4th of July in Greencastle!

4th of July in Greencastle!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Jake Rust

The video I made sums up the last 4 days of the trip. It was by far the greatest experience for me on the trip.  As we hiked almost 30 miles to Machu Picchu I got to experience real nature for the first time in my life. We were out there alone completely out of touch with our normal society. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen and while I was there I really got the chance to reflect upon myself and what I had learned. Even though I was literally in the middle of nowhere I had a sense of direction in my life.
    Now that this program is coming to an end I really get to reflect on all my experiences. I have had the opportunity to travel the world while doing service for kids and improving my Spanish and that's what makes the program great, but the things I got from the program that I didn't expect were what made it exceptionally amazing.

    A lot of the things I saw made me realize that I have so much stuff that I don't need. Cell Phones, computers, and Facebook are the most obvious, but it goes deeper than that. I went almost three weeks without an actually hot water shower. I never think when I take a shower here how hot water is such a gift. Also some places don't have showers at all, so water in general is a gift, a gift which I will no longer take for granted. I also lived for a week without electricity and ate a completely vegetarian diet. That was also a first for me. The jungle was a week without lights and running water. That really makes me appreciate how I can turn on the lights every night when the sun goes down instead of my day ending at 6 at night.

    However, the biggest thing I learned from the program is how the only necessity to life is family. While in Peru I saw extreme poverty, places without electricity or running water, and houses that held way more people than I could imagine, but everyone was happy. I always saw people with smiles on their faces. So even though they might not have money, they have their friends and family which is sufficient for them. I think that in America it is easy to lose sight of what the real important things are. We can get wrapped up in money and material items instead of family and friends.

    So coming out of this program, I have learned as much about myself as I have about another language and culture. So while servicing others I have also greatly benefited myself. It is a time in my life where I am going out into the world on my own and I can definitely keep in sight the important things as I move on. I am very thankful for our wonderful four student leaders who have given us so much on this trip. Also Dziubs and Pablo were blessings to have on the trip, but most importantly, I am very thankful for Mr. Trulaske who has given us this wonderful opportunity. I can never express how thankful I really am.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Johnny Bartlett (July 17th, 2011)

Although we miss traveling to various airports throughout the United States, having our first day of not eating various airline delicacies, spending time with our friends from the TSA, or swerving in puddle-jumper throughout the Andes Mountains, today wasn’t too bad. After a much needed nights rest, we had our first family breakfast followed by an adventure to convert our money. Given today was Sunday, many exchanges were closed yet we managed to get our Soles. Many found their pockets several pounds heavier as a result of the Peruvian currency being mainly coins, needless to say I felt like I had Chuck-E-Cheese tokens bouncing around in my pants all day. Following the exchanges and the shocked sentiment that the dollar is actually worth something somewhere else, we had some free time to explore a neighborhood near our house. For the most part this time was used to contact our families through e-mail or phone in an internet cafĂ© or preparing for the much anticipated 10 hour bus ride to the Manu National Park to begin the jungle service portion of our trip. Afterwards, we headed back home and ate lunch, yet another wonderful dish that was prepared by our cook. With our bellies full and our cameras charged, we embarked on a tour of Cuzco. Winding throughout the streets of the city was very interesting but once we began to drive up the mountains the sights were progressively more beautiful with mountains in the background and the forests scaling the side of the mountains. Our first part of the trip entailed various Incan archeological sights in the Saqsayhuaman (‘Sexy Woman’) Park Reserve. Through three different stops in the park named Q’enqo, Pukapukara, and Tambomachay, we saw glimpses of the life of the Incan people through ruins that still stand today. From worship grounds to farming land, the afternoon was filled with sights that only fueled our excitement to travel to Machu Picchu at the end of the trip. On our descent from the mountain side, we headed towards the Plaza de Armas, one of the main tourist attractions of Cuzco. While strolling through the square, we were overwhelmed by not only the scenic architecture but also the beauty of the cathedrals surrounding the plaza as well. For the final part of our tour, we had opted to learn about the most famous cathedral in Cuzco, Arzobispado del Cuzco. Filled with numerous exhibits relating to the colonial conquest of Peru and their religious ideologies, we were overwhelmed by the gorgeousness of the murals and statues that decorated the church. While reflecting upon our tour, it was very interesting to see the contrasting lifestyles that exist between the Spanish colonizers and the indigenous Inca peeps. Given we have to wake up at 4:30 tomorrow morning, everybody is now putting the final touches on what to bring for our five day stay in the jungle and tucking themselves into bed for the wondrous bus ride we have to the national park. 

Kathleen Raymond-Judy (July 16th, 2011)

Last night we slept in a hotel in Lima, literally just across the road from the airport. We were out the door by 4:30 am this morning to catch our flight to Cuzco, which left at 5:40 am. Due to checking bags and passing through security, it was close to 5:30 when we got there, but no harm done. We took a bus out to the plane and got on using those outdoor plane steps that lots of places don’t use anymore. I spent most of the two-and-a-half hour flight with my new friend the airplane neck pillow, sleeping, but other people tell me they had good Spanish conversations with the people sitting next to them. We arrived in Cuzco in the middle of morning, got our bas and hopped on a bus. The bus took us to Maximo Nivel (Maximum Level), the organization with which we will be working in Cuzco on our construction project next week. We checked in with them quickly and then went to drop off our bags at the host family they found for us.
The Perez family has a sort of hotel/bed and breakfast place. We’re crowded in 3, 4 or 5 to a room but each room has a bathroom and everybody has there own bed. There was a bit of confusion getting people into the right rooms so that we had everybody in  room, with a bed, and so that each room has only on gender in it, but we got it figured out. The Perez family is very friendly, their house is nice, the rooms comfortable if small and the food plentiful and delicious. The only downside I see here is the weather. No, there’s no rain, or snow, or anything, but though Peru may be practically equatorial, it is winter and—oh yeah—Cuzco is in the mountains. In other words, it is cold, cold, cold here! We haven’t had a chance to change our money or go shopping but when we do I’ll bet I’m not going to be the only one getting some more warm clothes.
After dropping our bags off at the Perez house, we returned to Maximo Nivel for orientation and a Spanish placement test—we’ll be taking classes while we work on the construction next week. Then it was back to the Perez house for lunch, a free afternoon, and dinner. Then most of the group went to a little party at Maximo Nivel. I stayed here to write this blog but ended up spending most of the time playing cards with Katie, Liz and Nicole who also didn’t go. The rest of the group will be back any minute and then I think we’ll probably all go to sleep.
Signing off for the night,

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Liz Bjordal

We have officially returned to civilization—Cusco, that is! Accompanying our long awaited return to the big city is our return to the service world. We began our construction project today, helping a man named Marco to dig out the foundation for a primary school. The work is hard and the air is dry, but everyone seems to tackle the project in good spirits. While we all (leaders included) battle the language barrier, we have found that a few things are universal: the picks and shovels we use atop a Cusquenan mountain are the same as those we used in the Greencastle garden. But even more than digging tools we have found that friendship and a positive attitude transcend languages; our program has discovered both while abroad in the relationships formed among participants and in our cultural encounters in this unexplainable city.  
The participants spent their evenings in Spanish class, quickly followed by dinner at home. That evening we went to a corner pizzeria for a much needed taste of the United States. It certainly was not Domino´s, but it did the trick for a group of twenty American belly-achers! Again the strong friendships that have formed in only the past four weeks presented themselves as the group chatted in (mostly) Spanish and sipped their first Piscos, the infamous Peruvian alcohol. At long last we returned home, with tipsy stomachs warmed by the drinks but bones chilled by the high altitude frigidity, to sleep and recharge for our next day in this crazy yet sane city.
With a week behind us and just over a week left to remain in South America, we have encountered polar ideas and opposite philosophies from those we are so comfortable believing in the United States. Yet, commonalities exist. This being my second visit to this continent, I must have stupidly forgotten all of this during the past two years, growing more and more comfortable with myself at DePauw. Comfort may be the key to learning openly; I know confidently that I must push myself into an uncomfortable situation to truly find my way out and start to see some truth. And there is nothing like culture shock to awaken that tingling sensation of discomfort. Yup, immersion bro.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Parker Jones- Sunday

Today we went White Water Rafting, which was awesome. The guides were all hilarious, but my favorite part was the incredible view of the mountains surrounding the river. Everyone had a good time, and no one fell out of the raft (at least not unintentionally) so I´d say that went pretty well. Then we sat in the sauna for awhile and had lunch. Before we left, we went ziplining, which was loads of fun aside from the part where I failed to slow down and collided with one of the guides. I still feel bad about that part...
On the way home, we listened to reggae music, but mostly just slept. We were exhausted. After dinner, we relaxed and slept some more, and some of us watched 8 Mile in Spanish, which was interesting. Overall, it was another exciting day in Peru.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Nicole DuBois (Monday-Day One in the Selva)

The day started at about four, so we could leave for the bus. After we all made it to the curb, with all our many layers and bags, we settled into what turned out to be a longer wait than expected. In the mountains early in the morning, it can be pretty cold. Still everyone handled it well. A good portion of the ride was spent sleeping, but possibly not enough time was. It was a very long trip, and we became tired, bored, and sometimes carsick. I think that the views we saw outside were well worth the bumpy roads. The mountains were hit by the sun just right, and rarely were there towns or fields to interrupt the view. We had one twenty minute stop in a small town, which was interesting to glimpse. We hit the jungle after awhile, and the landscape was just beautiful. The clouds, trees, sun, and small waterfalls made a picture perfect view. It is hard to describe with words the wonder and awe of our surroundings.
The bungalow where we are staying, an easy zipline across the river, doesn´t have walls or electricity. And there are a lot of bugs. Yet, the peace and beauty of our temporary home is more than enough. There are also a couple monkeys running around, and everyone seems excited to start work tomorrow.

(Just an FYI, there were monkeys running around- in fact, they loved us so much that they would follow us on the trails jumping from head to head and crawl in people´s beds to snuggle when it was cold at night!)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Arrival in Peru

Just a quick update for all- we made it to Lima, Peru! We get up at 4am to travel onto Cusco in the morning. So, no worries- everything has gone according to plan so far (knock on wood!).