Saturday, June 21, 2014

June 13th

June 13th

After a wonderful nights sleep in our luxurious hotel, a group of us set out on a hike. Dr. Garcia planned on taking us on a path she took 25 years ago, but there had been a landslide that completely shut down that route. Walking there we were able to see the hot springs, which looked more like large hot tubs filled with yellow water. We then embarked on a different trail that began along the river. The river is full of gigantic rocks, making it impossible for any kind of water sport, but I loved the sound of water rushing past the rocks. It almost sounded like we were next to a waterfall.
                We then took a trail that said it led to waterfalls. After holding our breath past the dump, we followed the railroad tracks on a beautiful path through dense greenery. It felt like something out of an adventure movie. As we pushed forward, the scenery became more and more green, until it looked like we were in the jungle. After about an hour, we reached the first waterfall, which was small, but ran all the way down a 100 foot mountain. I climbed up some slippery rocks to get a better view, and when I turned around my group was out of view. After some running through the jungle we were reunited and a couple of us proceeded to the big waterfall. It was beautiful! I had never seen a waterfall before, so I think I was especially excited about it. I could have sat there all day, but we had to make a long trek back for lunch.

                We met back with the whole group at a swimming hole and a couple of us put our feet in the water, which was unbelievably, ice cold. Once we realized that the group was not going to make it back in time for lunch, Kourtney and I ran as much as we could back to the hostel to let the group know that nothing bad had happened. Running through the jungle was very hot and sticky, but it felt satisfying once we made it back. We then went to a fancy lunch buffet that was super delicious, and then spent the rest of our time in Machu Picchu roaming through the market. It was really fun bartering for prices!

                We then took the long train ride home to enjoy our last night in Cusco. A couple of us went to a pizzaria for dinner when we got back. We sipped on hot chocolate and were serenaded by a guitarist. Afterwards, we returned to the hotel, relaxed, and complained about having to leave that beautiful city.  


      We walked around the city that was once the capital of the Incan Empire. We saw churches that are now half Spanish on top of half destroyed Incan remains. Outside 3 star hotels women wearing traditional colorful clothing sat  selling alpaca gloves and scarves. We stopped to buy from one and across the street from her a young man making jewelry said something to me. He heard me say “mande?”, and said, “ah you're Mexican.” I learned from him that Mexico and Ecuador are the only Spanish-speaking countries that use mande instead of  “excuse me?” He was from Colombia and he was backpacking his way around South America. As we conversed he made me a ring from a piece of wire, he showed us feathers of bird from the jungle and stones he collected from various parts of South America. My cultural interaction didn’t stop there; almost every vendor asked me where I was from. Some asked me where Mexico was while others compared the Incas to the Aztecs. There were people from all over the world shopping in Cusco. I could hear fragments of every language being spoken. It was beautiful to be part of a crowd that was appreciating and taking from a culture.
      We witnessed the surface of a modern globalizing Cusco from a tourist’s point of view; however we later sat down and got the facts on Cusco. We start off with a city that was the center of a once vast, powerful empire, mix in more than 500 years of colonization and the result is a place left with identity and class clash. The consequence of a growing economy is that few are left with the money. The result of tourism is communities losing traditions while trying to acclimate to “western standards.” Cusco is losing original languages while building cultural barriers. We ended with a chilling but true statement; Cusco is a contradiction.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

June 14

We began the day making plans to visit the local Indian market or experience Cusco for one last time. A group of us hurried through the busy streets only to be surprised by the celebration in Plaza de Armas. The square was packed with tourists and locals looking to enjoy the festival of the Sun or Inti Rayma. We had observed dancers practicing routines the night before at the square and so to see them dressed in colorful traditional attire while they paraded through the crowd was a pleasure. I loved seeing the officials walking around in their suits carrying a colorful manta to represent Cusco's culture.

The San Pedro Indian market was an absolute pleasure to have on our agenda. Narrow walkways lead you to myriad smells to please your senses while you hobbled your way through the congested but amazing market. What interested me the most about the place was how you could look around and feel disconnected from the outside; you could have been in a market in any country with people of all races brushing against you and yet you knew you were in Peru thanks to the elaborate mantas, lucuma juice stands, and the local peasants shopping across from you. Cusco had always seemed too tourist-oriented for me but the market brought back memories of Occongate and our wonderful time in the mountains.

After a greatly satisfying shopping spree, we made our way back to the hotel for lunch. On the way, Mariela pointed out a store with Shah Rukh Khan's (an actor from India) poster hanging on its door--this was certainly the highlight of my day. A city as beautiful as under the sun as it is at night with houses lighting up the backdrop of Plaza de Armas, Cusco is forever inviting with warmth through its food and culture.

We were back in Lima for the evening where UARM students organized a quick display of their talents for us. From music bands to folk dances, we were entertained and given a chance to glance at the influence history has had on them. The folk dances stayed true to the indigenous culture with certain routines displaying Spanish influences while their contemporary counterpart--the bands--displayed how the present generation is no different from those in other countries. I feel one often views another country from a standpoint of an outsider looking in to experience the exotic. Though one finds the new and unknown, one forgets that these kids, especially those in the cities, grew up listening to pop or metal or rock like us. Our romanticized ideas expect them to be fantastical and I'm thankful that our group wasn't ethnocentric to have similar expectations. The students displayed the evolution of culture and how the new and old live on together.

The night was dimmed by the color of goodbyes and new facebook friends requests as we prepared for our last day in the country. We intend to take back the warmth and love the country offered us while we cherish each day and each new friend Peru gave us. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

June 12th - Machu Picchu

        Today was an absolutely mind blowing experience. We went on our visit to the the Inka's City Machu Picchu. It is located in the highland jungle which is also called the cloud forest. Because we were visiting in the dry season especially, it was foggy and humid. The name itself means all mountain but the famous professor that rediscovered this site referred to it as the lost city of the inkas. 
        The pictures help to show that they believe no more than 500 people lived there and the main owners were an aristocrat royal family. The land used to be full of vegetation and everything was based around farming  and agriculture. One significant site that we were unable to take part in was the magnificant trail. This trail was discocered as being the best example of an Incan trail. They also present the ceremonial rock in the exhibit which archeaologists found different types of rock within it in which the Incans believed it gave off a sacred energy.
        The first step of the Incas to build this was leveling. They were masters of artchitecture and would fit there types of sculpting to the sides of the mountain. They would only carve three sides of the rock when building in order to leave the top of the rock to fit the shape of the next one placed. They worshiped the nature and thought of the eartth as their mother. To worship afterlife, caves were known as the uterus of the mother and tombs were built inside those caves. The person was embalmed and it was important to keep them after they passed away.
        The pictures or videos that one may look at online of Machu Picchu will never do it justice. Its not only what you see but what you experience and stepping foot on this site was a magnificant experien
ce.   The vibe and the feeling that one can gain just from being in that place leaves you breathless. I would recommend everyone and anyone to take the chance to experience such an overwhelming place and see what once was.
Overview of The Incan City

The Result of Walls Breaking Down

Reflection Mirrors

Doorway Entrance

The Palace

Leaving Peru - A Time to Reflect

I'm not entirely sure what happened earlier on our last day in Peru, as it was one of the only sleep-in days we had on the trip, and I took that chance to heart. The morning and afternoon were spent showering, packing, and preparing to go. Some of the group did some last minute shopping (both for souvenirs and Inka Kola), or did one more museum stop. Some of us (myself included) simply relaxed at the hostel and watched TV in Spanish. After dinner, we indulged in one last debriefing, reflecting on our views of our cultural experience, as well as our experience with each other. We arrived at the airport somewhat early, around 8 (our flight didn't leave until close to midnight). Despite the excellent job I feel we did in experiencing and immersing ourselves into the culture, it seems we finally had to give in - there was both a McDonald's and a Papa John's Pizza in the terminal, and it was nice to have that first taste of home. The flight back into the States was uneventful, and I for one am glad to be home, bringing this knowledge and experience with me. But these two paragraphs hardly make for an interesting final blog, now do they? I thought so too, so I asked my classmates to help me with this one. We all had to write two blogs about our time in Peru, but I wanted to know (and wanted to share) even more. So I asked: what was your favorite part of the trip? Your least favorite? What did you learn? What did you miss out on, or what did you feel could have been different? These our are final reflections: (responses to come)

Day Before Departure

After our days in the wondrous Machu Picchu we are back in Cusco. As our day of departure comes closer we rush to take in as much of Perú as we can, including its beautiful products. Following a delicious breakfast that served one of my favorite drinks, jugo de maracuyá, we headed off to the San Pedro market. On our way to the market we came across the previas de Inti Raymi in the Plaza de Armas. Inti Raymi is an important celebration done during the Inca Empire and still done today. This celebration, in honor of Inti, the Incan sun god welcomed the winter solstice.

Upon arriving to the market, one was able to find an assortment of clothing, jewelry, and foods. Here everyone set up shop tightly together. The pathways allowed for a crowded flow of people with constant elbow bumping. Staring at an array of colors coming from the decorative Peruvian fabrics I was faced with more options than I wanted to have. I was finally able to buy a couple of mantas, which I had been eyeing ever since our arrival to Cusco. Many others bought mantas too. As we finished the rest of our shopping we headed back to meet the others for lunch and soon after we flew back to Lima.

In Lima we had dinner and headed off to one of UARM's musical arts show. We enjoyed some music by student rock bands. My personal favorite however, was the Marinera; a traditional Peruvian dance which I first fell in love with at Brisas de Titicaca.

As our last night in Perú was coming to an end we made plans with some UARM students to meet after the show. When we arrived back at the hostel and everyone was getting ready I called for a taxi to take us to Miraflores. We reached our destination with minimal difficulties so I guess my instructions were well given. I'm not very good with directions so I was proud of myself.

We spent the rest of our night with a splendid group of people. I could not have asked for a friendlier more inviting group to have spent one of my last moments in Perú with. The UARM students were truly fun and kind. I only hope one day they have the opportunity to visit us in Omaha so we can return the favor.
Unpacking a Packed Trip - June 15th

Ancient civilizations, Colonial Spain, Chinese immigration, The Republic, contaminated water, CCAIJO, museums, Jesuit Baroque Churches, liberation theology, Latin America social policy, futbol, salsa, hiking, Lima, highlands, municipality, jungle, hospitals, and new friends. These are only a handful of themes that I experienced while studying abroad in Peru with UNO in Summer 2014. 

Today at the Hotel was a day to pack my belongings and to enter into the earliest stage of unpacking the trip. As I rubbed the sleep dust from my eyes the Lima sun greeted me through the open window and a coastly breeze hugged me as it swirled up my stuffed nostrils and maneuvered through my forested arm pits. As I stretched my limbs I immediately was confronted with an explosion of dirt stained T-Shirts, red boxers, and holy socks spilling out onto my Hotel floor; in a similar way history, culture, and public health wandered in a scattered chronological fashion in my brain. At the soonest opportunity I began to organize my luggage by rolling up each piece of clothing and placing it in the correct compartment: dirty clothes in the bottom, clean clothes toward the top, delicate souvenirs on my carry-on luggage, and toiletries in the side pockets. In a similar way I began the first stages of making sense out of the entire experience by setting up mental categories in my brain, "the Machu Pichu visit can go under culture, working with Felipe can go under community engagement, visiting the hospital can go under public health, working with CCAIJO last Wednesday can generally go under culture, the debriefing that so-and-so shared at the first debriefing can be placed under public health.. Or should that be under community engagement?" This was my thinking process.

After hearing Mass at the nearby Catholic Church Dr. Claudia and I went back to the hotel and met up with the other early risers where we ate jelly con pan. The other students and I were informed that except for a debriefing after dinner the itinerary for today was wide open with opportunities to shop, go to the museum, or just to hang out at the hotel. I choose the latter in order to read a book that I was craving to read, "Our Lady of Fatima." I noticed in this book how the children who claimed to see a miracle were ridiculed by city dwellers as, "highlanders." As I reflected on this I realized that the main focus of this trip was on the "indigenous highlanders" or to be more general, on the people of the highlands. It made me understand how we looked at these human beings though the lens of culture, public health, and community engagements, and how these different lenses allowed for us to see a dynamic that normally would not be clearly visible.

At dinner we had our fourth successful debriefing with green mystery meat and rice. Some people in the group shared their experience with the water plant, others about the native dances, but I shared my last chance of debriefing about the Catholic Church in Latin America. The Church has a long history in Latin America starting with the Spanish in the 1500's in which the Church worked closely with the State to bring a new belief system to the Native Latin American population. On this study abroad trip I've experienced my first insights into liberation theology, I saw a similar mixture of Indigenous and Catholic Churches in the indigenous populated regions as I saw in Guatemala, and I had a few great discussions on Church teachings. Ultimately I came to the conclusion that although the Church has largely shaped Western Civilization and has a history of flourishing in these types of environments (see Lima), the Church (as it claims to be One, Holy, and Apostolic) should be able to flourish in any type of Civilization that permits free expression of religion. To bring this conclusion back to the understanding of the men and women who populate the highlands, orthodoxy and cultural tradition can always find common ground, but it takes humility, generosity, and peace from those who teach and those who choose to practice.

To change the subject to a lighter note, Peru Study Abroad 2014 was ultimately a success. We all had our ups and downs (for a handful of us certain things came up that aren't supposed to go up and certain things went down in odd ways), but the changes in physical health, emotions, or time can never take away what we've learned. Memory is something that binds human beings together into a family and the 13 of us will always share the memory of Peru 2014.