Thursday, June 23, 2016

On to Cusco

A very brief update. We were sad to say goodbye to our homestay families in Ollantaytambo today, but we arrived in Cusco to much festivity, as they are having both their local celebration and a celebration of the winter solstice. A stunningly beautiful city. The group is well and had a moving time sharing their leadership stories tonight.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

NGO work, day 3 and Pachamanca!

It seems hard to believe that our time in Ollantaytambo is almost done.  In addition to our last day of work at the NGOs, we had a wonderful Pachamanca celebration, a feast of incredible local food.  All of the homestay host families attended the celebration as well as we begin to say goodbye to our wonderful hosts.  Many students have remarked that the homestays have been one of their favorite parts of their time here, and that they have felt well-cared for and have especially felt well-fed (try 3+ plates of food on for size!).  In addition to our NGO work, we should also mention all of the work that we have been doing regarding leadership, both individually and as a group.  The students have spent an enormous amount of hours reading, reflecting, writing, and participating in games, some serious and some fun, that help develop these skills.  Yesterday's leaders, Will and James, said, "the leadership activities are great because you can see how open and comfortable all of us are with each other."  Today's leaders, Nathan and Cole, will report more tomorrow on the end of our time in Ollantaytambo.

Below are some pictures from the Kuska School (notice the students' beautiful mural), the Awamaki group (notice their bracelets, which came from Awamaki), and the Pachamanka celebration.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

NGO work, day 2

Before an update on the 2nd day of our NGO work, a couple of updates from our group leaders from the previous two days:

About our Machu Picchu journey, our leaders for that day, Ben and Collin, noted the beauty of Machu Picchu: "The scenery spoke to all of us in many different ways.  Some looked at the ancient city...while others saw the mountains surrounded by the clouds.  Everyone felt calm and relaxed because of these sights, and it is something they will never forget." 

About our first day of work with our chosen NGOs (yesterday), our leaders for that day, Luke and Raunak, noted how it added so much richness to the many things we have experienced here so far, especially in that it allowed them to be part of something bigger.  They also noted that they enjoyed the games we played at the end of the day (games designed to build group unity, leadership, and communication).  They said, "this group session helped the group to slow down and appreciate all that has happened so far."

Today was our 2nd day of work with our chosen NGOs.  Today's leaders, James and Will, noted how valuable and wise the choice to volunteer is.  In fact, I wanted to note that they picked up that bit of wisdom while talking with a local who suggested that idea to them.  I was glad to hear them repeat the idea in the closing session tonight with the group.  Throughout today's work:  The Kuska School crew began work on their mural, to be completed tomorrow, among other tasks.  The students working at Awamaki Weaving continued their yarn spinning (not to be confused with story telling--forgive me, an English teacher joke).  And the students working with Sacred Valley Health headed up further into the mountains to work with school children to teach them about brushing teeth and washing hands.  Below you will see some pictures from their work with the kids, and a bonus pic of a fun game "Birdie on a Perch."

P.S. Amanda says "Happy Birthday, Grammy Liz!"

Monday, June 20, 2016

NGO work, day 1

In reviewing again our day at Machu Picchu yesterday and the Despacho ceremony the day before, many in our group commented on how the culture of Peru, the power of history, and the warmth and ingenuity of the people of Peru seem to flow through everything here.  This being a trip also about global leadership, as we begin to turn our thoughts to leadership qualities, these traits (culture, connection to what we know, and warmth) and others are on our minds. 

Today, students had the opportunity to learn much more about leadership through their work with their chosen NGOs.  Some students have chosen to work with Awamaki (a weaving collective), some with Kuska School, and some with Sacred Valley Health Clinic. 

Below are some pictures from the work done at Kuska School today (cleaning a creek channel, working in the school garden, cleaning the gazebo, sketching a mural to be painted with the Kuska students later this week, and playing with the Kuska students), and some pictures of a basket weaving lesson.  Look for some pictures and reports on Sacred Valley Health Clinic tomorrow after they travel to some villages beyond Ollantaytambo to teach about dental care!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Heights of Machu Picchu

Everyone made it up and on time to our 4:30 am meeting time to depart on the train to Machu Picchu.  (This group continues to impress!).  Traveling by train is always a transformative experience.  As we neared Machu Picchu, the sun began to rise, slowly revealing to us that the landscape had changed dramatically from a more arid region to rainforest.  And after transferring from train to bus, which took us to the entrance of Machu Picchu, we quickly saw the transformative power of this place, and why it is a World Heritage Site.  The feeling of history is palpable in the air, and the sheer beauty of the place is difficult to describe (maybe done best by Pablo Neruda in his poem "The Heights of Machu Picchu") and is certainly not done justice by the many iconic photos of the ruins.  In fact, there were many geographical aspects of the place we were surprised by, not to mention the many historical, anthropological, and architectural facts we learned that surprised us.  Machu Picchu certainly left its impression on us.  After a long day at the ruins and some time exploring Aguas Calientes, we headed home on the train and ended our evening by playing "Watermelon" (one of our favorite group games), holding our ANCHOR session (in which we share aspects of our day), and returning to homestays for dinner.

I, Kyle, who is writing the blog tonight would especially like to thank our WLS team (Jorge, Lauren, Adela, and Leda) and Coach Dunn for their incredible work today (and throughout this trip, but particularly impressive today) to make sure that we arrive on time, don't miss trains, that we are well-fed, safe, and challenged to learn and grow in new ways.  They are an impressive group of leaders.  And our students continue to lead in impressive ways.  Our student leaders for today, Ben and Collin, will add a few more thoughts about Machu Picchu tomorrow.

In closing, the students wanted to wish their fathers a Happy Father's Day (Lexie says, "Hey, Tim").  They are so appreciative of you letting them have this opportunity. 

Tomorrow we go to work with our NGOs.  More to come on that!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Sunny in Ollantaytambo

We're turning in early tonight for an early morning trek to Machu Picchu, so tonight's blog will be short. We had a great day in beautiful weather as we climbed the steps of the Sun Temple and participated in a local Despacho ceremony. But, as the leaders of the day, Jenna and Lexie, commented, the best part of the day was meeting the homestay families and feeling so warmly welcomed into their homes. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Peru, Day 2


Hey everyone! It’s Sophie and Amanda here J We had our first full day in beautiful Ollantaytambo, Peru. First, we woke up early and had a delicious breakfast which consisted of traditional ham, cheese, fruit, bread, and our personal favorites, panqueques (aka pancakes). After breakfast, we traveled to our first NGO of the day, Kuska School. The school is surrounded by mountains, sustainable gardens and crops, and animals such as sheep, chickens, pigs, turkeys, and ducks. We interacted with the kids, toured the school and facilities, and observed how they learned in experiential ways such as tending to their own gardens, cooking their own food, and using geometry to design and build their own greenhouses. Next, we went to a weaving co-op, Awamaki, or “Loom Hands.” The founder, Kennedy, is a WLS alum and shared with us how she came to be so passionate about empowering women helping them to make their businesses sustainable. Then we went back to the lodge for a break and snacks. However, instead of resting, Amanda chose to work out with the encouragement and support of Sophie, Lily, and Lian. Sophie even finished out with an ab workout! (Don’t worry, Mom, I am actually working out and it’s pretty challenging with the altitude change.) Next, we went to lunch and had some amazing chicken and cream of squash soup! After lunch, we did two learning sessions, Fears and Goals and Why Are We Here? We really bonded as a group during these sessions mostly through laughter and our group’s sense of humor. Next, we played a fun charades game in order to prepare for our homestays and the language barrier that may come up. And finally, we went to dinner to eat AGAIN! We had chicken stuffed with spinach and ham with some rice. May I just say that the presentation skills were equivalent to that of a nice steakhouse in Dallas. While we were eating, a beautiful Peruvian musician serenaded us with traditional Quechan music. After dinner, Sophie and I closed the day with ANCHOR and then most of us stayed up and watched the unfortunate demise of the Peruvian soccer team. Well, that’s it for today! Tomorrow we get to visit our last NGO, Sacred Valley Health Clinic, and meet our homestays! We miss everyone back home but are super excited to be in Peru! Thanks for reading and stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog! Adios!