Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Heading South!

Having a blast in South America! Almost done with our time in Peru. Enjoyed every minute of it. Hiking in the Andes was breathtaking, in both senses of the word. Very high altitude here! In great company on the trail. 

Cuzco is full of life and color, so sad to leave it. At 2:30pm today we're on a bus headed for Chile. (on bus for 16 hours!!!) We're headed to San Pedro de Atacamba, the Chilean desert! We are quite excited for the adventures ahead!!

 after 4 days of hiking in the Andes, we made it!!! 
absolutely breathtaking views

 Our wonderful guide (trail name: William Wallace) and Patchachutec celebrating the completion of the trek! 
Sisters on the trail 
 Feliz navidad if we don't get a chance to talk to y'all sooner!

Con amor,
Laura & Cole

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

the end of the world as we know it (cole)

When I was younger, I went a small camp in coastal Georgia called, Honey Creek. I loved camp dearly. It is easy to say it was my favorite week of the year. I had four best friends at camp and we could not be separated. We went swimming, created arts & crafts, held dance parties in our cabin, kayaked on the river, played frisbee in the meadow, along with all the other shenanigans that come with camp. It was where I felt at home. So the end of  the week was quite depressing to say the least. But, on the last night the counselors would play, "The End of the World as We know It" by R.E.M. and in that moment, things seemed ok. Now it seems a little strange to think about, but everyone in camp would run around in a big circle and scream the lyrics at the top of our lungs during the chorus. We all had this last moment together and though we knew we might be returning to our home the following day; we knew we would be together again next year. It was never a "forever goodbye" 

Well, here is Cusco, it is the end of the world as I know it. After four months of settling in, learning the culture, making friends, and falling in love with the city, the ending is now in sight. Classes finished last week and today is the last day of exams. We have a closing dinner on Thursday and most of my friends leave on Saturday. While I am extremely sad about this reality, it comes with excitement too. Macon, my older sister, and Laura come to Cusco next week for the next chapter of life abroad. I am looking forward to showing them this beautiful city I've been lucky enough to live in. While it is always hard to say goodbye, I have a feeling this isn't truly a "forever goodbye" either. That somehow, someway, I will end up in Cusco again. It's more of a "see you later." 

Since I disappeared from the blog for a month, here is a recap of some of the fun I have been up to...

Let's start with my trip to the Amazon! I know this is long overdue, but let's cut to the chase... IT WAS SO COOOOL AND AWESOME AND BEAUTIFUL!!! But really, one of the best trips ever. We hiked in the mornings,  rode on the boat in the afternoon, and hung out and played cards in the evenings. Dream life, right?  Also, we saw so many great animals - Jaguar, caymens, capy baras giant otters, ten species of monkeys and many more. Overall, the trip was above any expectation I could ever set. 
The gang 
So much coca
Awesome tree
Lily making a friend 
Playing soccer with the locals
The following week, I went mountain biking with Mary Kate and Matthias, two friends from school. Matthias had been on this route before, so he guided the way. He forgot to mention he had a bus drop him off first at the top.. Well, we did our fair share of hiking, carrying bikes to get to the top. Then on the way down, we made a wrong turn when some crazy dogs began barking and chasing us. We ended up on a new path, that later turned into a narrow, steep hiking path. None the less, in the end it was really fun adventure! Once we made our way back down to Cusco, we continued biking through all the busy streets. To wrap up the day, we went out for pizza and wine! 

Not meant for bikes?? 
Mary Kate and Matthias at the end of the day

For my Incan Architecture class, I had to give a presentation AND write a paper on the lost Incan citadel, Choquequirao. Well, if that didn't spark my interest in this mysterious place, a handful of tourist agencies around Cusco offer hikes there and have pictures sitting next to Machu Picchu. Obviously, I was extremely intrigued. All the magic of Machu Picchu, but without the hundreds of tourist? Sounds good to me! I gathered a group of friends, and we set off for the 4 day hike. While it was super challenging, it was definitely worth it. I know I just said this about Manú, but it was really one of the best trips ever too. I have never seen anything like it in my life. So surreal. The pictures honestly don't do justice. There is an atmosphere within Choquequirao that is unattainable anywhere else. 
Beginning the hike
Hanging out by a broken bridge
Entrance to Choquequirao 
The plaza of Choquequirao 
Last night of camping - Beers and cards! 
Everyone on the last day! 

Sidenote: I had the most bug bites of my life on this trip... And a severe sunburn too... No good! 

For the end of the year, my Spanish class required to create a film explaining our daily routines. Each person had a different part of the day. My friend, Sarafina, and I both had morning activities. Waking up, brushing your teeth, eating breakfast, etc. Well, we originally planned to have a sleepover and film our section in the morning as we were getting ready for school. Instead, we ended up hanging out at our friend's bar and we figured to go ahead and film there instead. Why not? Well, it turned out a lot weirder/sillier than planned. But hey, we still did well on the project. 

Here are some clips... 

It's been awhile since I last wrote about volunteering, but since then it has continued to be great! Before I jump into the rural school, I want to start with the orphanage. I don't think I've blogged about it yet, but for the past month I have been volunteering twice a week at a boy's orphanage in the middle of the city. If you want to adapt a kid, COME HERE! I have already tried to convince my parents, but they don't seem too interested (Mom and Dad- it's not too late!!!) But really, these boys are so happy and loving. I walked in and felt immediately welcomed. All of the kids ran up to ask my name and age. Now, when I return I am greeted with waves and hugs from the whole place. My volunteering is to help with homework. Well, I feel pretty useless some days considering my limited knowledge in Spanish... But I feel I can still be a helping hand when I can play with the kids too. And I can handle that. I wish I could have began volunteering at the orphanage sooner, but I still appreciate the time I have had with the boys. 
One of the days I volunteered, the showers were being replaced so the boys played outside with a hose for their shower
Corrie playing with one of the boys

Do not fear, I still love the kids at the rural school all the same! Last Friday was our last day of volunteering at the school. It was strange knowing it was the last day of class with my students.We learned words for family members, which they really enjoyed. Each wanted to share his or her story, and their family with me. It was too sweet. We returned on Saturday with the Rotary Club of Cusco for a Christmas celebration. The club raised money to buy the children gifts. The other volunteers and I helped passed out the gifts, along with some donated clothes. It really felt like Christmas morning! All the kids were jumping with joy, extremely appreciative of what they just received. The rest of the day was spent playing soccer, sipping hot chocolate, and dancing to our favorite Spanish songs. When it was time to say goodbye, we gave big hugs and yelled at "Adios!" The kids happily skipped off home, and we returned on a bus to Cusco. Though it was heart-breaking to say goodbye, I was strangely at ease with the situation. I felt like our little fiesta gave us a chance to cherish our last moments together. The oh-so famous Dr. Suess quote wraps it up nicely, "Don't cry because it is over, smile because it happened."

I am excited and nervous for my final two weeks. I have to say some hard goodbyes to my friends, my school, and my home-stay family. While it will be tough, I have two of my best friends here with me to help enjoy the closing to my study abroad.   


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Málaga Pass (cole)


Yesterday I went on a field trip with my biodiversity class to Malaga Pass in the Sacred Valley. We went on hiking trip where we went bird watching, discussed the unique ecosystem, and simply admired the beauty surrounding us. Here are some pictures, enjoy! 


I leave for Manu tomorrow! So excited. Look out for a blog post when I return. Also, HAPPY HALLOWEEN. I'm a little bit sad I am missing it, but I am sure the jungle will be worth it. 


Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Hey Y'all,

Believe it or not, but I am already over halfway through my program here... How did that happen?? While it is scary to think that I am closer to the ending than to the beginning, I have been having an incredible time and I have many fun things ahead. Last time I wrote I was really sick, but be assured I am 100 percent better and back in action. In school, we just finished midterms and we have "spring break" next week (I am going to the RAINFOREST - Manu! My biodiversity professor organized a trip for our class. Should be fun!) I have also been on several adventures, as always. BUT, what I really want to tell you about is my volunteer work.

Yeffery, Jorge, y Cole
Mi clase
Every friday I go to a rural school with three other volunteers in a village in the highlands (45 minutes from Cusco) to teach English in the morning and participate in hands on projects in the afternoons. For some background information on the kids, school, and village... The community is based mostly on farming, though the men now go to Cusco during the day to work in construction. The women still take care of the animals and tend the fields. Families speak in Quechua, the language of the Incans. In the town, there are three churches: Jehovah Witness, Evangelist, and Catholic. Though, the majority of Peru is Catholic, the community is mostly Evangelist because the Catholic priest rarely makes it to the area - maybe a few times a year, while the Evangelists have services at least three times a week. The school runs from kindergarden to sixth grade, afterwards the kids move to an upper school farther away from the community. The entire village seems to be involved in the school. There are always mothers around cooking or helping work; each has certain day of the month to come and give a hand. A green house and guinea pig farm have also been put in at the school, to teach the students practical skills and produce income. The kids live simple lives, but are always so happy. Most are from big families, as many of eight or nine kids. They are required to work in the field and help in the house. School seems to be an outlet, where they are allowed to be kids. They are given two to three recesses a day, which they love. Volunteering at school is definitely a two way street. While the kids are able to learn basic English and the school has work done, I am learning so much. I have a new comprehension of Peruvian life and culture.
Pizarra con palabras inglesas
Victor y su arte
Mujeres para cocinar
Patio de recreo y reunión
Like I said, we go every friday and when our car arrives to the school, the students all chant, "INGLÉS, INGLÉS, INGLÉS." Its the best feeling. The kids are genuinely excited to see us and learn. My class are eight and nine year olds. I LOVE them. Though my Spanish is a little rough, I can still communicate with them enough to get by. This past week I taught my class nature words in English. We took a little walk outside and pointed out things like "rock" and "sky" and "tree" - which was also helpful for me to learn/practice. Afterwards we returned to the class where we drew landscapes and labeled the places. Sadly, my few hours in the class ended sooner than I would have liked. In the afternoon, we painted the playground, an easy way for us to help keep the school looking nice. Before we left, the women offered us the soup they were cooking. The chicken was killed that morning and Keegan, a boy in my program, helped skin and cut it. Needless to say, it was fresh and delicious. Each Friday, I leave and already start looking forward to the following week. If I had it my way, I would go everyday and maybe even move in with a family. But alas, I have to go to my own classes during the week to attend. I am excited for the next final 5 weeks in the school. It will be devastating to leave (there will definitely be some tears shed), but we have many more projects and lessons before that day!

Love from Peru,

travels, 20, heartbreak...and Thailand? (aimee)

Wow, y’all. I’m sorry its been so long since I’ve written. The last month and a half has been a whirlwind. My parents visited me for a week in September! They visited many historical sites including, the Taj Mahal, Humayun’s Tomb, the Red Fort, Shahjahanabad, and a Sikh temple. 
 Papa and me at the Taj Mahal 

I hadn’t fully realized how well I know Delhi until I become their guide - it was an amazing feeling. I worried that I might not adapt to my new city, that I would never find my place, but my parents helped me to see how far I’ve come. Turning 20 was a cliche, but appropriate way to mark the growth and change I feel. 

20th birthday at the Leela Palace 

The next weekend, a group of us visited the tiny state of Goa; once governed by the Portuguese, Goa is an incredible mix of European and Indian culture. We visited a bunch of churches all around the state, all of which were magnificent. 

 Most exciting though, was the laid-back European mindset. For two and a half months, my legs had been covered my pants or long skirts...but in Goa, they got to see the light of day! I celebrated by wearing short dresses everyday. 

 Hannah, Me, Jordan, and Christina
Me and Jor 

Oh, and did I mention the beaches? 

To say it was an amazing weekend would be a understatement. 

The first weekend of October my socioeconomics class and I traveled to Tilonia, Rajasthan. We stayed at an amazing facility, the Barefoot College. If you haven’t heard of it, look it up! It’s a pretty amazing place. We witnessed a protest! We also visited schools, daycare centers, and toured the Barefoot College campus. Rajasthan's weather was much nicer than Delhi's - no humidity, just blue skies and a light breeze. It is the desert, so it was very dry and dusty, but I didn't mind. It was also wonderful to see the stars. There is so much light and air pollution here in Delhi, I am lucky if I can see any stars at all. But in Rajasthan, the stars were was almost like being home in Middleburg again. I spent hours every night on the roof lying on my back just looking up. It’s nights like those that I will miss the most. 

 Our ride for the weekend 
People gathered, preparing for the protest 

The next weekend, my India Since Independence class and I traveled to Amritsar, Punjab. We saw the India/Pakistan border ceremony. Each morning and evening, the gates are officially opened and closed. Its a very grand ceremony...its also a little strange. My friends and I decided we wanted to join in on the festivities, so we ran into the street to dance and sing and celebrate India. 

 the hat says: "I love my India" 
 Dancing with a new friend 

That night, we went to the Sikh Golden Temple - it truly glows at night. 

The next day we visited a memorial and went back to the Golden Temple to eat at the free canteen there. The canteen feeds 70,000 people on weekdays, and 100,000 people on weekends (on average)...pretty amazing, right? The food was great, too. 

The Golden Temple

Jallianwala Bagh

This weekend was uneventful, but so relaxing. As much as I love traveling, I’ve missed Delhi. I only have two more weeks of class, but I don’t want to believe it. I feel like I’ve finally found my place here. I don’t want to leave. I cannot begin to describe how blessed I feel to have met this group of people. I came to India simply looking for adventure, but I found so much more...
I have met some of the most incredible people. I am heartbroken to leave them. I am torn. On the one hand, I’m ready to leave; I miss home, I miss Sewanee, and I miss all my friends and family in the States. On the other hand, I never want to leave India. I don’t want to lose contact with all the friends I’ve made. When I leave Delhi, I will be leaving home. My heart lies in both places. No matter where I am, I’m going to feel like I’m missing a part of myself. 
I’m just now coming to realize this. 

This post turned out much more depressing than I had intended, sorry. 
The good news is, its not over yet. I’m visiting Varanasi next weekend, and then after exams I’m going with three of my best friends to Darjeeling for a week (we’re trekking for 5 days!), Calcutta for a few days, and hopefully Thailand for a week after that. 
There are still so many adventures yet to come...