Peru is more than Machu Picchu
This week I went to Cusco with my study abroad program and it was an amazing experience! A lot was learned, several ancient sights were visited, inspiring people were met, and souvenirs were bought. To prepare myself for the altitude change my host family had given me my first ever coca tea. It wasn’t bad at all. Once we landed in Cusco we were given lemon drop candies so we wouldn’t feel queasy or faint. We got to the hotel around 9am and we all went straight to bed. We would have to wake up for a light lunch (delicious asparagus soup) and start on our Cusco adventure.
We first visited a cathedral and it was pretty impressive to see how the Spanish tried to get rid of the Inca architecture. You got to appreciate both cultures and its distinct way of architecture. Throughout our trip we also visited several ancient ruin sites such as Sacsayhuaman, Tambomachay, Valle Sagrado (Sacred Valley) and Machu Picchu just to name a few. It was all spectacular. I was astonished by the grandeur of the massive ruins. The stones/rocks were meticulously organized in such a way. It would have been incredible to witness how these structures were built. So many questions bombarded my mind. How did the Inca manage to bring all these rocks here? What did the Inca look like? I was also pretty saddened to know that they were wiped out. I wonder what life would be like if they still existed. It’s pretty fascinating if you ask me.
When we walked up the stoned steps of the ruins I’d start feeling winded. Our guide mentioned how the Inca were tall strong people. No wonder the steps were steep. No wonder these huge rocks were here. The Inca were indeed intelligent and hardworking people.
Sight-seeing was great, but it was also worthwhile visiting Aguana Cancha, Sierra Productiva and la Casa Hogar de Maria de Nazareth (girls’ shelter).
At Aguana Cancha, a llama and alpaca farm and boutique, we got to pet and feed llamas, but my favorite part of it all was that we got to see several indigenous women at work with the fur of the domesticated animals. It was very interesting and beautiful how these women continue to keep this type of weaving in their culture. We were shown how the women added color to the cloth from many types of natural material such as plants, minerals, and a bug called cochineal. It was such an interactive experience because we had the opportunity to witness the process of their skill with the llama cloth. Sometimes when one buys a cloth bag or a sweater, not much consideration is taken of how it was made. I enjoyed this trip greatly because I could tell the women face to face “thank you” for what they had expertly created.
We had a beautiful rustic breakfast outside overlooking an immense lake bordered with mountains as we had a talk with an indigenous family about how they maintain sustainable farming. It was very inspiring and humbling to meet these friendly and hardworking people. We saw their irrigation techniques, we learned about their varied vegetables they plant for local markets. We also visited a guinea pig farm that had 600 running fluffy fur balls. To finish our visit, we enjoyed a fresh lunch right out of the garden. I tried a bit of guinea pig as well so that was an experience. I highly enjoyed our educational/cultural visit to Sierra Productiva.
Up next we went to a shelter for young girls who don’t have families, or who do have families yet, due to economic circumstances they are better off at the shelter. We were there to show them that there are people who care and who want them to enjoy themselves. We had a fun time with them. We shared laughs and fun moments. The young girls performed a few dances and then our study abroad group preformed two dance numbers featuring songs from Beyoncé and Selena (Quintanilla). It was quite the spectacular. We played musical chairs, gave out cute gift boxes to each girl and ate lots of candy. We also had a few laughs showing the girls how to use snap chat. The filters where a hit. Once we were ready to leave, we got into the van and waved good bye to several rosy cheeked, smiling faces and small waving hands. It was a fun time and it reminded me that the innocence and carefree spirit of a child is very important. It makes me sad that children are vulnerable to the way the world works. The standard of living in the U.S. is pretty great if you ask me. Young kids are walking around with IPhones, most people have cars and decent homes. My experience in Peru has shown me that there are people out in the world that don’t need much to survive. They make use of what they have and they keep going. If you think “the struggle is real” or freaking out about not having the latest coolest thing out there on the market, then you don’t even know what these people have to live with. Count your blessings is all I have to say.
Thank you Peru for showing me how fortunate I am, and for inspiring me to help those who have little or nothing at all. In a perfect world people wouldn’t be living in ill-suited homes, people wouldn’t be going home hungry, people wouldn’t be violated from their rights, and finally, people would be happy. Happiness shouldn’t be had at the expense of other people’s happiness.