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Peru: Sacred Mountains 4 week, Summer 2011


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Dear Annie, Abbie, Robert, Zoe, Claire, Comfort, Liam, Ihna, Ivan, Charlotte, Abby, and Michelle,

A week has now passed since we departed from Cusco. There, sitting atop the Temple of the Moon, the world was a place charged with hope; a world filled with possibilities and where every single strand of our lives was interconnected to the grand fabric of the universe. It sounds profound and a little absurd, but I believe it.

And perhaps more importantly, I believe that those strands continue to weave through our lives. What matters now is what kind of a fabric we choose to weave in the looms to come.

As you now share stories with your parents, friends, and family, please be sure to give them a deep, heartfelt thanks from all of us at Dragons. Without them, this journey would not have been possible. And thank YOU, for your courage, bravery, and boldness in choosing to embark on a journey that was always uncertain, but always rich with possibility.

I hope that you all keep in touch in the years to come and I look forward greatly to our next crossing of paths, whenever that moment comes.

Until then, here is a small gift to celebrate every winding trail and daily meeting.


I'm a 10.

And a 3.

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."
- John F. Kennedy


Abrazos fuertes,
Japhy

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Peru: Sacred Mountains 4 week, Summer 2011

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Gratitude — A Video Tribute to Dragons, Parents, and Peru

Japhy Dhungana,Peru: Sacred Mountains 4 week, Summer 2011

Description

Dear Annie, Abbie, Robert, Zoe, Claire, Comfort, Liam, Ihna, Ivan, Charlotte, Abby, and Michelle, A week has now passed since we departed from Cusco. There, sitting atop the Temple of the Moon, the world was a place charged with hope; a world filled with possibilities and where every single strand of our lives was interconnected […]

Posted On

08/3/11

Author

Japhy Dhungana

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Hello Families and Friends,

We have received confirmation that all students have safely landed in Miami and are checked-in for their connecting flights home. Be ready to welcome them with open arms, ears, and hearts!

Best,

Aaron

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Peru: Sacred Mountains 4 week, Summer 2011

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Students Leaving Miami

Aaron Slosberg,Peru: Sacred Mountains 4 week, Summer 2011

Description

Hello Families and Friends, We have received confirmation that all students have safely landed in Miami and are checked-in for their connecting flights home. Be ready to welcome them with open arms, ears, and hearts! Best, Aaron

Posted On

07/28/11

Author

Aaron Slosberg

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TodayI am in front of the TV watching the new peruvian president Ollanta Humala taking charge of our country, many doubts and anxiety in my mind, how will the future of Peru will be?

ButI also start to think about this last month and remember just few hours ago after leaving this amazing group of young people in the Cusco Airport, I went back to my real life, my family and my duties as owner of a lodge and a restaurant, reflecting on life and how this course has changed me over a month, sharing experiences and daily life with 12 really unique teenagers.

Life is that, just writing many stories on your own book of life, and learning from the poeple that surrounds you and the experiences we live, life goes on, but always with a smile because life is good doesnt matter the challenges.

I must say I am very proud of all the achievements of each one of the participants of this course, including us the instructors. Watching everyone work together as a team into many challenging situations, always with laughter and a nice vibe, helping each other and pushing ourselves into succesmade me reflect on my own life and is giving me the strengh to continue working and creating my own path with strong steps towards the future.

Thanks Zoe for your deep thoughts and groundedness, Liam for your endless energy and jokes, Claire for having such a beautiful person inside of you, Robert for your strenght and support for the group, Inha for your deep heart, Michelle for being such a strong person, Ivan for being there always for the group with good vibes and your strenght, Annie for being so strong and determined, Abbie S for your deepness and curiosity, Comfort for just being yourself, Charlotte for your deepness and passion, Abby G for your eternal laughs and good vibes, Annelies for your endless patience and love, and Japhy for all your strengh and wisdom.

I will have all of you in my heart and will never forget this amazing adventure through my beloved country PERU.

Thanks to you all and dont forget to keep finding your own path, you are all great and you have all what you need inside of you, lets keep in touch

Francisco ;)

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Peru: Sacred Mountains 4 week, Summer 2011

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Life goes on

Francisco Seminario,Peru: Sacred Mountains 4 week, Summer 2011

Description

TodayI am in front of the TV watching the new peruvian president Ollanta Humala taking charge of our country, many doubts and anxiety in my mind, how will the future of Peru will be? ButI also start to think about this last month and remember just few hours ago after leaving this amazing group of […]

Posted On

07/28/11

Author

Francisco Seminario

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Dear Peru families,

Just a quick note to let you know that our group is nowin the airport of Lima boarding their flight to Miami with Japhy. They will beverysoon close toyou again.As an in-country instructor, Ihad tosay goodbye to the groupthis evening, as Istay in Lima where I live. It was with tears in my eyes I hugged everybody goodbye,ithas been such a profound experience totravel with such an amazing group of individuals. We have seen everybody grow so much over the course and it has been very beautiful. I know all the students are ready to go home now and share all their experiences with you! We are looking forward to stayingin touch with you all!! Abrazos!

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Peru: Sacred Mountains 4 week, Summer 2011

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Hasta luego amigos!

Annelies Hamerlinck,Peru: Sacred Mountains 4 week, Summer 2011

Description

Dear Peru families, Just a quick note to let you know that our group is nowin the airport of Lima boarding their flight to Miami with Japhy. They will beverysoon close toyou again.As an in-country instructor, Ihad tosay goodbye to the groupthis evening, as Istay in Lima where I live. It was with tears in […]

Posted On

07/28/11

Author

Annelies Hamerlinck

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This 7 days of wilderness exploration around one of Peru's most sacred mountains gave our students a chance to practice hard expedition skills like: trip planning, gear management, self care, staying warm, altitude concerns, water, food preparation and fostered a heightened sense of cultural awareness, curiosity and stewardship in the natural world as well as making environmentally mindful choices in the backcountry.

We feel so proud of each and every student in our group. We have seen people pushing themselves over the several high altitude passes, through the cold, wind, and snow without any complaint, with a smile and an encouraging and helping hand to others. The most beautiful thing to see was that through this physical challenges in times of “hardship” exceptional bonds were formed, that only we, the people that were there, can understand.

Trekking gave us the chance to look more closely not only at the physical environment around us, but also our “internal environment” and our personal development. Lots of solo time and one-on-one conversations during the trek gave us time to think, to breathe, and to process the many complex issues which have been introduced throughout the program. It allowed time to be silent and provided space to re-orient before diving back in.

I am really grateful to have been able to be a part of this amazing experience as a Dragon's instructor. And I want to go back to the students now because I can hear them laughing and singing nice songs outside with the guitar and dinner is almost ready, the kitchen where Liam and Ivan are cooking starts to smell very nice!

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Peru: Sacred Mountains 4 week, Summer 2011

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Ausangate trek

Annelies Hamerlinck,Peru: Sacred Mountains 4 week, Summer 2011

Description

This 7 days of wilderness exploration around one of Peru’s most sacred mountains gave our students a chance to practice hard expedition skills like: trip planning, gear management, self care, staying warm, altitude concerns, water, food preparation and fostered a heightened sense of cultural awareness, curiosity and stewardship in the natural world as well as […]

Posted On

07/25/11

Author

Annelies Hamerlinck

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"Paras chayay, paras chayay
Tinkuna chanchi paraschapi..."
Days later, the lyrics of Quechua song remain in my head. The sounds of the trek are still fresh, as if it was just a few hours ago that we were there, trekkng around Mt. Ausangate: Fabian playing the flute, the swoosh of the rivers and streams swiftly flowing, the soft rustling of the chilly Andean winds, the neigh of the horses and our synchronized steps and stomps. It seems so unreal that it´s over, that I can never go back and relive every moment once again, to savor the memories and learn from the experience some more.
Seven days of high altitude, cold temperatures and hiking. Many snow-filled mornings and sometimes even hail. Ocassional stomach and head aches. Hours away from civilization. Yet, our trek meant so much more than just a physically and mentally demanding trip; it was a journey involving self-discoveries, new friendships, beautiful sceneries and countless new knowledge. It was exciting and rugged, a fun yet challenging trip, an unforgettable trek.
During our hikes, there were instances when I had to push myself more than I ever have before. With the encouragement of "el tropa" (as our group is nicknamed), I was able to push through two 17,000 feet passes, snow, hail, strong winds and a headache. Along the way, I tripped quite a few times and stepped on mud and animal poop. Just when I was about to give up, at that moment when my legs just seemed to be paralyzed and my stomach aches (brought upon by the altitude) seemed to be pulling me down like a heavy weight, the cheers of el tropa, the music from Fabian´s flute and the thought of the view at the top of the pass motivated me. And everytime I reached the top, it felt as if I can conquer anything.
Another aspect of the trip are the bonds and relationships we formed and solidified. Despite the differences in hiking abilities and athleticism, our whole team proudly stayed together, patiently waiting for others, joyfully encouraging and pushing each other. The instructors and students became more alike, sharing stories, playing games and singing songs together. During this period of time, we grew stronger as a family as we worked our way through several challenges.
We also made some new friends like Fabian, our guide and his son, Juan Carlos; our horsemen, the Condori brothers; our cook, German; and the musically-talented David. We learned from them and they learned from us. The language and age barrier were inexistent, as we discussed issues concerning daily life, Peruvian history, Andean traditions and even popular culture. It was as if we were all speaking one language - the language of compassion. Whenever we couldn´t communicate through Spanish, a smile, a tap or a laugh were enough to understand each other.
The trek provided me with so much knowledge and wisdom. My brain and my heart are now bigger - my brain from all that I have learned about glaciers and Andean culture and my heart for the new friendships I made. The trip might be over but I will forever cherish the images of the clear blue glacial lakes, the wild llamas roaming, the endless valleys and the majestic Mt. Ausangate.
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Peru: Sacred Mountains 4 week, Summer 2011

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A Trek, and So Much More

Ihna Mangundayao,Peru: Sacred Mountains 4 week, Summer 2011

Description

"Paras chayay, paras chayay Tinkuna chanchi paraschapi…" Days later, the lyrics of Quechua song remain in my head. The sounds of the trek are still fresh, as if it was just a few hours ago that we were there, trekkng around Mt. Ausangate: Fabian playing the flute, the swoosh of the rivers and streams swiftly […]

Posted On

07/25/11

Author

Ihna Mangundayao

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I am rarely alone in my life. And when I am, there is always something going on. If I´m reading in my room, someone is doing the dishes downstairs. If I´m taking a walk on the street, cars are honking. And even when I´m hiking with my fellow Dragones, we are playing games and singing. But for four hours the other day, I was truly alone.

Sitting high atop a hill, I could not see anyone. All I could hear was the whooshing of the river and the small breeze running through my toes. The pristine lakes, jagged snow capped peaks, free herds of animals, and cheery wild flowers inspired me. As I lay on my sleeping pad (I didn´t realize that the rocks underneath it were popping a hole in it), I made a realization: wilderness is what´s left of creation. The crisp, clean landscape that I was gazing into has been around forever. Yet our world, the developed, modern world, is new. We were created in the wilderness millions of years ago, and I realized how important it is to be in the wilderness.

We become so entranced in the haste of the human world that we forget to step outside and take a look in the wilderness. We spend lifetimes trying to invent new things without remembering that everything we need is already here. In a world sprawling with people, with contamination, with noise, scattered stretches of wilderness are the remnants of God´s perfection. Surrounded by these untouched remnants of creation, we can properly reflect on our existence. Summoning the spectacular landscape while breathing in sharp, breezy air and embracing the warmth of the striking sun, we can finally find answers. We can finally think.

Sitting there for an hour, I felt more peaceful and tranquil than ever. And when I became bored and antsy (I can now accurately use the word antsy after vicious ants crawled in my pants in the Amazon), I realized that the feelings I was experiencing were due to the fact that I never sit for four hours and solely reflect. I want that to change.

I´ve learned that those wild spaces are peaceful spaces. They not only have answers, but also have the key to the answers within us. In order to appreciate and understand the hectic life beyond the wild spaces, we must have solo moments.

Little did I know, my solo helped me out a few days later when we had an unexpected challenge. Tossing around steep bends in an open bed truck, we were headed to the area of Nacion Qeros. In true Dragons style, we were headed to an extremely rural homestay in a place that does not place on any maps. Yet, when we approached the highest pass, snow and ice prevented us for continuing. Putting full force into shoveling ice and kicking snow, and then pulling and pushing the truck, we were determining to get past the pass.

Our toes were cold and the sun was going down. We had to make a decision, as a group. Would we take the risk to get over the pass so that we could see a village that few people in the world have ever seen? Or would we return to Ocongate and stay with Fabian, our spiritual leader, and his family? Every student had a say. And in an organized and efficient manner, respecting everyone´s opinion, we decided it was safer to go down.

It was disappointing. I had been looking forward to the homestay. Everyone had been. I was excited to open my eyes to a lifestyle so extremely different from mine. Although I didn´t get to experience the life of families in Nacion Qeros, I learned a lot from that day. In the same way I though about the power of Mother Earth on my solo, I again thought about Her power. The power of the Pachamama. Just like Fabian told us, sometimes the Pachamama doesn´t want us to proceed. In this case, we were not meant to make it to Qeros.

Instead of spending the following day in Qeros, we were very productive. We all worked hard on our Independednt Study Projects. I was fortunate to be able to speak to both Fabian and our friend David about their beliefs on education. And, after several weeks of interviewing and collecting information, I was finally able to present my project.

Through studying education, I realized that every part of society is based on the culture of that specific society. Education as well. In my society at home, education is a priority. Many people believe that education leads to success, and as a result, we study hard in school. School comes first, work comes after the school day. Yet here, there are different priorities. I visited a night school in Pisac. Before my visit, it had never occured to me that school could be at night. Yet it made perfect sense. The students of all ages worked in the market all day and then after work, their priority, they could attend school. At the same school, I got to visit a beading class. While I was expecting to see a math class or a science class, I was astounded by the concentration and skill that beading took. Designs and steps were written across the white board, and the girls were beading such complex designs. In their society, beading could get them very far.

I also learned that sadly education and culture don´t always merge perfectly. Sometimes, only one or the other is possible. For example, Fabian moved his family from Nacion Qeros so that they could receive a better formal education. However, by gaining a better education, he had to sacrifice his strong culture in Qeros. Some choose to sacrifice education for culture. I met an American family that moved to Pisac for six months with their two girls, 11 and 13, so that the girls could learn about Peruvian culture. Although the girls learned Spanish and things about Andean culture that they could never learn from a book in America, the mother felt that they were not getting the standard American education and supplemented their education with Shakespeare and social studies. Education and culture are both important. It´s all about the balance.

I can´t believe we are going home in a few days. Although I am sad to leave this magical places and the incredible people whom I´ve met, I am excited to go home with new knowledge. From now on, the wilderness will seem more alive to me. I will cherish wild spaces more, and I will find more time for silence. I will also continue to learn in school while learning about other cultures. I will strive to find balance in my life, just like I´ve found on this trip.

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Peru: Sacred Mountains 4 week, Summer 2011

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A Learning Experience

Abbie Spector,Peru: Sacred Mountains 4 week, Summer 2011

Description

I am rarely alone in my life. And when I am, there is always something going on. If I´m reading in my room, someone is doing the dishes downstairs. If I´m taking a walk on the street, cars are honking. And even when I´m hiking with my fellow Dragones, we are playing games and singing. […]

Posted On

07/25/11

Author

Abbie Spector

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    [post_date_gmt] => 1970-01-01 00:00:00
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Three days ago we woke up at Fabien´s (our Andean guide for our treck) house. We had come in the night before after our seven trek. We taught his kids ring around the rosy, changing some of the words to spanish, and singing it about 18 times before we got tired and had to sit down. Then after a hardy dinner of rice and lentils, we climbed into our sleeping bags and settled in for the night. The next morning we woke up, ate aburnt concoction that Ihna and Abbie decided to make, packed ourbig packs and piled in to a wooden bed ofa truckfor thefour hour journy to nacion q´erous (the place where we were going to do a homestay). Although bumpy, and a little cold, the ride was awesome. In between sleeping, eating, and singing along to Japhy playing themandolin, I saw some amazing views that only can be described as breathtaking. As I snuggled in between Ihna and a girl around our age from nacion q´erous, I couldn´t help but think ¨how could we get more rugid then this?¨. I was soon to find out.

As our ride continued, the turns became sharper, the mountain become steeper, and the path become snowier. All of a sudden we came to a full stop and Francisco, Annalease, the driver, and some other people on the truck got out, shovels in hand. After about a half-an-hour, and 20 songs later, Francisco came back into the truck to inform us that we all needed to help clear the rode of snow or else we would not be able to continue. We all bundled up in our alpaca sweaters and gloves and jumped out of the truck to help. After we had cleared a good portion of the road we all went to the back of the truck and started pushing. The truck made it a hundred feet or so and then stopped in a snow bank. We cleared more of the road and the girls pulled on a rope that had been attached to the front, as the guys pushed from the back. The carmoved another hundred feet and again and got stuck in a snow bank. This cycle of clearing, pulling,pushing, getting pushed into thesnow and hit with snowballs continued foranother two hours.Aswe all become a little bit more tired and cold the pass came intoview.We were soclose to making it over the mountain andto starting ourdecent down into the small village.

Just as we prepared for one final round of pulling and pushing,theleaders called us overfor a meeting.Theysaid thatthe sun was about to go down and we wouldnt be able to get there for another houror so, and when we did reach nacionq´erousit would be to late for a homestay tonight.Thedecision to turn back or continuedwas layed on the students to decide.We all wayed the pros and cons, discussing the risks to continueor go back.After many votes and some tears, we decided it would best toturn aroundand goback toFabiens house forthe two nights that we were supposed to beat our homestay.Everybodypulled one final time to get the truck up to the passso that it could turn around.Everybody got back on the truck and weslowlystarted to go down hill. I was fortunateenough to sit in the front with Abbie and Francisco. In addition to not being cold and having some great convorsation,theopportunity allowedme to see the view as we drove back. It was amazing, unlike anythingI had ever seen before.

As I gaized out into thesetting sun behind the mountains, I thought to myself how awesomeour day had just been.How this one day had summed up everything that dragons had talked about before the trip. Rugid travel, making imformed group decisions, and being a leader. Although I have been extremely ecstatic about being on the trip this entire time, this one day really showed me how amazing this trip is and how happy I am being here. As we like to say on our trip multiple times a day ¨we are soo rugged!¨

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Peru: Sacred Mountains 4 week, Summer 2011

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A day in the life of a dragon

Abby Gordon,Peru: Sacred Mountains 4 week, Summer 2011

Description

Three days ago we woke up at Fabien´s (our Andean guide for our treck) house. We had come in the night before after our seven trek. We taught his kids ring around the rosy, changing some of the words to spanish, and singing it about 18 times before we got tired and had to sit […]

Posted On

07/25/11

Author

Abby Gordon

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On a surprisingly difficult 5 hour solo in the Andean wilderness, we reflected on a few questions the instructors prompted us with. Among inspiring quotes andprompts about the meaning of life, one of these questions was "What does wilderness & wild spaces mean to me and why are they important to my life?" This was not something I had ever thought about. The wildernessis always there, a mile or so from my backyard. It{s there if I have the hankering to go for a hike or decide to take my dog for a walk. That was about the extent of my thinking on the subject, at least before I was left out on a hilltop with absolutely nothing else to do but think.

So what does the wild mean?

The wilderness means freedom to me. The freedom to go any direction I please.This means awhole 360 degrees, not just left, right, or straight. The freedom to think and wonder. To take as much time as I please and just ponder things, with only the sun as a watch. The freedom to live alongside of Earth and not just tocope with it. To give and take. It means the opportunity for authentic adventure, not virtual or industrial. It means taking chances and learning to deal with the outcome. It means living only with needs for survival, not apparent needs dictated to us by billboards and TV commercials. It means being an animal like we were born, not a human who has learned to separate himself from the natural world. Wilderness provides an escape that, without, we would be trapped by expectations, brand names, and to-do lists. In our everday lives, we are constantly being influenced by friends, family, and society in general. We are told what to think, wear, and become. We are always either striving for something or rebelling against it. All of these influences push us farther and farther away from our natural self.However, in nature we are only driven by needs of survival and the beauty that surrounds us. We are able to look inwards and discover what our natural thoughts are, uninhibited by society that usually encroaches upon our every thought. Of course, our minds are still blurred by memories of the past, worries of the future, and trivial things of the present, but wilderness at least gives us the option to reflect back on our natural self. Maybe it{s purely the fact that nature gives us time, something that is so hard to find in our hectic lives. Without appointments, schedules, and due dates, we have a freedom so rare.

This time was so completely foreign to me, I was at a loss of what to do. For one of the first times in my life there were no outer distractions excpet for the natural beauty surrounding me.

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Peru: Sacred Mountains 4 week, Summer 2011

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Foreign Wild Spaces

Annie Miller,Peru: Sacred Mountains 4 week, Summer 2011

Description

On a surprisingly difficult 5 hour solo in the Andean wilderness, we reflected on a few questions the instructors prompted us with. Among inspiring quotes andprompts about the meaning of life, one of these questions was "What does wilderness & wild spaces mean to me and why are they important to my life?" This was […]

Posted On

07/25/11

Author

Annie Miller

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Traveling is like plucking a chicken. You begin with an animal fat with the volume of its richly textured feathers. Immediately you are struck by the colorful appearance. Stripping away the layers one by one, you begin your search for the substance and meat. The finished product is bare; not beautiful and decorated, but raw and with a purpose.

By removing ourselves from our home, family, and friends, we undergo a similar transformation. We live covered in the bright plumage of the things that define us in our daily routines at home. Our appearance, aquantainces, and education are the things that people see and internalize first. We depend on this, almost entirely forgetting about the core substance beneath the layers of embellishment. Throughout the course, we slowly shed the feathers. We find ourselves in completely unfamiliar places, anonymous to the cities and mountains surrounding us. We begin to stop thinking of ourselves in terms of where we come from or our accomplishments. The only thing left which we can focus on is the meat. We realize that this is the only constant we can rely on; the core that doesn´t change no matter where or when we are. We try to feed this by pushing ourselves into the unknown and the uncomfortable, testing the boundaries of our ability. We write in our journals and take pictures so that when we return, we can recall this raw sense of independence. With three days of the trip left, we cling to this as tightly as possible. When we return, it´s understood that our layer of feathers awaits us. However, now we have the ability to look beyond this.

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Peru: Sacred Mountains 4 week, Summer 2011

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Plucking the Chicken

Charlotte McCary,Peru: Sacred Mountains 4 week, Summer 2011

Description

Traveling is like plucking a chicken. You begin with an animal fat with the volume of its richly textured feathers. Immediately you are struck by the colorful appearance. Stripping away the layers one by one, you begin your search for the substance and meat. The finished product is bare; not beautiful and decorated, but raw […]

Posted On

07/25/11

Author

Charlotte McCary

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