Monday, July 14, 2014

A wonderful experience

        As we get ready to finish our stay in Peru, I can think of the many wonderful moments we have had these days, both in Lima and now in Cusco. And how privileged we are to enjoy what nature and culture have created in this country.  The beauty of nature, the beauty of the culture. But at the same time, we have been able to learn so much.  Learn from each other in the group, learn from the presenters, learn from the different people we have met, learn from the many places we have visited.  School leadership, geography, school life, government role, wealth, poverty, coastal malls, Andean valleys, the variety of topics, knowledge, and of course the food!  And with them the many contrasts that make Peru an amazing place. As one of our group members put it, this trip has led "to experiences that I will never have again."
        During our last days in Peru, we have had a chance to visit one of the new Seven Wonders of the World--Machu Picchu.  In prior postings, you have had a taste of this magnificent Inka site, both through the narrative of the group members as well as through their eyes--and their cameras--capturing every single angle that can just start to communicate to you the beauty of this place. Similarly, the ruins of the sacred place of Sacsayhuaman, just outside the city of Cusco. As thrilling, yet in a different dimension, the Spanish legacy in the city, with its layout, its churches, and what it meant--the destruction of any reminder of the Inka culture and the further humiliation of building on top of sacred places. All in all, a coexistence of two worlds--or more.

       --Oscar A. Aliaga

Cusco peasants with llamas.

Stephanie and Ashley enjoying the handcraft market.

Church tower with the city in the background.

The Peruvian cuisine. Eating at a modern restaurant with original Inka walls. Ashley, LaRhondolyn, Deborah, Stephanie, and Meredith.

Another example of the mixture of Inka and Spanish structures.

The street leading to the traditional Cusco section of San Blas.

A typical street in the historic center of Cusco.

LaRhondolyn with the Card symbol next to the Archbishop's house.

Peasant woman and child, in Cusco.

A panoramic view of one of Cusco's jewels--Qoricancha, and the Iglesia de Santo Domingo complex.

Sarah in Sacsayhuaman.


Today was another amazing day in Cusco.  After a long night’s deep sleep aided by the climb at Machu Picchu, we awoke early for a good breakfast to start our day.  We headed out to Saqsayhuaman, the sacred ruins.  The ruins offered breathtaking views overlooking the city below.  We learned that the people of Saqsayhuaman were masters at moving water throughout the site using a water storage area and a system of channels to keep water flowing even during the dry season. 

Upon our return to the city, we stopped at a local market and supported the economy.  From the market, we headed back to the main square of the town, which was full of song and dance as today was a day of celebration.  Next, we headed to lunch and to support the World Cup soccer teams. Our group had members supporting both teams. Watching the World Cup in Peru is  like watching the Super Bowl in America.

Plaza de Armas del Cusco.  Cusco main square.

Peasants with traditional dress, in Cusco.
Sarah and Carla at Saksaywaman (or Saqsayhuaman or Sacsayhuaman), in Cusco.
A view of Cusco, with the snow-covered Ausangate mountain in the background.
Meredith, Carla, Sarah, Cabrina, Deborah, Stephanie, and Ashley at Sacsayhuaman.
The U of Louisville group at Sacsayhuaman: Dr. Pentecost, Sarah, Ashley, Deborah, Stephanie, Meredith, Carla, and Cabrina.
Joking with big stones in Sacsayhuaman: If you can't hold them, you run!
A panoramic view of the impressive Sacsayhuaman.
Showing the stone dimensions--and no wheels were used to move them!
Dr. Pentecost at one of Sacsayhuaman gates.
A view of Cusco from Sacsayhuaman: Dr. Aliaga, Cabrina, Meredith, Deborah, Carla, Sarah, and Ashley.

The famous stone with the 12 angles.  Can you find/count them? Another example of a Spanish building built on top of an Inca structure. 
A typical street in the historic center of Cusco.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Machu Picchu

Today was a trip I have waited for over 10 years to take. Ever since learning of the mysterious and legendary place, I have only dreamed of visiting Machu Picchu. Today, my dream became a reality.

We began our trek with departing from our hotel at 5:15 in the morning. Santos, our bus driver, drove us through the countryside of Cusco. While many members of the group were tired, I was too excited to sleep and was amazed by the majestic scenery of the mountains. After the bus ride, we arrived in a small village called Ollantaytambo.  From there was boarded the Inca Rail, a 90 minute train ride. Upon arrival, just when everyone thought we would finally arrive at our destination, we then again took one more bus ride for 20 minutes. We finally arrived at Machu Picchu at approximately 8:45 in the morning. We were greeted by our tour guide, Alex, whose ancestors were once the Incan people lived in the villages surrounding Machu Picchu and constructed Machu Picchu. As we walked up the pebble stone pathway and lush blanket of vegetation along the pathway,  my excitement grew as I realized we were moments away from seeing one of the 7 New Wonders of the World.  And there it was, Machu Picchu laid before my eyes. Words cannot explain the immense beauty of the landscape.  I was absolutely speechless as water filled my eyes and little tears ran down my cheeks. All I could say was “Qué lindo!” (“How beautiful!”).  Alex shared with us his vast knowledge of the ancient civilization that allowed us to better understand the purpose every structure. After we took a break for lunch,  Sarah, Carla, Ashley, Dr. Aliaga, and myself decided to continue the journey and hike further up to see the best view of Machu Picchu. The pictures do not give it justice. The sight of the breathtaking scene are 1,000 times more gorgeous in person.

My trip was more than I could have possible dreamed of. I was blessed to have my dream turn into reality. As much as I didn’t want to leave, I am excited to continue our journey throughout Peru.

        --Meredith Henson

Machu Picchu.
Llamas in Machu Picchu. A beautiful day for our visit.

Dr. Jean-Marie in Machu Picchu.

The U of Louisville group at the start of our tour of Machu Picchu.

Another perspective of the sanctuary.

Traditional musicians and dancer in Aguas Calientes, a small town where the trains arrive from Cusco, and where the buses are boarded to the actual ruins.

The U of L group listening to Alex, our tour guide, while looking at the sanctuary.

Cardy made it to Machu Picchu! With LaRhondolyn and Ashley.

Posing in Machu Picchu, with the Huayna Picchu mountain in the background.
Carla, Ashley, Meredith, and Sarah at the most famous gate in Machu Picchu.

Sarah and Meredith in Machu Picchu.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Friday, July 11

Our day started with a delicious breakfast at our hotel, Casa Andina.  We then visited one of the oldest school in the country of Peru, Colegio Nacional de Ciencias.  The school is located in the historical center of Cusco and dates back to colonial times, originally created in 1619, and re-founded as Cilegio Nacional de Ciencias by Simón Bolívar in 1825.  We visited with Mr. Renan Quispe, Principal, and six other members of his administrative staff.  The staff explained the three levels of the school: primary, secondary, and an alternative primary education for working students to complete their education.  We quickly learned that one of the main objectives of the school was to keep strong contact with the community.  The school leaders described a ritual centered on skills, strength, and community called Warachikuy in which eighteen year olds expressed cultural traditions and the physical, intellectual, and artistic skills necessary to lead people in this coming of age test. 

After our discussions, we toured the school, visiting students in their last year of the secondary level and awaiting graduation in December.  We visited a science lab, history classroom filled with artifacts from pre-Inca civilization, and the music room.  We observed students at play during recess and in preparation for a formal mass being held in honor of three faculty members who were struggling with medical conditions.  We were saddened by the lack of resources in this school – limited and outdated books; lack of basic supplies such as paper, pencils, and chalk; broken and dilapidated desks; and dusty hallways.  Yet, we were awestruck by the passion and determination of the educators within who worked tirelessly to provide an education and opportunity for a better life for their students.
After lunch at Inka Grill, we toured Qorikancha, Covento de Santo Domingo Del Cusco.  Qorikancha is a site of Inca ruins.  The Spanish invaded and destroyed the Incan temple, Temple of the Sun.  As added humiliation, the Spanish constructed their own sanctuary, Santo Domingo, in its place.  The site contains some of the original Incan archeology, amazing stone structures, with each stone placed perfectly without the need for plaster in between the stones.  The grounds were beautiful!
Our group took time to pause and reflect on what has been a whirlwind eight days and discuss some of the emerging themes we have been seeing with regard to education and their application to the U.S. context.  Each member of our group led ten minute discussions on topics that included technology implementation, exploration of public and appropriate education, disparities among subgroups, assessment and accountability, special education, inequality and quality, and informal and formal systems of the economy.
We rounded out our day with a fabulous dinner at Incanto and are all shortly headed to bed.  We have an early day tomorrow, beginning at 5:00am as we trek to Machu Picchu, one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world!
        --Sarah Hitchings 

At Cusco's Main Square, the day after we arrived: Dr. Pentecost, Cabrina, and Ashley.
Right before our meeting at the Colegio Nacional de Ciencias: Deborah, Ashley, Carla, Stephanie, Dr. Jean-Marie, Cabrina, Sarah, LaRhondolyn, Dr. Pentecost, and Meredith.

Visiting the school, with principal Renán Quispe (second from right), as well as the secondary section director.
Interior patio at Colegio Nacional de Ciencias.

Cabrina in the library section with books dating back to the mid 1600s.

Colegio Nacional de Ciencias students with the U of L hand symbol, with Carla, Dr. Jean-Marie, Meredith, and LaRhondolyn.

Meredith, Carla and Sarah at the main entrance of the Qoricancha and Iglesia de Santo Domingo, posing with peasant women in traditional dress and their baby llamas and lambs.

Carla in the original Inca section of the Iglesia Santo Domingo, which can be seen in the background.
Patio of the Iglesia de Santo Domingo.
Dr. Aliaga in front of Qoricancha. This picture shows how the Spanish structure of the Iglesia de Santo Domingo was built on top of the Inka Temple of the Sun or Qoricancha.
A panoramic view of Cusco main square (Plaza de Armas), with the Cathedral in front, and the church of the Society of Jesus to the right.
Night view of Cusco main square.
A view of the church of the Society of Jesus, and Cusco streets an plaza.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

July 10

The day began with breakfast at the Ibis hotel in Miraflores. After breakfast the group separated into several taxis and headed to the Inka Market. We arrived about 15 minutes early and a few if us took a stroll around the block. Once we circled back around, the gates to the main entrance were open for business. Some of us paired off and headed into different directions to look at the numerous objects. Everyone eventually bought souvenirs and trinkets for family and friends. After visiting the market,we went back to the hotel to get our bags so we could board a plane going to Machu Picchu. We barely made the plane to Cusco, but we arrived safely and the mountainside landscape is magnificent.

        --Larhondalyn Matheis

Cardy and Santos waiting for us in Cusco.


Ashley and her Peru shirt.

Cusco airport and mountains.