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January 28, 2012

Cusco

In the early 16th century, the Inca Empire extended over all of modern-day Peru as well as parts of Colombia and Ecuador to the north, Brazil to the east and Bolivia, Chile and Argentina to the south.    Twelve million people lived in what was called Tawantinsuyo, the quechua word for “four parts together.”  Cusco was the capital of this empire and was widely referred to as the “navel of the world.” We spent a day visiting Cusco and several of the archaeological sites that encircle it.  We began in Tambomachay, a resting place where the Inca (King) and his family…

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January 27, 2012

Music

The music of the Andes is distinct for its use of native wind instruments — including quenas (flutes) and sikus (pan flutes).  Early versions have been found in archaeological sites dating back thousands of years.   Charangos (lutes that resemble a small guitar) and other stringed instruments are relative newcomers, part of the Spanish influence that began in the 16th century.  Today, wind and string instruments are combined with percussion to make beautiful music. Mauro Claros Chatas and Americo (Amaru) Mejia Suñiga are prominent in the Cusco music scene.  Mauro is originally from Lake Titicaca, where he grew up playing…

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January 23, 2012

Trees

How many trees can a group of SST students plant in two days?   246. We ventured up to the town of Acopia to meet our host, Luis Delgado, founder of Yachay Wasi (House of Learning).   Yachay Wasi is part of an international movement to plant a billion trees in deforested regions all over the world.  Luis has committed his organization to planting a million trees in the four lakes region of Peru.  We did our part to move him a bit closer to his goal, using funds donated from friends back in Goshen to pay for native qeuna seedlings. Most…

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January 18, 2012

Quechua is the language of the Incas.  It is the second-most common language in Peru.  We asked one of our Spanish language instructors, Luz Atapaucar, to give us a lecture on Quechua.  Luz, a native of Cusco province, grew up speaking Quechua to her grandmother and other family members.  She explained that Quechua is spoken by 8 million Peruvians, as well as Andean inhabitants of Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia, Brasil, Chile and Argentina.  After centuries of suppression under Spanish rule, it finally became an official language in Peru in 1975.  The language is still spoken extensively in rural areas and among…

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January 13, 2012

Learning about Peru

We began our first full week in Peru with a presentation on Peru’s economy.  The average Peruvian earns only a fifth as much as the average US resident, but incomes are increasing quickly and the poverty rate is falling.  Mining and tourism are helping to drive the country’s economic growth.  These industries are also bringing profound changes as people move from the countryside in search of income and opportunity. Next we heard from a curandero, or traditional healer.  Senor Santos Ramirez Zuniga demonstrated a ritual that has been practiced for centuries in the Andes.  One by one, he methodically placed…

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January 7, 2012

We enjoyed two gorgeous days in the Andes, where the rains have returned and the hills are green.  We spent the first day beginning the process of acclimation, taking it easy as our bodies slowly adjust to life at 3,399 meters –  11,152 feet.  It’s not often that we head for bed as soon as dinner is finished. On our second day we introduced our theme:  A Changing World — A Changing Peru.  Living in small towns and villages in the mountains will give each student a chance to learn the customs, sample the food and experience life in a…

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January 6, 2012

Orientation in Lima

Blue skies, white clouds, expectant smiles.  We began the day with a walk from the hostel at Home Peru to the director’s home, Casa Goshen.  Along the way we passed a pre-inca archaeological site — Huaca Pucllana — a cluster of decidedly post-inca institutions — McDonalds, TGI Fridays, Starbucks — and a statue in the middle of Gutierrez Circle that proclaims “Union and Peace”. When we arrived at Casa Goshen we introduced ourselves, had a brief time for check-ins and began orienting the group to life in this South American context. For lunch, we picnicked along the malecon overlooking the…

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January 5, 2012

Arrival

Twenty-three North Americans stepped into the balmy night air at Lima’s Jorge Chavez Airport, anxious to get their first glimpse of South America.  It’s summer here, which may take a little getting used to.  After a snag with a missing bag, which was soon found, we boarded a bus for Home Peru.  The students settled in quickly and tomorrow morning they’ll get their first look at Lima by day.

January 4, 2012

Getting Ready

Our family is eagerly awaiting the arrival of our next group of students. Over Christmas we traveled with our program assistant, Alicia, and her husband, Oswaldo, to their home communities near Huancayo.  We had lunch near a trout farm, spent Christmas eve in the town of Orcotuna, celebrated Christmas with a feast of lamb, potatoes and broad beans and hiked to two festivals in nearby villages. Now we are back in Lima making preparations for the new semester.  We will begin the study term with a trip to the Andes,  learning what life is like in the Peruvian highlands where…

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November 29, 2011

Homeward Bound

The return trip to the North America began with a 3:30 a.m. departure from Home Peru. There is not much traffic at that hour so we arrived at Jorge Chávez International Airport ahead of schedule. The students got checked in quickly and we said our final goodbyes. There was joy mixed with sadness — excitement to reunite with family and friends, and the reality of saying goodbye to the people they have lived, worked, studied and played with in Peru. God bless each of you.  Safe travels!

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