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2019 New West Charter Peru Service Adventure

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Machu Picchu day! 

Written by Lucas Matias daVeiga

Today is the day, the one we have been waiting for the entire trip. At 5:00 AM, the hotel came alive with our alarm clocks, shocking each group awake, save one. Almost everyone made their way up to the continental breakfast with the best scrambled eggs any of us have tasted since LA by around 5:30 AM. As we gathered together at the lobby of the hotel to prepare for the expedition, we noticed a couple of us slept through their alarm. After a runner sent to wake them, a rushed preparation, and a slightly delayed departure, we met our tour guide with a very thick accent nobody appeared to be able to place. Our group boarded the bus to Machu Picchu at around 6:00, enjoying the views on the way up. By the time we reached the ancient city, the sun had already risen above the horizon but not above the mountains surrounding us. We disembarked from our busses, used the unusually costly restrooms, and headed up the “Meauntain” as our tour guide would say many times throughout the day. We emerged from the path through the cloud forest at the terrace farms above the city, perfectly in time to watch the sun rise above the mountains, illuminating the sun temple at the top of Huaynu Picchu Mountain. We entered the city and walked to the top of a small hill, looking at an Inca clock-calendar mix. We enjoyed a small garden demonstrating what the Inca grew in their farms. After the tour, we headed back to our hotels and gathered our things for the train ride back to Ollantaytambo. After the train ride, the group got their suitcases and boarded our busses to Cuzco. We noticed as we arrived in the first plaza on the way to our hotel, there was a massive festival crowding the streets and we had to navigate the crowd with our suitcases to the hotel. In the hotel, we put away our things and braced ourselves for another trip out into the streets for dinner. After waiting for about half an hour, we ate our final dinner in Peru. We went to bed with the noise of the festival in our ears, sad but excited to head home tomorrow.

Goodbye Homestays, Hello Aguas Calientes

Written by Will

Today I woke up and had breakfast like everyday. I packed up my stuff and then went down to the plaza to meet up a few other of the people on the trip to hang out before lunch. After a little bit and then we decided to head to a cafe nearby that had WiFi. The rest of the group came down to the cafe and we all played a card game for a while. After that, we all went back to our homestays to eat lunch.

After lunch, I went to some ruins in the outskirts of the village with the other person in my homestay. We wanted to meet up with a some more people in the group, but only a few more people joined us at the ruins. On the way back to the plaza, I accidentally stepped in the stream that flowed through the path to the ruins several times. This got my shoes very soaked, making me uncomfortable on the way back, but it was part of the journey.

Everyone brought their luggage to the plaza and said their goodbyes to their homestay parents. Then we started heading towards the train station. We got on the train and headed towards Aguas Calientes. When we arrived in Aguas Calientes, we headed to the hotel. After settling into our rooms, we headed downstairs and then to a nearby restaurant for dinner. After we finished eating dinner, we headed back to our separate rooms and went to bed.

Final Service Day and Farewell FIesta

Written by Daniel Marion – Walking Tree Program Leader

Yesterday was our last day of service at the school.  Throughout the week, I saw the students get more invested in and excited about the project. On the final day, they arrived with tons of energy and were able to accomplish an impressive amount of work in just a few hours.

While one group of students continued painting the school walls, the other group continued the construction of what will eventually become an outdoor eating area for the schoolchildren.  Today we made the cement mixture by mixing cement with water and a special type of dirt.  Afterwards we used it to plant the columns for the structure.  The foreman, Isaac, as well as Raquel and I, were very impressed with the students’ hard work! Isaac said that they are the type of energetic and positive people with whom he likes to work.

In the afternoon, we went with most of the students to the historic Incan fortress in our home stay community, Ollantayambo. Ollantayambo is a remarkably well preserved fortress that stretches throughout the mountains surrounding the town. It was quite a steep ascent to the top, but well worth the difficulty for the amazing view and truly unique chance to explore an Incan ruin!

In the evening, we had a farewell party with the students and their Peruvian families. Cuy (guinea pig), a delicacy in Peru, was served. Almost everyone in our group of very curious students tried it, but only one or two of them actually enjoyed it. In saying goodbye to the families, a few students cried and many had heartwarming words to say to their host mothers. I hope the students stay in touch with their host family! It warmed my heart to see them forge such close bonds in the span of a week. I know that they won’t forget their Peruvian parents and siblings any time soon!

Back at the School

Written by Daniel B

Today we we continued our service project at the school. There we painted and dug, until at around 11 the school principal kindly gave us empanadas, again. After that we walked a little to a parade/party at a plaza.

There we enjoyed the sights and sounds, some of which were very loud. Some of the people in the parade threw candy and other foods at us and the rest of the audience. Every now and then little explosions would go off making a loud bang and some smoke. All in all the parade was noisy but exciting.

After that we returned back to school and had some lunch, and then we returned to work. After working for a while, we left the school again, and bought some ice cream. There I also bought something called a submarino which looked like a strawberry flavored twinkie. Everyone who tried it agreed that it did not taste good.

After we returned from ice cream we answered some reflection questions in a group about the trip. Once that was done I realized that we could push people around in the wheelbarrows we had been using earlier today. Eventually we ended up with a small jousting competition where a person sat in a wheelbarrow while holding a orange cone, and then was pushed towards another person also in a wheelbarrow. We had two competitions, in which I was the one pushing one of the wheelbarrows. Sadly though my team lost both times. After that we walked to the bus depot. Eventually we arrived back in town and split up to our host families.

Pisac

Today, we woke up in our homestays and ate breakfast made for us by our homestay parents. At 9:00am, we headed to the plaza and got on a bus to a town called Pisac. When we arrived, we drove up the mountain to see ancient Incan ruins. We saw a huge farm land carved into the side of a mountain, and the remains of the stone houses the Incans lived in. We also saw the graves of thousands of Incans buried in the side of the mountain. We learned that it was a burial sight for Incans who were killed and sacrificed to their gods. Afterwards, we went into town to shop at a world famous market. We walked through the huge market, buying trinkets and souvenirs from the local vendors. We stopped for lunch at a nearby restaurant, and then continued shopping until the afternoon. After we finished, we got back on the busses and headed back to our homestays for the night.

Urubamba

Written by Langston

Today 6-18-19 I woke up at around 7:15. I took a quick cold shower and then ate some delicious banana pancakes cooked by my homestay parents. Next, the whole group departed to the school in the Urubamba District where we continued our service project. Because of our hard work the school offered us complementary empanadas and drinks. Soon after that we had lunch and then went to a near by soccer field to play against the Urubamba School Soccer Team. They were extremely good, but I was proud to score a goal. As the day continued we kept going with the service project. At the end of the day the project leader Isaac called me and a few others strong, and that was very nice. I returned home and ate dinner, played uno with the homestay kids, and watched the some of the soccer games for Copa America. It was a good day.

A Busy Day and Biking

Written by Cole

Today we took a break from the service project to explore other parts of Peru. Our day started with a tour of an Artisanal Weaver’s Market. We first saw some of the alpaca that were sheared to make the products, and were then shown the process by which the wool was dyed and prepared. After the demonstration, we were given the opportunity to purchase the products, which many students took. Blankets, hats, gloves, jackets, bags, socks, and plush alpacas, we bought it all. Don’t be surprised if your student comes home with alpaca souvenirs!

After we finished purchasing our souvenirs, we got back on the bus and drove to the salt mines or Salineras. Here we saw pools of salt as far as the eye could see. We walked down to get a closer view of the pools, and were given the opportunity to purchase salt related souvenirs. Our guide told us the history of the mine, which has been used since before Incan times. We also learned that every pool could be used to produce about 300 pounds of salt each. It was amazing seeing the whole area covered with white pools as far as you could see.

For lunch we ate at the top of a beautiful overlook where we had a great view of the mountains above us. Afterwards, we drove to an old Incan site called Sacsayhuaman, where it is speculated the Incans used the land to plant crops. Rather than a flat plot of land however, the land sunk down many levels in a circular pattern for them to make “microclimates”. We also learned that some people in the sacred valley still use the Incan techniques.

After walking by the Incan site we moved on to our last and most difficult activity of the day: an 8 mile bike ride down to Ollantaytambo. This seems like it wouldn’t be too difficult for someone with a little experience in biking, but this wasn’t your average bike path in LA. It was littered with rocks big and small, sudden dips in the road, sharp turns, and on one occasion a massive hole in the middle of the road (which everyone managed to avoid). When we reached the end of the trail there were about 8 of us left, as the rest had decided to ride in the van the rest of the way down. Only a couple people fell, and some even continued to ride afterwards. I personally fell once, and managed to completely cover the back of my jacket in dust, which you can see in this group photo taken after we finished. Aside from the dust I was covered in and a couple small cuts I was fine, and managed to finish riding the whole trail. For me this was one of the most fun activities on the trip.

Finally after driving a little more to the plaza in the middle of Ollantaytambo, we returned to our families, ate dinner, and prepared to return to the service project the next day.

Saint Choquekillka

Written by Eli Hammond, Leo Raksin, and Lucas DaVeiga

Today it was Father’s Day, as well as a celebration of the saint Choquekillka. After waking up, we ate breakfast and spent time with our homestay families. For breakfast our group had scrambled eggs. Our group played Jenga and Go Fish(“Ir a Pescar” in Spanish) with the son from our homestay before leaving the house. Some of us went to church with our families, and others of us hung out in the town. My group and some others went to play Soccer with the local kids. The son from our homestay family also played soccer with us, and although he said he wasn’t very good, he was playing better than us. When we left the field, we encountered a parade in celebration of the saint Choquekillka. There were hundreds of people and music. After that, we went back to our homestay and played Jenga until lunch. For lunch, we had mashed potatoes with rice and meat. After lunch, we headed to the school to work. There, we split into a group of people who dug up old grass and a group who painted the stairs. I was part of the group that painted. Before we started painting, we we had a bit of downtime while our instructors were helping the other group get started, and we relaxed in the empty schoolyard. When we started painting, each of us would paint at least 4 stairs. After this, we took buses back to the plaza and enjoyed some churros, music, and dancing. When we got back to the homestay, we enjoyed a dinner with our family, played more with the son and went to bed after the long day.

Fathers Day, Service Day

Written by Hudson

Today at around 7:00 to 7:30am, we all woke up. We ate breakfast with our host families and at around 8:30 we headed to the plaza. At the plaza we meet up for directions and just hung out until our bus came. The bus took us to our service project at a school, about a 20 to 30 minute ride from our community. During the bus ride we saw many things not alike to Los Angeles. There were many villages between steep mountains and a tight valley. When we got to the school, we instantly realized we came on an interesting day. There was a huge celebration for Father’s day. In Peru, there are large celebrations on Saturday instead of Sunday. As we waited for more instructions, we watched the fascinating festival for about a half an hour. After that, we got to work. First we swept all the outdoor hallways and washed the dust off walls and floors. We began handing out paint brushes and paint because we were going to paint the railings red. I know it sounds lame but it’s true. We started painting at around 10:00, then we took a break at around 12:30 to eat lunch. After lunch we went to a local ice cream shop, to of course get ice cream. Afterwards, we started working again, painting the railings for stairs and outdoor hallways. We finally finished our work around 5:00, and from there we packed up our stuff and headed to the bus stop down the street. We took the 20 minute bus back to the plaza. From there we went to our home stays, had dinner, and went to the grand Father’s day festival in the town. We were all there at around 7:00, and stayed to watch dancing and music through the evening. There were even fireworks!

Meeting our Host Families

Written by Daniel Avidon

On the 14th everyone met their new families for the next 8 days (in Ollantaytameo). My family was very large and had 2 girls, 1 three-year-old boy, and 2 teenagers. My new “mother” cooked an amazing dinner which contained rice, chicken, and vegetables. In the backyard the family has 30+ cuy, 1 bull, and 1 cow. During the day the class participated in a futbol match which was very fun even though we weren’t very good. The beds were comfortable and the room is very nice. Also, the house is a 5 min walk away from the main plaza which is convenient. Overall I have high hopes for the rest of the trip and so far all my expectations have been exceeded!

Ollantaytambo

Written by Alden

After a decent bus drive we arrived at the plaza where we would meet our home stay families. After Juan and I meet our family, they lead us to their home. There, we meet our mother and her grandmother. After settling for an hour or so we had lunch. For lunch we had chicken, mashed potatoes and rice. After lunch, we had a walking tour around our ew “home” city of Ollantaytambo. We visited the chocolate museum and I had some strawberry ice cream, since they were out of chocolate ice cream. We ended our tour by playing soccer with some locals. For dinner, we had chicken with some fries. Overall today was a pretty fun day.

Day 2!

Maxine & Mira

This morning we woke up and had breakfast at the restaurant in our hotel. After breakfast, we then split up into groups and went to Plaza de Armas for a scavenger hunt. While there, the festival celebrated by the citizens of Cusco was occurring. During the scavenger hunt the different groups split up to have lunch in local restaurants. After searching for many strange things like a dog in a sweater, a picture with a llama or an alpaca, and creating a human pyramid with Peruvians, we regrouped and walked to a Salsa class. Although some were less coordinated than others, we all had a lot of fun learning something new. We then took a bus ride (not 30 minute equivalent walk) to the Incan ruins of Sacsayhuamán. We explored the ruins and found an amazing view of the city. Following an unsynchronized jumping photo of the group, we went back to the hotel and rested for an hour before going to dinner. For dinner we had the choice of pizza, spaghetti, or Peruvian food (trout or quinoa). To which most of us chose the safest choice of pizza. We packed up our stuff to get ready to ship out tomorrow to our home-stays!

Day 1 in Peru!

Written by Bodhi and Olivia

We spent the first 8 hours traveling as a group to the city of Lima where we met our tour guides Raquel and Daniel. We hopped onto a second plane to the magical city of Cusco. After hauling our bags onto the top of a bus, we took the winding road towards our hostel where we reached the first major challenge, STAIRS! It took us over 15 minutes to lug our overly packed duffels up the stairs. We reached the hostel and all began consuming snacks – goldfish, hershey’s etc. After choosing our room partners we took some time to relax in our new rooms. Some groups took this as an opportunity for some well deserved rest, others decided to go crazy and yell about Fortnite.

We reconvened and set out on a walking tour of Cusco. We went to the Convento de Santo Domingo. Our tour guide, Darwin, gave us a tour of the beautiful church. A few of the students began to suffer from the altitude adjustments while we trekked through the city to the city market, but drinking the local coca tea helped a bit. Daniel Avidon bought an amazing luchador (fighter) mask. We returned to the hostel and had another rest break.

We took an extended rest and then went to dinner. The students had a very delicious local drink with Maracuya (passion fruit), and an amazing dinner. A very adventurous student by the name of Lucas tried Alpaca meat and thoroughly enjoyed it. We returned to the hostel and played Uno into the night. Ready for more adventures to come!

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