very quickly and humanely. But many of the students had trouble watching. They then put the finishing touches on the galpones and by lunchtime we were in full costume. We headed to the nicest galpone (Go Alex and Clare!) and listened to a few speeches. Each group went to their respective houses, I went with Oliver and Reid. We slowly trickled back to camp for a huge feast of guinea pigs, potato pancakes, chicken, rice, and many other things. After the feast there was a huge dance party in the church by our campsite. We danced Huyna (traditional music) with the local people and had a lot of fun!! We finished with smores at a campfire, we shared some with the local children. They loved it. Carlos, Asmita, Madison, Clare, and I stayed up very late at the campfire. Carlos and I took turns playing songs on our guitars. I loved it, it had been since last year that I have played my guitar so much. By midnight, we had run out of wood. Carlos, Madison, and I decided to head to his house to get more. Bad choice. All the friendly dogs we had been seeing during the day? Yeah, they turn into killer attack dogs at night. The entire village erupted in a chorus of barking. It was insane. Carlos managed to grab a few pieces and almost got ripped apart by the dog that saw him every day for 2 weeks!! So back we went and the five of us slept outside under the stars of the southern hemisphere. It was a great night.

Friday morning we hiked up the side of the mountain by our campsite. Then we said goodbye to our families. All the families couldn’t make it, so it wasn’t the emotional mess it usually is, but it was still sad to go. Back in town we went to Raul’s house to sew dolls. They did a pretty good job! We then sent them off on the photo scavenger hunt and the $2 a day project. Friday night the students got to see pachamanka being made. It is fun to watch all our food being thrown into a dirt pit and hot rocks placed on and around it. Then it is covered with grass, wet cardboard, and plastic to cook. The food was amazing as usual and I think I ate about two pounds of lamb. That night we are still in tents, but at a different campsite. There is always a truck there, and it is tradition to sleep in the bed of the truck. Katie, Clare, Grace, Carlos, and I all set up in the back of the truck and fell asleep to the site of the full moon above. We had a long talk about religion. I think it can be summed up that despite our different beliefs, we are all on the same team.

Saturday morning we headed into town for brunch and to catch the train to Aguas Calientes. We played World Cup at the nice town soccer field for several hours. We had a blast! I got my usual haircut and we headed off to dinner. We watched Copa America on the TV during dinner, Uruguay won in penalties. Then it is my favorite activity, 2-liter skiing down the steep sidewalk. Good times. We then hit the karaoke bar. Kevin and I busted out a pretty good version of “The Real Slim Shady”, and we all finished with “8 Days a Week”.

Sunday morning it was up to Machu Picchu. We did not make it to Wayne Picchu, they just changed the rules a few days before and we didn’t have time to get the tickets. So, anyone going to Machu Picchu, here are the new rules. Go to this website:

At the website, you buy tickets for Machu Picchu, and for an extra 25 sol you can get a ticket to Wayna. You now no longer have to make up at 3 am and rush up the mountain.

We had a great tour and we learned about some really cool photos from Raul’s cousin who led the tour. Then a group of us hiked up to the Sun Gate. It is so beautiful up there, looking down on Machu Picchu and into the valley. We just sat and stared. Carlos commented how it was so incredible that we were there, looking down on a wonder of the world and taking in the beauty of our surroundings. It was a great moment. We got down and watched the Women’s World Cup Final. We got a little fired up and made a huge ruckus at the hotel. There were 19 of us packed into a little hotel room watching. The other hotel guests laughed at us. Back in Ollanta, we visited the dorm. It was great. We had dinner and played volleyball. The students did a great job of talking to the girls. I am only a few weeks away from being there all the time. I’m excited. Once again, many students donated money to help the costs of the dorm. Thank you guys!!

Monday morning the bungee place is STILL working on installing a new engine, so no bungee. Bummer. We did go to the local high school though. I’ve wanted to see it for a long time!! It was pretty nice, and we saw a few of the girls from the dorm. We played a soccer game against the high school students. We were losing 5-1 until Raul came in. We ended up winning 7-5. Heck yes, I think that was my first ever soccer victory in Peru. Back in Cusco we went shopping and had dinner at Fusiones. The students dressed up and looked good. Oliver was rocking a very nice hairdo and Sam had a pretty classy shirt on. The girls all had dresses, we definitely did not look like a group that had been in tents for two weeks. After dinner a group of us stayed up very late talking. These long talks have been so amazing on this trip. It ended with just me and Carlos. He told me a great story about Africa last year. He and a friend went into the city every day for lunch and met with an old woman. They couldn’t really communicate, but it was good. On the last day on the bus, they saw her running to the bus. She gave them rope. He could tell how much they had connected and it was a meaningful gift. It was her way of saying thank you. He told the story in response to one of my favorites from last year. Our third group had a very tearful goodbye in Pallata, and we started a 3 hour hike into town to leave. While climbing up a steep mountain we saw two figures in the distance. It looked like people running across the field. As we reached the top we could see that they were actually running toward us. While we were resting at the top, they finally reached us. It was the two little boys that worked with Jack and Jesse. They had school in the morning and wanted to say goodbye before the boys left. They couldn’t even talk to each other, but the bond was obvious. It got a little dusty up there.

Tuesday morning was the San Pedro market, Espiritu de Rana, the cathedral tour, Indian buffet, goodbye to Raul, and our flight back to Lima. Oliver didn’t feel so well on the place. Yup, he puked all over the place. We felt so bad for him, but it was kind of funny that our leader in jokes the whole trip found another way to make us laugh. We’ll miss you Oliver.

1 comment:

Juan said...

Awesome post John. It truly is a testament of the bonds that can be made in just two weeks and how special these trips are not only for the students but also for the guides. Some groups just are tougher to say goodbye to than others.

Thanks for posting and making me feel like I am still there. You could say that from time to time I really miss the "rustic life." Enjoy the final weeks and look forward to reading your future posts.

Say hello to everyone for me!

Un abrazo