The Magic of Machu Picchu

by Jordan, Civic Semester Participant

I’ve thought a lot about our trip to Machu Picchu. It truly was an amazing experience, something I am very grateful for. To be honest, I never would have seen myself in Perú in the future. And well, now I’m here.

First, some background. The name Machu Picchu actually has a meaning in the Quechua language. Quechua was the language of the Incas. In Quecha, “Picchu” means “montaña,” or in English, that would be mountain. “Machu” means “viejo” or old in English. Therefore, Machu Picchu means old mountain. The neighboring mountain, Huayna Picchu, means young mountain.

While I’m not actively learning Quechua, learning the significance of words is interesting. You hear it a lot down here. Our tour guide gave me a lot of new words to share. One thing I’ve always done while in Perú is writing down everything I learn everywhere we go to. Unfortunately, my water bottle exploded in my bag earlier in the day, and so that wasn’t a possibility. However, I was still able to thoroughly enjoy my time at Machu Picchu. It truly is magical. The misty fog surrounding the nearby mountains and sun, the grey stone ruins sitting between a ring of mountains. The Sun Gate, waiting for December 21 when the summer solstice arrives, and the sun comes perfectly in line. All of Machu Picchu shows the intentionality of the Incas. Not only with the Sun Gate. They carved rocks shaped like Condors. There are recreations of mountain landscapes. They even predicted natural disasters and built accordingly. All in all, it was quite the site to take in. Now it is a major tourist attraction. Surprisingly, this was my first time paying for the bathroom. Quite the shock! Furthermore, Machu Picchu is rapidly sinking due to all of the tourism, so I’m not sure how long it will be open to the public. And it is already much more limited than in the past. However, while there, I tried not to think about these things. It really was a “live in the moment” experience. From the surrounding clouds, breathing in the moist air, enjoying the view, and learning about Incan life in Machu Picchu, it really was a transformative experience that allowed me to imagine what it was like. As if it came alive again.

This is a memory I will never forget. I can’t wait to thank my parents when I go back home with a big hug, thanking them for all they have done for me growing up (Hi mom! I know you’re reading this!) I’m so happy and proud to be here today. In fact, I’ve fallen in love with Perú. I hope to come back and explore more that this beautiful country has to offer. Or maybe Perú is just the starting point. Maybe now I explore the rest of South America. Who knows. I have the rest of my life ahead of me.

Food Tour Around Urubamba

by Cassie, Civic Semester Participant

Guinea Pig:

People here keep them at home not as pets but as food. In Tika they were bred in fences, and in Paru Paru they ran around the house specifically built for them. As a previous hamster owner I was once scared of eating them but then was truly impressed by how good they tasted—the smooth and tender texture was probably the best I had in my life. After my first try I would never, ever regard them as potential pets, but one of the most incredible meats in the world.

Fun fact: the fewer toes a guinea pig has, the better quality it is.

Tips: Eat by hand —Señor Pablo Moreno

Don’t forget to check out the newest homemade guinea pig feast with full of love by Señor Pablo Moreno in the album! I swear it’s not the rat by the fridge!

Grilled Chicken & Chimichurri & Tarí:

Grilled chicken restaurants called “Polleria” are ubiquitous in Urubamba, where most of the chickens are freshly grilled and go with fries, salad, and a variety of sauces—my favorite is named Chimichurri, the green sauce made from mainly parsley, garlic, oregano and olive oil. Another sauce good with chicken is Tarí. I couldn’t find much English information about the creamy yellowish sauce online but all I knew was someone called it “Peruvian pepper cream.” Hopefully I’ll be able to get them back in the US.

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Samburu in Latin America

by Mathew, Civic Semester Participant

Friday morning, 23rd of September 2022, our bags were packed for Paru Paru, a rural community in the high altitudes of the Andes, around 4000 meters above sea level. Pablo Moreno, one of our instructors, had been to this place before, and he had experienced the freezing evenings and mornings at Paru Paru. “The place is super cold, there’s no internet, and it’s totally different from the city of Urubamba,” he said with certainty: a clear indication for us to load our bags with heavy clothes that will at least make us survive for the four days we would stay in Paru Paru. He made it clear that our stay will be full of activities which included planting potatoes, doing adobe and mingling with the Paru Paru community. What was really on my mind was potato farming. I have tried a potato project before in my home country, Kenya, but it was never successful due to the intense droughts in Northern Kenya. It was like hitting a dead end. Therefore, this was going to be a learning opportunity for me, I spent the whole night of Thursday visualizing, completely in a fantasy world. I remember telling my fellow civic semester scholars to at least have some clothes that they don’t mind dirtying because farming will require us to make our hands useful in the field. 

My spirits were high as we departed the Sacred Valley, Urubamba, a small city with sprouting red iron sheets buildings, and drove off up the Andes hills heading to Paru Paru. I had AirPods on my ears and eyes wide open to spot and admire every plant, animal and landscape we passed by. The mountain slopes were yellowish, and due to the sun rays and their reflection by the bright stones in the hillsides, the grass was blended orange with green scattered trees and small rivers that moved down the hills to the Sacred Valley. The road was snake-shaped up the mountains which made the route long and gave us more time to keep exploring and taking pictures for our memories.

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Mid Course Memories

by Tsering, Civic Semester Staff

Today, we marked our first day of midcourse activities here in Urubamba. It is hard to believe that we are almost halfway through our Tufts Civic Semester here. Keeping with the themes of Review, Reflect and Gratitude, we started the morning off with a Metta meditation-giving loving kindness to self and others. We then went down memory lane reviewing our journey from the moment we landed in Urubamba to this moment, over freshly made chai. From our first awkward encounters with each other, to navigating the narrow streets of Urubamba, to cooking for our first meal, to our first tuk tuk rides, to the cold hail of Paru Paru, to BBQ dinners over the bonfire and asking what leadership means, and how does one fulfill one’s civic duties, the activity ended in loud laughter of good memories underlined by personal growth and development. How far we have come indeed! Reflecting back on our course so far, students connected with the words of Robert Frost’s poem ‘The road not taken’ and sat with the lines in reflection, “ Two roads diverged in the wood and I- Took the one less travelled by. And that has made all the difference.” The students re-read the letter they had written to self, reviewed how far they had come, reflected on how they want this journey to impact their lives in the future, and realigned their personal goals with a new letter to self that will be read again at the end of the course.

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The Power of Norma

by Sahana, Civic Semester Participant

When visiting Paru Paru, we were constantly surrounded by kids. They became our source of joy while facing the cold and illnesses. We would braid hair, dance together, and play football. But what was most memorable, was scrolling through everyone’s camera rolls. Norma and Andrea, two sisters aged 11 and 8, would avidly look through our photos and ask questions about the people and locations they were seeing. When I explained some photos of Malta (where the country was and its culture), their father came closer and started looking at the photos too. In that moment, I realised that Norma’s, Andrea’s, and their family’s way of seeing the world, was dependent on the visitors staying in Paru Paru. They learned about our experiences and knowledge, just as we learned about their culture. Even small things, like writing 1-10 in our various languages was valuable.

I was reminded of a quote from The Shape Of Water: “Time is but a river flowing from our past” and our world is but an amalgamation of our experiences.

Our languages, families, cultures, friends are all so different, but they shape the individual. We often go through experiences, gain knowledge from them, and then apply it, but the impact those experiences have on our perspectives and realities can sometimes be lost. It’s easy to forget that each and every one of our memories have an impact. Be it rainy afternoons, lazy Sundays, or disastrous boat rides (boys, that one’s for you). Everything we’ve done, whether it’s forgotten or not, is a piece in the puzzle of what makes us, us.

The way the girls viewed our photos and lives, made those experiences more meaningful. To see the impact that our everyday life could have on someone else’s perspective of the world was something all of us had never encountered. Looking at images with Norma and Andrea allowed me to see my camera roll in a different light. Instead of it being a collection of 4,000 photos, most of which is spam, it’s 4,000 experiences that took me across the globe and created the person I am today. Now, these photos are not only mine, they are a part of Norma’s and Andrea’s view of the world. Their curiosity was both profound and humbling and definitely something I’m still wrapping my head around. So, to Norma and Andrea, if you ever read this, know that I am incredibly grateful for the time we had together. And to anyone headed to Peru in need of adorable hair stylists, there are two wise, little prodigies in the mountains of Paru Paru.

Originally posted here