Global: Session 1 - Inca - Lifeworks Peru 1
Posted: Tue, Jul 14, 2015
Location: Cuzco to Lima
We (Anna, Daniel, and Bridget) left you all at the airport today, to board your planes, back from whence you came.
Our last days together were a whirlwind of early mornings, stories, tickets, laughter, tearful goodbyes, and dessert buffet (HOLA!).
You are amazing and wonderful people, and we are incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to be your leaders over the last three weeks. I loved the laughter, insights, energy, questions, zingers, perceptions, songs, smiles, and appreciations you brought to our journey as a trip family. Your enthusiasm energized me, your vulnerability touched me, and your songs invigorated me. Your changing perceptions and curiosity about the world challenged me sometimes stopping me in my tracks! But most of all, it was your empowerment and your quest to fight social injustices that infused me with hope for our collective future.
Thank you, all of you.
“Deep in the sea are riches beyond compare;But if you seek safety, it is on the shore.” Saadi of Shiraz
Posted: Sun, Jul 12, 2015
Location: Ollantaytambo to Cuzco
It’s almost unbelievable that 3 weeks has past. Looking back, thinking of everything that we’ve done – all of the laughs, singing on the bus, every little thing we shared together – those moments make the time fly faster than you can ever expect. It seems like only 2 days ago we all met in the airport. I looked through my journal seeing that I wrote, “We all met, I think this is going to be great”…oh it is so much better than that. This experience topped every expectation.
Looking at Cuzco, thinking that I know my way around is so absurd and amazing. Walking around feels like this is the place where you’re supposed to be. Where everyone on the street says hi and ask if they can help, where smiling for not having a reason at all is the best reason to smile. And trust me, the smiles never left our faces. Laughing together, being together, it all feels like we have known each other for so long, yet it went by so fast.
The days are passing – each one is more exciting than the other, each day brings with it so much to each and every one of us.
Today we went white water rafting, and had the time of our lives, the smile never left my face, singing in the rafts, talking, looking at the breath-taking views is a once in a lifetime experience together. Seeing Veronica, the huge mountains, beautiful birds, seeing everybody paddle together, that is all I need. In case you wondered, our team most definitely won!
After a great lunch we started our way back to Cuzco, proving once again that Willy is the best driver there is. The drives are a lot of fun, talking, getting to know each other better, laughing, laughing a lot, singing, singing a lot.
It’s an amazing reminder for me to see how much we all have in common, no matter where we are from, no matter if we even speak the same language, it’s an amazing opportunity. I feel like we are all the same and so different at the same time.
Writing this is so hard because there are so many things I want to write about, so many things I want to share. If I had to pick only one last thing to share I’d say thank you, to all of our parents and friends back home. A huge thank you to everyone who shared this experience with us, all of the people we were fortunate to meet and talk to, to our unbelievably amazing leaders who have been there every step of the way (you guys rock), and to everyone who made this a reality. For me this was most definitely an experience that I will take with me for the rest of my life. I have so many amazing stories that somehow I was fortunate to be a part of. Thank you so much for letting my smile get wider.
Dear future Lifeworks Peru student:
First of all, you are awesome! Believe me, you are going to have the time of your life. Don’t forget to write things down; you’re going to want to remember every little moment. Now thinking of going back home is weird, because how can I leave all of this behind. But the fact is that it all became a huge part of me. Be open, help one another, be you, you are awesome. Be careful with this wheelbarrow, don’t underestimate them! Trust me. Have the best time ever. It’s as simple as that.
Posted: Sat, Jul 11, 2015
Machu Picchu, Day 2
Location: Machu Picchu
I’ve been to Machu Picchu, and I haven’t even graduated high school yet. How many people do I know who can say that? Yet along with the rest of this group, we were able to say it before lunchtime. It was a long day though, beginning around 4am to catch the sun rising through the peaks of the mountains of Putu Cusi, just outside the ruins of Machu Picchu.
Yet the finite number of pixels in the pictures we took, and the ink smudge now making our passports a little more meaningful, will never capture the true beauty we all witnessed together. As more time goes by, we find ourselves less and less filling the quiet spaces with memories from home, and more and more reminiscing about the days we have all spent together. But we all took pieces of home with us, to guide us through this adventure. I think we all agree in one way or another.
I took my dad in every moment I was afraid or tired, for never losing sight of the strength I sometimes couldn’t see in myself. I took my mom with me, in every moment I felt insecure, for teaching me self respect, adventure, and confidence. I took my step dad with me when I felt conditional, he taught me love beyond the boundaries of the relationship of a daughter through only blood. I took the rest of my brothers and sisters with me when I felt lonely, knowing I always have a lot…A LOT of shoulders to rely on. I also took my best friends Roxana and Savannah with me when I felt sad, for teaching me humor and simple joy in every circumstance. With these lessons and so many more from the people I love, it has helped make this trip as amazing as it could be.
Wrapping up the day with a train ride back to Ollantaytambo conversations about our favorite books and intense card games fill cart F, we are all dripping with sweat and satisfaction. Only to come to a stop as one of the crew members in the train dressed in the traditional rainbow colors of the Cusco flag wearing a mask of a bear and purring at the same time (oddly enough) to do a dance. Then some did some of the other crew members did a fashion show so we could see traditional Peruvian clothes. Even some of the girls and guys from the Lifeworks group were invited to get up and dance and show off some clothes. We all laughed and cheered for our friends as Jayda called out to remind us that we’re all “fierce” or “fabu.” Wrapping up the train ride with the frames of the beautiful peaks of snowy Veronica out one window, and the rapids of Urubamba out the other is not something we will soon forget.
After dinner we all settle happily into bed after a very long day, dreaming of white water rafting and any other adventures tomorrow holds. We could not be more satisfied with how today played out, nor more thankful to Lifeworks and our group leaders for making it all happen.
Posted: Fri, Jul 10, 2015
Machu Picchu, Day 1
Location: Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes
We left Ollantaytambo this morning to take the train to Aguas Calientes – the town at the base of Machu Picchu. The train station was also the starting point of the Inca Trail. These four days and three nights, however, we replaced with a 90 minute train ride. Phew. The inside of the train was surprisingly modern, and the windows stretched up into the ceiling to better see the mountains overhead. We were traveling to a place of significantly lower altitude and this decline was obvious. Most of the vegetation we had seen so far was prickly pairs and small shrubs. Outside the train, everything suddenly became green. A cascade of thick vines and mosses dominated the mountains on every side. Trees with huge leaves stretched out from the cliff faces like they were reaching for my hand. Snow capped peaks still towered over the Andes as the touched the cloudless sky. The sight was, like, totally awesome.
We reached Aguas Calientes at around 10am. We had some free time to explore the mountain town before lunch, and later, a hike to a nearby waterfall. I found a small art gallery and realized how badly I wanted some artwork to take home with me. I had to use my parent’s credit card to purchase a small, abstract oil painting of Machu Picchu. They told me to use it only for emergencies and I’m assuming this classified as one. If it’s not, I’m still not sorry.
The hike was, unsurprisingly, stunning. Once we reached the outskirts of the town we walked beside the Urubamba River. The river was littered with huge, smooth, limestone boulders. Combined with the surrounding mountains, the only thing I could think to do was sing the Jurassic Park theme song. It looked so untouched until we reached the railroad. We spent most of the hike walking either on or beside the tracks. We sang every song we could think of, from Disney to Taylor Swift (official mascot of this trip). We veered off to a dirt track after about an hour. We walked through what felt like a jungle. I could hear the rushing water but couldn’t see it through the thick vegetation. When we reached the clearing, I was immediately graced with the cool mist of the waterfall on my hot skin. The torrent of water was actually turquoise. On the way back we walked along the same path, definitely more tired but just as happy. About half way back we heard the roar of a train in the distance. I truly felt like one of the kids from Stand By Me (without the dead body). We waited by the side of the path whilst the blue machine rumbled past. The passengers waved as we attempted to take pictures. I sadly missed our trek due to illness and this hike was perfect.
Tomorrow we finally go to Machu Picchu. We are waking up at 4am so we can go watch the sunrise. I truly can’t believe it. My whole life I’ve dreamed of going to The Sacred City, standing at the point where all the postcard photos are taken, getting a really cute photo, and posting it on Instagram. I’m just being sarcastic of course. But in all seriousness, thank you Lifeworks, my parents, and everyone involved for giving me the opportunity to see one of the Seven Wonders of the World. I’ve waited my whole life, and now it’s just a few hours away.
Posted: Thu, Jul 9, 2015
Word of the day: tasty. Today’s Huerto Paraiso tour in Urubamba included Peruvian honey, chocolate and coffee. Muy sabrosa.
We rose early in order to beat a planned protest to the streets of Ollantaytambo. A group of Peruvian citizens would block transportation around the city to protest rising gas prices. This meant meeting for breakfast at 5:20AM and leaving by 6:00AM. We were a bit sleepy, but luckily for us, today’s activity schedule promised lots of yummy energy-boosters.
We began with the day’s only non-edible good: pottery. We each took a turn spinning the wheel to shape a bowl (many of us accidentally crafted “abstract” bowls). We also each carved and painted our own clay disks. Mine features a sun surrounded by Peruvian patterns, inspired by the beautiful jars, plates and bowls in the studio’s gallery. I’ll hang this disk in my room at home and replay memories of this trip in my head each time I pass it.
Next was honey. Eager to taste the final product and a bit nervous to face the bees, we helped the guide carve out slices of a honeycomb. We chewed the slices like gum and swallowed the naturally-sweet honey. A few of us even let him dump handfuls of bees onto our palms.
A wonderful three-course meal was served at the same location as the honey. We dug into quinoa soup, chicken with rice and vegetables, and a banana dessert while our counselor Bridget told some of her travel adventure stories.
Still hungry, we continued on to the chocolate studio. We learned about the different beans and took turns grinding cocoa beans, peanuts and sugar into one bowl of mouth-wateringly delicious chocolate paste. After tasting the result, most of us decided to purchase our own chocolate bars. As if the taste weren’t enough persuasion, it was cool to know that the bars consisted of only three simple ingredients.
Finally, we visited the coffee studio. The entire group was buzzing with sugar-induced energy by this point. We learned about the process, helped roast the beans, and drank a cup if we were still hungry.
We returned to our hotel in Ollantaytambo with extra time before dinner to pack for Machu Picchu, which we leave for TOMORROW!!! Some spent this time bargaining at the market to add to their already ridiculously large collections of alpaca sweaters.
Even after such a fantastic food-filled day, dinner did not disappoint. We dined at a restaurant in the plaza by our hotel. A few of us challenged each other with a riddle called Black Magic. I won’t spoil the game’s secret here in case I decide to challenge any of you readers at home. One of the day’s highlights was definitely our guide Santiago’s excitement when he finally figured out the trick.
Today was a much-needed recovery day after the grueling hiking trip in Lares. We climbed into our beds early with full stomachs and dreams of majestic Incan ruins…