Groton-Peru 2012 Final Post From Lima Airport

At the outset of this trip, the faculty collected all sort of electronics from students–ipods, cell phones, computers, etc…—and asked students to use the time away from instant messaging and Facebook to look thoughtfully into-and-outside of themselves. A few days ago, we asked students to offer some reflections about what they discovered through the course of the trip.



 Observations about Self


I worry less about myself in a foreign country.  I love being open to new ideas.  I love food even when it makes me sick.  I am a better listener than I am a speaker.

I understand now that I adapt pretty well to foreign places as I felt very comfortable soon into this experience.  I have also learned that I handle difficulties pretty well as when I got sick I did not get upset and I think that I bounced back fast, always trying to keep a smile on my face.

I have learned that I need to be around others to truly enjoy myself.  I used to think that I thrived when alone.  When the group went on the hike, I felt lonely for the first time in a long time.  Meeting up with everyone at the ruins was a great experience, and I realized then that I enjoy being with others more than being with myself.  I also depend on others way more than I thought I did.   In short, I realize that happiness must be shared.

I need time to reflect on life and what I’ve done before going to bed each night

I still don’t really know who I am nor what I really want to become, but I’ve noticed that whenever I film, I have to detach myself from the group, and this gives me a fresh perspective both on myself and others.

I like to understand everything and learn as much as possible.

I am a lot tougher than I thought.

Before coming on this trip, I despised walking long distances and exercising. Now I can say that I climbed mountains literally and figuratively.

Adopting a can-do attitude enables me to push through a tough situation.

I have learned that I am more durable than I previously thought.

During this trip, I have learned that my grit extends further than I had previously thought.

I am more defined by my family than I had realized.

New Observations about Others

Our group works better under light pressure.  It only takes a short time before people form cliques.  Unexpected kindness is the most valuable kind of kindness.

I learned that in a working environment it is almost inevitable for conflict to arise among people.  I have also noticed how different people react to conflict in many ways; some shut down and refuse to continue and others try to fix the problem in order to move on.

I have noticed how backgrounds affect people’s way of life.  For example, Peruvians have extremely different treatments for some illnesses and have different ideas about what is appropriate.

I have realized that people, especially in this Groton group, are willing to help others genuinely and readily–even without being asked.  This quality makes service easier and more enjoyable.

Not everyone needs material wealth or other things to be happy

Jokes are universal–and people from different backgrounds can so easily bond over music or sports.

I learned that people who have less material wealth than me are happier.

I was inspired by how strong others in the group were.

I have learned that other people are attentive and curious: I had a lot to say to the host family and they a lot to say to me.

I have found that my peers have a larger capacity for acceptance and compassion than I had previously thought. I have also found that there is only a minimal correlation between material possessions and happiness.

Anyone can be kind when given the opportunity.

New Observations about the World

Despite cultural differences, the majority of the people are similar in their warm kindness toward their guests.

I have started to see how much suffering there really is in the world.  Also, just knowing about people’s hardships from afar is completely different than seeing it firsthand.

Dancing brings the world together, and speaking a new language is magical.

I have noticed the large impact the US has on the rest of the world.  Ollanta is so affected by tourism that I can only wonder what would happen to this place without it.

I have also realized how much a climate can affect an environment’s people.  The people in the US are just as diverse as its many climates.

There are many ways to communicate other than speaking.

The Hiram Bingham train (ED: The Hiram Bingham train takes passengers from Cusco to Machu Picchu and back in opulence: ca $1200 per person) passing through Anco Paccha sums up the world in a nutshell. I have always learned about socioeconomic differences and Gini Coefficients, but I never really experienced it until now.

The world is a far more complicated place than it seems.

Language isn’t really an issue. You can get around it. The environment is really important: I don’t want the stars to change here. Maybe industrialization isn’t as good as its made out to be.

I realized that I need to take myself out of my world at moments and take the time to learn more about the world’s problems in order to find a way to help.

There is a lot of common culture in the world.

People’s capacity to care for others doesn’t correspond to their particular circumstances.

The world is most beautiful when you are not looking for it

New Observations about Service

Service only works if all parties collaborate.

In serving others one must be open to allowing them to help.  I have started to realize how fulfilling service is and how great it is to be able to see the progress step by step.

I have learned from Keri and my own experience in Anccopacha that service does not always help.  If people do not want to be helped, it changes things.  It was critical that we went to Anccopacha with the mentality that we were not there to do everything, but that we were there to work with the community.

Just because you want to help people doesn’t necessarily mean that they want help.

In order to successfully complete service, you must be open to doing most anything.

I never really understood our school’s motto before (“Cui Servire est regnare” (ED: translated To serve is to rule)). I don’t want to sound self-righteous, but I’ve gotten able to know rather than to memorize this motto. Service, in short, is a gift, an altruistic act of kindness through which the receiver and the giver both benefit.

Doing little things can make a big difference.

Service is not nearly as important as the relationships you build.

I learned about the concept of altruism and how service is a gift that should be given continually.

Service bears importance and meaning beyond the tangible results.


We are about to board the plane to New York and hope to arrive tomorrow morning. All kids are healthy, happy, and together! Thanks once again for sharing them with us and with the people of Peru.


Nancy, Craig, Sarah, and Nishad






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July 1, 2012: Final Day at the Worksite

Today, we finished our work at Ancopancha, and students worked very hard to tie up all of the loose ends of the project. What started as a derelict building–lacking paint, windows, and any furnishings–ended as a beautiful space, appointed well for community functions. Over the course of the next year, we plan to work with local leaders to finish appointing the space based upon the needs articulated by the community.

After students finished work at mid-day, we all reflected on the significant work we’ve done alongside community members over the course of the last few weeks. Students and adults alike were both gratified and wistful, and we left Ancopacha excited to return to a Pachamanka–an earth oven celebration. Photos from that event will follow tomorrow should we get internet connection in the airport.

We will leave early tomorrow for Cusco and should be at the airport mid-morning. We are hopeful that this last portion of this wonderful trip proceeds smoothly.

Again, thank for sharing your remarkable children with us during the trip.


The building shortly after we arrived

The building as we left

Gen painting the back door

Bobby and Jobe


Nancy and Ani



The group


ChiChi, Diana, and Analia


Will cleaning windows

Sofi painting windows

Morgan taking a break from glazing the mural

Katherine cleaning windows

Jared checking out the skylight

Deki washing windows

Henry and Yowana putting the finishing touches on the window

Annie and Jobe working on the mural

Charlotte lugging hoses (she was sick, but how could we leave her out!)

More to follow.


Nancy, Sarah, Craig, Nishad





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Groton Peru Blog June 29, 2012: Sofi and Aron

We can’t believe we only have two days left in Ollantaytambo. The trip has gone by quicker than any of us ever imagined. The past two days we went on an overnight hike “en las montanas.” Everyone found this hike much easier than the previous one. This is probably due to our overall better mindsets and acclimation to the altitude. Having seven porters and horses carrying our bags and stopping to make us food didn’t hurt either.

Upon arriving at the campsite we encountered a surprise: grazing cows and their calves. Jerry, a stray dog that followed us on our hike immediately began to bark and chase the grazing calves and their mothers. Adolfo came to the rescue, herding the cows out of the field, or at least momentarily. After gathering dry firewood for a bonfire later in the night, we all set up camp, many of us putting together a tent for the first time.  Hours later and our stomachs full ,we all gathered around a fire to roast marshmallows and warm up.  As Bobby warned us prior to the hike, it was freezing. All of us looked ridiculous, wearing multiple layers of warm clothing and headlamps over our heavy winter hats. Adela and Mr. Das stayed late with the kids, imparting wise words and advice about life to us.

When the fire died down, we all retreated to our separate tents. Yowana, Will, Deki, Gen, Katherine, Charlotte, and Sofi, unable to sleep, left their warm sleeping bags and ventured outside later in the night. The cows had returned. Luckily, they proved friendly, and humans and cows coexisted nicely for the evening. All students agreed that the stars “were the most beautiful thing they’d ever seen.” Stars in Peru are different than at home. They actually twinkle. Charlotte saw nine shooting stars and the group spent an hour in the frigid air to appreciate the natural beauty.

Though the next morning all were tired, having stayed up late the previous night, everyone was eager to return to their host families. Henry, who had skipped out on the hike because he was feeling a bit under the weather, surprised everyone at Puma Marca, pre- Incan ruins where we stopped on our way home.  All were excited to see Henry and had missed him the previous day. Though the hike had been fun, it was draining. When we returned home many of us opted to take a nap rather than go out to the plaza for shopping.

Today is our second to last day at Anncopacha and though the workday was optional, all showed up. Henry, Yowana, Bobby, Daraja, and Jared are scrubbing tables clean with their bare hands and Katherine, Morgan, Annie, Charlotte, Mr. Das, and Jobe are finishing up the paint inside. The mural Bobby, Yowana, Gen, and Daraja painted looks amazing and is ready for glazing. Everything is really coming together and the community center is just about ready to be used. Spirits are high today, as can be seen through Henry and Yowana’s singing and dancing and the wide smiles on everyone’s faces. This is probably due to the festival later on in the afternoon today, Ollantayrami.

Many of our host mothers, sisters, brothers, and fathers are participating in the holiday today. Daraja and Will’s mom, Silvia, will be dancing along with Katherine and Sofi’s sister. All will head over the festival after work today to see a play at the Sun Temple and watch the dancing with their families.

Though we only have a couple days left here in Ollantay, we aren’t slowing down. Tomorrow everyone will wake up bright and early to head to Machu Picchu and Sunday will be spent bonding with our host families. Many would agree with Katherine , who said, “I’m not ready to go home.” All will be sad to leave behind their families here and will miss them very much.  Our time in Peru has been nothing less than amazing.

Sofi and Aron

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Groton Peru Blog June 27, 2012

Hi- we are leaving on an overnight hike and will return tomorrow afternoon. We will post a blog once we get back to Ollantaytambo. The students are doing wonderfully and are excited for the adventure we are sure to have over the next few days.



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Groton Peru Blog: June 25, 2012

The days are passing far too quickly right now for all of us. Students are forming relationships with each other, their host families, and with the people of Ancco Pacha.  We are gaining experience and talent as plasterers, painters, sweepers, and sanders at the worksite, and we are growing increasingly comfortable in our homes in the Andes.

Our goals for this trip are quite ambitious: we want students to come to understand better themselves, others, the world, and the nature of service through the many forms our “work” takes in the course of our days in Peru.  In the midst of dripping paint, drying plaster, and barking dogs at the worksite today, we asked students to pair up with another student they had not known well prior to coming on this trip and ask some questions of each other. Below, we offer some of the highlights taken from their responses.

Our host family is so amazing and so funny.  They take such good care of us.  I really like being in Peru.  It is different, of course, but I like- no I love it.  I love the contrasts.

I have learned discipline with the work, and my Spanish is a lot better now, and I am pretty proud of that.  I have become more relaxed, more chill with things I guess.

Being here is different from being at home, which is nice because it puts things in perspective, and it makes you appreciate your life.

I have realized that I am more adaptive than I initially realized.  I am open to trying different things, such as the food, and have opened myself to new experiences.  I am also making more of an effort to get to know those around me.

Last year I just thought that if you went on a service trip you were a “better person.”  Now I understand how important the work is.  It bothers me now if people are just here and not working hard and thinking they are doing stuff.

The food has yet to disappoint me.

The food, well, it is hit it miss with our family, either really good or bad, but we eat it anyway because we are hungry.

I am learning that poverty does not define how happy a person is.  And I have learned that getting to know the community members makes the work more meaningful.

What I am valuing the most about this experience is learning about human communication.  It goes beyond just knowing a language.  I was anxious at first about being with my host family because I do not speak Spanish, but we have been able to communicate regardless.  We have also found shared interests, despite the cultural differences, such as soccer and boxing.

Peru is gorgeous, the mountains so beautiful.  It has an ancient feel to it, with the ruins as well as all of the traditions.  I find it interesting that the people here have been able to maintain a connection to Inca beliefs and at the same time commit to Catholic beliefs.

I appreciate all of the hard work that you put into the work here.  Some people talk about how much more efficient the work would be if we had some of the tools we have in America, but we are able to make do with what we have.  It is almost as if we are following tradition.  Look at what the Incas were able to accomplish without the wheel!

I appreciate this group because you get to know people that you pass in the hall without really knowing well and with good friends I have been able to develop a deeper bond.  And beyond that I really appreciate the relationships with teachers here and deepening those relationships.

I am realizing that I really like tea — and also, if I put my mind to something, no matter the challenge, I can perform and do my best.

I have been inspired by numerous people and their actions, and I want to listen more.

I have learned that I am more sympathetic to people who are in tougher situations than I am in.

So far, what has been most rewarding was reaching the top on our hike to the quarries.  Eating lunch then was great; I have never been so hungry.

My favorite part of this experience so far has been working because you get to interact with the other kids from Groton, as well as the people from Ancco Pacha.

My favorite part has been connecting with the daughters in my family because we can connect despite language and cultural barriers.

The work is hard, but I am excited to see the community center when we are finished.

My favorite food here is chicha morado.

At Groton I have been learning Spanish, but I never practiced it.  Here I practice and I know I am getting better.

My favorite part of being in Peru has been getting to know my host family and assimilating to Peruvian culture.  I like being in Ancco Pacha also because the children there are so sweet.  It is amazing to see how they get so excited about things we take for granted.

I really like the work.  I think I would be content if I were painting or plastering for a job.  It is really satisfying.  I also like the routine we have.  You get really, really dirty and it is tiring, but it is worth it.  And my Groton roommate and I have become really close.  I love her.




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Groton Peru June 24th, 2012: Words From Charlotte and Katherine

It is now our seventh day in Ollantaytombo, Peru, and we have seen a lot of progress with our work. The building that we are transforming into a library/community center is coming along nicely-despite the excited local children who “know” what they’re doing.  What was once a drab, abandoned structure, is now a happy red brick color on the outside and is full of devoted Groton students eagerly working away. As we work not only are we helping the community, but also we are learning a lot about each other and ourselves. For example, Anna struggles with painting, and Daraja is a pro at plastering. We also have pushed ourselves to our stretch zone 9,000 feet in the air, holding hands while trekking down the mountainside.

The day after the treacherous hike, we had a more relaxed day of working and later some discussion and an exciting exercise. In the exercise, we were organized into groups based on our personality types as determined by the Kiersey Temperment Sorter Test we all took prior to meeting. For example there were the harmonizing and extroverted people: Annie, Deki, Ms. Hughes, Mr. Das, and Gen; the introverted leaders: Charlotte, Chichi, Henry, Katherine, Anna, and Aron; the perceivers: Bobby, Ms.Palomo, Sofi, Morgan, Daraja, and Jason; and the inspired: Jared, Analia, Yowanna, and Will. In these groups we competed in building structures out of spaghetti, string, and a marshmallow seeing who could build the tallest one. The perceivers won. Through this exercise we worked to gain a greater sense of our strengths, weaknesses, and inclination, and we hope to use these insights to engage as productively as possible in our work here and in the future.

Though we are having an amazing time some people haven’t yet assimilated to certain aspects of Peruvian Life. For example, Bobby and Morgan are coping with the lack of nightlife (because the sun goes down at 6:00). Sofi is trying to regain Katherine’s trust after she tricked her into eating guinea pig, claiming it was badly cooked chicken. Gen, Chichi, and Anna are facing digestive problems after eating “American” pizza. Will and Daraja are coming to terms with the fact that they might not be able to keep up with Jose as he sprints across the soccer fields. The boys who got winded after ten minutes claimed that it was only because soccer isn’t their sport. Today Analia went to church with her host family-Charlotte stayed at home and rested up for a hard day of work. Although they appear to be hygienic (disregarding Henry’s scruff), Bator and Yowana are having slight shower issues-their host family is definitely warm and inviting, but they can’t say the same about their shower.  Nevertheless, we all persevere and are grateful for the opportunity to be here together.

Charlotte and Katherine

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Groton Peru June 23rd, 2012: Words from Morgan and Will

The days have gone by as quickly as the crazy cars go on the treacherous Peruvian highway. It has already been seven days, but we feel like we just got here. The majority of our mornings are spent on the worksite helping to build a community center/library. There are a variety of jobs that are necessary for the improvement of the community.  The plasterers–Gen, Yowana, Daraja, Aron, Sofi, Morgan, Annie, and Catherine–work diligently but also have fun. Everyone gets down and dirty, and we leave with hundreds of little white dots covering our faces and clothing. The library was in need of a paint job, and, thanks to the plasterers, it is coated in a smooth and clean layer of white.

On the other side of the community, Charlotte, Deki, Analia, Henry, Jared, Will, Anna Maria, Bobby, and our group leader Jason spent their mornings digging holes for the installation of a fence that will provide protection for the children of the community from the nearby railroad. Despite the hard-working attitude we’ve all adopted, there have been many challenging along the way. For example, miscommunication between the community members and volunteers resulted in the relocating of all the holes dug during the previous day. It was frustrating because the volunteers put their hearts into a job, and their labors came to nothing. However, we learned the valuable lesson of flexibility. As Craig said, “you can either be upset about something or not be upset–either way, you’ve got to get the work done.” These wise words reflect the new outlook that we gained, and by the end of the day, we were churning out holes just as fast as the day before.

Overall, the work has been rewarding, has brought members of our group closer together, and has taught us valuable lessons about ourselves we never knew before.

Yesterday, we went on the hike of our lives. It took us eight hours, many bottles of water, lots of sunscreen, and peanut butter sandwiches, but we came out stronger people. The walk up proved challenging for some, but everyone successfully made it to the top, where we got to get up close and personal with real Inca mummies–Jobe even tried to walk out with a leg! Jason’s promise of ice cream at the finish made the descent seem shorter than it actually was.

Back in the town of Ollantytambo, many humorous relationships have been formed between the volunteers and the host families. For example, Deki and Luis have been inseparable from the moment they laid eyes upon each other. Jason has told them to “put the brakes on” their relationship, but the writers believe that the seriousness of their relationship is significantly exaggerated. Deki continues to assert that they are “just friends.” More to come–we’ll keep you updated on this blossoming “friendship.”

The families have taken us in as their own children, constantly amazing us with their cooking and attention to our health and well-being. Katherine and Sofi faced speed bumps with their host family initially, but they swiftly overcame these challenges to bond with their family wonderfully. Their next-door neighbors–Will and Daraja–can now hear them eagerly chatting with the children in Spanish into the wee hours of the morning.

Overall, Peru has been a great experience. So far, everyone has had a great time. More updates to come.


Morgan Pags and Will Groves

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Groton Peru June 22, 2012: Hike to the Quarries!

Bluebird skies greeted us this morning as we spilled from our homestays and gathered for a hike up to the Inca quarries, where huge monoliths were shaped and transported to Ollantaytambo and used to build the awe-inspiring sun temple.

The altitude and dry, hot weather made the hike labor for some, but we all rallied and made it through the 9+ mile hike. Over the course of the day, we ascended to 12,000 feet and surely felt the altitude in our legs and lungs.

At the quarry, we lingered in the mid-day light and discussed some Inca history and ate lunch. At the top we looked into a cave where skeletons of Inca mummies still remained, which was quite a thrill! We continue to be amazed by the Inca rocks and ruins we find wherever we go.  The descent down to Ollantaytambo was uneventful, and the ice cream thereafter was delectable.  We were very proud of our group at the end of the day. Everyone will sleep well tonight!

Your kids are real superstars, and this is quite an extraordinary setting – the perfect mix of natural beauty and history. We did a tough trek today and even though not everyone was in perfect physical condition, their mental toughness saw them through the trek. It’s wonderful to see them get involved, with such enthusiasm, in every aspect of the program. All we can say is that if you have any repair work that needs to be done at home, particularly plastering, then wait for your chicos to return.



Nishad, Nancy, Sarah, and Craig

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Some pictures from the worksite!

Thanks to improved internet speeds, an easier blog (thanks Chris Temerson) and some advice from Nishad about photo management, we’re happy to share some photos from today!


Morgan spent the morning spreading plaster on the inner walls of the library

Henry grew fond of digging post holes with a pick and pry bar

Gen and Aron spread plaster on the outside walls of the library

Daraja spread plaster along with Aron and Gen

Charlotte enjoyed measuring the depth of post holes

Sofi became covered in plaster

Yowana cleaned the plaster bucket perfectly



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Groton Peru Day 2 June 20, 2012

We met early this morning and headed to Anco Pancha, where we will be working with the community for the next two weeks. When we arrived at Anco Pancha, students came to learn about how the people of Anco Pancha came to inhabit this area above the floodplain of the Urubumba River. And when we arrived, some members of the community were waiting for us, and we took a look at the projects prior Groton crews had completed in years past: the bus station, the speed bumps on the highway, the stairway from the highway down to the village, the school yard, the murals, and the sports court. After seeing all that had been completed in the past, we took a look at the rubble-filled building in which the community center and library were slated to be located, and we got to work cleaning rubble, plastering, digging post holes.

I watched students dig in to this work and was, frankly, amazed because everyone found work to do and stuck to it for the duration of the day. And stepping back from our first day at the worksite, the leaders were stunned to see all that had been accomplished–post holes had been dug in preparation for the installation of a fence; the community center had been cleared of rubble and walls cleaned; the outside of the community center was coated with a fresh layer of plaster over the adobes.

We lingered in Anco Pancha because the community prepared us a wonderful feast of chicken and potatoes, and we enjoyed their hospitality greatly and headed back to Ollantaytambo for a late lunch.

We met late in the day to climb up to the Incan granaries above Ollantaytambo and spent some time reflecting on what we had noticed thus far. We asked students to reflect in particular on the first day with their host families.

Jared, Bobby, and Aron noted that “one of our concerns about this trip was not being able to bond with our host family very well. However, when Pancho and Hillary arrived at the hotel to welcome us to their those, their sincerity and hospitality were evident at first sight. They went out of their way to make us feel at home. Their children–Hilary, Jessica, and Jonathan are already are friends.”

Charlotte noted that “my host family never stops smiling. They are extremely close and spend lots of time together. I have never experienced a family so contented and genuinely happy with their life.”

Henry offered that “I felt welcomed immediately; Rosa (our house mother) and gave us a big hug, as though she had known us forever. She waled with us to her house, reminiscing about the past Groton students that had stayed with her at her home.”

Yowanna reflected that ” our host mother, Rosa, has been very hospitable. She has cooked Henry and me delicious meals and always greets us with a smile and “hola.” The kids in our host family have also been very pleasant and fun to hang out with.”

Deki, Annie, and Morgan reported that “our host family is extremely friendly…They have over forty “cui”–guinea pigs! they are going to make us “cui” at some point this week. The food has been delicious. On the first day, we played volleyball and found that the family is a lot better than us.”

Sofi and Katherine offer that “our host family has a five year old daughter and a six year old son, and both are adorable…we have become very close, bonding through our struggles with all the new experiences.”

The leaders have been so pleased with this group and with the trip thus far. After spending the morning working in Anco Pancha, a number of students have asked to take a run up into the hills above Ollantaytambo, and we will spend some time tomorrow meeting with Sarah Fitzgerald, ’95, who is here working on a community health project right here in Ollantaytambo.

Thank you once again for sharing your children with us for this fun and meaningful time we are having here in the high Andes.


Craig Gemmell

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