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June 15, 2011

Match Day

Today we had our own version of Match Day, when the SSTers learned where they would be going for service and what they would be doing. The energy level was high as each opened an envelope revealing information about the next six weeks. Without further ado, here’s the lineup: Ayacucho/Quinua (mountains): Jenae, Kim, Peter, Tahnee Chimbote (coast): Jonathan, Maria, Minda, Nathan La Merced/San Ramon (jungle): Greg, Jenn, Karina, Matt, Naomi Tarma (mountains): Caleb, Kayla, Mara We spent much of this morning going over service expectations and logistics. This Saturday and Sunday each group will take a bus from Lima to…

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June 15, 2011

arts alive!

The past few weeks Peru SSTers have sampled a variety of Peruvian art forms. From the oil paintings and wood sculptures of the Museum Pedro de Osma in Lima to the traditional dance performances at the Qosqo Center of Native Art in Cusco, we have encountered the strong artistic spirit of this country. No encounter has been as close, however, as our workshop with Pedro Farias, a professional dancer who introduced us to three traditional Peruvian dances—one from the coast, one from the jungle, and one from the mountains. After Pedro demonstrated the moves, the SSTers took to the dance…

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June 12, 2011

Our recent visit to Hospital María Auxiliadora was a chance to get an inside view of how health care is delivered to poor Peruvians. The range of medical facilities in Lima is broad: For those with insurance or the ability to pay, private clinics offer state-of-the-art care. Those who have paid into the national social security program through their jobs are eligible to use  social security hospitals. And those who have neither private insurance, social security benefits, nor the ability to pay, have access to hospitals run by the Ministry of Health, such as Hospital María Auxiliadora in the district…

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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

Hello world!

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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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