Global: Session 2 - Lifeworks Peru 2
Posted: Mon, Aug 3, 2015
Location: Ollantaytambo to Cuzco
We began today, our last day of activities, with our typical 7:30 breakfast before loading the bus with our luggage and saying goodbye to Tika Wasi. Before heading to Cusco, we went to our final activity of the trip, which was whitewater rafting! After struggling into our wet suits, life jackets and helmets, we had a short demonstration on instructions and how to paddle before splitting into groups of 4 or 5 and climbing into our rafts. For the first hour, we paddled down the calm waters of the Urubamba River, occasionally stopping to pick up trash. It amazed me how trashed some areas of the river were (this was due to the fact that some who live along the banks of the river dispose of their trash by dumping it on the river banks). After collecting enough trash bags to fill the largest raft, we began the fun part which was rafting in the rapids! As someone who has never been whitewater rafting, I thought it was scary at first but a lot of fun. We ended at a restaurant, where we had a delicious chicken and mashed potatoes lunch. Our bus driver, Willy, even picked up some Cuy (guinea pig) for everyone to try. I personally did not like it; the skin was very crunchy while the meat was extremely salty and chewy. After a short siesta, we had a long bus ride to Cusco, where we’re staying for the night before our flight to Lima tomorrow morning. As excited as I am to go home, I really do not want to leave Peru and the group I’ve become so close with.
Posted: Sun, Aug 2, 2015
Machu Picchu, Day 2
Location: Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo
While waking up at 4:15 in the morning was no one’s idea of fun, I don’t think that anyone minded since today we would see one of the Wonders of the World and an Incan paradise: Machu Picchu. We met in the lobby at 5 and sorted out the stuff we were leaving at the hotel so no one had to carry random stuff up the mountain. Then we split into groups, one being the hardcore hikers that decided to take the climb up to Machu Picchu by the light of flashlights and headlamps, of course, and those who wimped out and chose to take the bus. The hiking crew consisted of Avery B, Steph, Dan, Bridget and I and it was amazing. The views were unbeatable and awe-inspiring. The stories we heard were both entertaining and hilarious. Plus, the group taking the bus had to wait in line for over half an hour and the view from the bus stop doesn’t even compare to those from the hike.
We met up at the top at 7:20 with the hikers showing up only 5 minutes after the others, despite the fact that the bus ride was 20 minutes and the hike was an hour and a half with a half hour wait to even get onto the hiking path. We shuffle forward, all anxiously awaiting the first moment we lay eyes on Machu Picchu. We get through the gate and walk up some stairs and there is a hold up in the narrow area where you first see the iconic site. Mario, our guide, finally got us through and it was amazing. Indescribable is the only word to explain Machu Picchu and the mountains that surround it. We all gathered on a terrace after some death-defying stairs and Mario told us the history of the site, the people who inhabited it and those who discovered it. Then we made our way through Machu Picchu and saw all the temples of the elements, that were very important to the Incans and since we could not live without them, they worshipped them. And while taking pictures (we probably took 1000 pictures between all the cameras), Meryl and Avery B. tried to do handstands to make a really artsy picture and were yelled at by a fellow touring group and a Machu Picchu guard. It did not work out. Then Mario explained the meaning of the Incan cross that most of the group had adopted as their own and bought many a piece of jewelry with this symbol as the centerpiece.
The tour came to an end and we all thanked Mario for the information about Machu Picchu and guiding us through the masses of people all visiting. We made our way to the beginning of the Sun Gate hike and this was the point that all the postcards are from and the Lifeworks group hogged the best spot for a while, with everyone wanting a picture with everyone else. It probably took 15 minutes to get all the desired picture combinations. Then it was time to split up into those taking the hike to the Sun Gate, those admiring the view and those going down to spend time in the cafe right outside Machu Picchu. Anna, Meryl, Noah, Rachel and Jack B. all took the hike. Jack R. and I stayed to enjoy the view and the rest went their own way. After 30 minutes of admiring the landscapes, Jack and I made our way down to the cafe and ended up walking the whole mountain again. There are worse things. We also got Machu Picchu stamps in our passports. Very cool. Time to meet up and get in line for the bus down. It was longer than the wait for the bus up to the mountain. The hikers made it back in time to wait in line for 10 more minutes then we boarded and made our way down the mountain. The views were still amazing. Some of the girls broke out in song to pass the time and while we may not have sounded amazing, we all had a great time.
When we returned to Aguas Calientes and to our hotel that we didn’t have rooms in anymore, we had free time until our train at 5:30, with some people resting in the lobby and the rest doing last minute shopping. The train ride back was full of card games and good times. We got back to Ollantaytambo and returned to Tika Wasi for one more night. We got new room assignments and I finally get to be with Sophia and Bell in an awesome room. We only had time to drop our stuff before our dinner which was pizza that Anna went and got (thank you Anna) and our nightly meeting, did Highs and Lows and read a bittersweet story about a math teacher that had all her students write nice things about everyone else and then gave them the list, and when one of the students passed away, they found he still had the list in his pocket. So we were tasked with the same activity and it sounded both difficult and interesting at the same time. Time to turn in and get some rest for whitewater rafting. Today was an amazing day and I cannot believe we go home in less than a week. Miss you mom and dad! Can’t wait to go home but at the same time I don’t want to leave. This trip has been amazing and unforgettable!
Posted: Sat, Aug 1, 2015
Machu Picchu, Day 1
Location: Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes
The day started at the normal time, at 7:30 with an 8am breakfast. After my hasty breakfast, I went back to my room and packed my suitcase and a bag for 24 hours. After the whole group had brought all of they bags and things down to the lobby, we headed to the train station, where we waited for about 30 minutes for our train to arrive. Our train was so cool! It was called the Vistadome and had these huge windows on the sides and the ceiling, so you could see everything around you. The two hour ride was accompanied by amazing views and was pretty calm (except for that weird guy who would yell “wooo hooo” every time we went through a tunnel). When we got to Aguas Calientes, which is the town below Machu Picchu, we were all ready to relax or go shopping in the nearby market. I ended up going shopping with my roommate Avery and Stephanie. We ended up buying way too much in a market that was way too expensive, but I got a few good deals. After shopping, the 3 of us went hunting for an ice cream place. The place we found ended up being the place we were having dinner. It was a super cool Italian place that I just forgot the name of. For dinner, I got an amazing pizza. After dinner, Avery and I watched The Parent Trap, and slowly fell asleep around 9, which was pretty late considering we were getting up at 4 in the morning for Machu Picchu, which I am SO EXCITED for!! Ok, its getting late. Peace out everyone!!
Posted: Fri, Jul 31, 2015
Our day started early as usual, with us waking up around 7am for breakfast at 7:30. In my room, however, Natalie and I lay in bed and complain about getting up until 7:25 while Rachel tries to coax us out of bed. Already five minutes late, Natalie and I go to breakfast in our pajamas as usual. Breakfast is usually the same everyday, except today I was able to snag not one, but two pancakes, which seemed almost miraculous.
After breakfast, we got on our bus to go to the rustic ceramics studio. On one side of the little studio, there was a long wooden table with mismatched benches, chairs and stools. Towards the other side of the room, there was a large wheel for throwing clay. After Ronald finished translating the process of making the clay, we split into two groups. My group started at the table. We were given small, orange clay circles about the size of my palm to paint and engrave. When we finished our clay circles, we could get on line to try throwing the clay. By the time it was my turn, I was really excited to try it. Wilbur, one of the people working at the studio, showed us how to mold the clay into a bowl. He made it look almost effortless, which it was not. Kicking the wheel to make it turn while trying to mold a mound of clay into a recognizable shape was much more difficult than it looked. Once people started finishing up their work, we started talking about who everyone would be in the Hunger Games. We had a Cato, Foxface, Johanna, Glimmer, Mags, Katniss and many more. It was decided that I was Rue, which was mildly upsetting due to her unfortunate and painful death.
After ceramics we all got back on the bus to go learn about the process of making coffee. We watched a short presentation on the different types of coffee and how the beans were harvested and then moved into a small room where they roasted the beans. There was a totally Incan wood fire stove with a bowl of coffee beans on top. We all took turns stirring the beans for around 25 minutes until they were ready to be ground. When the beans were ready, we all tried the delicious coffee that we helped to make.
Casa de chocolate was quaint but cute. It was very similar to the coffee place. We all gathered around to watch a man explain how to make chocolate with pictures and the occasional bowl of cocoa beans. Once the process was explained, we moved into the next room to make some chocolate. He mixed cocoa beans, sugar and peanuts together to make a chocolate paste slightly thicker than icing. We all took turns mixing and all tried the finished product. It was really delicious and most of us ended up buying some for ourselves.
For lunch we went to a restaurant that seemed to almost be someone’s house with a large dining room. We were served a usual meal of quinoa soup, chicken, and rice. Once we finished eating we got siesta time. Surrounding the house were rows of flowering trees, some of which had fruit. There were also rows of comfortable chairs and even a hammock to relax on. When siesta time was over, we walked through the rows of trees to get to the honeycombs to go see the production of honey. The beekeeper was an older man who didn’t even wear a bee suit. Armed with only smoke, he walked right over to the bees and just picked up a whole section of the hive without even wearing gloves. We all took turns holding the section of the hive that was covered in bees to take a picture with it and passed it around nervously. The bees were surprisingly calm and not a single person got stung. After dousing the honeycombs in smoke, the beekeeper shook all of the bees of in one quick motion and carried the honeycombs away from the rest of the hive. With help from the group, the beekeeper cut out sections of honeycomb for us to try.
Most of us finished up our days by calling our families and bargaining for last minute gifts in the market. I think it’s definitely safe to say that we have all bought our fair share of llama key chains. It’s hard to believe that we have only four days left until we have to go home.
Posted: Thu, Jul 30, 2015
MySmallHelp Service, Day 5
We began today with our usual 8am breakfast, which consisted of bread and jam, yogurt, and fruit, as well as pancakes (for those who were fortunate enough to snatch some before they disappeared). We split into our usual two groups and everyone headed over to their schools for our final full service day of the trip. However, today’s activities completed at the schools were not the same as the ones carried out in the past few days. Today, instead of doing the usual service of sweeping, sanding, painting, etc., we got to do something more exciting: make crepes for the children!
Upon our groups arrival, Meca (one of the workers of MySmallHelp), explained our task for the morning: we were to prepare 57 fruit-filled crepes for the students of the school. Sophia and I began right away making the orange juice to be used for the fruit filling; cutting the oranges into fourths and squeezing, by hand, every drop of juice possible out of each quarter; a task that was surprisingly more difficult than I anticipated, but still enjoyable. While we were doing that, Eve and Avery B. got to work peeling and slicing apples and bananas as the rest of the group prepared two massive bowls of batter. Once the batter was ready, half the group started on cooking the crepes while the other half began combining and cooking the ingredients of the filling. It was difficult to maneuver around the cramped cooking area, but we somehow got into a system that worked successfully and soon had the first batch of 17 fruit-filled, jam-topped crepes, along with 17 cups of juice, ready to serve to the first of four classes. By the 4th batch, we had fallen into a group rhythm that worked well for everyone and making the crepes became easy and enjoyable.
As fun as preparing the crepes was, laughing and joking with my friends the whole time, the part that was most enjoyable for me was delivering the crepes to the classrooms. Each time we entered a room, the children would yell out “Hola!” as their eyes eagerly followed those who were holding plates, waiting anxiously to be served. After each student received their food, we stood as a group at the front of the room and told them our names and said what we were there for. In each class we visited, a child would stand up and thank us for bringing them food and painting their school. As we exited each room, each time it was to a chorus of little voices yelling “Gracias!” In one class, the children even sang us a song and yelled out “Thank you!” as we left (but it sounded more like “Tank choo!”). After hearing a little bit about the children that attended the school (apparently a lot of them come from poor families) and seeing how appreciative the kids were, we all headed to our usual lunch destination feeling satisfied with our mornings work. We picked up the other half of the group, who’s mornings were spent similarly, and ate a delicious lunch of soup, chicken, and cake for dessert, as we shared the events from our days so far. We then had a much needed siesta in the grass area outside of the restaurant, which most of us spent sprawled out on the ground relaxing and enjoying the beautiful view of the mountains surrounding us on every side. Today, like every day, we marveled at the beauty of it all, and how it is so impossibly amazing that it almost looks fake, as if the scenery is really a backdrop of a Hollywood film. Despite the fact that we’ve been here for two and a half weeks, I sometimes still have to take time to process the fact that we’re actually in Peru.
After our siesta, we got to take part in a traditional Incan ceremony, in which each person received three cocoa leaves which were going to be burned in a ritual carried out by Incans as a thank you to mother nature. This was an interesting, eye-opening experience in which we were able to see, as well as take part in, a portion of traditional Incan practices.
The whole group then returned to one school where we spent about an hour finishing up the final layer of our painting job. After hours of sanding and painting from the pervious two days, it felt great to finally complete this task. We then returned back to the hotel for some free time, which some of us used for shopping in the square right down the street. The group later headed to yet another delicious dinner at a nearby restaurant, and afterwards ended the day with some highs and lows and appreciations. It’s sad to think that the trip is coming to a close, but I’m excited for the next few days and for memories I know the final days will bring.