Saturday, July 31, 2010

Students are in NYC

Hello parents,

The students have arrived in NYC. They just landed and will need to go through customs and collect their luggage. Craig and Nancy anticipated that the group will be back at Groton between 2:30pm - 3pm. The students are all happy and healthy. Please call the office with any questions - 303-679-3412.

Erin Lasky
Program Director

Friday, July 30, 2010

Flight to JFK

Hello parents!

Currently the students flight from Lima to JFK has been delayed by an hour. They are expected to leave at 1am local time and are scheduled to arrive in NYC at 9:40am. Please call the office with any questions 303-679-3412.

Erin Lasky
Program Director

We're leaving Ollanta in a few moments

We'll head to Cusco via van in 1/2 hour and then fly to Lima and on to New York, where we will land ca. 8:30am tomorrow morning. If all goes well, the group who will continue on to Groton will arrive on the circle at 2:30 or so on Saturday afternoon.

We've had a wonderful trip and are lucky to have spent these last three weeks with your children.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Day Fifteen: James Lee interviews Anco Pancha leader

July 26, 2010 -- Independence Day

Seeing Ghosts

Today I had the opportunity to meet with a leader of Anco Pancha, the community we are working in. Julia Blank is the vice president of the community. Anco Pacha is guided by five leaders in total. Ms. Blank’s duties include organizing labor, acting as a representative of the town, and overseeing the signings of official documents related to the town. She met us at the kitchen table of her house, with Adela Arenas translating, and a wandering chicken observing us in the corner of the room.
Physically, Ms. Blank does not impose the kind of confident charisma that Americans may be used to seeing in politicians and leaders. However, there is a certain kind of strength in her composure that strikes me as soon as I meet her. I begin with a nervous greeting in Spanish and thank her for taking the time to meet with me. As we began the interview, I resorted to using a combination of hand gestures and rudimentary Spanish, and eventually to asking the questions fully in English to Adela for translation.
I started off by asking her about the challenges facing the community. Education is obviously an issue. There is no real school in Anco Pancha. The “Pronoei” we are working in right now is essentially a community-run pre-school, not funded by the state. Local mothers act as teachers, and the classroom itself is shabby, even for Peruvian standards. There is no electricity, no heating of any kind, and very few resources. Older kids have to go to school in Ollantaytambo or Urubaumba, near-by towns. Ms. Blank herself sends her kids to school in Urubaumba. Since we work from the morning until the afternoons, we have not seen any teenagers or older kids, who are all at school.
When asked about the role of the volunteers in the community, Ms. Blank smiles in a sad, grateful way and tells us that most of the community appreciates the help. Perhaps, she goes on to say, what is even more helpful is just the act of service, rather than the fruits of service itself. We are a group that has no previous connection to Peru or to Anco Pancha. We are not from the government, and we are not an official aid group. We are just a bunch of students from all over the world that want to help without needing to help, and that fact itself may provide a spark of hope for the community that it desperately needs. Anco Pacha itself is composed of two or three different towns that were washed away in the flood, and the exact number grows each week. These towns have come to live together with only the aftermath of a calamity joining them together. Because this is the case, there is sometimes conflict and many times a lack of trust, which is another challenge that Ms. Blank will have to overcome. The community has been promised help before by volunteers such as us. However, they have often been disappointing with their lack of effort and attitude towards the town. This has lead to a severe lack of trust in volunteers. Groton, on the other hand, has been different, Ms.Blank goes on to tell us. Our conviction in our work, as well as our willingness to work side by side with the local people has been exceptional among volunteers. People have started to have faith again in their ability to improve their situation, and perhaps this is a greater help to the community than any steps or swingsets we build during our short time. At this point in the interview, Ms. Blank takes us outside to take a walk around the town.
I am seeing ghosts.
The place that Ms. Blank takes us to is an empty building in the back part of the town. It is a building that previous volunteers have worked on before. They originally intended it to be a public health center, a kind of a mini-hospital. However, they could not receive government permission to establish one here, since there is one in Ollantaytambo. Since then, there have been efforts to turn it into a Catholic Church, but for now the building stands empty and purposeless.
The scary part of it all is the clear evidence of the work done by past volunteers. The walls have been plastered and painted with what must have been a strikingly refreshing white, what is now a chipped off, dirt covered memory. There are unused tables and chairs inside, which must have been made by volunteers who imagined that they would be used every day. The doors are new, made with fine wood, and nailed shut. The only way one can look in is by a window that has no glass panel in it.
The ghosts scream out in fury.
Is this a direct reflection of what is to become of our own work? Will our brightly colored fence posts and newly made see-saws fade away into uselessness and idleness? Will we, in years and years after which we are someone else, discover that the only purpose of our hard days of work were to serve ourselves, our consuming need for self-satisfaction, and our need for conviction in something?
After the failed health center, Ms. Blank takes us around the back to a rock-filled stretch of land. This, she explains, is where she would like to have a playing ground for kids. This is her current biggest hope for the community, that youth have somewhere that they can play sports and spend time at. However, even this seemingly achievable task seems unfeasible. The land is covered with not only thousands of little rocks but big boulders. It is not even, and garbage is everywhere. The only thing separating the land from the railroad tracks that run along next to the town are a series of sharp, menacing cacti. Unused adobe bricks are piled up on the side, and chickens strut about freely.
However, Ms. Blank does not share my attitude. She says that the youth of the community will head the project themselves, as soon as vacation starts. There are already plans to level out the land and to clean it up. Her eyes gleam with confidence and conviction, and I am momentarily startled. For the first time in this trip, I have nothing, nothing at all to say.
Then, I am hearing ghosts again. This time however, they are not striking out in anger. They are the ghosts of kids shouting to one another in a soccer game, and laughing with one another. They are ghosts of the future, not the past. Groton will not be here when this project is finished or even started, but I am convinced that it will indeed be done.
The ghosts tell me so.

James Lee

Monday, July 26, 2010

Day Fourteen: Peruvian Independence Day

We ventured to the worksite early this morning to find that members of the community had continued the work on the stairs while we were hiking during the weekend. In a flurry of activity, the final mural was nearly completed by Jenny, Madeleine, Gia, and Jimbo. The fence was re-installed around the play area at the primary school by Tim, Molly, Prescott, and Jason. And the swing set frame was sited and sanded by Nick, Thomas, James and Diana. Meanwhile, Nancy and Adela contined their total makeover of the bathroom by plastering the walls and themselves in the process.

What has been remarkable about our time in Anco Pacha is how our presence and enthusiasm has motivated many of the residents. It is not always the case that community members get involved in such service work initiated by outsiders. (Surely, such was not the case in our previous two years in Peru.) However, Anco Pacha, composed of a collection of different people relocated to this area after losing their homes to violent flooding in 1999 and again this past winter, is in the slow process of becoming more of a community, and the desire of these residents to work along side us to help improve the quality of life for their children, grandchildren, and themselves has been inspiring -- truly what one hopes for in such service work. As we have all come to know each other better and grown as a community, so too have the residents of Anco Pacha. Service as community building--that is what we regard as the great promise of all of this work.

Today on the worksite, James also met with one of the community leaders to get a first-hand account of her experiences and to learn more about the community and its needs, and tomorrow James and other interested students will continue this interviewing process with the four other central community leaders.

We returned to Ollantaytambo for the Independence Day festivities and were able to watch some of our host families children marching around the central square in the parade. Many Peruvian flags were flying, and the streets were filled with proud residents of Ollanta and many of the surrounding mountain hamlets.

We're intent on finishing all of the work we've been engaging in during the course of the week. Along with our work at Anco Pancha, we hope to tie the threads together on the discussions we've been having periodically with the group. Our conversations have deliberately ranged widely: from discussions of individual temperments and leadership styles to Andean culture and history to broad patterns in the evolution of civilizations to the origins of poverty and to the nature of service. This week, we hope to help students contemplate their privilege, set some individual goals based upon what they've learned about themselves and the world during their trip, and determine how to stay connected to and supportive of Anco Pancha during the upcoming school year. We'll have ample time for these discussions during the course of the next few days. We'll be at the worksite tomorrow and then off to Machu Picchu on Wednesday prior to our final day in Ollantaytambo on Thursday.

A few kids are suffering a bit from a cold, from some mild stomach upset, and and altitude weakened one of us. That said, everyone seems to be boucing back for a strong finish.

Ciao for now.

Craig and Nancy

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Back from the trek

We left Ollantaytambo yesterday morning and drove up to Patacancha, the weaving village we visited last week, and started our trek from there. The skies were clear blue and the weather was warm, and we dropped most of our gear with the porters prior to starting the steady climb up through the high alpine fields. We encountered clusters of llamas and alpaca en route and walked past numerous remote villages. We ate lunch overlooking a high alpine lake prior to pushing up and over a 15,000 foot pass. At 4:30 we made camp, set up tents, had a wonderful meal prepared by the porters, and climbed into our tents as the cold closed in. Songs in several languages ensued, and we laughed this morning as some among us recounted the crazy dreams induced by our high altitude campsite.
Today, we broke camp early and headed down the valley to a beautful hot spring, where we took a soak and had lunch prior to heading back to Ollantaytambo for a wonderful dinner at El Albergue--where most of us feasted on Alpaca steak.
Tomorrow, we'll head to the worksite for a shortened day of work, after which we will return to Ollantaytambo for Peruvian Independence Day celebration.
The weekend was a huge success--

all the best, Craig, Nancy, and Jason

Friday, July 23, 2010

Day Eleven

We were fortunate to spend the early morning hours at the awe-inspiring Incan sun temple in Ollantaytambo. Adolfo, Craig and Nancy's friend and host, led a wonderful tour of this important Incan site, and we marveled at the precise stonework and profound thought that went into this temple.
We arrived at the worksite later than usual (10am) and a number of us jumped right in to mixing cement to finish the steps we've fashioned. As we poured cement and lugged it down the steep escarpment, we worked alongside a group of skilled members of the Anco Pancha community and did our best to keep up. Others started to paint the final mural adjacent to the school. Nancy spent the morning plastering the wall of the bathroom with Kaitlyn--now the bathroom is clean and bright--a huge improvement.
A few students have mildly distressed stomachs, but such is par for the course given the altitude and different foods we are consuming. We'll be leaving tomorrow for a two day trek and will be cared for beautifully by a great group of Quechua porters who will transport the bulk of our gear and feed us beautifully. This trek will bring us through some extraordinary high-altitude landscapes, and I can't wait to see the awed expressions of students.
I've utterly enjoyed the work, the fun, and the friendship of this fine group of students--we've had not a single issue and look forward to a great last week!

All the best, Craig

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Finally! Some photos

Thomas at the Granaries

Nancy, Kaitlyn, Nick, and
Prescott below Veronica

  1. Jenny, Madeleine, and Gia working on the mural

Tim, Jason, Craig, James, Prescott,
and Nick moving a stump at the worksite

Molly and a huge bag of cement

Di, Thomas, and Brad in the square

Jimbo at the primary school

Tim, Prescott, Jimbo, and Dilong
at the Granaries

Day Ten

Dear Parents,

Yesterday, we hiked across the Urubamba and up into the mountains for about three hours to reach the quarries from which the Incans excavated the stone they used for the major structures down in Ollanta. The weather was magnificent. A bright blue Andean sky followed us throughout our journey as did the snow capped Veronica, the highest Andean peak in the area. This group of students is a sturdy collection of hikers, and our success on this outing bodes us well as we look forward to our overnight hike this weekend.

We want to apologize for the dearth of video and images on this blog. We have had great trouble this year getting images to upload, and we continue to work on this problem in the afternoons, as we have taken some neat videos, which we know you would all enjoy.

As often happens on these trips, a few of the kids were feeling a bit run down at the beginning of the week; however, no one has been struck down viciously, and I am knocking on wood as I speak! (Along with some kids, I have a bit of a head cold, but nothing that is slowing us down significantly.) We continue to remind the kids to rest plenty in the afternoons, drink plenty of water, and be careful about what they eat and drink. This is a very conscientious group, and we are hopeful that all will remain healthy for the remainder of our time.

Today is another work day – a big day of step building, we anticipate! We’ll have more to report when we return this afternoon.

Thank you, again, for sending your remarkable children with us to Peru. We really can’t say enough about what a pleasure they have been to work with and how well they have come together as a group. We are continually impressed and ever grateful.

Nancy and Craig

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Day Nine

Today the carpenters were not at the worksite, so the building of the bookshelves was put on hold, as we could not cut the wood without them. Work on the stairs leading up to the bus stop continued, and many of us worked hard carrying rocks from across the road to fill in the steps. And thanks to yet another excellent turnout of community members, all of the fence posts were now in place, and we painted them different bright colors. Brad and James took the day off from work to go fishing with their host family’s father.
Several people were feeling a little under the weather, as Jason predicted would happen around this time. He told us to not play soccer today as we have been doing almost every day, because it is so hot and it may be better to rest in preparation for our hike to the quarries tomorrow and then our overnight hike on Saturday/Sunday. Jason reminded us to make sure to drink a lot of water, eat enough at meals, and take our probiotics every day.
Today is our host brother Rodrigo’s third birthday. At breakfast Thomas and I were given smoothies made of vegetables including string beans in celebration of Rodrigo’s birthday (it was the first thing I’ve been served that I did not like very much). Thomas and I are going to get him a present for his party tonight.
Everyone is looking forward to our visit to the thermal baths over the weekend, and we can’t wait to play more soccer with the local kids.
This trip has already expanded my worldview and my time here so far has caused me to really think about how I live my life back at Groton, though it sounds clich├ęd. I hope that I will soon get a chance to pull together my thoughts and understand what this trip is all about.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Day Eight

" ... I would just work. And then I would work some more and try to pay attention to whatever the work was teaching me." (16)

"Just start and let the work teach you." (221)
(Jacqueline Novogratz, The Blue Sweater)

From the start of this trip, we've encouraged students to be mindful. Recently, we've been discussing what work means and the various ways in which students are engaging in work during this trip. We've come to recognize that work happens at numerous points throughout the day--talking in Spanish with host families over meals, completing tasks at the work site, contemplating the complex interplay of cultural forces in Ollantaytambo, stretching oneself on the soccer pitch or in a challenging portion of a hike. Below students reflect on some of the work they've done in the past few days.

I've built up an appreciation for the basic work that farmers and physical laborers do. I also have realized that the language barrier is not as serious when you have the urge to get to know each other.

I've learned that I can function effectively in the group even though I have a broken arm. I think that a heart devoted to bridging the gap between the rich and the poor is something I am gaining.

Throughout this project, I have learned patience. The patience has come from the kind people of the town and the patience of our group as we await the arrival of different materials. I am amazed by the kind, smiling faces that I see every morning when the townspeople arrive to help out.

When we finished the first mural, we had to start another one. While we were working on the mural, we asked a group of other kids to plaster the wall that we would paint next. When they finished plastering the surface, it wasn't as smooth as we'd like and we asked them to make the surface smoother so it would be easier for us to paint. When we were ready to start the next mural, we realized that the wall still hadn't been smoothed out. With Gia and Thoma's help, we were able to make the plaster smoother. I came to realize that plastering wasn't an easy job and I shouldn't ask other people to do work for me to make my job easier; in fact, if I want something to make my job easier, I should do it. I also realized that we need to be more patient with each other. Sometimes I become very frustrated that people want to 'take a break' and sit around being unproductive. But as we spent more days together, I slowly am understanding that some people may need more time to cool off from work than others.

I have learned that setting short-term goals and working towards them together is beneficial. But working for a long time without a break is detrimental to productivity.

I learned so much already on this trip. In the house I have learned the significance of saying buenos dias and buenos tardes. The entire family has been incredibly sincere and kind. The language barrier has not been as bad as I thought considering just a smile can express what you want to say. Even playing soccer allows us to become friends with the local Peruvian kids. While working I realized that you really can't accomplish much at all by yourself. Also digging holes was harder than I thought.

Over the last couple days I have been building bookshelves. I have learned that carpentry is quite frustrating and has many problems. Although many criticism fly across the room we build in, our group has become closer thoughout the process. I also realize what Alberto and the men in the shop go through every day making their community a better place.

"Bless our Work" Signs with this message we find in several homes and shops around Ollanta. Religion is an interesting concept here with a fusion of Christianity and local traditional religion. This age old Christian concept of 'work' is a compelling one. It gives us much needed hope and assurance that everything we do matters even if it may not seem like it. Yet, this week makes me wonder about this human need for a sense of purpose and for a greater being. Will we ever be able to find assurance and strength in the work itself? Yes, the work will fade into nothingness in the greater course of the river like life, but what of it? Perhaps we are here to help ourselves rather than those around us. Maybe it is the same thing. This week has brought me questions rather than answers, and I am not sure I want to find the answers.

In my family, we have a 13 year old girl. Her name is Rafaela, and she has been taken in by our mom. Originally, she came from a poor Quechua family in the mountains. In the house she works a lot so that she can go to school. In the evening Madeleine and I invite her to play soccer but at the field, she only wants to sit and watch. Yet she is always asking to come with us to play. I've found that she simply likes to get out of the house because free time is rare for children of her background. Most of these kids don't really have time to 'be a kid.' Working in Ollanta or Anco Pancha has taught me that it is easy to get caught up in the work, the business, and the greed of the world I've grown up in. Instead of opportunities to succeed financially, my family has given me opportunities to enjoy the leisure of childhood. Rafaela is not lucky enough to be in my shoes, so while I am here I want to help her experience youth, however I am able.

I learned a lot of things through the working process. I was part of the group which painted the mural. It was a pretty large wall that we had to fill with designs, but we made so much progress within the 5 days of work and finished the mural in such a short amount of time. I bonded not only with the people who were working on the mural but also with the people who were working on other things. I learned that people who barely talked to each other before this trip can make one of the greatest teams and cooperate so well performing excellent team work. Through working, I also learned how the educational environment needs a lot of improvement and got to realize how thankful I am to receive one of the best educations in the world and how I shouldn't complain about having too much work or the work being too hard.

I learned that over all working is very hard and difficult after I hauled dirt and dug several holes. Even though I have only been here for a week, I could already feel how much hard work the people here do. Moreover, while working there, I saw many Peruvian children who had smiles on their faces. They encourage me to work harder as I see how they are still happy even if they don't have as much as we do.

I've not only learned from painting the mural that painting requires a lot of patience and steadiness of my hand, but also I've learned from the work in a different way as well. The work has taught me how much people can appreciate what we do. Seeing the smiling faces of the little children from Anco Pancha everyday is a wonderful reward for all of our hard work. It has also taught me what I can do and made me want to work a lot more at home. This trip has made me want to give back.

I've been working with Nick, Tim and Prescott for a couple of days on the bookshelves. I know we all thought the project was easy, and we volunteered only because no one else was interested in making bookshelves as opposed to painting murals/houses. But now, we all realized that making bookshelves is not easy, yet we also would never change projects because the four of us have bonded immensely. We have learned that things only proceed efficiently by pulling out each others strengths. Nick and Prescott nail things, Tim works with the screwdriver, and I glue and bracket. I have loved working with my group.

Over the last few days 'Los Quatro Amigos' worked on some bookshelves and during this experience, we learned that bookshelves were a lot harder to make than we anticipated, and we learned a lot about each others strengths and weaknesses.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Day Seven

Gia Kim and Molly Lyons
July 18, 2010

Yesterday was a day of adventure for the Groton group as we traveled up the valley to Patacancha where the Awamaki Weaving Center is located. Those who live in Patacancha are direct descendents of the Incan nobility, and most are only able to speak Quechua, the indigenious pre-Columbian language. After a 40 minute bus ride to the village, we enjoyed a new cultural experience with the women there who are able to create some amazing and beautiful woven pieces. We all learned about the process of weaving, and many students bought presents for family members back home. Despite the rain and cold, our two host-brothers, Alex and Luis accompanied us, hoping to bond with the Groton group. After everyone got on the bus to leave, Craig, Lilah, Nancy and Molly ran the eleven miles home through the beautiful scenery. Craig helped Lilah complete her 14 mile run, as she is training for the New York marathon in November. Molly and Nancy had a great time chatting and taking in the landscape as they made their way down. Once back from Patacancha most of the group made their way to the local soccer stadium and enjoyed a fun pick up game with some locals. Later that night everyone feasted on wonderful food from their host families and fell fast asleep, preparing to work the next day.
Although quite chilly when we woke up, we arrived in Anco Pacha and the sun shone brightly. Today, we are hoping to finish the beautiful mural next to the school and begin our work on the bus stop. We are also hoping to finish painting the borders on the station houses and finish most of the fence around the schoolyard. Once again, Luis and Alex joined us to help our progress on the work site. We are eager to get back to work, so we will blog more later!

Day Six

July 17, 2010
Kaitlyn Peterson

The fence outside the school in Anco Pacha has been torn down, and we’ve just sanded all of the dirt from the school walls. We’re ready to lay down a smoother, prettier top layer.
At the moment Brad, James, and Jimbo are digging deeper holes in order to install new fence posts. They are careful to avoid the sewer pipe, which is directly underground in front of the school. Thomas was originally helping to remove rocks from the holes; however, “his talents were needed elsewhere,” says James. In other words, Thomas needs a little more practice with the pick-ax. Another group continues to paint the mural on the wall opposite the holes. Jenny has been “gently” guiding Gia, Madeleine, and Ted [Gemmell-Hughes] in perfecting the mural, now depicting a playground scene including recycling bins, a clean river, and a trash-free park. A half-plastered wall stands across from them while we await the proper materials to finish it. Tim and Jobe [Gemmell-Hughes] have just left the site along with Mr. Gemmell in order to buy more paint, wood, and plaster. Tim has also been working with Nick and Prescott to build shelves for the schoolroom. Earlier this morning Diana, Lila, Dilong, Molly, and I nearly completed coloring the building on the side of the courtyard.

Walking through the streets of Ollanta we feel like tourists—the shopkeepers charge us twice the fair price and the language is usually too quick for even our most advanced Spanish speakers. Still, our being here feels justified because we are working to help the community. Yet the glares and the shout outs from the street vendors cause us to question how valuable our work really is to the inhabitants of the area. While removing the fence posts, Jason commented that “This job is going to be even harder for the next group [to dig up our posts] in 15 years.” Most of us arrived thinking that we could makeover Anco Pacha and make a lasting difference in the lives of these people. However, we’re finding that the majority of our work is only temporary—but maybe it still has its benefits. Ten days in a town, less than five hours each day might not be enough to pull a handful of people out of poverty. Yet our interactions with the children and the members of the town will impact them, and more significantly us, for years to come. Instead of asking which building we should paint next, or which tools we should use to plaster the walls, we’ve begun asking questions about human nature and the evolution of poverty. Lila, a 24 year-old who has been with us for a week but just left us this morning, spoke to us about the Holocaust and the genocide in Rwanda. So far our time in Peru has served more to change our way of thinking than to change the scenery in Anco Pacha. It’s exciting to think about how much we ourselves will change in the next two weeks and about how much we will change the world in the future.
I love you, Mom and Dad. See you in two weeks.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Day Five

“[Deo] had left Columbia believing that misery had not been the sole cause of the mayhem [the Rwandan genocide], but a primary cause, a precondition too often neglected by scholars: little or no education for most and, for those who did get it, lessons in brutality; toil and deprivation, hunger and disease and untimely death, including rampant infant mortality, which justified all-but-perpetual pregnancy for women until menopause.” – Tracy Kidder, Strength in What Remains

“Any person who is outside any country of such person's nationality or, in the case of a person having no nationality, is outside any country in which such person last habitually resided, and who is unable or unwilling to return to, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of, that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” – US Immigration and Nationality Act

The residents of Ancopacho, the community in which we work each day, too clearly demonstrate the plight of have-nots: living in land no others wanted, their homes in the floodplain were destroyed by torrential downpours, first in 1998 and then again this winter; politically without voice, they were “relocated” to dilapidated homes on an isolated compound “gifted” to them by the residents of Ollantaytambo; many of them Quechuan, or Incan Indian, they lack the Spanish to include them in Peruvian culture, let alone Peruvian economy. In many ways, those in Ancopacha are refugees in their own country.

We spent this evening speaking about this notion, about whether or not the term “refugee” applied to those amongst whom we work each day and if so, why the legal definition might not include those left homeless by natural disaster. Using Tracy Kidder’s Strength in What Remains and Primo Levi’s essays about the Holocaust as springboards, we discussed the creators and characteristics of refugees: anger, despair, separateness, and, in the best cases, hope. All these feelings we would experience were we to lose our homes, and all emotions felt in varying degrees by those in the century’s worst—and most violent—refugee situations. As a group, we decided that poverty and bigotry all too frequently prove both pre-conditions to and perpetuators of the most enduring type of homelessness.

Nancy, Craig and I spent a lot of time discussing curriculum before our trip began, each having a goal in mind for our group’s conversations. Nancy’s to insure understanding of our surroundings’ history and culture, and, with Novogratz’s The Blue Sweater as inspiration, to encourage us all to listen harder and, through doing so, to become more conscious. Craig’s to help students to know themselves as leaders, collaborators, and followers, because, only through knowledge of the self, can one truly lead. And mine, represented in many ways through my presence here as an alumna (form of 2004), to help students to transition their learning home by showing them that the conditions we see here in Peru exist in ways in our own countries, making the service we do domestically equally important to the service we do abroad. As such, atop Pinkuylluna near the old Incan granaries, situated high above Ollantay, Nancy spoke with us about connectedness, listening across a language barrier, and how we might become more aware from the work we do each day. Our second day in Peru, Craig led us through the completion of Myers-Briggs personality tests, grouping us by personality type (there are a lot of “J”s, or doers, on this trip) to discuss our contributions and challenges in cooperative settings. And I, eager to plant some ideas before I leave Sunday to return to my life in New York, ended our evening’s conversation about refugees with discussion of the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

In September 2005, a lot of controversy surrounded the term “refugee” in the context of Hurricane Katrina survivors. Led by Al Sharpton, many were angered by the term’s suggestion that the victims in New Orleans were nation-less. Jennie and Nancy suggested that the US government might dislike the term because “refugee” suggested that politicians had not been quick to serve their citizens as citizens deserved. Di offered that New Orleans residents might not like the suggestion that they were not American. Following Dilong’s suggestion, we recognized that "outside of one’s country" doesn't necessarily mean physically outside but also outside of its rights, services, and opportunities. In this way, the legal definition, if interpreted more loosely, might indeed apply to those in Katrina and to those in Ancopacho, though those who write the laws certainly might not like the implication that citizens can indeed be treated as aliens. We concluded that refugees’ exclusion is not only caused by genocide and political strife (as in the Holocaust or Rwanda) but seems also to be deeply connected to poverty or race. Because of the ubiquitous nature of poverty, our consciousness of inequity and ensuing desires to serve can't end when we leave Peru but rather must continue when we return home to the US, Korea and China.

What a privilege for me to engage with such thoughtful, curious and compassionate students, qualities that typified my peers at Groton but that still astound me. I hope that these conversations – and the recurring themes to which they allude– will help to fill some of the holes I felt in the fabric of my own Groton experience. By getting outside of the Groton “bubble," realizing its privilege and its apartness, by seeing more of the Other, by deliberately living the tenet “Cui Servire Est Regnare," and by thinking outside of the days scheduled for them, students will, I hope, not only realize the breadth of the world and their connection to and disconnection from it, but also gain true understanding of servant leadership. Through so doing, they will realize, I hope, the best an education can offer: understanding of the self that allows them to live in and contribute to the world in the manner they find, individually, to be most fulfilling.

- Lilah Hume, Form of 2004

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Day Four

We've been in Peru for almost three days now, and we find ourselves making more and more discoveries about this beautiful community. We've all really gotten to know our families and the first possible uncomfortable feelings are now gone. We've realized that these Peruvian families are some of the most generous, giving, selfless people we've ever been around, despite their hardships. They provide us with all the most wonderful food available, and we know how lucky we are. During our free time, a bunch of us chose to play soccer in a nearby stadium and met up with some local Peruvian kids around our age. In a short time, we had formed friendships we'll never forget. The friendliness of the locals made it easy to bond with them, and we have seen that this close-knit community is filled with accepting, friendly people.

We've begun painting, cleaning, and building at a nearby primary school--about 4 km away--which feels very rewarding at the end of the day. We've become close with some of the little kids; they always have smiles on their faces despite cold conditions in the morning and lack of heat. In such a short time, we've accomplished so much and look forward to all we will accomplish over the next two weeks. Yesterday afternoon we were instructed to walk home to get a feel of what some people have to go through here in Peru. Although some of us were hot and tired at the end, it was important for us to realize what people here go through and how much we have at home. So many of the things we take for granted at home--hot showers, transportation, clean water--help us to realize how fortunate we are. We look forward to seeing what awaits us in the future!

This afternoon, we will have lunch with our host families and then head out as a group for a hike to the Incan grainaries above Ollantaytambo. Everyone is healthy and happy!

Hasta Luego!

Thomas, Brad, and Madeline

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Day Three

“and would it have been worthwhile?”
The famous Eliot line resonated in my ears as I stirred wet plaster in a bucket with a “batidor.” It is our first day working at the site in Ancopacha. Everyone is excited to start helping the community, which has lost nearly everything in a flood. The heat is manageable, and with the scenic mountain view that unfolds before us, along with the anticipation of starting a new project, it is virtually unnoticeable. We have divided into three groups, each working on a different project. Our group is plastering a fractured wall, while another one is designing a painting on the wall of the local “school.” In reality, the school is hardly more than a small classroom without lighting. 12 students usually attend the school, which is taught by mothers of the community. However, today there are only eight due to the coldness of the winter mornings here. The final group is working on a shelf in the school, sanding and refining the wooden boards. The vastness of the effort needed appears before our eyes. The area is very bare, and is isolated, even from the village of Ollantaytambo. A train track runs through the edge of the village, and the wave of Machu Pichu-headed tourists rushes by us every now and then. As we work with the local people, communication has proven to be a crucial necessity. Body language has proven to be extremely helpful for those who have not studied Spanish (and for many that have.) Learning the process of plastering and sanding is challenging, but everyone is optimistic that they will get it eventually. The combined group effort is not unlike a discussion in a Groton classroom, and the small community of the trip reflects on the family-atmosphere so familiar on the Circle.
The home stay experience has been an unbelievable success so far. Molly Lyons, class of ’12, has even gone far as to say “I want to be adopted by my host family.” (Sorry Mr.Lyons) All the families have been accommodating, and have done much to make us feel at home. The initial warnings given by Jason that we would be fed an enormous amount of food proved to be true, (Eat through the pain!) and experiencing the Peruvian food has been new and exciting for everyone. Though there is obviously a language barrier for most of us, we have managed to communicate our thoughts and feelings fairly easily. The families seem genuinely excited to meet the students and to get to know them better. Jiangbo Yan ’13 and Dilong Sun ’11 have immersed themselves in a linguistics exchange with their family with the family teaching them Spanish and Quechua (a local pre-Colombian language), and them teaching the family English and Chinese. Tim Morrill ’12 and Prescott Owusu ’12 have insisted on helping their family in the kitchen and in the store despite reluctance from the family. In my home, the family has given Brad Uhm ‘13 the cognomen “Lucas,” and James “Santiago.” Games have proven to be an effective means of bonding and communicating. Gia Kim, class of ’13, played Connect 4 with her host family for about 3 hours. Gia has never studied Spanish, yet found that it wasn’t so necessary during the game. Madeline Cohen ’13 and Kaitlyn Peterson ’12 also played Uno with the kids of the host family. Diana Chen ’12 was surprised by the Spartan nature of a Peruvian household, but found that she had everything she needed. Each household has one student that can speak Spanish, and the non-speaking ones have learned to depend on their housemates. Nick Fischetti ’12 is growing increasingly thankful to Thomas Choi ’12. Nick also says that the majestic mountain view in the background is amazing.
For Brad and me, the World Cup has proven to be a useful subject. The awkwardness in conversation disappeared immediately at the mention of the “Copa Mundial,” and we even talked about some players that we all knew. Though the Cup may have ended with Spain’s victory over the Netherlands, the effects of the worldwide festival are global and lasting.
All in all, I think that the experiences of everyone so far can be summed up in one image. This morning, when Jason asked “so who has the best host family?” everyone immediately raised their hands and began to excitedly talk about their experience. Though the trip is far from being over, it is looking to be worth everything that we may have hoped for.

We’ll see you when the plaster dries

James, Jiangbo, and Dilong

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Day Two

This first day on the ground in Ollantaytambo was extraordinarily busy and exciting for the students. We arrived yesterday in the late afternoon having made the trip to Peru without a hitch, and the ride from Cusco was breathtaking. We were greeted by our intrepid guide, Jason, and our in-country director Adela, who helped us to get settled in to our lodgings for the night.
After a scavenger hunt in town--looking for the Inca Gates, the Mercado, and the puente inca, the train station, etc...--we had a wonderful meal on the main square.
This morning, we woke up to the sounds of chickens and spent time early talking about living with our homestay families and navigating through the experience effectively. We were then picked up by the rafting guides and were treated to a great float down the Urubamba River, where we were able to see Incan ruins and the remnants of flood damage from this winter's floods. We returned after lunch and spent time discussing our goals and objectives for the trip and were challenged to stretch ourselves.
Our host families arrived thereafter and we were escorted to our homes by them. Tomorrow we will spend our first day in Anco Pancha, where we will be working with the community. We all feel so lucky to be here and hope to take full advantage of this opportunity to learn and serve together.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Groton has arrived

Hello parents,
I just heard from our instructor, Jason Hunter, who told me that the students and faculty arrived safe and sound in Peru. They are currently in Ollantaytambo, Peru, where they are getting to know the community before beginning home stays and their service work. Please do not hesitate to call with any questions on (303) 679-3412.
Ross Wehner
Executive Director, World Leadership School