Recent Posts

October 12, 2011

Machu Picchu is counted among the seven wonders of the modern world and widely regarded as the most popular international tourist destination in South America — no wonder given its impressive architecture and majestic location. We spent an entire day here, beginning with a tour of the first part of this ancient city with our guide, Oswaldo.  We learned about the religious significance of this extraordinary place.  Then most of us climbed Huayna Picchu (“Young Peak”), the steep mountain that forms the photogenic backdrop shown in most photos of the ruins. After our ascent, Oswaldo led us through the rest…

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October 9, 2011

We had a chance to learn about the Inca culture by visiting three impressive archaeological sites as well as the home of a family living in a stone structure that predates the arrival of the Spanish five centuries ago. Sacsayhuaman contains huge stones that archaeologists believe were cut and shaped with bronze chisels and hematite hammers in a nearby quarry.  The stones were apparently brought to the site by pulling them across large logs or log-shaped stones, harnessing the muscle of perhaps a hundred people.  The stones were fitted together in the form of a giant zigzag line, reminiscent of…

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October 6, 2011

Spring has arrived in the Southern Hemisphere.  Up in the mountains, flowers are in bloom and grasses are changing from gold to green.  Insects are emerging, birds are singing and sheep are grazing in the midday sunshine. Visitors to Peru typically travel to places like the Sacred Valley of the Incas by bus or car.  Many rural Peruvians, by contrast, journey from place to place on foot.  We decided to find out what it’s like to venture off the beaten track by walking — trekking — from the village of Tauca to a little-known Andean community known as Huchuy Qosqo…

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October 4, 2011

Where are they?  The mountains are stunning, but something seems missing.  The only forests we see are swaths of eucalyptus planted on the hillsides near each village and town.  Though quite useful for firewood or supporting the roofs of adobe houses, these invasive plants imported over a century ago from Australia tend to monopolize the area they inhabit, crowding out other plants and drawing down the water table in this already-arid landscape.  Have the hills always been so bare? We visited the distant village of Acopia to learn more about the natural history of the Andes.  Luis Delgado grew up…

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October 2, 2011

What might it be like to live in the highest mountain range in the Americas?  We had an opportunity to learn and serve in the Andes during an extended visit and will share our experiences in a series of posts over the next few days. Our adventure began with a five-day trip to the town of San Jerónimo, home to a Mennonite Church planted by North American missionaries more than twenty years ago.  Members hosted students in their homes and the pastoral team organized a variety of service projects for us.  Students took turns volunteering at a medical clinic while…

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September 20, 2011

Helping and Hiking

We headed east to Cieneguilla to volunteer at Corazones en Accion (Hearts in Action), an organization that works to prevent child abuse in the eastern cone of Lima.   The next day we hiked at Lomos de Lucumo, an area that is unusually green due to the marine layer that penetrates the foothills here.  We’ll let the pictures tell the story.

September 20, 2011

Nestor Vergara is a psychologist and resident of Lima’s eastern cone.  He works for the government ministry that provides services to women and children who suffer from domestic violence or sexual abuse.  Mr. Vergara gave an eloquent and informative description of the social problems faced by those living in Lima’s marginal neighborhoods.  And he illustrated his talk with photos of his own neighborhood, showing the progress made in the last few decades as homes built of straw mats or wood paneling are soon upgraded to concrete block or brick. Next the students enjoyed a chance to learn how to prepare…

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September 11, 2011

Another Side of Lima

During their first week the students have learned a lot about life near the center of Lima.  They have toured downtown, taken part in lectures and language classes and, most of all, interacted with their host families. At week’s end we extended our reach to the outskirts of Lima, visiting two Pueblos Jovenes (young cities).  These areas form a ring around the center of Lima and life here is quite different.  The farther from downtown, the fewer the economic resources.   But what they might not have in material possessions they make up for in other ways. We began in the…

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September 7, 2011

Lectures and Language

Learning is fun — especially when it is relevant to life in contemporary Peru.  The week began with a lecture by James Plunkett on national politics and current events.  Mr. Plunkett moved to Lima in the 1960s.  He engaged us by telling the story of his life while simultaneously educating us about the presidents who have led this country for the past 45 years. After breaking for coffee, Alicia Taipe Tello told us her life story, beginning with her childhood in the Andean city of Huancayo.  Her mother was known for her knowledge of medicinal herbs and Alicia explained how…

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September 6, 2011

Historic Lima

Lima is the capital of Peru in many ways:  politically, financially, culturally.  Named “City of the Kings” by its founder, the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro, the city is teaming with history from the colonial, republican and modern periods. During our visit we explored the main Cathedral on the Plaza de Armas, a treasure trove of religious art and symbolism.  We witnessed the noon-time changing of the guard at the Presidential Palace.  We snapped photos at the fountain in the center of the plaza.  And we concluded our tour with a walk to China town and a meal of chaufa (fried…

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