Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Headed Home

Hello family and friends,

After three weeks of traveling and exploring Peru, our expedition has come to an end and we are headed home. All of the students have finished their On Assignment projects which can now be viewed online. To see the final Photography On Assignment projects, click here:

To preview the Archaeology and Ancient Culture On Assignment group's "Time Traveler's Guide Book to the Inca Empire", click here:

We hope that these projects, along with this blog, help to share some of the experiences we have had together.

All the best,
Lindsay and Jordan

Below are some examples of student photography used in On Assignment projects.

photo by Hannah Dunsirn

photo by Kaia de Bruin

photo by Saskia Taylor

Wrapping Up!

August 3: Wrapping Up!
Blog written by Jessie Ludin, Upperville, Virginia

The day started off with each student working to finish up their On Assignment projects and preparing for the evening presentation session. For the Photography students it was picking their top five photos of the trip and for the Archaeology and Ancient Culture students it was finishing up their guidebook. We split up in groups for lunch and met back up at the hostel at 3:00 to get ready for our final presentations.

We were happy to have Peter Frost joined us to view our presentations and to sign his books at the end of the session. At 7:00 we headed off for dinner at a fashionable restaurant called Fallen Angel. After dinner we celebrated being all finished up by heading to a salsa club to practice our newly learned dancing skills!

Photos below by Emma Lewis from Arlington MA

Expedition leader Lindsay helping the Archaeology and Ancient Culture
On Assignment students put the finishing touches on
the group's final project, 'A Guidebook to the Inca Empire'

Photography student Katie Lohman picks out her top photos to share
with the group during the evening project presentation session

National Geographic Expert Peter Frost signs one of his books
after the On Assignment Project presentations are finished

Students celebrate the successful wrapping up of their
On Assignment projects during our last dinner in Cusco.

Machu Picchu, Day 2

August 2: Machu Picchu, Day 2
Blog written by Margaret Ridgely Gaier,
Vero Beach, FL

It felt as if we had just fallen asleep when it was time to wake up at 3:30 a.m. As we all came down the stairs with our bags in hand to start with the day you could feel the fatigue in the air. When we made it to the bus station there were only a few people in front of us; we felt as if we had already overcome our first obstacle.

We waited around for an hour and half to find out we all made it on the first and second bus of the day to Machu Picchu. When we got to the site we entered through the ticket gate and then we had to run to be in the first 400 people allowed to hike up Waynapicchu. Waynapicchu is the large 'sugarloaf' mountain behind Machu Picchu. The views from the top of Waynapicchu are spectacular, especially looking toward the ruins and seeing the river below and snowcapped mountains all around you. It was an adventure to make sure we all got spots to go on the hike and we were relieved when we finally made it past the gate leading to the start of the hiking trail.

It was a tedious climb up innumerable Inca steps to the top but we all eventually made it. We were given about an hour to wander the ruins of Waynapicchu and to take in the view before we made our decent back to Machu Picchu (which was easier said than done!).

After a short rest we met up with Peter Frost for a tour of the urban sector of Machu Picchu. As we made our way through the site, we learned everything we would need to know about Machu Picchu, and although we were exhausted from our early start, we were also fascinated by what Peter had to say. Eventually it was time to say goodbye to Machu Picchu and start our four hour journey back to Cusco.

When we finally arrived in Cusco we were all anxious for dinner, and headed straight to a restaurant. After dinner we returned back to our hostel to sleep so that we could start a new day with a new adventure.

Photos below by Alexa Garant, Tecumseh, Ontario:

Waiting (well, sleeping) in the line to get on the bus to get to Machu Picchu early enough to secure a spot the hike to Waynapicchu.

Machu Picchu, now considered one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

We were at the ruins in time to see the sunrise!

National Geographic Expert Peter Frost giving the up an introduction to the ruins

Emma encounters one of Machu Picchu's resident llamas while Kaia looks on in the background

Forrest finds a spot to contemplate the mysteries of Machu Picchu in the site's quarry.

Arriving in Machu Picchu

August 1: Arriving in Machu Picchu
Blog written by Felix Jordan, Cologne, Germany

Today our journey reached its climax with our arrival at Machu Picchu. We woke up at 5 am and hustled to our bus, which took us to the train station. Our train was scheduled to leave at 6 and we left without any delays. The ride was supposed to be some 3 hours long, which no one was looking forward to. It ended up taking 4 hours due to some delays and everyone was glad to get to the hostel. We settled in, got ready, and left for lunch at a pizzeria. After lunch we finally left for what we had all been waiting for: Machu Picchu.

To reach our destination we had to take another bus 25 minutes up a very steep and curvy road. Because we came in at around 2:00 p.m., most of the day tourists were gone and we had the new world wonder for ourselves. After a group photo in front of the magnificent scenery with our National Geographic flag we set out to explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site. With an exceptional light and close to no soul in sight we were embraced by Machu Picchu's grandiosity. With hesitation we left the ruins and went to dinner. Looking forward to the next day we went to bed.

The train that took us from Cusco to Aguas Calientes,
the town at the base of Machu Picchu.

Photo by Kathleen Pait, Little Rock AR

Zac our videographer getting some shots of Machu Picchu
Photo by Kathleen Pait

Photo by Kathleen Pait

Looking down toward Machu Picchu through the winter grass

Photo by Kathleen Pait

Hannah and Emma taking it all in at the ruins.
Photo by Kathleen Pait

The group at Machu Picchu and, in the background, the mountain of Waynapicchu.
Photo by Expedition Leader Jordan Gantz

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A Day at Casa de Milagros

July 31 - A Day at Casa de Milagros
Blog written by Emma Lewis, Arlington, MA

Today, after a hearty breakfast, we left our hostel and made our way to Casa de Milagros, an orphanage in Lamay. We got off the bus and saw the stunning hacienda in which the orphanage is located. Mountains and sunshine surrounded us. Alan, who started Casa de Milagros with his wife Marie twelve years earlier, greeted us. He explained that after losing their three-month-old son, Chandler, both he and Marie wanted to give their love to children who had lost their parents. Thirty-five children are currently living at Casa de Milagos, four of whom are natural children of Alan and Marie, and thirty-one of whom were taken into the House of Miracles after being orphaned. They are all part of a happy, loving family. After touring the hacienda and learning about the organically grown food, rabbits, ducks, horses, and many activities that are available to the children, we got to work.

The archeologists were in for a real treat! One of the jobs that needed to get done was exposing an ancient wall that had been encased in dirt for years. This would allow more room to harvest corn and would also make it possible to find ancient Inca stones, which had been used in the wall. We had a great time! The group found many ceramic pieces, bones, a tooth, a chess piece, a pocket watch, and stones that dated back to the Inca Empire!

The photographers were given the honor of taking photographs of the children that would be included in the Casa de Milagros brochure. Each photographer was assigned two or three children to portrait. We also got a chance to help out in the kitchen. We really enjoyed hand peeling the potatoes that we were to have for lunch!

After meeting all of the kids and having a little snack, some of us head out back to play volleyball or swing on the swings with the kids. A couple of us decided it would be fun to lead a dance lesson for the kids. Our recently acquired salsa skills sure came in handy! All of us were laughing and having a great time.

For lunch, we had a delicious home grown meal of rice with vegetables, potatoes, eggs, and chicken. We were all very full, but not too full to stop us from playing some more volleyball! All of the kids were much better than us, but we all had a lot of fun. Because the kids spoke no English, we all had the opportunity to work on our Spanish.

We were so sad when it came time to say goodbye to our new friends. We gave our last high fives and got back on the bus with heavy hearts. Everyone at Casa de Milagros radiated love and kindness, both towards each other and towards the group. We all agreed that the experience is something that we’ll keep with us for a long time.

When we got back to the hostel, we were given a bit of free time to explore Cusco. Later that afternoon, we broke off onto On Assignment teams. The Photography students started to pick out their favorite photos from the trip and the archeology students worked more on the guidebook. That night, we watched a great National Geographic movie featuring Peter Frost. It was a very full day, but one of the best we’ve had so far.

Alan, one of the owners of the orphanage, and his daughter Lily
taking us on a walk around the house

Photo by Hannah Dunsirn, Menasha, WI

Using the assembly line technique to move stones from a field
in front of the orphanage. Archaeology students had fun finding
Spanish colonial era artifacts in the dirt piles they were helping to move!

Photo by Hannah Dunsirn

Gabby, Katie and Emma helping out in the kitchen
Photo by Hannah Dunsirn

Katie helping to teach some of the kids a dance lesson
Photo by Hannah Dunsirn

lunch time!
Photo by Hannah Dunsirn

Jessie takes one of the orphanage resident's photos
for use in a new brochure. Photo students were happy to put
their skills use for such a good cause.

Photo by expedition leader Lindsay Mackenzie

An Ode to Saqsaywaman

July 30 - An Ode to Saqsaywaman

Blog written by Brian Lang from New City, NY

At 7:45 we got out of bed
for a breakfast of croissants and bread

We took taxis, to be exact four
to Saqsaywaman, site of Incan war

We picked up Peter, our extraordinary guide
who to the Incan ruin with us he’d ride

We showed our tickets and passed through the gate
We were so excited, the ruins looked great

Stone upon stone, some bigger than cars
A ruin fit for kings, incas and czars

The stones were fitted by average Incan Joes
How they did it? Nobody knows

The sun was bright as we started to climb
the tiring trek up the stones of lime.

Once we had gotten to the top of the ruin
we saw all of Cusco at just about noon

The steps were awkward coming up and going down
even the rocky steps caused great astound

The other side of Saqsai had stone Incan slides
children for years have given them rides

We had so much fun riding them too
we were glad we didn’t go elsewhere in lieu

We then lurked through a forty yard cave
on the way in to Zak we waved

Next we would hike o’er a mile
we’d stay at the ruins of Q’enko for a while

Q’enko is a quechua phrase for zig zag
the tour of these ruins was so not a drag

We walked through the labyrinth of rocks and stones
and alcoves which held ancient Inca bones

Off then we went to the potato fields
farmers making Chunyu out of what harvest wields

Chunyu are freeze dried potatoes
they taste like feet, I’d rather have tomatoes

Now onto the Temple of the Moon
the final stop on our tour of ruins

In the temple, it was just like a cave
at night the moon shines through a little enclave

Down a winding hill we went
to Pachapapa’s Restaurant, where our lunch was spent

Some tried alpaca, others did not
the meat was quite tender and a bit hot

After lunch we took a break
phone calls or shopping time we’d take

At 4:30 it was back to Peter Frost
on the long way, no one got lost

Peter explained the past of Peru
all were hungry when he was through

Off to dinner we’d all go
the group was split, we were whelmed with woe

Photographers had a nice dinner out
Peruvian Italian, it was great no doubt

Archaeologists munched tapas with Peter
he helped them with their book, which was even sweeter

All were full after dinner
I’m sure none of us are any thinner

We’re having fun in Peru, happy and well fed
it’s 10 PM and we’re off to bed

Photos by Danielle Itin, Englewood NJ

National Geographic Expert Peter Frost
talking about Saqsaywaman's giant Inca stonework

Saqsaywaman handstand

Playing on a stone slide near Saqsaywaman

Walking through farmer's fields where we came across
potatoes in various stages of the freeze-drying process

Walking along an ancient Inca road back toward Cusco

Exploring Cusco with Peter Frost

July 29 - Exploring Cusco with Peter Frost

Blog written by Gabriel Ruiz Blake, Puigpunyent, Illes Balears, Spain

After a breakfast of bread and jam we started our first day in Cusco. In the morning we got to explore the city in small groups to get a feel for the place. When we got back to our hostel we reviewed our photography work so far in critique during which we met Zac our videographer. After a lunch of tapas and sandwiches we met with our expert Peter Frost for a tour of 4 famous Cusquenian churches and the main Inca city sites. After our tour with Peter we went to our amazing salsa class where we learned the basics and got to dance with some natives who where very talented.

Después de un desayuno de pan y mermelada empezamos nuestro primer día en Cusco. Pudimos explorar la ciudad en grupos pequeños. Cuando regresamos al hostal miramos a nuestro trabajo hasta ahora mientras miráramos nuestro trabajo conocimos a a.C. nuestro videografo. Después de una comida de tapas y bocadillos nos reunimos con nuestro experto Peter Frost quien nos guió por 4 iglesias cuzqueñas. Cuando nos separamos de Peter fuimos a una clase donde aprendimos los pasos básicos y bailamos con unos cusquenos muy interesantes.

Plaza de Armas, Cusco
Photo by Forrest DiPaola, North Vancouver BC

Inside one of the temples in Qorikancha, this photo shows
the Inca love of precise stonework and trapezoidal windows
Photo by Forrest DiPaola

Peter taking the group through Qorikancha in central Cusco
Photo by Forrest DiPaola

View of Cusco
Photo by Saskia Taylor

Forrest, Katie and the rest of the group learning to salsa!
Photo by Saskia Taylor