Recent Posts

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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May 22, 2011

hands-on learning

We were able to enjoy two uniquely Peruvian cultural delights this week: the cajón and cebiche. Drummer extraordinaire Camilo Ballumbrosio introduced us to the cajón during a very loud, hands-on workshop. The cajón, or Peruvian box drum, has its roots in the Afro-Peruvian community and is appreciated by music lovers worldwide (our guest percussionist has played in Europe as well as North and South America). Camilo told us about his family, which hails from the coastal town of Chincha. He and his siblings started learning traditional Afro-Peruvian music and dances when they were young—Camilo was just 4 when he started…

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May 22, 2011

Spanish study

This semester our meeting place is the Anglican Cathedral of the Good Shepherd in the Miraflores district of Lima. In a city with so much noise, we are fortunate be in a quiet place for language classes, workshops, and lectures from local experts. The students study Castellano (as Spanish is called here in Peru) most afternoons between 2 and 5. Our language instructors are Anita, Irene, and Moises, and we are grateful for their enthusiasm, warmth, and their many years of teaching experience. As one SSTer said during the first week of classes, “We don’t just learn Spanish, we learn Peruvian…

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May 15, 2011

We spent Thursday and Friday getting to know the district of Villa Maria on Lima’s sprawling, populous “South Side,” which is known as the city’s cono sur (southern cone). In addition to working in the community gardens (see the recent post), SSTers enjoyed meeting some of the locals in a friendly-but-humbling fútbol match—even our three players for GC’s soccer teams were impressed with the skills of their young opponents. We also partook in a feast of anticuchos, a Peruvian dish of grilled, skewered meat. Our host, Alicia, prepared them on a grill outside her home, and we tried both the…

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May 14, 2011

Digging in

We spent Thursday and Friday in Villa Maria del Triunfo, a district on the southern edge of Lima in what is called the “Southern Cone.” (Lima also has a Northern Cone and an Eastern Cone, and all three areas developed rapidly over the last 50 years when people migrated from the provinces.) Villa Maria itself was founded 50 years ago this year and is home to about 380,000 residents. One of those residents is our program assistant, Alicia, who welcomed us and shared stories about the area’s development. When she and other original residents of her neighborhood moved in during…

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May 9, 2011

More than 8.5 million people call Lima home. To get a better sense of this huge, sprawling city, we headed to central Lima. Our first stop was Cerro San Cristobal, a hill that provides an excellent view of the city some 1,300 feet below. From San Cristobal we saw the city stretching out in all directions and got an idea of the dramatic population growth Lima has undergone in the past 50 years (in 1960, the population was just over 1 million). Once we got back into the city, we toured the 16th-century monastery of Santo Domingo, where we saw…

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