Thursday, June 19, 2014

Off to Machu Picchu!!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


Communication and Teamwork: Climbing Closer Together
By Claire Jansen, ‘17
Today we started our overnight hike. I was a little nervous to do this because I did not know what to expect. I have only slept outside in a tent once or twice in my life, so I was also very excited for this experience. At first, the hike started out slightly uphill. The altitude made it much harder for everyone, so most of the time I felt very out of breath. But I was comforted knowing that everyone else in the group felt the same way I did. Everyone was feeling exhausted, and we hadn’t even experienced the hardest part yet.
After about an hour of this, we came to a dead end. Our guides discovered that the trail we had been walking along had been closed due to a landslide. After much consideration, it was decided that we would have to hike vertically up the mountain. This was one of the scariest things I have ever had to do because everyone had to be aware of exactly where they were putting their feet. If we did not, we would fall down the entire mountain. I was so terrified that I basically climbed up on all fours the whole time. Although this may seem like an awful experience, some positives also came out of it as well. We all had to work together to help each other out. I made sure that the person in front of me did not slip and fall, and warned the person behind me if there was a lose rock or thorns in the way. Also, the leaders of the day stopped every few minutes to yell words of encouragement to the group. Even just a simple “you got this” helped me to keep going even when I would much rather sit down and never see the top.
When the hard part was over, we still had to walk a few more hours to go until we reached the campsite. Instead of taking the trail the guides expected, we had to walk through the freezing cold Incan canal and along a thin stonewall for the next two hours. This was also very scary (although not quite as scary as walking vertically for an hour) because it was very slippery. But once again, everyone helped each other out. This definitely brought us closer together because we had to use teamwork and communication the entire time. I remember the exact moment that we made it to the campsite: I have never felt prouder or more accomplished in my life. I never thought we would make it. We all cheered loudly and gave each other high-fives. We couldn’t believe we were there!
Once we were there, we immediately had to pile on all the layers we had. Even though it was late afternoon, it was already freezing. Luckily, we were given warm drinks and popcorn right away. Even just this simple gesture really made a difference because everyone was cold, tired, and hungry after the long day.
Although the hike was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, I am glad we got the experience to do it because it brought everyone closer together. We all learned the value of communication and teamwork. These are skills that will be important for the rest of the trip and for the rest of our lives.


Local Knowledge and Gender Issues: A Day at Home in Peru
Elettra Baldi , `15
Saturday was a day for our families. Rachel and I got to spend a day with mom, Hilda and our baby brother Yamil. She took us hiking up to her mother’s house. The hike gave us an opportunity to speak to her in more depth than we had in the past. Rachel and I had been hesitant before then to talk to her and ask questions about her lifestyle. Hilda took us on many different stops to have us learn about her family and her life. We left the house, and started of at the fields that lay right above out house and learned that she works with trigo (wheat) this is her main job after the commitment of nursing 3 children. We then continued up to where we saw her horse and cows which she was so proud of. We had the horse come up with us on the hike and she told us all about how she takes care of him and how they are cheap to buy here compared to the United States.  Our next stop was the most mystical, we arrived to Inca ruins where we explored and learned about this tunnel that reaches from Piscacucho all the way to Cusco. This tunnel, created by the Incas, had just been closed down about 5 years ago because people would go in without knowing how dangerous and how long the walk would become. Next to the ruins rested a field of strawberries so we sat and talked while she showed us other edible plants such as, this this plant they call limón that taste like a lemon but looks like pine needles. A this showed us local knowledge that we would only experience here. Upon leaving that we walked up to the last stop, her mother’s house, her house was secluded up in the mountains.  There we learned that our mother has a sister who is 14 like our mothers oldest son. The difference is that this young girl is getting ready to have children in the next year or two. This made me think that the girls here drop out of secondary school to have children. This did not surprise me because, yesterday we talked to a women about women’s rights and she explained who she too dropped out of school to have children and that the average age of having children is 15-18.
In conversing during the hike Rachel and I got to strengthen our relationship with our mother.  We learned about her and she learned about us.  I remember briefly mentioning that my favorite food was pasta, and even though it is not common to find pasta here, I was surprised to eat spaghetti for dinner. Lastly our mom had always called us chicas but that day she called us by our names,

Monday, June 16, 2014


Our country coordinator, Adela, sent a few pictures before they set off for their overnight trek! Stay tuned for updates, as the group will start updating the blog again tonight or tomorrow.  

Please don't hesitate to call the office with any questions - 303-679-3412
Thank you!

Maria Selde
Program Coordinator

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Walking Together

Hello family and friends of the GFA Peru program! The students have spent the entire day with their homestay family. They are learning about the daily life of the family they are staying and sharing meals with during the program. Everyone is happy and healthy and the group will start their overnight trek tomorrow! They are all very excited about the trek!! Please don't hesitate to call the office with any questions - 303-679-3412

Erin Hawk
Director of Operations 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Day 2 - Piscacucho: Home Sweet Home

Piscacucho: Home Sweet Home
Nestled below the treasured Veronica, Piscacucho is a town that values unity, friendship, and its history. Yesterday began with a knock on my door by my host sister, Harumi. The four of us, Claudia, Nicki, Claire, and myself came downstairs to a large bowl of unpeeled hardboiled eggs and uncut potatoes. The eggs were cold and none of us could determine whether they were raw or not. It seemed strange that something so simple could puzzle us so much. Harumi laughed at our incapability and we laughed at how spoiled we all were when it took us more than five minutes to peel the eggs. Our new lifestyle began to seem less foreign when we all showed up to the worksite late- how typical.
Four of us: Rachel, Elettra, Nicki, and I began the workday learning how to basket weave. It was amazing to watch our teacher knit the resistant branches into a continuous weave. He helped us form trensas, or braids, that made the onion-looking shape we had initially created transform into our final product. Just as we finished, the kids were all let out for recess and came to compliment our work. Proud of our accomplishments, we walked home in high spirits and anticipated what lunch would be.
               Yesterday was a transitional day. Although I began uncomfortable and hesitant, I began to feel more at home and accustomed to the lifestyle. For me, the most transitional point was the ANCHOR meeting we had and realizing that my house was not the only one that seemed like a drastic difference from American life. During the meeting, we categorized our personality types by taking three colored personality cards that seemed most applicable to ourselves. Once everyone was satisfied with their cards, we categorized ourselves by the majority of our card’s colors into four groups: blue (conceptualizer) , green (traditionalist), red,(idealist) and yellow(artisan) for me, it was blue.
               The most fun part of my day, however, was exploring up and down the main road with all of the girls. We half-heartedly looked for our teachers but mostly enjoyed the view. There was one point in the road where you could look down and all you saw was the river below. Our surroundings were stunning and awe-inspiring. Later, all the houses came together and played cards and told stories. When we all joined together to speak in a mix of Spanish and English the blend of cultures made me appreciate their value of unity. In the spare time that I would typically be watching Hulu or Netflix, I spent time with my friends. It really helped me further appreciate my life in the States and made me rethink the value of “home”.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Welcome to Piscacucho
By Rocco Babun
The last morning in Ollantaytambo consisted of singing and guitar playing as we serenaded the small city goodbye. After our forty-five minute bus ride to Piscacucho, we visited the school that we would be working at during our homestay. We were greeted in song and with hugs by little children right as we arrived. The school contains three different housing districts where the children study and in the center of them all is one large fútbol field. The stands near the field were colored with a sun over a Peruvian rainbow. All of the emotion being showed towards us was touching. It filled our hearts with hope as we saw the happiness on all of the children’s faces from just us arriving. We then met our host families and walked to our new homes. The sight was amazing; we have never experienced living in tiny houses at the foot of snowy mountains. It took just less then a day to get used to our new homes and to form strong bonds with our new families. When lunch came around we were all nervous, we all expected really unfamiliar South American food with names we couldn’t pronounce. But, even though we still couldn’t pronounce the names we all enjoyed the food a lot.
Going back to the school in the afternoon started with a game of fútbol with the children. The point of the afternoon nonetheless was to be blessed by a Shaman for a safe and productive working period. As we circled in a classroom, we prayed for our families, the world, and ourselves two coca leaves representing each of these wishes, which we then offered Pachamama (Mother Nature). The ceremony left us wondering about the potential of the world as we all reflected on what the Shaman preached. We went home thinking of how the only way people could unite in the world is to reflect on the past, ancient wisdom, and not to be so materialist because it draws us away from others. We look forward to a day of work and interacting with the children at school, and uniting as a group and a community.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Taste of Purpose

By: Rachel Garofoli and Colin Tauck

Our first official day in Peru was a great one that really got us excited about the rest of our trip.  The feeling of fellowship we had with the rest of the group in the morning activities will really help with our upcoming experiences of the trip.  One activity was the “Why you are here?” activity that really made us reflect about why we are on this trip and establish our aspirations for the rest of the trip. However, before we did this activity we got to go on a hike around a local community deeper in the valley. A general feeling of amazement carried through the entire excursion from the people living in the community to the general layout of the land. Seeing the costumes in the Pentecostal ceremonies was incredible (especially because all the people participating in the festival make their own costumes). There were guinea pig men and chickens, which was very humorous. However the most ironic thing about the entire celebration was the fact that they are making fun of the Spanish during a Catholic celebration because Catholicism in this country came from the Spanish.  However a feeling of just general amazement is to see the Incan ruins and the mountains. One might see pictures of these mountains or ruins and think that they are beautiful however you get this unutterable feeling when you actually see these things with your own eyes. The luscious green mountains containing Incan ruins that are still here after thousands of years is amazing.
So far everyone on the trip seems to be in good spirits.  We have enjoyed many new foods and new aspects of the Peruvian culture.  One of the first Peruvian delicacies we have discovered is coca tea or mate de coca.  Coca is very common here in Perú and everyone is our group really seems to enjoy this unusual tea.  Today we also tried various dishes and we found that we really love the soups.  So far this trip has been really enjoyable and I can tell that it will get even better because we have an amazing group of people who are willing to try new things and immerse themselves into the culture.

Tomorrow we embark on the second leg of our journey.  We’ll go to Piscacucho to meet our host families and begin our service project.  Many of us have concerns of whether or not out families will like us or whether we will like the food or not.  However I believe that everyone will be happy once they arrive and that their troubles will fade away.  We were told that our families were very excited to meet us, which made us very excited. We can’t wait to see what other amazing things wait for us on the rest of the trip.

Monday, June 9, 2014

In Country: Day 1

By: Stephen Gallagher and Curtis Tauck

Nestled in the mountains of Cusco, Ollantaytambo is a fiesta. After 23 hours of travel, exhaustion began to overwhelm our group although it was hard to overcome the awe offered by the beauty of the country of Peru. We were not fazed by the turbulence of the plane, as the scenery of the isolated mountains and slopes below took our minds off of our worries and anxiety.  As soon as we arrived in Cusco the cultural differences were evident in the bustling streets. The innovative and  artistic propaganda-inspired-graffiti brought color and splendor to the streets of Cusco.  The final stretch of our travels consisted of quiet, but pensive bus ride.

 Our village Ollantaytambo lay at the base between two towering mountains. Without anything to do but wait for dinner and drown out the noises of the celebrations around us, we passed time by playing sapo, a traditional Peruvian game consisting of throwing coins at a board to hit targets. The incredible views allowed us time to reflect how fortunate we were to be able to be here, and we soon prepared to enter the village and eat dinner after a long day. Given a lot of time to think to ourselves, Curtis and I both realized the contrasts between our home and where we are today. The people here being friendly strangers, and at home being loved family members. The smells of the streets like grilling meat and bus exhaust is far off from the clean and open airs of Connecticut. Stray dogs roam the sidewalks without any attention, however we treated them like pets and even named one ‘Doodle.’ Since we have arrived in Peru, the colliding culture has continued to overwhelm us, and we hope to continue this experience throughout our trip.