Recent Posts

June 9, 2011

Our service opportunity this week led us to Casa Hogar Juan Pablo II, an orphanage south of Lima that is home to 73 children between the ages of 4 and 17. Casa Hogar’s website tells the story of how Joseph Walijewski, a priest from Wisconsin, was moved to start the home 25 years ago: One day, while walking through the slums of Lima, Father Joe noticed what appeared to be a pile of old newspapers begin to move.  Then, the heads of a little girl and boy popped out.  These children, like so many street kids of Lima, had spent the…

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June 6, 2011

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June 6, 2011

Machu Picchu

Our plan was to arrive at Machu Picchu in time to see the sunrise, so we met for breakfast at 4 a.m. and were on our way to the bus stop by 4:30, armed with cameras, water bottles, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We weren’t the first in line (nor even on the first bus), but we did arrive at the park entrance just as the dark sky started to brighten. What we found when we walked through the gates was hardly unexpected—images of Machu Picchu are everywhere in Peru, from billboards to keychains—but somehow, it still managed to…

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June 4, 2011

We spent several days visiting towns and archeological sites in the Urubamaba Valley, also known as the Sacred Valley of the Incas—a beautiful rural region north of Cusco dotted with small towns and farm fields surrounded by spectacular mountains. First up was the village of Chinchero, which boasts a colorful traditional market on Sunday mornings. We did a bit of shopping there and also attended a textile demonstration where several local women showed us how they spin, weave, and dye wool with natural materials. After that it was off to Moray, a fascinating site of concentric circle terraces that descend…

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June 4, 2011

Off the Gringo Trail

Cusco is perhaps the most popular stop on Peru’s “Gringo Trail,” so we did our best to get out of the well established tourist areas and get a better sense of what life is really like in this beautiful part of the country. We headed southeast of the city for two days for two service projects. First, though, we visited PROMESA, a Mennonite school in the nearby town of San Jeronimo, to meet some of the faculty and students and get a tour of the school. Next we headed to the village of Huacarpay, which is still rebuilding after floods…

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June 3, 2011

Just outside Cusco are three particularly interesting archeological sites that we were able to explore during our recent travels. We started at Tipon, a 500-acre complex of hillside farming terraces and water channels carved in stone that the Incas took control of and developed shortly after 1400 A.D. Water from a natural spring still flows through the channels and fountains at Tipon, making this marvel of civil engineering feel like it’s  functioning as the Incas would have wanted. We also visited the town of Pikillaqta, a 25,000-acre city that includes warehouses and barns and two- and three-story buildings made of…

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June 3, 2011

Our week of travel started in the Andean city of Cusco, a UNESCO world heritage site considered to be Latin America’s archeological capital. By the 15th century Cusco was at the height of its importance as capital of the vast Inca Empire, but the local history is much more than Inca history: We were able to explore pre-Inca ruins (the nearby city of Pikillaqta was built by the Wari people between 500 and 900 A.D.) as well as the Spanish influence that first appeared in the 16th century after Francisco Pizzaro’s arrival (including, among many other things, the Plaza de…

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May 31, 2011

Pachacamac

We recently visited the nearby huaca (sacred place) Pachacamac, a museum and huge archaeological site just south of Lima that dates as far back as 200 A.D. and remained in use (by various groups for various purposes, but most often as a religious center) for more than a millennium. Only when the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the 16th century was the site abandoned. The Pachacamac visit whet our appetite for more South American history. Last Wednesday we traveled to Cusco, where we have been learning about the Inca Empire and exploring some of South America´s most fascinating archeological sites. We also had the opportunity to do a…

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May 24, 2011

Our most recent service trip took us to the rural village of Quebrada Verde, about a 70-minute drive south from Lima. There we spent a day and a half at Santa Rosa de Lima Montessori School, where we got a chance to meet the young students and help with many projects, including moving the library to a new location, preparing worksheets, cleaning up around the school, assembling a model skeleton, and performing a puppet show. According to Sister Francis Clare DeGracia, the founder of the school, more than 90 percent of homes in this area lack bathrooms and running water,…

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May 22, 2011

On Thursday a 70-minute bus ride delivered us from the concrete and noise of Lima to the small, rural village of Quebrada Verde in the coastal mountains in the district of Pachacamac. During the humid winter months, the “verde” in the village’s name rings true. In early fall, however, the landscape is still mostly brown. The morning after a day of service at St. Rose of Lima Montessori School, our group embarked on a hike to explore this unique coastal ecosystem and get a bird’s-eye view of the natural terrain just south of the city. Our guide told us about…

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