Sandoval–Samantha’s view of the Amazon

I apologize that this entry is somewhat out of order; however, I was caught up dealing with a llama.

Our 5 am wake up knock roused us all from our sound sleep. At least those of us in Bungalow A that didn´t have the coughing, snoring man sleeping next to them in their open roof bungalow (and no I am not off handedly referring to Dr. Cox). We all had a quick cup of coffee and then we were out on the lake in a paddle boat looking for wildlife. The lake was absolutely perfect. The sun wasn´t quite up yet and a thin mist was hanging over the trees, just what the rainforest should look like. We started our slow crawl around the shore of the lake and we hadn´t gone ten feet before we made our first wildlife sighting. A stinky bird! This chicken like creature could fly, and looked like a perfect thanksgiving decoration. We were all elated until we realized that these tree chickens were about as common as squirrels in Myers Park; therefore, they quickly lost their appeal. But soon thereafter the tour guide must have summoned Mother Nature because animals started appearing left and right. A black caiman peaking at us from under the water just a few feet from the boat. Four types of monkeys sleeping, foraging, and taking care of their young. A snake bird with a gracefully long neck and grey coloring that suddenly dives into the water and swims appearing to be a snake on the move. Kingfishers and herons snatching up fish everywhere we turned. And finally a group of the endangered giant river otter playing and hunting together. We watched these creatures for quite a while listening to their coos, grunts and other forms of communication. Two were dangerously entangled in a play fight while others swam vigorously around catching fish. It was all good fun until one noticed that we were too close and gave us a definite warning growl. So we all decided to head back in and get some breakfast.
After some pancakes and a quick hammock nap we met Oscar out by the lake to learn a little about the environment that we were visiting. He gave us the run down on the Amazon, roughly ten thousand years old and extremely threatened due to illegal logging and climate change. He told us that most of the illegal logging was done by locals in order to clear room for cattle and crops. He then showed us the Brazil nut, a sustainable crop of the Amazon that could provide a source of income for farmers and not harm the rainforest. It is extremely hard to crack open. A girl from our group even took a machete to it and it didn´t budge. But after some careful negotiation Oscar was able to crack open the coconut like outer shell to reveal the cluster of 20 to 22 nuts inside. He proceeded to crack one to check if it was alright to try. While he was working on this Caitlyn decided to go ahead a sneak a bite. Turns out the nuts were dirty and not fit to eat. Oops was all she could muster in her defense. Unfortunately at this time of the day it began to rain even though it was supposed to be the dry season. So we took a quick stroll through the garden to learn about a symbiotic relationship between fire ants and a hollow tree, or how the vampire bat sleeps in the garlic tree, and that mosquitoes are good and necessary pests because the pollinate the chocolate tree. Oscar says he tries not to kill mosquitoes because a pollinated tree makes chocolate and chocolate makes women happy. I along with a few other brave souls tried termites, the only source of food we could find in the rainforest during the dry season if we were to get lost. They were quite good once they stopped crawling around and you could squish them to the roof of your mouth. At this time the bottom dropped out and we all headed for shelter and an afternoon nap.
By the time 5 pm rolled around I was afraid that our black caiman hunting would be spoiled due to weather. But I think Oscar went to the control room and turned the sun back on because the sky lit up and we went back out on the water. Spotting caimans wasn´t that difficult and soon because a fun game. Overall, our day in the rainforest was perfect. As biology major I was in heaven but I was happy to share my experience with my fellow classmates. Actually experiencing nature provides a connection between society and wilderness and encourages one to live a sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle which to me was as enlightening as any other culture adventure we had encountered thus far.

Samantha

Adios Sandoval Lake Lodge: May 24,2011

We woke up to our final 5:30am wake-up call in the Tambopata National Reserve this morning.  After the previous day´s rain the fog was so thick we could not even see across the lake to the other side.  We paddled around the bank looking for more ¨stinky birds,¨cranes, monkeys, caimans, and otters.  No luck on the otters, but fortunately our patience paid off and a spider monkey swung his way down from the canopy and sit for quite some time, close enough to get some great pictures.  As we ended our paddle and returned for breakfast, the fog cleared and the weather was amazing!

After packing our bags and enjoying one last swing in the hammocks we had another paddle ride, and a slippery, muddy walk through the forest.  We arrived at our catamaran boat that took us back to the airport.  Along that ride down the Madre de Dios river, we saw our last caiman sunbathing on the shore.

We waited in the airport for about an hour and had some interesting ¨mystery meat¨ hamburgers with neon yellow mustard and pink ketchup.  Let´s just say this was no McDonalds.  We then went through airport security where the x-ray machines were out-of-order so the guards hand checked our bags most thoroughly.  Let´s just say this was no United States security check.  But after a pleasant and safe plane ride to Lima we arrived around 6:30pm and were bused over to our B&B Hostal, The Inka Frog.

After a little suspicion over why one of the rooms was located down the street, outside of the building, we got everyone together and situated in the actual hotel and settled in for our last 3 nights in Peru.

-Angela Lozowski

The Great City of Lima! May 25th

Today was our first day to see Lima in the daylight. It was a major change from every other place we have seen, and a huge change from the rain forest the days before. We woke up, had breakfast together at our hotel, and set out on our way to the  local University, the Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas. Once we got there, we were greeted outside by the head of the International programs. She lead us through campus to the classroom where we met the Dean of the Economics department. Their campus was very new and clean. All of the buildings looked different from each otherand they were very modern. The students who were not in class were enjoying the beautiful day outside and interacting with their friends, just like what we see everyday at Queens. Once getting to the classroom, we heard a lecture from the Dean of Economics and viewed a slide show on the economic status of Peru. The Dean explained to us that Peru, in comparison to other countries of South America, has done very well economically in the past few years. One of the main problems he said that his country faces is that the economic income has grown, but the tax income of the government has stayed the same. Thus stated, there is money that the government could use to better improve the state of the country, but is not taking advantage of this by not increasing taxes. After our interesting discussion, we were led to the cafe on campus where we sat and enjoyed coffee, soft drinks, and some snacks with some of the students from the school. We got to talk and compare our day to day lives with them.

After leaving the university, we enjoyed lunch at a beautiful restaraunt in the plaza and enjoy many different types of Peruvian cuizine.

After lunch we took a 25 minute walk down the beach to the famous shopping place called Larcomar. On our way we passed over the bridge that is known as the eternity bridge, where people in love can kiss and have a life long marriage and happieness, where we laughed and clapped as Dr. Cox and Mrs. Dr. Cox shared a romantic kiss. :)

At the mall we walked around and shopped for about an hour, then we enjoyed a delicious dinner and a nice view of the ocean right beside the mall. After dinner we took taxis back to the hotel and spent quality time as a group talking in the courtyard area until we decided to go to sleep for the night.

learning how it’s done

Another thing with which we helped the Cachiccata community (outside of Ollantaytambo) was digging a ditch in which to lay a new water pipe that would provide the community center with running water and flushing toilets.

Jennifer getting ready to dig, dig, dig!

After lots of digging and laying the pipe, we then covered the pipe with what had been dug out, and then “danced” on top of the newly laid material to tamp it down around the new pipe.

"Dancing" completes a job well done.

May 20th Exploring Machu Picchu

Today was a free day for the group, but most of the group took a chance to explore the local market. The market is an interesting place full of small shops all selling local Peruvian art. Unlike a farmer’s market back in the states the price given is not the final price. We spent the day negotiating prices for alpaca sweaters, table runners, and other various pieces of art.

Now not all of the group spent the day in the market the other half returned to Machu Picchu to explore the ruins. Some of them hiked up about an hour to the Sun Gate. Others spent the day wandering around the city looking at the amazing stone work and architecture. Finally two young ladies decided to wake up at four in the morning to climb Wayna Picchu. This hike was only an hour but unlike the Sun Gate trail it was straight up the mountain. If the incline didn’t get to us, the narrow stairs that seemed to cling to the side of the mountain certainly detoured all the other members of the group from going. After meeting in the plaza we began our long trip back to Cusco. After arriving in Cusco almost all of the group called it an early night and retired to bed.

What we’ve all been waiting for…MACHU PICCHU!!!

Peru group enjoys Machu Picchu, one of the wonders of the world.

Today was the big day for the JBIP students in Peru! We finally got to visit the ancient city of Machu Picchu. For some of us, it had been the major attraction to the trip in the first place, but for some it had simply been shoved down their throat from day one that this archeological site was going to blow their mind. We boarded the train this morning after breakfast and went straight from Ollantaytambo to the Machu Picchu station, about an hour and a half away by train. It was amazing to watch the scenery change around us so quickly–the mountainside became lusher and lusher with every turn the train took up the mountain. Soon we all felt like we were in Jurassic Park!

The small town that the train station is in, Agua Caliente, is not as nice as where we have previously stayed, but the Urumamba River rushing through it is definitely a selling point. The Urumamba River flows directly into the Amazon River. Once we got to our hotel the daily cries of hungry JBIP students to be fed could be heard throughout the town and our tour guide, Ayul, took us to lunch at a nice buffet on the river. We always joke that he should come back to the states to be our personal trainer! In all seriousness he has great jokes and we all admire his knowledge of his beautiful country.

We got on another huge bus which took us rather quickly up the rest of the mountainside to Machu Picchu. The bus was silent as everyone stared straight up at the green walls of flora and fauna, and when the bus turned to face the cliffside students let out a collective “ooh aahh” at the sight of clouds enveloping mountain peaks. When Ayul pointed out Wayna Picchu (“Young Peak”), Angela and I looked at each other. She and I are the only brave souls climbing that mountain tomorrow! Well, with Ayul of course :)

We jumped off the bus and eagerly stamped our passports with the special Machu Picchu stamp they offered us. Ayul patiently took photo after photo, both group and individual, before finally getting us to settle down on a grassy knoll for his lecture. He explained that MP was probably built gradually, not by 12,000 Incas like the textbooks say. He also explained the two main areas of the ruins, the farming area and the “urban” area. One of my classmates, Amelia Farmer, commented that MP was “bigger than Queens” haha. And I must say, after exploring the ruins for more than 3 hours we can all agree that it isphysically much bigger than Queens!

Ayul showed us specific places where Hiram Bingham, the North American professor credited with discovering MP in 1911, stood and took photos. The angles in Incan architecture amaze us all because these people had no real tools, no geometry, and yet every angle is flawless. They were big fans of the trapezoid shape and every single doorway, window, and idol cubby is shaped like a trapezoid. Some of the trapezoids were JBIP student shaped! We couldn’t resist the photo op :) We saw the Sun Temple, the Temple of the Three Windows, the fountains, the special place for mummies, and lookout posts from which the Incas could see the entire valley. Some specific lookout holes lined up perfectly with the winter and summer solstices, Ayul showed us pictures he had taken on June 21st to prove it.

Even with all these incredible ruins to explore, we still found time to marvel at the llamas who had the priviledge of roaming freely on the MP grounds. One of the llamas got a little too friendly with Samantha, but maybe that’s what she gets for relentlessly photographing them “unaware”!  haha :)

Machu Picchu was certainly the highlight of my trip, and I have heard most of my peers say that if it wasn’t their highlight it was at least the best of all the ruins we’ve seen. Trust me, we’ve seen A LOT of ruins! Machu Picchu is incredibly well-preserved and I know Peru will continue to cherish it in the future. There is so much to learn about this ancient civilization and I highly recommend everyone to put it on their bucket list!

Volunteering in Peru

We didn´t waste any time getting to work when we got to the village where we were volunteering for the day. Half of us went down the community center and started sanding the windows and the doors. The other half  began removing the benches from the church so we could begin painting the walls. Down at the community center we not only had to sand and stain all of the window frames but we had to install the glass panels. Being up in a small village, we quickly realize that nothing goes quite according to plan. The glue we had gotten to put the glass panels into the windows was not sticking. Lucky for us, Dr. Cox was on the trip and quickly came up with a solution to our problem. He suggested that we use small pieces of wood and nails to hold the panels in place. The villagers and students where extremely impressed with his idea, and thanks to him the community now has windows that won´t be falling out any time soon.

After the day´s work was done, we participated in an ancient Quechua ceremony. A shaman from a distant village presented an offering to Mother Earth and the Mountain Spirit. He gave each of us three coca leaves and talked in Quechua for a while. Then each of us got up one at a time and gave him our leaves. We told him each of our names and he said a Quechan prayer over the offering in our name. He proceeded to place different herbs, seeds and rice around the offering. He also placed multi-colored candies and animal crackers next to the leaves. He finished the offering with some cotton which represented the clouds and the rainbow and offered the finished product to the Earth. Afterwards we all shared hugs with each other. The ceremony was interesting to watch but was difficult to understand because we come from such a different background that these Quechan people.

After the ceremony, we walked down the hill to have lunch. We were told that we would be eating by two o´clock, but considering the concept of time in Peru, we didn’t eat until almost three.  The meal was well worth the wait. We were served heaping plates of llama, chicken, pork, giant peas, plantains, potatoes, sweet potatoes and my new favorite, Guinea Pig! The meal was cooked in the traditional Quechan fashion of packing all of the food under a pile of dirt with a bunch of hot rocks for about an hour. It was a delicious meal and we were all thankful for these people´s generosity.

Ben Scarlett