Peru Day 6 and 7 (Cusco and Travel)

On our final half day of the Peru Trip, the GAF Fellows had a wonderful time exploring Cusco. The primary event of the day was the San Pedro food market. We spent 45 minutes roaming through aisles filled with various foods and accompanied by unique smells. It was a great experience to better understand the culture of Peru, since food is often the gateway to the heart of a culture, and in that sense we got to see and understand Peru in all its complexities.

Then the GAFs had free time to shop and eat lunch in Cusco. Brammy and I went into one of the beautiful churches on the Plaza de Armas, the central square in Cusco. Built on Incan foundations, the church’s splendor belies its savage creation.

Finally, the GAFs started the long trip home. Suffice it to say, Peru is an amazing country, and the Quechua culture hidden inside is even more amazing. It was an honor for all the GAFs to learn more about such an intricate and beautiful culture while having fun adventures along the way. Going on a trip like this changes a person, and all the 19’s and 21’s grew in one way or another, whether it be in leadership through daily jobs, or in knowledge through daily interactions with the local people. In the end, even with the jaw-dropping Machu Picchu and its incredible Inca engineering, the truly important part of Peru is the people, who still invigorate a great human culture. We are all thankful for the amazing opportunity to go to Peru, and excited to go back to continue to help the Quechua people and expand on the relationships we fostered with various NGOs during the trip.

-Daniel Moscoso ’19

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Peru Day 5 (Patabamba)

Today was our final full day at Cusco, and we maximized the potential of the day. After an early wake up, we met with our energized tour guide and drove up to an altitude of 13,000 feet to visit a local village called Patabamba, which boasted incredible views of the Andes in an isolated location. We were greeted in flowery fashion by the town council and spoke with them, asking questions about their technology, government, and education to better understand their way of life. Afterwards, we bounced along a dirt road to visit a sacred lake which was undergoing conservation efforts, and there we performed a ritual to honor Mother Earth using rocks and snacks, holding hands in a circle around our offering. In the afternoon, we learned about the medicinal plants in the area, which were used to replace the need for hospitals far away from the village. They plastered our aching joints with leaves to help with the pain and hit our hands with spiky plants — each plant with its own special purpose.  We enjoyed the spirit of reciprocity, or ayni, at the village, and in our evening meeting, we discussed ways we could help them in the future. Finally, we dined at a lovely restaurant and had an early night.

— Brammy Rajakumar (’19)

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Peru Day 4 (Cusco)

Peru blog July 14:
Finding constellations in the shadows of the Milky Way takes imagination; it takes less imagination to crush the progress of such a civilization underfoot. Juxtaposing the nature-centered, sacred places of the Incas, like Machu Picchu, to the almost gaudy splendor of the Basilica Cathedral, the metaphor of Cusco deepens. The sheen over the Incas’ history is apparent when walking down the streets where the perfectly cut Inca walls meet the Spanish stucco or when noticing that the indigenous beliefs are confined to subliminal messages in Catholic places of worship. The common thread between the architecture, the artwork, and even the recognized constellations in the realm of astronomy is that the imagination and genius of the Incas’ could not be replaced by the Spanish.

Ellie Thornton ’19

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Peru Day 3 (Machu Picchu)

Our mind set for the reasoning in why we went to Machu Piccu was to learn more about the Incas, the Quechua’s ancestors, and to see one of the seven wonders of the world. As we learned in our book, the culture of the Quechua women and their ancestors guided the newer generations of Incas and their discoveries in history. We learned about the overtaking of the Incas when the Spanish invaded and took their families and their homes. We reiterated on the dispute between the United States holdings over Hiram Bingham’s findings of over 64,000 artifacts and Peru’s attempt to reclaim its belongings.

We woke up at 4 am. Then we went to the lobby to meet out guide and we were given breakfast in paper bags. We then took the bus up to Machu Picchu. We then hiked up to an overlooking point of Machu Picchu and the lost Inca city. Our guide gave us a vigorous discussion on the history of the Incas and Machu Picchu. After, we hiked to the summit of Sun gate. The Sun gate is where the Inca Trail comes into Machu Picchu. After we reached Sun Gate, we were prompted to write in our journals about our values and who we were influenced by in our lives. While we were writing these, we were sitting upon the rocks of Sun Gate overlooking the peaks of Machu Picchu and all the beautiful scenery around it. We then hiked back down and were given free time to split into small groups and roam the land of the ruins. We all met up again at twelve and a few of us got our passport stamped with the Machu Picchu stamp. We then rode the bus back down. Once in the city, we got lunch and then headed on our way to the train. We had some difficulty finding the train station but we did it!

~ Peyton Harrell ’21

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Peru Day 2 (Ollantayambo and Huilloc)

The Global Affairs Fellows woke up bright and early for breakfast at 7:30 at the Apu Lodge in Ollantaytambo, followed by a morning meeting with Bridget, our leader of the day. We took a break in the main square to exchange American dollars for Peruvian money (Sol). After exchanging money, we met two women who work with Awamaki and traveled with them to the community of Huilloc to meet the weavers that the company supports. Together we all drove up to the mountain, stopping twice to see terraces built by the Incas and one of the oldest Catholic Churches in Peru before reaching our final destination. We arrived around 11am, and were greeted by the women who welcomed us with smiles and offered to clothe us in their traditional garments. The Awamaki women proceeded to show us dyeing, weaving, and loom techniques, and were very welcoming towards us. They gave us flowers on a necklace, clothing so we felt less estranged, and provided us with a delicious lunch. We sadly left the women at 3 pm, to go back to the city for dinner, and to catch the train to Aguas Calientes. When we got home, everyone split for dinner, and met at back at 5:50 to plan on catching a 9pm train. Bridget did an amazing job keeping everyone in order, and the Awamaki women were amazingly friendly despite the language barrier we all experienced. -Annie Livingood ’21

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Peru Day 1 (Lima to Cusco to Ollantaytambo)

We started the day by waking up at 7:30 in the morning and, after eating breakfast, we went to the airport to board our plane from Lima to Cusco. Once we were on the plane it got delayed because of weather in Cusco, but we made it safely there only a little behind time. When we got to Cusco the altitude had an impact on everyone, but not bad enough for anyone to become sick. We got on a bus/van to Ollantaytambo. Ollantaytambo is a city in the scared valley that has hardly been touched by modernization. It still has the stone walls and Inca water system down every road. The culture is well preserved in the city. On the way we made one pitstop that had a perfect view of the mountains and after getting scenic photos we petted alpacas that were decorated in very bright colors. The alpacas are a very important to the Peruvian culture as they show signs of wealth because alpaca wool and meat is used every day by the people who follow the traditional lifestyle. The bus/van arrived at our destination and we walked to our hotel. On the way there we were followed by many dogs. Then we got an hour of free time which most spent shopping at street vendors’ carts. After exploring the town we met to go to dinner at a local restaurant. After dinner, we had an evening meeting where we shared reflections on the day, and then we went to be early because the whole group was exhausted.

-Sophie Watson ’21 

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Where There Be Dragons Video Conference

Last week, through Skype, we met with a Where There Be Dragons instructor, who spoke with us about his experiences with the Queri nation, which has roots stemming from the Incan tribes. They live predominantly as farmers and weavers, and their unique lifestyles and vast knowledge about the area are now threatened by outside influences. He described their culture, from manner of dress to language to food, and how they live in a series of autonomous communities mostly isolated from the rest of the world.

Afterwards, we asked him questions about specifics on their tribes and his experiences with them, along with broader questions about his concerns about the outside influences. It was incredible to hear a personal experience about an indigenous tribe that often is marginalized and overlooked.

~Brammy Rajakumar (’19)

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Fellows Retreat Day 3

This past Saturday, January 27th, all four cohorts of the GAFs visited the Pamunkey Indian reservation in central Virginia. We toured their museum, which displayed both ancient and recent pieces of “black ware” pottery, their beautiful beaded chieftain vests, and their impressive collection of arrowheads and spear points. After walking through the displays of their history, we wandered around the reservation with a guide, who showed us their fish hatchery, their old one-room schoolhouse, and their pottery-making location. As we wandered, we quizzed our guide about tribal life, learning that the children went to public school, that their holidays were similar to those outside of the reservation, and that 75 people lived on the reservation. Coming in with many preconceived notions about Pamunkey Indian lifestyle, we were surprised by the level of assimilation and normalcy that existed. They have a ruling tribal council that acts as the law of their land (one of whose members we were able to meet), which determines rules like land plot assignments. The Pamunkey tribe has just been federally recognized, acting almost like a separate nation that has a treaty with the U.S. government, and they may put their land in trust with the federal government so only federal police can enforce laws. Afterward our tour around the reservation, we took a detour to visit the alleged Powhatan gravesite and debriefed on our experiences of the day, discussing our views of the tribe and how they had deviated a bit from their ancient tribal ways, though temporary revivals have occurred and the stories and legends remain alive. For example, the tribal council member told us many stories about her mother and had personal connections with items in the museum. Finally, we finished off the day with a late lunch and a series of on-bus bonding exercises involving mind games and riddles, like the “Wombat Game” and the “Ball Game”.

~Brammy Rajakumar (’19)
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Fellows Retreat Day 2

On Friday, January 26th all of the Fellows programs participated in a day-long retreat designed to stimulate discussion between programs about some of today’s most pressing issues. In the morning the Global Affairs Fellows examined various cases of human rights violations, sparking many in depth conversations regarding the importance of human rights and the role of governments in enforcing these liberties. Later in the afternoon, all of the Fellows groups convened to watch a short video on the issue of climate change before splitting into separate discussion groups. Comprised of all ages and programs, these groups served to promote interaction between different viewpoints and broaden the views of both newer Fellows and seasoned members. After exchanging ideas and listening to the opinions of peers, the Fellows reassembled in the Massey building to end the day with a panel of climate change experts. The ensuing conversation encouraged everyone present to think more deeply about the issue of climate change in order to someday craft a sustainable and effective solution. As the retreat drew to an end the Fellows departed, having been invigorated by the exchange of ideas and the opportunity to learn more not only about climate change, but about themselves and their peers.

~Ainsleigh Montgomery (’20)

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Fellows Retreat Day 1

We walked into school bright and early Thursday morning, at 8:15 am. Mr. Wetmore, leader of the Chesapeake Bay Fellows and director of the BCGLP, greeted us and gave a brief summary of the day before us. After a brief leadership simulation, surviving the zombie apocalypse, we went through a case study of how ecotourism is affecting the civilians in the Pacific Region of Costa Rica. Our case presented a family and activist fighting both sides for the industrialization of the Costa Rican rainforest. We were tasked to come up with a resolution that would satisfy everyone and would benefit the family. We came up with a 5 year plan, which gave all the people time to relocate to the provided area, which gave them better opportunities. For the family who lived there, stayed and the 18 year-old girl stayed with them to satisfy the family’s traditional customs. She worked at the resort being installed right next to her house. The group of 21 realized the big effect ecotourism has and how it can impact a community and split it apart. Many countries need ecotourism because it is their main income. This does end up affecting families who live there as the resorts and other facilities keep expanding. In the end people will have to relocate and end up with some people not for ecotourism which is sustaining their country.

~ Sophie Watson (’21)

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