Sunday, July 17, 2011

Project Phase and Cuzco!

Hola a todos! This is Collin from the World Challenge group giving an update of the last week! As of now, we are in a very nice hostel in Cuzco with hot showers 24/7! The school we worked on is surrounded by an adobe brick wall and has a metal front door. It sits on a mountainside overlooking the deep valley below. Within this valley are the train tracks that lead to Ollantaytambo (then Machu Picchu). Anyways, the ride up the mountainside was a little scary but we were all in one piece!
                  We started our project phase(day 1) by sanding and plastering the outside walls of the small, three room school. Sanding is done to remove chipping paint and imperfections. Plastering is to fill in deep holes and cracks in the school wall.  
                  On day 2 of the project phase, we painted both coats of this baby blue color on the outside of the school. Also, the principal had 100´s of adobe bricks that sat in the front yard. Our duty was to move all of them into an organized pile out of the way of the front yard. We challenged ourselves by moving 50 of them in 10 minutes because Olga promised to buy us all Twix bars (which is still pending, I´m waiting for my Twix bar!). Lifting wasn´t easy because each brick weighed as much as a small child (40lbs). I personally cut up my arms a bit lifting these bricks because they weren´t soft poofy marshmallows. We were successful in moving all the bricks which was a big accomplishment!
                 We began sanding one room within the school (there are 3 rooms, the big one that we slept in the first 4 nights, and two smaller classrooms), and then plastering that room on day 3. We painted that room a lime green color if I´m remembering correctly. We sanded and plastered the second small room after painting the first small room. That afternoon, 4 of us, Olga, Laura, Stickles and I, went into the main town at the base of the mountain to get school supplies and snacks for the kids while others painted. Each kid got a pencil case, a box of crayons, a box of colored pencils, a notebook, and two different colored pens. They also got 2 massive bags of animal crackers and juice. Each student was between the age of 3 and 6, and there were 25 students. 
                 On day 4 we put a second coat on both small rooms.
                 Day 5 consisted in lots of sanding and sweeping paint dust in the large classroom. That night, we slept in tents in the schoolyard.
                Day 6 was just painting in the large room and finishing up with roasting marshmallows after dinner! We then took the van back down the mountain after the locals showered us in flowers and confetti for helping them! we went into the small town where we got food and took part in the local patron saint festival. They had exploding fireworks so powerful that you could feel the wind from each one as it went off. There was lots of good food and we enjoyed ourselves for lunch! We then took the van back to Cuzco to our new hostel with hot water and poofy beds! Yesterday night we went to a really nice restaurant called Cafe Cafe and then went dancing at a fun little place in the Plaza de Armas. Today we got up and tried spending the rest of our money on souvenirs, chocolate bars and ice cream! Tonight were going to have a game night with twister and connect four and other fun games! Tomorrow were going to get up early to catch our flight to Lima! We will spend a day there, and then go back to the states the next day! We all miss you and are hoping to see you at the airport in Boston to greet us!

Love, The World Challenge Team!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Machu Picchu!!

              Hola A Todos! After our trek we stayed one night in Ollaytantambo. We made a friend that was first named Gilbert, then Gilberta, then Bomba, short for Urabomba. It was a dog, the best dog ever. It followed us everywhere ! We eventually had to get rid of her :(. Then we took an hour and a half train ride to Auguas Calientes. The train ride was awesome, we could see everything. When we got to Auguas Calientes some people stood in line and waited to get our Machu Picchu entrance tickets. The rest of us went on the hunt for a hostal. They were almost all booked because it was the 100 year aniversary of the discovery of Machu Picchu. Finally we found a nice one right near the center and market. It was called Inka something. The city of Auguas Calientes was so cool, it was filled with markets and restaurants, but didn´t have any cars. After running people back and forth from hostal to Machu Picchu ticket line we finally got all 13 tickets areound 5:30. Now we all had to get ready to party in the hot springs. ooooooohhhh yyyeaaaahhhhhh

               It was dusk when we were all ready and in our bathing suits and began to head out to the hot springs. We rented towels on the way, then walked up a hill to the thermal baths. They weren´t what I was expecting because they looked like real pools. The water was real murky. We put our bags in lockers, stripped down, then got into the first bath. It was so warm and the bottom was made up of gravel. Everyone seemed to be looking at us funny. We are funny looking. We moved into the next bath which was even warmer then the first, but before we got in we ran around seeing if any others were warmer but they all just got colder. We looked like chickens with our heads cut off. We stayed in the warmest bath for an hour or so, no one wanted to get out but we kind of needed food.
            The chefs decided to go to a Peruvian Chinese restaurant for dinner. It was really good. We all got our food then went back to the hostal for a meeting. During the meeting we talked about the plan for Machu Picchu the next day, it ended up being we had to wake up at 2:00 am. blahggg. But it was totallly worth it in the end. We woke up at 2:00 put all of our bags into one room and left for the bus station at 2:45. When we got there there was only one family in front of us. Some people waited in line for the bus tickets on the other side of the sketchy dark road. The rest of us waited in line to get on the bus. We got our tickets at 4:57 and boarded the bus at 5:28 am. We were all soooooooooooooooooooooooo excited. I personally checked to make sure I had everything I needed to get into Machu Picchu a thousand times. The road was windy on the way up and it was still dark outside, but we were the first bus ! When we got there there were so many hikers already there. We pushed and shoved as a group all the way to the front of the line. Some jerks tried to cut. good joke. When we all got in we walked through a lower level of Machu Picchu, where Ms. B cried tears of happiness, then headed straight for Wayna Picchu. We were all prepared for it to be a really hard hike up to the top. We took pour time and every single member of the team made it to the top. It was amazing. Seeing Machu Picchu from way up there was beautiful and we all took more of our corny pictures :). At the top we all chilled on rocks. While some people were still laying in the sun Liz, Shandog, Catie, and I went down to the Incan Caverns. We met up with Ms. B and Olga somewhere along the path. Then, what we thought was going to be mostly downhill steps turned into a million uphill steps to get back to Machu Picchu. The four of us were planning which rock to die on and which bugs to eat for protien. It was a little bit funny. When we finally reached the part of the path that was down the millions of Incan steps we were so happy. We met a guy from the states who warned us of two ladders that would be coming up. Then we passed a spanish speaking couple that freaked out when I fell on my butt down a bunch of steps. Priceless moments. When we made it back to Machu Picchu we signed back in and met up with everyone else. The rest of the group decided not to go to the caverns. My group walked up to the top of Machu Picchu and took a nap in the sun before our meeting, while the rest of the group explored the ruins. After our meeting we finished exploring all of the amaxing ruins and took more corny pictures :) IT WAS AWESOME. We all stamped our passports with the Machu Picchu logo guy thingy then got onto a bus. We were all pretty tired and hungry. When we got back to Auguas Calientes we had some pizza for lunch then went shopping :) Everything was mad expensive because it was a tourist town. We met back up at the hostal to get our bags and get back on the train to Ollaytantambo.
              Our friends at Wayki Trek picked us up from the train station after we got some dinner. It was another two our bus ride back to the Wayki Hostal. We got in around 11 and wanted to die in our beds after such a long day. Laying on that bed was heaven on earth :) When we woke up around 9:30 we had breakfast, I fell down some more stairs, then the kids had a meeting. Before the meeting some of us went to to the call center to talk to our families. When we got back Liz and I sat there and laughed for a minute then cried for a minute on and off for about an hour. It was halarious, but I think everyone is missing home a wee bit. Our meeting was like a Dr. Phil session. It wasn´t as bad as we anticipated and now everyone is uch happier. For the rest of the day we split up into groups to get food and supplies for our project phase. We are leaving today for our project phase and we are all pumped out the wazoo. We had a nice dinner last night to prepare for six days of our own cooking. We went to bed around 11:30. Everyone is happy and no one is sick or dying or injured for once. :) And before we leave we decided we wanted to give a shout out to all our FHS teachers !! Sorry to my english teachers for my terrible writing. Love you all !
                                      Emily Doak :)

p.s That is me Shandog and Catie playing Ninja at the bus station at 4 am. Don´t judge. :)

here is a link for more photos Machu Picchu

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Trekking Phase

The group just arrived in Ollantaytambo after 3 days of trekking. On the first day the team climbed above the snow line to a height of about 4200m, where we had a hot lunch and started the descent down a half hour later. On the trek many members had a hard time with altitude, including Olga, who had to ride a horse down from from the mountain top due to altitude sickness. Unfortunatly we don´t have any pictures to upload yet, as Ms. Barnard is still in the hostal right now.

The second day was an easier trek that lead downhill from our original campsite down to the town of Ollantaytambo. Some members of the group were feeling pretty rough and had to take a bus down instead of trekking. The trek followed a mountain road and passed through a Quetcha highschool and lots of rural mountain towns where we got to meet and talk to the local kids. Upon arrival lunch was ready for us and the tents were already set up. Later that night we climbed the Incan Ollantaytambo ruins and learned the love story that surrounded it, and that Ollantaytambo is the only still populated city that features the orriginal architecture of the Inca.

The third day we split up into two groups, one that climbed up to an Incan quarry and another that explored the city and markets. I was in the group that went hiking, so I can´t talk for the group that toured th city. The climb up was steep, but after about 3 hours we were greeted with a view of the entire city and an ancient Incan quarry, where there were large stones that were being worked on when the Spaniards came, and all construction was halted.

Today we leave for Aguas Calientes, and the next morning we wake up around 1am to get bus tickets to Machu Pichu. There may be another computer we could use tonight to upload some pictures, but if not it may be awhile.

-Clay Shropshire

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Finally in Cuzco!

 Hello lucky people in the 1st world!
   We finally made it to Cuzco! After a long bus ride with questionable food, we arrived here yesterday at about 7am. (To the left you´ll see a photo of Ms. B: dutifully watching our packs at the bus terminal.)  From there, we checked into our hostel and marvelled at the strange weather, which I kinda forgot existed during our time in the desert.  What is this moisture? I forget what it´s called, but its cold, drippy, and thoroughly unpleasant.
   Luckily, we are in Cuzco at the best possible time.  It´s the 100th anniversary of the discovery of Machu Picchu!*  Every five minutes random bands and floats cross through the Plaza des Armas, and every five minutes fireworks are shot off and scare the life out of us. (In the daytime... I kid you not.)  The city is gorgeous, and is beautifully decorated for the festivals taking place here within the next week.
   We´ve spent the last two days visiting museums and shopping at the huge local markets, which not only feature handmade goods, but herbs, incense, and meat I believe to have been killed five minutes prior to its appreance in the market.  Freshness is a clear priority.  Ms. B. and Olga insisted that we have this cultural experience, and I agree! (to the left you can see some of our fave souvenirs and the most appetizing food I have ever seen in my life.) These markets are amazing- and the team will rave about how amazing the fruit juice is.
   None of us really mind the change in itinerary- it´s given us a lot of new oppurtunities. We´ve tried sugarcane, purple corn juice, and went to a race car rally! We even got to meet up with another WC team from New Jersey.  We can believe that two vweeks have gone by already, and we´re excited for the trek and project phase ahead.
Before I end this post, I´d like to publish a memo for nervous parents:
You WILL NOT hear from us within the next few days, minimally.  Tomorrow morning, we leave on our trek and will not have internet access. We are not dead. We have not been abducted; these things I promise you.  Picture us cheerfully climbing beautiful snow-capped mountains and put your minds at ease. You´ll hear from us as soon as we get back to a city!

* a white guy.  I fail to understand why this is so important when Peruvians have been chilling up there for years.


ps- see our entire Cuzco album on our Picasa site- Cuzco