British International School Of Chicago Peru 2018
June 22, 2018
The alarm goes off, and immediately, the 6am chills rush through my body. I had taken my specific precautions the night before in order to assuage the Peruvian winter’s wrath that we were warned about prior, which included thermal undergarments and more thick layers, so there wasn’t much I had to worry about. Despite this, as we all ventured to breakfast at 7 in the morning, I overheard many a story about the cold and its deteriorating effects on the comfortable ways of life we had come to know before. The early morning did, however, yield the most incredible of views of the towering mountainsides in the distance, with the illuminous sun striking shadows that spread for miles.
After breakfast, our group was split in half, into Group A and Group B, in order to complete a different day of activities to the other. My group, Group A, set off to complete service work in Sagrado Corazón de Jesús, the first private school in the town of Urubamba. First we all received a talk from Wilbur, the founder of the institution, as he explained his motivations for the startup of the school. He told us that he truly wanted to advance the education within the town, and thus spent his life curating and building up the school; it was inspiring, to say the least. Afterwards, we were split in to four groups, who were each assigned a separate service task to help the school’s appearance. There were two groups who painted in some form, and two who used plaster. As we worked, the schoolchildren danced to music being played by the teachers, providing a soundtrack for our work, making it seem as if we were in a movie! Finally, those who wished to took part in a friendly soccer match against the children from the school. It was very rewarding, and definitely very fun.
After our delicious buffet lunch of various meats and vegetables, Group A was split in half in order to take part in two separate activities, but in different orders. My half went first to a small jeweler’s shop, where we all learned how to make our own Sterling Silver rings! It was certainly something I never thought I would experience in my lifetime. After we had all made our rings, we made our way to the workshop of a potter named Marco, who taught us how to manipulate clay, either with a potter’s wheel or carving into a tile. Overall, this was a fantastic day, and we hope to update you further on our trip!
6:15 AM. Waking up was a hard task, after all of the traveling in planes and buses through countries, continents, mountains, and cities…
Despite this, the early morning view made it all worth it. A majestic, foggy and frosty morning in the Andes Mountains created a sense of mystery which depicted and presented to us how great our forthcoming adventure was to become. After taking countless photos of the beautiful scenery and becoming acquainted to the chilly morning air, we left our hotel for the first out of the many great adventures to come. After driving through the twisty-turny roads of the Andes mountain range, we came to an otherworldly scenic spot, where many local families were selling many of their colorfully vibrant handicrafts, such as bird whistles, scarfs, hats — you name it.
Next, we visited an alpaca and llama farm on the mountain, where we got the opportunity to feed these unique animals of Peru. An unforgettable experience was walking up the footpath to retrieve bunches of alfalfa provided to feed them. When holding the bunch of alfalfa to the alpaca, they hungrily eyed, and subsequently ate, these plants with great pleasure. Another experience which will never be forgotten is petting these animals for the first time. Their thick layer of fluffy fur felt extremely soothing and calming – it was so soft – which allowed us to relax from the stress of travel. We then saw a demonstration of how the Peruvians made their wears (in the form of textiles), since the days of the ancients. Using an intricate and demanding process, and many plants for dyes, they were able to weave some of the most sophisticated and colorfully eye catching textiles. Afterwards we shopped at the farm, and some bought their elegantly woven alpaca fur products, such as scarfs hats, blankets and other textiles and trinkets.
After the Alpaca farm, we took a very short bus ride to the market. The spectrum of colors hit us like a tidal wave, as we descended off of the bus and began to take in the sights of the various vendors selling souvenirs including; hand Woven scarves and blankets, mineral necklaces, and hand carved stones. For those students spoke Spanish, we were able to utilize our linguistic skills to not only help our friends order food and buy what they wanted, but also to bargain the prices of the items we were looking to buy. Many of us are proud of our precious trophies of successful bargaining, and are looking forward to show them to our families when we get back home. After our long stint of purchasing, we all went to a restaurant near the market in which many of us tried empanadas for the first time, and we tried out a Peruvian soft drink called Inka Cola. ¡Qué delicioso!
We also were able to visit the Inca ruins in the Písac valley, which includes learning the vibrant past of the area and seeing the largest pre-Hispanic cemetery in South America. The Inca civilization lasted for 400 years, and were alive for 1100 – 1500 (around about). Little did we know, the cemetery was actually in a mountain! This knowledge blew us away, enticing us to wonder and ask questions about how they got the bodies up the steep, mammoth mountain, and also about the traditional burial rites of the Inca people and their culture. We were told that the bodies were brought to their final resting places on paths and up ladders. The idea the Incan people had about burying people in the mountain was that they were being returned to Mother Nature’s embrace, and they were mummified after having their internal organs removed and placed in a fetal position for burial. Later in time, these graves were looted for the possessions buried with the dead.
As we stood in the sizzling sun and relieving winds near the ruins in Písac, looking over the incredible view of the mountains and valley, our Global Works guide enlightened us about the meaning of the placement of the ruins and who lived in each small area. All of the ruins were built on the mountain, rather than the valley, and there was terracing in the mountain for farming and to prevent it from eroding. The ruins were built high up due to the flooding every other year in the valley, and because the Inca were a warrior people and a high vantage point allows them to have a good defensive advantage against invaders – which included other native tribes and the Spaniards. The Inca people were skilled in crafting with copper and bronze, so their weapons were most commonly arrows, axes, and mases. Also, the Inca had a legend depicting the beginning of their people, where the sun god brought up a married couple to help to civilize and unite the various people in the valley, as they were plagued by war and hate. The married couple came back down to Earth from the sun god’s embrace, and succeeded in unifying the people of Mother Earth. This is infinitely more interesting due to the rapid civilization of the people in the area and the dissolution of the war in the area around the beginning of the 12th century when the first markings of the Inca people are said to be dated to.
-Marissa, Kayla, and Sepehr
June 23, 2018
Another early start to our day as we were preparing to embark on an adventure very few will experience in their lifetime. Just an hour and a half outside of our quaint hostel is an Andean community that is rich in Peruvian history. Upon arrival, we were greeted with traditional song and dance, welcoming us into their community. After splitting our group up, we joined host families as they showed us around and gave us an insight into their daily lives. We had a hard day of work: shucking corn, farming potatoes, working alongside them all day long.
We succumbed to the culture, especially during a traditional ceremony in which the community praised nature and celebrated Pacha Mama (Mother Earth). They carefully laid 5 rocks on the exquisite blanket, representing the 5 mountains surrounding their community. As they they were reciting ancient verses, the wind blew as if it was a sign from the mountain gods. We joined them in eating a traditional meal consisting of potatoes, cheese and a “special” sauce. Finally, we said “tupananchis kama” (see you later) because they believe that we all see each other in the after life. On our way back to the hostel, we visited an ancient Incan archaeological site and learned about their history of farming.
After returning to the hostel, we were all tired after a long day’s work but we are all ready for tomorrow!
Beth, Zoe, Anica, Albert
Today we tried Guinea pig for the first time. To be honest I was quite nervous, especially when you looked at it. Though it was quite ugly, it tasted amazing to me kinda like chicken or rabbit but I liked it over all and would definitely try it again. We also got to make rings out of silver and then make ceramic pots and coasters in the town of Urubmaba. Things I have never done before but enjoyed very much.
In Ollantaytambo, a town 30min. away, we visited a girl’s dorm made possible by the Sacred Valley Project. The dorm houses young girls who normally live 3-6 hours away in small mountain towns for them to receive better education which wouldn’t be possible at their homes.
Doing service work at the girl’s dorm really helped me appreciate how, what seems like a short amount of work, can make a huge difference in someone’s life. Working the earth with shovels and pick axes to mix the dirt, I have come to find out is that you make a lot of new relationships when you do something as simple as working in a garden. Also, we always see the food in front of us but seldom see the process through which it got to be there.
Near the end of dinner, and the promise of a bonfire was announced, the excitement in the room grew and grew. Running to the two bonfire locations, our happiness soared as we saw the ingredients for the best fire meal. chocolate. graham crackers. marshmallow. As we made s’mores, and the fire crackled with delight, we all become very content with our meal and our day.
Sol and Kemi
June 24, 2018
To start our day we all enjoyed and gathered together to watch England thrash Panama, 6-1. After celebrating their win, we boarded the bus with excitement ready to start our adventurous day. Our first stop was petting the fluffy, hungry, and joyful llamas and alpacas, which was a new, and definitely fun experience for us all. We fed them long, green, alfalfa sprouts which they gobbled down instantly. We then interestingly learnt about the process of making and dying alpaca and llama fur with the use of natural ingredients, such as, lemon, cochinilla, and indigo.
Following this, we travelled to Pisac Market where we purchased local goods such as backpacks, bracelets, as well as eating the delicious, fresh empanadas. We also got the chance to take photos with and meet baby lambs. On our way back, we took a hike through the famous Pisac Inca town where we saw tombs from the Incan era and terraces where crops were planted. It was very interesting and an eye opening experience.
We can’t wait to experience more on this amazing trip such as helping and visiting a local school.
Alice and Rojaun 🙂
Meeting the Quechua families was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Today we spent the day immersed in their culture; it was amazing. We were able to communicate with them and learn about their lifestyle. We also were able to visit the Moray agricultural ruins where we walked to see the breathtaking views. I am so grateful for this experience it’s like no other.- Mahnoor B.
Today was one of the best days yet. It all started up with watching the World Cup, England Vs. Panama, not much of us are big fans, but we love watching our friends reactions. They are priceless. After breakfast we went to a mountain town and met their people, we broke up into different groups and went to the families’ houses. There we all did different types of jobs; for example we picked corn, peeled potatoes, herded cows and bulls, and aided in the drying bean process.- Lauryn J.
As our bus pulled up to the rural town of Kajllarakay excitement and fear overwhelmed us as we were greeted by the kind locals. Although none of us had ever been to the town we felt extremely welcomed the very moment we stepped off the bus, maybe it was the beautiful song they sang for us or maybe it was their loving attitudes towards us foreigners that made us feel a little more at home. I was truly astonished by the children of the town because of how easily they found fun in the littlest things. For example Norma, she was only four but picked corn like she had been doing it for twenty years, her beaming face made me feel so happy to be able to see how immensily excited she could be with such a simple task. The family I worked with had a quaint little home that provided them with everything they could possibly need, nothing more nothing less. Despite not having a huge house and expensive things this family was very happy and used what they needed to live and never complained. The attitudes of the people of Kajllarakay is something that I will never forget because it made me realize that I can be as happy as they are and see joy and life in the littlest of things, and to me that is beautiful
June 25, 2018
Group A- Coming Soon!
It’s 6.30 and I’m packing my bag, not how I imagined the day starting but the day quickly got better. The day developed into one of the most self-fulfilling days, with the improvements we had done at a local school in Urubamba. The kids were generous and warm to us as they opened by presenting a song and a poem to us. Following their introduction, we sang songs to them as well. This day continued as we started to paint the railings of the schools. This small detail helped improve the look of the school prior to their 27th anniversary. The school director worked as a part of the state before he opened up the private school to help out kids that needed it most. After this, the two groups met up for lunch at a buffet in the middle of town and enjoyed our meal alongside an intense soccer match between Iran and Portugal.
The group then embarked to the village of Ollantaytambo where we explored the Peruvian ruins and shopped in the local market where we developed our bargaining skills in Spanish. Era una experiencia yo nunca olvidare (It was a experience I could never forget.) As we write this, the group sets foot to our next adventure, Machu Picchu, where we will spend the next day climbing and enjoying one of the worlds 7 greatest wonders.
The group kicked off they day with a trip to a local school, Sagrado Corazon de Jesus and were introduced to some of the local children. After we planned we distributed ourselves into 4 teams; from there we performed a song and dance for the local children, our group sang “Tony Chestnut”. Then we split into smaller groups and helped the school prepare for their 27th anniversary. During our service work, we were continually greeted by the students enquiring what we were doing or what our names were. As a group, and as individuals we made knew friends and made an impact on their lives. Following that we visited ruins in Ollantaytambo, visited a local market, and concluded the day by taking a train to Aguas Calientes, the base town of Machu Picchu. Overall it was a very fun and rewarding day.
Today in Peru group B went to a school called Sagrado Corazón de Jesus. It is one of the most popular schools in the Urubamba area. Right when we got to the school we went to different children’s’ classrooms to see how the children at this school learn. Also, in the classrooms we sang songs to them like; bananas and toe knee chestnut, itsy bitsy spider, etc. then the children in return sang songs to us. It was adorable! After we sang we had the children ask us questions like, where we live, our favorite foods, and favorite game. We then went on to help around the school. Everybody did a little but of everything: plastering, repainting walls, and repainting chipped paint on railings. It was hot and the sun was shining so we made sure to wear hats and reapply sunscreen every hour!