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Students Travel to Peru

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By Maggie McNulty

I never want to be that girl who travels out of the country once and comes back only wearing neutral colors, eating granola, and posting inspirational quotes about wanderlust on Instagram, but I am going to kind of be that girl during the length of this column.

Before this trip was offered, I had never considered travelling with the school. However, travelling to South America and seeing a wonder of the world have always been two dreams of mine. I have taken Spanish since freshman year, but I do not have many opportunities to speak Spanish outside of the classroom. This trip was the perfect culmination of my Spanish education at the high school level, and my high school education as a whole. I found myself using phrases or vocabulary terms I had learned two or three years prior and communicating (mostly sloppily) with both the Peruvians and the group I travelled with.

Some of my best friends from throughout high school travelled with me, which definitely enhanced my overall experience. However, I knew many of the other travellers simply in passing. Travelling to a very foreign country together allowed us all to know each other at a much more meaningful level.

From the coastal city of Lima to the mountains of the the Sacred Valley, our group truly saw it all. In Lima, we went to museums, city parks, and, notably, the Catacombs of San Francisco. We descended into a dark, dusty room, illuminated only to show massive reserves of human bones. As someone who once considered “The Pirates of the Caribbean” to be a horror movie based only on the merit that skulls and bones freak me out, this was definitely an experience that will last with me (partly in a good way, partly in the way that flashbacks of being in an actual catacomb will haunt my nightmares until I block the entire experience from my memory as a method of survival.) The city of Lima was the perfect way to acclimate ourselves to the culture, language, and people of Peru before we embarked on our journey to Cuzco.

We spent the majority of our time in Cuzco and its surrounding areas. The highlight of my experience was inarguably “hiking” to the top of the Sun Gates at Machu Picchu. Though our group took the shortcut to the site by taking a train and a bus to the entrance, we were able to explore the Inca city with the aid of a tour guide and truly immerse ourselves within the beauty and the history of the Andes Mountains. It was one of those places that was so astoundingly beautiful that it almost did not feel real until after I came home and could look at my pictures and realize that I had actually seen it.

Part of our trip included a service element. For two days we helped build a community center for a group of women who currently lack the resources to begin their weaving business. These women are aided by an organization named Awamaki; it is a group of young people from abroad who help the women create fair-trade weaving businesses and gain financial stability and independence. Though the people we worked with directly were mostly from the United States, we still interacted with the local population. When we arrived, we were welcomed with a traditional greeting: a handful of confetti was thrown in our hair as part of a mini “bienvenidos” celebration. After that, we laid concrete and lugged piles of sand up and down a steep hill. Some of the work felt tedious and ineffective while we were doing it, but when we finished, it felt as though we had helped the organization in a greater way than we had originally thought.

As a senior in high school, it is easy to see only a shallow view of the future. This future usually involves assignments I know I must complete and deadlines I need to meet. It also involves exciting events such as prom, graduation, or even just a weekend plan, but it is hard to see a future from outside of myself. However, travelling to Peru with a group of Barnstable High School students has given me a broader perspective of not only my life, but of the world around me. I know; this is great material for the side of a box of organic granola bars.

By Greta Shaughnessy

From the moment I woke up on February 10, 2016, I knew that I was embarking on a new adventure in my life. Not many sophomores can say that they had the chance to travel in their tenth grade year but I was lucky enough to. I mainly took this opportunity to travel to Peru in order to see a world bigger than Cape Cod and be able to submerse myself into a culture different from the one I know.

This was my first time out of the country and my first time somewhere that was not on the East Coast. I don’t know about my peers, but I was nervous because this was my first time away from home and I had no idea what to expect. The nerves vanished as soon as we touched down in Lima, and excitement took over. I’m not saying I wasn’t ever excited on the way to Lima; I was. But homesickness and nerves really controlled my thoughts. I was with fairly new people who I really didn’t know outside of the few meetings we had had before we left. I expected that we would grow close by the end of the trip, but what I did not see coming was how quickly it happened. By the second day, I felt like they were a family of sorts to me.

As soon as we stepped off the plane, the humidity and warm air surrounded us. At one in the morning, I didn’t expect the airport to be filled with people, but it was.

After customs, we met with our guide, Daniella, who was bubbly, smiley, funny, and an overall interesting character. We all hopped onto the bus, drove to the hotel, and went straight to bed, seeing as it was already close to sunrise. Since there is no time difference in Peru,  none of us had to fight jet lag. We were up and ready at 9:30 for a tour of Lima that same morning.

One thing that caught my attention throughout the entire trip, even on the first tour in Lima, was that just about everyone we met had such a profound love and sense of pride for their culture and heritage. There is a sense of community in Peru unlike anything I could’ve imagined. During our trip, we did a service project. We helped with the construction of a building where women in an adorable historical village called Ollantaytambo would be able sell and make weavings as a source of income. We were able to be one of the first groups to finish our work an hour early because we had the help of the children from the village and our bus driver. Yes, our bus driver jumped off the bus the two days we were there to help shovel and sift sand and rocks. After seeing that help,I realized that I’m not used to a community or society where one helps another without personal benefit or money, which is pretty sad. I am not saying that there aren’t people who help others in America for nothing in return except the feeling of doing something good; of course there are. But maybe I don’t see it as much as I did in Peru. Just being a part of a project that impacts people in a good way gave me a sense of accomplishment.

I will never forget one place nestled between the Andes in Cusco called the Sacred Valley where it is literally just landscapes for miles. Usually it is sunny and clear, but the weather in the mountains is so unpredictable we never knew when it would rain. On the clear nights, the number of stars that cluttered the sky was mesmerizing. It is so profoundly beautiful in that area that I was devastated to leave it.

Everyday was an adventure, especially that day we went to Machu Picchu. No picture or post card with Machu Picchu plastered on it will ever capture the actual feeling of being there. It is so breathtakingly beautiful and it was so surreal that I felt as if I was dreaming when I opened my eyes. The way to fully take in Machu Picchu is to grab ahold of the person in front of you, trust that he/she isn’t leading you to the edge of a cliff, think of the pictures you’ve seen before, and then open your eyes.

If there were any two lessons that I took  away from this experience, one is that I need to travel more, even if that means waiting until I graduate high school. There is a world bigger than Cape Cod and, trust me, you want to see it because if you don’t then you are missing out on something really incredible. Travel alone. Travel with the ones you love. Heck, travel with a random group of people who are using the same tour company as you.Just travel because you will remember those places for the rest of your life. I had the honor of being a part of the loveliest, funniest, and most interesting group of people.

The second lesson is to be in the moment more often. Technology will always be there when you get home, but Machu Picchu won’t be. Take in your surroundings and use your five senses. Taste, touch, feel, listen, and see where you are because it is a moment you want to be in for as long as you are there.

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Students Travel to Peru