On our way back to Cusco today we stopped in Chinchero to visit the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco founded by National Geographic Grantee Nilda Callañaupa Alvareza. The textile center is an inspiring place where local women create hand-made traditional weavings using natural dyes. The center also has a weaving school so children from the community can learn the traditional weaving techniques. We learned that the Incas were highly specialized weavers, using the wool from the alpaca, llama and vicuña. Nilda gave us a demonstrations of different weaving techniques and then we had a chance to weave and make bracelets. Weaving was a challenge for most of us but in the end we all had something to show for our efforts. Before heading to lunch we had an opportunity to purchase some of the hand made goods produced by the weavers.
After our morning at the centro we enjoyed a healthy and hearty lunch prepared by Nilda’s sister. During lunch many people got the chance to try cuy, which is cooked guinea pig, a local delicacy. Lunch was delicious and featured many local favorites like fresh vegetable soup, potatoes, fava beans, chuno (naturally freeze dried potatoes), mustard greens, and native potatoes.
When we arrived in Ollantaytambo we were warmly greeted by Mr. Lambert’s friend Miguel, and his 5 year old son, Noah. We then made our way up one of Ollantaytambo’s many alley ways to our hostel. After settling into our rooms and enjoying some free time to scout out the various shops and market in town, the group rejoined for dinner at Puka Rumi, a restaurant in the center of town.
Mountain Biking Adventure!
The next morning we got on the bus and drove for 45 minutes to a spot on one of the many mountains surrounding the town to embark on a mountain biking adventure. Although many of the bikes were more run down than the ones back home, we all made it down the steep and winding dirt roads without any casualties, braving broken chains, faulty gears, and uncomfortable bike seats. While we were biking we enjoyed the amazing views surrounding us of mountains, green grass, and the occasional cow. We biked to the salt mines of Maras where 80 percent of the salt used in the Cusco region is produced. We toured the mines, and learned about how the families of Maras mine salt. After the mines, we took a bus back up the mountain, to stop for lunch and view the Inca terraces of Moray, which were used by the Incans to preform rituals to the gods. We were then presented with the option to bike down the mountain, or ride down in the bus. Both the group members in the bus and group members on bikes had a fun time down the mountain. Later that night we split into small groups for dinner to further explore the town.
Visiting the Ollantaytambo Ruins
The next morning we visited the Ollantaytambo ruins and learned more about the Inca culture through our guided tour there. Later that day we split into “Photogs” and “Spaniards” to workshop. The “Photogs” split into two groups and went around town with Mr. Lambert and Erika on mini photo assignments capturing various aspects of the town. The “Spaniards” worked on reflections for the exhibit at Winsor, ordering at restaurants and went on a scavenger hunt.
El Gardín: Lending a Helping Hand with Friends in Ollantaytambo
Before we left for Agaus Callientes, five Winsor students went to a local kindergarten, to help paint a playground built by the parents of the students at the school. We were met by Miguel and Noah at the kindergarten and spent the morning with them, painting and visiting the kindergarten class. We then met up with the rest of the group at Heart’s Café, a group favorite, for a quick lunch before heading to the train station to begin another adventure, Machu Picchu.
In additional to studying Photography and Spanish all students participated in a Global Competencies Workshop led by Mrs. Kashyap. It was a very special workshop that provided the framework for our time in Perú.
As Anais Nin said, “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.” Our global competency workshops began each night with a few girls sharing their cultural autobiographies, 3-5 minute narratives explaining topics such as her cultural identity, family history, perception of identity, and sense of being “American.” Girls were called upon to answer questions such as:
What cultures define you? How do you nationally identify? How do you racially and/or ethnically identify?
Do you identify as “American?” What does it mean to you to be “American?”
Do you have memories about your first time encountering a different culture/ethnicity of your own?
What are some questions that you have about your cultural identity?
Each girl embraced the chance to face the discomfort of sharing a personal tale and the stories produced enabled members of the group to get to know one another on a more personal level than would have been achieved otherwise. Though the autobiographies were an exercise in listening for the rest of the group, afterwards Ms. Kashyap provided prompts for group discussion.
Among the prompts discussed were:
“If you pity my struggle, move on. If my struggle is tied up in yours, let’s sit down and talk.” Talking this quotation into consideration, let’s reflect on our time in Qenqo and with the Peruvian Promise girls.
“I am because you are.”
Thinking about our cultural autobiographies and reflecting on who we are, who is one person that has made you more whole?
Looking at Winsor’s list of global competences, we focused on the following one:
“Strives for self knowledge through the study of others. She seeks to illuminate the core assumptions and values that define her own identity and cultural perspective while recognizing that her own world view may not be universally shared.”
Share a personal value that has been illuminated through the trip.
Although each discussion began with one of the prompts, we found ourselves meandering to numerous topics of further relevance to the group and our trip. For example, we discussed the implications of the term “service trip,” the motives and sustainability of “service,” the effects of tourism on local populations, and living life in pursuit of fulfillment or happiness and the difficulties that might arise in attempting to do so.
In our final discussion we addressed the challenging task of how to present our experiences in Peru with our communities back home. We recognized the need to present multiple facets of our trip so as to avoid the dilemma of creating a single story of Peru. As Chimamanda Adichie said, “The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” In sharing memories in settings ranging from the isolated pueblito of Qenqo to the hustle and bustle of tourist-driven Aguas Calientes and the active market places of Urubamba, we can offer a less one dimensional image of Peru.
Ultimately, the global competences workshops framed our trip by leading us to think critically about our own cultures and resulting perceptions of others and the world. The workshops challenged us to adopt mindsets beyond simply tourists snapping pictures in the town square. Instead, we were able to embrace the experience as a chance to practice globally responsible citizenship.
The Urubamba River has been carving out the Sacred Valley for centuries. Visiting the area at the end of the rainy season, we were able to view the river in full force. Just down from the village of Urubamba, the group hopped on three rafts and headed out for adventure. The Pumas, Los Secos, and Team Percy navigated the rolling, rocky river, taking in the stunning scenery of the valley along the way.
While most of the ride was smooth and relaxing, we encountered some real rapids towards the end of the ride. Under the guidance of our local capitans, we executed forward and backwards turns while trying (and ultimately failing) to stay dry and avoid the rocks. After an hour and a half ride, we docked downstream and were treated to a great lunch right on the banks of the Urubamba.
After lunch we headed back up river via bus to Ollantaytambo!
Taking the train into Aguas Calientes, we found ourselves in perhaps the most touristic location of the trip so far. With tourists milling about the small central plaza and sellers swarming wherever we stepped, Aguas Calientes was a stark contrast to the removed town of Qenqo. After settling into the hotel and exploring the large covered marketplace, we headed to dinner and were lucky enough to be joined by two men from the INC, one of which was in fact the director. Following some ingenious attempts to rearrange tables in the restaurant in order to maximize all our abilities to hear the speakers, we began to ask our guests about tourism in Peru and specifically in Machu Picchu. Thanks to the translation talents of our leaders, both photography and Spanish students were able to engage with the speakers and learn about the fascinating past, present, and future of one of the world’s most beautiful and popular attractions. Tired, full of food, and with an early start the next morning, we then headed to sleep early.
We woke up on Tuesday, had a quick breakfast, and met our guide for the day. By bus we ascended the mountain, but early morning fog obstructed our attempts to observe the ancient citadel. We maneuvered our way through the structures, learning about a few of the many functions and processes that influenced the Inca’s brilliant and detailed construction. A small break with snacks then enabled us to refuel in preparation for our hike up Huayna Picchu. Up we climbed, past countless stairs and tourists, knowing that the view from the top of the peak would be well worth the soreness in our legs and lungs. Finally, we reached the top of the peak, an incredible location for photos and a unique view of the Incan city.
With shaking legs and aching knees, we made our way back down the mountain and returned to our original location to observe the citadel without the clouds’ masking it. Despite our fatigue and many girls’ unwillingness to face yet another set of steps, the views were certainly worthy of a final climb and the wonderful photos we obtained.
The bus ride back down to Aguas Calientes passed in a blur, with many tired travellers dozing off. We stopped at a nearby restaurant for a quick lunch, and headed to the train station. Certainly tired, but fondly recalling the incredible Incan creations, we prepared to reenter Ollanta for our second to last night together.