South America

Written by Julia Girmenia, 2014 Peru: Amazon Adventure. After a 30-hour bus ride, an amazing boat ride, and an awesome overnight experience in a small village, we arrived in Iquitos. If you didn't know, it is a port town in the Amazon and is the largest city not accessible by road. Pretty cool stuff. To settle into our home for the next three weeks, our beautiful program leaders, Lynn and Mikel, sent us on a Holy Pokeballs scavenger hunt around Iquitos!  The Amazon Adventure family was broken up into teams and this meant war. At this point we had only spent one day in Iquitos and learned how to get around by motortaxi (incredible things, but that's a whole other post). The fear of wandering around this large unfamiliar city was a little scary, considering I was stuck with two other brothers who spoke as much Spanish as me. I can only say, “hello, my name is” so you can understand where I'm coming from. But let's begin, we gotta catch 'em all!

Written by Ruben Jacova, 2014 Peru: Amazon Adventure. Twenty days in and the group is currently working on a library at an elementary school in a district of Iquitos called Pampachica. We arrived in Iquitos after a thirty hour bus ride to Tarapotas, then a three hour bus ride to Yurimaguas, followed by a one and a half day boat ride to a village that was a three hour drive from Iquitos. Initially, the one and a half day boat ride was supposed to be a three day ferry ride, but after a long wait on the ferry, a group of four thousand chickens managed to wrestle our spot on the ferry from us. To add to the chickens’ victory, they were also provided with a TV for entertainment during their ferry ride. For those of you readers who are very confused at this point, that is totally understandable – that is exactly how we felt. So the alternative plan was the one and a half day motorboat ride, sacrificing the comforts that the ferry would provide us. On the bright side, this meant we also got one extra day in Iquitos which we used to go to an animal reserve. All this travel may sound exhausting, but it was loads of fun since the scenery was beautiful, and our group had a fun time goofing around when we got bored. [caption id="attachment_13615" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Still in good spirits despite our change of plans! Photo by Julia Girmenia. Still in good spirits despite our change of plans! Photo by Julia Girmenia.[/caption] Our first day of construction was the day after we arrived. We had to get to the elementary school bright and early by 6am, and we began work with many of the residents of Pampachica to kick things off. Our job that day was shoveling a giant mountain of mud (perhaps more feces than mud, frankly) that served as the foundation for the library to come. It wasn’t glamorous work by any means, but it was necessary. And we all accepted that, and put our backs into it. The charming little students of the school added to our motivation as their faces acted as a reminder as to why we were shoveling this mountain of dirt.

Written by Lucas Bailey, 2014 Peru: Mind & Body. A quick look at the Wikipedia page for Cusco tells you that it has a population of just over 500,000 with an estimated two million visitors each year. For us, walking the streets in Cusco means passing fellow travellers and feeling an almost tangible sense of adventure.

Our team is using Cusco as a hub, setting off from and returning to our hostel (Apu Wasi) as we go to our service projects, trek to Macchu Pichu, and break off for our own independent trips. Because of this, the city that hosts almost every visitor to Peru feels like home.
Walking along the cobblestone streets treats the eye to dozens of restaurants, shops selling high-performance hiking gear and cozy alpaca clothing, and tour operators boasting about sites to see in the valley. Our crew had a blast haggling over wool sweaters and trying more local foods (and yes, occasionally slipping into old habits by ducking into fast food outlets).

Written by Ashley Cipponeri, 2014 Peru: Mind & Body. All of our perceptions and attitudes are formed through a collection of our experiences. Our Mind & Body group is made up of 13 unique people that agreed to share the experience of traveling through Peru for six weeks. We spent a week in Lima where we laughed through our strengths in Spanish class, challenged our self control through a restrictive dieting cleanse, played along the waves of the Peruvian coast, sang and danced our hearts out, and built strong bonds throughout it all.
2014 Peru: Mind & Body team
As we got closer and grew more comfortable with our bearings, we switched things up and jumped on a bus to Cusco (a 23-hour bus ride). Acclimatizing to the new altitude and surroundings posed new challenges, but no one could deny the beauty of the new mountainous landscape. We explored the town and shops, but quickly returned to our hostel in order to rest before we traveled to our next destination: Pisac.

Written by Mikel, Program Leader, Peru Amazon Adventure 2014 After a ram-jammed four weeks of Bristol stool charts, Gorilla mountains, chicken boats, frisky monkeys, snakes, jungle boys and dentists called Carlos, two youth centers and a powerful start to a future community library, the Early Summer...