Photo of the Week
Homestay
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    [post_content] => Dear Manuela,

Thank you for everything. Whether you knew it or not, you were in many ways one of the most important teachers of my life. The lessons you taught me about perseverence, familial love, and modesty have undoubtedly allowed me to grow as a person and will resonate with me forever. While you may have thought of me as your host brother, to me you were my host mother. Even more than that you were a teacher, a friend, and above all one of the most admirable people I have had the opportunity to learn from. Though you were the same age as me, I never thought of you that way. Even when your mother was home it was your home, and you were providing for me the same way you do for your siblings who every day showed the same glaring appreciation and admiration for you the way I wish I could have. My time with you was unforgettable, and for that I cannot thank you enough.

Dilan

 
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SUMMER: Guatemala - Group B, Homestay

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Dear Manuela

Dilan Patel,SUMMER: Guatemala - Group B, Homestay

Description

Dear Manuela, Thank you for everything. Whether you knew it or not, you were in many ways one of the most important teachers of my life. The lessons you taught me about perseverence, familial love, and modesty have undoubtedly allowed me to grow as a person and will resonate with me forever. While you may […]

Posted On

07/24/17

Author

Dilan Patel

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My time spent staying at Parque de la Papa has been some of the most powerful time I have spent on-course so far. All previous expectations and ideas I held before my homestay were obliterated and completely shifted in my time staying with my homestay family. It was an experience where I learned much about the world we live in.

Thor and I stayed with a family of five, three boys of eight, fourteen, and fifteen all very amicable and as curious about our life in the US as we were curious about their lives in Peru. At first, given the fact that I am far from fluent in Spanish, and that Thor barely knows any Spanish at all, it was very awkward and difficult for us to connect with our homestay family. After a while, however, as my Spanish improved and as I began to learn more about my homestay family, we got very close. As I learned about their lives and how they grew all their food and built their houses themselves, and in turn, they learned about the much different world Thor and I come from.

The food we consumed needs only a single word to describe it.

Sensational.

Going into the homestay, I was skeptical about eating potatoes everyday and eating food that was all grown by the family. Little did I know the food I was going to eat was spectacular and no doubt the best food of the trip so far. In the community that we visited, there was also such a deep sense of community in everything that they did. Every single member of the family would come together to prepare a part of every meal whether each aspect of the meal be large or small. Everyone in my family would also all work together in the fields, feeding the fish, picking Fava beans, picking barley or many other tasks. Through my time engaging in some of these tasks I found that they are very rewarding satisfying to complete. Although my homestay family (and members of the community in general) have little worry or thought of time on their mind, they are very efficient in what they do and they get all of their tasks done in a very calm manner.

There are so many enormous differences between the settings which we live in that on the most basic level, we live in two different worlds. During our time in Parque, the children living there had not gone to school for thirty days due to the fact that all the teachers were on strike or on a “Huelga,” protesting unjust wages. They actually had not gone to school in a month they had simply stayed home and worked with their families. Our host family had also never even seen a building taller than five stories and the concept of one to them seemed extremely unnecessary. 

Even coming from polar opposite places, Thor and I were able to connect with our homestay brothers in very tangible ways. I played soccer every day with the oldest son, Alex, and on the last day, we listened to each others music, music from two different cultures via a microSD card. It was a very powerful moment where we could both feel the influences of each other's homes and lives present at the time. Thor and I built up such a connection that leaving was very difficult, and one of our homestay brothers was crying as we hugged him goodbye. All in all, I learned that happiness is not at all based on one's material possessions by any stretch of the imagination. The time I spent in Parque de la Papa forever changed my perception of the world and gave me some unforgettable memories which I will never forget.

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SUMMER: Peru 4-Week - Group A, Homestay

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Parque de la Papa

John Marangola,SUMMER: Peru 4-Week - Group A, Homestay

Description

My time spent staying at Parque de la Papa has been some of the most powerful time I have spent on-course so far. All previous expectations and ideas I held before my homestay were obliterated and completely shifted in my time staying with my homestay family. It was an experience where I learned much about […]

Posted On

07/18/17

Author

John Marangola

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    [post_content] => Hello from Urubamba!

We have just finished our homestay in Paru Paru, one of the six communities in Parque de la Papa. Jack and I stayed in Rosa's house and we had a spectacular time. The meals were some of the best we have had during the whole trip. And, no, they were not lying about having more than 1,000 types of potatoes. However, we learned so much more than how to distinguish different types of potatoes. While Rosa certainly has had more visitors before us, she and her family had not changed around their schedules for us, so we were lucky enough to participate in their daily activities and hang out with her energetic seven year-old daughter, Flor. Flor did her own share of the cooking, animal herding, and schoolwork everyday. Due to countrywide teacher strikes, Flor has not been in school for about a month now. Her extra time at home means that she shares an equal burden of chores with the other family members. I learned a lot from Flor, but the biggest thing she taught me was patience. It seems simple, right? Not exactly. First of all, the only way that Rosa's family can tell the time is with a dusty clock that is only checked when they have visitors with tight schedules. This means that their family rarely has time frames. Just tasks and daylight. Coming from New York City, the idea of not checking the time every five minutes scares me. Yet for Flor, time is irrelevant. In fact, that same dusty clock is too high up on the wall for her to even read it. Instead, she just gets to work with no knowledge of the time. As we lead the donkey over the pile of haba beanstalks, Flor reprimanded me for checking my watch and told me lunch would be soon enough. I laughed it off, but when I think about it now, I had such a more fulfilling experience picking Haba beans with no worries about being late to somewhere. I don't know if I will be able to take this level of patience home with me to New York City because of how important punctuality is there, but I will definitely implement it into some of my daily tasks. How different would a bike ride be if I gave myself the whole day to explore with only the sun as my clock? How much better would scrambled eggs taste if I didn't scramble to make them every time? How much better would my schoolwork turn out if I didn't give myself specific time slots for each assignment? I think Flor knows the answer to those questions. I still have a lot to learn, but this is a start.

Next up on our itinerary is the Lares Trek! This will be our last major test as a group and I am excited to see all of our hard work and preparation pay off when we hit the beautiful hot springs at the end of the trek. But the rewards don't end there. Just two days after the trek we are scheduled to see Machu Pichu! There is a slight possibility that the same teacher strikes that are putting Flor out of school could block the entrance to Machu Pichu, but we are hoping that we will not run into any of those and that we will be able to watch the sun rise at one of the most beautiful places on earth. See you all soon!

Best,

Ned
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Time and Patience (Parque de la Papa Reflection)

Ned Rossman,Best Notes From The Field, SUMMER: Peru 4-Week - Group A, Homestay

Description

Hello from Urubamba! We have just finished our homestay in Paru Paru, one of the six communities in Parque de la Papa. Jack and I stayed in Rosa’s house and we had a spectacular time. The meals were some of the best we have had during the whole trip. And, no, they were not lying […]

Posted On

07/18/17

Author

Ned Rossman

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    [post_content] => Hola!

We have arrived in the city of Urubamba after finishing our homestays in the town of Paru Paru in the Sacred Valley of Parque de las Papas. Eila and I stayed with a family with two little brothers, Raul (12 years old) and Wilbur (9 years old), along with their father, Santiago, and mother. Every day, we were served the most delicious food and treated with such generosity. Santiago, Raul, and Wilbur showed Eila and I how to tend to their crops, such as their potatoes and Abba beans. During these hours of the morning, Santiago would talk to us about how the community works together to harvest these crops, and discussed the process of the growing seasons.

While staying with Santiago and his family, I learned many things. One of the first things I noticed was the amount of effort and care that Santiago and his family members put into each task, whether it was making a meal or hauling potatoes from the fields and back to their house. I really respected this aspect of their life, and noticed it in the rest of the community as well. When we learned how the ladies of the community wove these incredibly intricate textiles, they told us that one scarf took an entire month to make. And although all of these activities seemed to range in scale, no one ever complained or was lackluster in their work.

Another idea that was proven to me while living in Paru Paru was the fact that the amount of material possessions one might have does not equal the amount of happiness that exists in their life. By American standards, the people of Paru Paru would be considered "poor". However, I did not find this to be true at all. Instead, I found a community that has a rich culture and really demonstrates what the idea of community and collectivity means. And although I know that they all have their problems, as all people do, every person I met was happy and had a good attitude. Their quality of life is not diminished at all by their lack of supposedly staple material possessions.

When I return home, I hope to apply the work ethic, positivity, and perspective in regards to happiness that I have learned in Paru Paru. I believe that by remembering the people and lifestyle that I was exposed to during this aspect of my trip, I will have a greater appreciation for my family and the opportunities that I am fortunate enough to have in my life.
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SUMMER: Peru 4-Week - Group A, Homestay

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Hola From Urubamba!

Ana Cordes,SUMMER: Peru 4-Week - Group A, Homestay

Description

Hola! We have arrived in the city of Urubamba after finishing our homestays in the town of Paru Paru in the Sacred Valley of Parque de las Papas. Eila and I stayed with a family with two little brothers, Raul (12 years old) and Wilbur (9 years old), along with their father, Santiago, and mother. […]

Posted On

07/18/17

Author

Ana Cordes

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    [post_content] => Yesterday was one of the saddest and happiest moments of this trip. As I hugged my homestay family to say goodbye, half of me really wanted to stay and learn more about this foreign lifestyle, while half of me was happy to learn new lessons and values and was eager to keep them in my mind and share them with others.

When we first got there, I did not really know what to think. They told us that for the next five days we would be eating a lot of potatoes, and that we would only be able to speak in Spanish, a language that is not too familiar to me. I stayed with two other girls, June and Emma, who were also going to be facing the language and cultural barrier with me. Our homestay parents were incredibly welcoming, our dad Cesar being a hardworking man both in the kitchen and in the field, and our mother taking care of her newly born son Diego. It was a little intimidating at first to know that I had to communicate in a language that was extremely foreign to me, but I soon realized that there are so many ways in which to communicate with one another. A perfect example was through our homestay dad´s cooking. He made the most amazing and creative meals out of the food they grew in their communities, like maiz pancakes, omelets made from fresh tomatoes and broccoli, as well as papas, papas and more papas in ways that i never imagined such as potato pasta and porridge. People in Parque de la Papa pop potatoes like its candy, and when tasting the potatoes myself, I understand why. They are so fresh, completely organic, and in the end I did not get sick of them, but only wanted more.

But the papas was not the main thing that impressed me, but how my family expressed care for each other, and how the community all worked together to be stronger as a whole. One of the days we helped our father build a house out of mixing dirt and straw, what all of the houses there are made of. When I asked him why he was building the house, he said that it was for his daughter, and that his wish is to build his daughter and his newborn son their own places to live. This is a tradition in the communities for many many generations, and hearing that made me amazed at the fact that he is working night and day to express his love to his family like that. And our dad does not have to hesitate for help, for I saw so many people of the community constantly care for each other, even if they had to walk a mile to stretch out their arm.

This kind of love is was so special to observe, for they did not depend on their possessions to express their love, but as a community and their self sustainability, they are able to express a strength that i have never seen before in a group of people. Being at Parque de la Papa was truly a privilege to me, and it made me question so much about my life and home and what is really important in ones short short lifespan.

I hope to bring home some of these things I saw in Parque de la Papa, from the food, to the way the people valued the world around them. It was an experience that was truly special and one of a kind,and as unique as each of the 1,400 kinds of potatoes they grow there. They told me to come back in 5, 10, 15, or 25 years to see them, and this is an offer that is both tempting and heartwarming. I know that as a group we learned a lot about ourselves and others we would have never gotten the chance to meet in our little bubble we call home. I am very excited for the next step of our trip, our Lares trek, giving yet more and more opportunities to learn something new and valuable. Until then!

With love,

Lilli
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Best Notes From The Field, SUMMER: Peru 4-Week - Group A, Homestay

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Parque De La Papa

lspecter,Best Notes From The Field, SUMMER: Peru 4-Week - Group A, Homestay

Description

Yesterday was one of the saddest and happiest moments of this trip. As I hugged my homestay family to say goodbye, half of me really wanted to stay and learn more about this foreign lifestyle, while half of me was happy to learn new lessons and values and was eager to keep them in my […]

Posted On

07/18/17

Author

lspecter

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    [post_content] => Hey everyone, as I write this, it's 4:30 am. The crowing of a rooster is an alarm I have strangely grown grateful for in the last week I've spent in Lagartillo. But it is the rhythmic pounding of tortillas that compels me out of my bed, to walk, dazed and still half asleep, to the kitchen I settle quickly into the comfortable quiet I've become accustomed to in the presence of my host mother and grandmother. I watch as they move their nimble, sun-wrinkled fingers over fresh dough, spreading perfect circles with ease my clumsy fingers only dream of. I catch giggles as my mother, Amparo, redoes each tortilla I make slightly, but only when she thinks I'm not looking. When we've finished the stack, making tortillas for the next couple of days, I sit with my family as they do their laundry and I wash dishes from last night's dinner. Even with the occasional awkward moments, it is moments like those mornings that really feel like I've got another family here in a small, rural town outside Esteli.

Sophie
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Tempranito

Sophie,SUMMER: Nicaragua, Homestay

Description

Hey everyone, as I write this, it’s 4:30 am. The crowing of a rooster is an alarm I have strangely grown grateful for in the last week I’ve spent in Lagartillo. But it is the rhythmic pounding of tortillas that compels me out of my bed, to walk, dazed and still half asleep, to the […]

Posted On

07/17/17

Author

Sophie

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    [post_content] => Can you imagine being part of a family in a country different than your own? A family who has completely new customs, foods, ways of bathing, communicating, doing chores, and sleeping than you are used to?
I was worried about all those things and more as our low-sitting, wooden boats sped down the Amazon River towards our first homestay. Will they like me? I wondered to myself. Will I be able to have conversations with my limited Spanish vocabulary? As we approached the shore of the community, I felt all my uncertainties dissolve. Standing along the banks were the teens and kids of our new families, adorned in their captivating traditional clothing and eagerly awaiting our arrival with huge smiles and waves. They helped us off the boats, welcoming us to the town, and hugged each of us in turn.
The hospitality didn’t end there. My own family welcomed me with open arms and wasted no time in introducing themselves to me. They made wonderful food for us to share, and we talked about our families and exchanged stories about our homes and cities over tea. There was a bit of a language barrier, but we filled the silences with smiles, gestures, and laughs. By the end of the first night, I felt as if I’d been there for a week already.
Over the next couple of days, they invited me to their church, to spend time with their extended family, and to be a part of their daily activities. We exchanged words and phrases in English and Shipibo. I felt so honored to be a guest in their home, and I was beyond sad to say goodbye to them after four days of feeling like a true member of the Vasquez family.
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SUMMER: Peru 6-Week, Homestay

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New Member of the Vasquez Family

Ashley Moen,SUMMER: Peru 6-Week, Homestay

Description

Can you imagine being part of a family in a country different than your own? A family who has completely new customs, foods, ways of bathing, communicating, doing chores, and sleeping than you are used to? I was worried about all those things and more as our low-sitting, wooden boats sped down the Amazon River […]

Posted On

07/17/17

Author

Ashley Moen

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    [post_content] => The Amazon is always where I feel most challenged in running a Dragons program. I am in love with the high mountain air, and the gentle, quiet spirit of the Andes. Here the air is laden with humidity, the mosquitos usually travel in large, dark, ominous clouds. I also often feel a culture shock that I do not normally feel in the Andes.

 This week in Santa Clara, deep in the Peruvian Amazon, has changed some of those negative perceptions for me, and has challenged me to look at the Amazon with new eyes. There are so many things that have inspired me and filled me with awe this past week, and there are few words that can describe my gratitude for this work and this place.

 We worked closely with an indigenous youth group that set up our homestays, and organized cultural events for us to participate in. The jovenes, or young people in the community, worked tirelessly to provide us an unforgettable experience. Their group is dedicated to celebrating the Shipibo culture, which is the largest Amazonian cultural group in the Peruvian Amazon. They practice songs, dances, traditional weavings, fishing practices, and other important aspects of their culture. Cultural traditions in this area are quickly being lost to forces such as deforestation, urbanization, and commodification of indigenous knowledge. These young people inspired me every day we spent in Santa Clara, because they are fighting to survive and fighting for the survival of their culture.

 Our students were able to interact with these young people and with the other members of their homestay families, for four full days. It was an incredible learning experience, which will surely have long-term impacts on their understanding of our complex world. I know it has and will have an impact on me, and I will carry much with me about the Shipibo culture.

 The Amazon is multi-colored. The Amazon is vast and expansive. The Amazon is limitless. The Amazon cannot be defined by our expectations. The Amazon is in crisis. The Amazon is complex and cannot be defined by one term. The Amazon is water and light and forest and birds. The Amazon is challenging.

 I am so grateful to have met the amazing, beautiful people who graciously opened their homes up to us in Santa Clara these past few days. I hope to have the opportunity to return, to stay for longer, to learn more Shipibo, and to learn more about the people and land of this stunning part of Peru.

 Also, a brief itinerary note, tomorrow morning our group of travelers will be flying back up into the Andes, to the magical city of Cusco. After a day in Cusco, we will dive right into our next, and longest homestay, in the town of Urubamba. The town of Urubamba is in the Sacred Valley of the Incas and is going to be a spectacular place to create more understanding about Peru!

Hasta pronto,

Mateo y los instructores

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SUMMER: Peru 6-Week, Homestay

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Bekanwe, Santa Clara

Matt,SUMMER: Peru 6-Week, Homestay

Description

The Amazon is always where I feel most challenged in running a Dragons program. I am in love with the high mountain air, and the gentle, quiet spirit of the Andes. Here the air is laden with humidity, the mosquitos usually travel in large, dark, ominous clouds. I also often feel a culture shock that […]

Posted On

07/17/17

Author

Matt

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Instead of afternoon Spanish classes I spend the afternoon in the kitchen with my host family. I watch my mother make cuajada from an enormous container of milk. Fascinated by her slow, purposeful movements, I ask her a lot of questions about the process. Afterward, along with her daughter and granddaughter, we start to make dinner for my amigo secreto. We fry chicken and potatoes over the wood burning stove, the kitchen filling with a smokey haze. We blend up passion fruit, straining the seeds out to make juice. We also talk about cooking, about food, about life back home. It is peaceful in the kitchen and I feel like I could be in my grandmothers kitchen back home.
Once the food is ready, I cover it with a plate and walk to the library in the pouring rain, there, as a group, we exchange plates made made with varying degrees of help from our families. It is fun and we all laugh and smile while sharing our stories about our experiences in the kitchen.
When I first arrived in el largatillo I was petrified. The idea of staying with a family I had never met, and trying to communicate with them in another language, and integrate myself into a lifestyle different from my own was overwhelming. My first night here I sat awkwardly in the kitchen, unsure of what to do or say. Almost a week later, el largatillo feels like home. I wake up every morning to the methodic pounding of my neighbor making tortillas. When I walk into the kitchen, my host mother is cutting fruit for breakfast. I eat before helping her with morning chores, which includes making tortillas. I'm allowed to make two tortillas every day- the same way my host mother learned- which I do very slowly and clumsily, although my mother says I'm improving.
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The heart of the household

Fiona,SUMMER: Nicaragua, Homestay

Description

Instead of afternoon Spanish classes I spend the afternoon in the kitchen with my host family. I watch my mother make cuajada from an enormous container of milk. Fascinated by her slow, purposeful movements, I ask her a lot of questions about the process. Afterward, along with her daughter and granddaughter, we start to make […]

Posted On

07/16/17

Author

Fiona

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    [post_date] => 2017-07-15 12:57:04
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    [post_content] => 

Leaving people who have left a mark on your life is one of the hardest things travelers have to do. We love traveling, but when we say goodbye, we often stumble upon the notion that we will never see these people again. Even in the Bolivian vocabulary, they seldom use the word "adiós" (goodbye). Instead, they say "Ciao", a more casual, temporary goodbye.

Our group has become to understand the value of transient relationships. Our 10-day homestay experience has concluded and  I will miss my homestay family, along with many other students. Manuel, despite the language barrier, was and is an amazing brother. We shared our life experiences, our love for music, and of course exchanged our languages (even though my Spanish to English translations were never good) when Manuel would ask: "¿Como si dice muy frío en inglés?" And of course, I would respond: "Muy frío en inglés es very cold." It it these experiences, in addition to our crazy adventures around Cochabamba that I will forever cherish with my brother.

Not to forget, my sister who's an aspiring doctor, but often knocked down by her grandparents of her aspirations had a major effect on me. It made me realize of how lucky I am in terms of the supportive environment I've grown up in, and almost always told I can do anything I set my mind to.

And, of course, Mama. Man, let me tell you now, was Mama (or known as Andrea by the community) a talkative, loving, Dragons enthusiast. I remember vividly my first day with her, when she brought me into her house and immediately showed me her Dragons shrine: a wall covered in past Dragons whom she had hosted; I knew she would be a fun lady. We washed my clothes together by hand, shared our adversity filled lives, and exchanged facts about each other's homes. It it these moments that made me value family, and further immerse myself into my home stay family.

Now, we are on our way back to where it all started, boarding our plane back to La Paz. It's almost like in a metaphorical sense our group has been changed with new experiences, but unchanged with the bonds we share and the various adversities we come from. It is important to realize that we will all experience transient relationships in our life, many of them. But, what comes out of these experiences is a time to grow, because in the end, we travel not to find ourselves, but to create ourselves into to better learners, lovers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, and so much more.

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SUMMER: Bolivia, Homestay

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Transient Relationships

Brenden Picard,SUMMER: Bolivia, Homestay

Description

Leaving people who have left a mark on your life is one of the hardest things travelers have to do. We love traveling, but when we say goodbye, we often stumble upon the notion that we will never see these people again. Even in the Bolivian vocabulary, they seldom use the word “adiós” (goodbye). Instead, […]

Posted On

07/15/17

Author

Brenden Picard

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