Today was our second day back in Cusco. We planned on helping out and learning more about Aldea Yanapay organization to establish realations for future trips. We had found the Aldea Yanapay organization through a suggestion from the Awamaki organization when we were back in Ollantaytambo. Upon arriving we were informed that there wasn´t going to be classes that day because the children are on their summer break. Instead, the organization needed help moving supplies and furniture from the school building to the cultural center. There was a lot of heavy lifting but things went decently fast becaue of the number of people helping. While there, the BWB group met many other volunteers from other countries. After finishing up with the moving, we were invited to have dinner with the other volunteers at the Yanapay restaurant. The food at Yanapay was some of the best that we have had all trip and everyone was full. The atmostphere was light and friendly as we got to know the other volunteers. It was a great day both from a volunteer sense and a cultural diversity perspective. The night ended on a slightly somber note, as everyone finally started to realize that soon we would be returning to the states. -Emalee
This was our last day at the Hogar; a day to finish up our project and say our last goodbyes to the wonderful people we have met. My group traveled from Urubamba to Cusco to Anta--where the Hogar resides. When we got there, all 12 of us were split up to grab supplies: wood, mesh, varnish, sand paper, paint brushes, etc. This was to finish our work on the greenhouse, and to varnish the wood of the shelters the Hogar has. I sanded the wood and varnished it, and also helped the men who worked at the greenhouse. I learned a bit of Spanish and had a lot of fun.
At the end of our day at the Hogar, we all said goodbye to the girls. Sharmely was the girl I was closest with, and we pinky-promised to email each other. It was a teary goodbye, but it was amazing to leave that place knowing that each of us made an impact on the Hogar and the girls staying there.
Finally, it was Chad´s last day in Peru! So we went out to an Italian restaurant for dinner and a small celebration. The food here is amazing to say the least. It´s sad to know that we´ll all be heading back home in a few short days. I´m going to miss it greatly here.
Things have really turned for us since last night. While going to the internet cafe last night in Ollataytambo, we met a girl from Minnesota who goes to Carleton College. She has been here for a month. She was able to give us some good contacts that will help us for future trips. We also got her contact information so we could contact her with future questions.
This morning, Daniel took us to a small Andean village about an hour for Ollataytambo. This experience was very eye-opening and made all of us appreciate what we have. First, we visited their sunday market, which is a major part of their week. This market was many times smaller than the daily market in Cusco, but very essential to the people in this village. Then, we went and visited the family that Daniel is godparents of. The conditions that this family lived in are terrible. The have a one roome house with a stove and barely enough room for all twelve of us. However, they were very nice and open to us. They shared potatoes with us and many of us bought some of their beautiful weavings after trying on their traditional clothing. Daniel also told us that he was planning on starting a project in this village, in which he wanted to improve the health, cleanliness, and schooling. He said that he would like us to spend time helping this village on the next trip with the help of a couple doctors, including his nephew. This would be a great plan for next year!
After the vsit to the Andean village this morning, six of us went tu Urubamba, while the others stayed in Ollaytaytambo. Here we were able to met with Edwin for the first time on this trip. He was overall very helpful. We learned how he came to get involved with Ana Dobson, the founder of Peruvian Hearts, through being involved in her complicated adoption process. Also, Edwin has many contacts in the Urubamba and Cusco area, which is shown by his run for a spot on Congress. He was able to give us a big list of possible opportunities. However, it seems that the opportunities he can give us this year are very limited due to the little amount of time we have, summer vacation in Peru is now, and the amount of time communication takes.
Despite the fact that we can get much opportunities for this trips, it seems that we have set up very good connections that will bode very well in the future trips. This will allow us to have a greater impact in the communities will work in and be much more efficient!
TODAY WAS THE DAY! We finally conquered the mighty Machu Picchu on our well deserved resting day. It was beyond gorgeous. Words will not be able to do this day justice. We arrived very early in the morning with hopes of watching the sunrise. However we were greeted with a lot of clouds and rain. Everyone was bundled up in their poncho´s and raincoats. Daniel brought us to all of the important spots. We saw all of the shrines and gorgeous looks over the impressive mountains and rushing river. Don´t worry, there were thousands of pictures taken between the twelve of us. Daniel was an amazing tour guide, giving us moments together that we will never forget. Eventually the clouds and rain gave in, and the sun broke through, making the views even more breath taking. None of us wanted to leave. As we finished our tour, it started to rain again. Perfect timing I would say. We were all starving, so Daniel brought us to a nice restauraunt in Aguas Calientes . Some of us got our much needed american comfort food such as pizza and spaghetti. I decided to be a bit more adventurous. I had grilled Alpaca and it was AMAZING. It was like a big chunk of filet minion. It is definitely a meal I will never forget! We were running a bit late since lunch took longer than usual, so we had to rush back to the hostel to fetch our bags and run to the train station. Once aboard, we were surrounded by even more gorgeous views. Some played cards, some discussed group information, and some slept after the long trek. We disembarked the Peru Rail train and met back up with Daniel. We settled into our new hostel for the night. The son of the hostel ower came in and visted some of the boys, greeting them with hugs and a lot of laughs. Tonight we all plan on catching up on sleep before, after a few games of phase 10 and multi person solitare of course.
Hola! On Friday we started off early by taking a bus at 6 a.m. to the train station at Ollantaytambo, where we boarded Peru Rail on route to Machu Picchu. The scenery was beautiful, as we were surrounded by mountains, forest and a river. Once we arrived in Aguas Calientes, we checked into a small hostel for the night and Daniel took us on a long hike in the area surrounding Machu Picchu. In the afternoon it rained heavily as we walked through the forest, but the scenery was beautiful. We walked through el Jardin de Mandor, a historic hacienda we learned was visited by a famous conquistador centuries earlier. Daniel showed us all types of different plants that were growing in the rainforest in their natural habitat, including bananas, pineapples and coffee beans. He took us to a scenic waterfall on our way. He has been teaching culture and language of the native people. Almost half of the people in Peru speak Quechua, the native language spoken by the Incas, along with Spanish. A few native people still live in the rainforest. We saw one or two of their homes from a distance while on our hike. We also heard monkeys in the forest but unfortunately did not see them. After our hike we had lunch at a small cafe, where we were served delicious vegetable tortillas and soup. After a long day of hiking we returned to the hostel and prepared for our next day of visiting Machu Picchu.
We started our day today with a breakfast of Peruvian bread, honey and jam, as well as tea and pineapple juce provided by Daniel and Rosa. Our plan for the day was to tour around the city of Cusco and make our first trip to the Hogar, a private girls boarding school at which we will be voluntering. With this in mind, and our stomachs full, we headed toward the center of town around 8 AM with Daniel as our guide. Our first stop was one of the main markets in Cusco. This was the first time that we had spent any time in the city during the day, and the fact that our first experience was the market was very eye opening. The first stall that we happened across upon entering the market was one that sold any sort of meat imaginable, including cow snouts complete with teeth. From there the market became a little more tame with multitudes of stands selling bread, fruit and textiles. A few of our group bought souvenirs and we continued our tour with a walk down the Avenue de Sol back to Daniel and Rosa house.
After droping off our various purchases, our group, including Daniel, hopped on the bus that would take us to the Hogar. Because the Hogar was to be the primary reciepent of our volunteer efforts, we decided to use the day to asses their needs as well as meet with the girls that live there and the Sisters that run it. We also planned to use the meeting to drop off art supplies and other donations that we had brought for the school. After the hour long bus ride that brought us to the Hogar, we were welcomed in by a few of the girls that live and go to school at the Hogar. We spent the next few hours touring the school, talking with the Sisters and playing a lively game of basketball with the girls, most of whom were 16 years old or younger. We made the return journey to Cusco around 530 with at least some understanding of the projects we would undertake in the following few days. Upon arriving home, we had dinner and called it a day.
So we started off today by splitting into two groups, Laura, myself, Chad, and Tia headed to the Hogar to discuss plans for the greenhouse. A little later, the rest of the group headed to the market, and waited for us to call with a list of necessary supplies to purchase. We arrived around 730am and began looking around the greenhouse with Anna Yolanda. At 8, the two brothers who work in the greenhouse arrived and began to walk through possible projects with us. Communication was not easy, but with Tia around, we were able to finally come to a consensus on what we could do. They initially hoped that we would be able to rebuild the entire greenhouse using metal, but based on our budget, this was impossible. After approximately 3 hours of discussing and translating, we were able to decide what windows and crossbeams we could replace and areas of plastic we could repair. We were able to come up with a list of materials, but because of lack of service to the phones, communication between the groups was very difficult. We had hoped to start work that day, but based on when the group was able to purchase materials and the last few things we needed, we were forced to put it off until the day after. Although tensions were high by the end of the day, as a group we made a lot of progress with soldifying our project and utilizing group funds to make it happen.
Today we woke up really early and caught the somewhat exhilerating bus at 7 am. We wanted to get to the Hogar at 8, but unfortunately were running a little late. We immediately got to work on our two main projects there: to sand, repaint, and cement the playground equipment and to repair the green house. I was first in the green house group, but then went to help sand the equipment. It was A LOT of work to get the rust off of the teeter totter! It took hours and then we were set to painting it. Lauren and I went to buy the cement for the equipment, which turned out to be a hilarious adventure. After attempting to carry the very heavy bag, we resorted to asking the store owner for help. Two young boys named Juan and Carlos packed it up in a cart and brought it all the way to the Hogar for us. We got the teeter totter cemented, but we have to come back next week to cement the play ladder. I can´t wait to see the girls again!
We did our best to blog earlier but we had trouble setting up the blog. For your enjoyment, we will post 3 days worth of blog posts. Hope you enjoy!!!
Today was one of the longest travel days ever!!!!! We had an eight hour layover in Lima, slept on the floor outside of the food court, played multiple rounds of Phase 10 and practiced our spanish. Everyone was really groggy and cranky by the time we got on the plane to Cusco but on the bright side, the flight was only an hour and we had a gorgeous view of the mountains from our plane windows. Daniel greeted us outside of the airport with a huge grin and brought us and our luggage to a van back to his house. It is crazy how many stray/family dogs there are wandering the streets!!! They are friendly muts during the day but vicious, ravenous wolverines at night especially when you are carrying chicken back for dinner and they are starving during the day. Daniel gave us a tour of the bustling city of Cusco and we noted landmarks like the Incan king and the catholic church. The city is really confusing to navigate but it is also very easy to make the 20 minute walk home once we find the Incan king statue. There are many alpaca light statues and neon light water fountains. When it rains, it usually mists for awhile. It is quite warm in the morning, but the weather becomes progessively colder at night (thank goodness for our jackets!!!), When we arrived at Daniel´s house, we drank some mate de coca to settle our stomachs (a few people got altitude sickness and felt dizzy). He talked a lot about his culture, the Incas and catholicism. It was quite interesting to listen to his perspectives on life, in particular, his belief that life should be simple, unmaterialistic, and we should enjoy life as much as possible. We were all super tired after the plane ride yet Daniel insisted that we stay awake and explore because ¨we can sleep when we are dead.¨ We had Peruvian corn (on the cob) with cheese and delicious rice, chicken, cilantro soup for lunch. Basically we organized our schedules with Daniel. We went to town and got our calling cards, bought 3 cell phones with 59 minutes each. For dinner, we had spaghetti and bread with chicken. Delicioso! Some of our group played Phase 10 in the dining room and the rest of us went to bed.