In February, four students and TNS Teacher Marylyn Wentworth spent over two weeks in Peru during a recent Intensive. (They had spent the first semester learning about Peru’s history and culture, and planning the trip.) The group was based in the city of Cusco, which was the historic capital of the Inca Empire from the 13th until the 16th-century. Each morning the students were immersed in learning Spanish at a Spanish language school; during the afternoons they assisted with the school’s after school program for children living in poverty. And of course they visited Machu Picchu and other amazing sites in and around the Andes. Below are excerpts from their extensive journal entries about this wonderful trip.

FROM MARYLYN: The air feels like warm blankets at a good massage spa. The boys are like puppies. They were up and dressed at 7:15, raring to go. We arrived at 2 a.m. so 7:15 feels REALLY early to me.  Their enthusiasm and eagerness is quite inspiring. This is the beginning of a journal we shall write daily to follow our learning path.

FROM PAYCE: The air feels so humid sometimes I start drowning instead of breathing. Sweat is a constant. Our first mission was to exchange US currency for sols (the Peruvian currency). Right after we go buy some groceries and get partly lost in the market. We are ambushed by some very persistent fish sales women. They don’t take “no” or “no hablo espanol” for an answer. Thinking that maybe if they push hard enough we will magically know how to speak Spanish. After a while Marylyn saves us from the interaction and for the rest of the trip I stay as close to Marylyn as possible.

FROM TYLER: Well, I’m in Peru, oddly enough I don’t feel different. I certainly can tell I’m in a foreign country. But I can’t say I feel any different, simply a new place to explore. The colors are vibrant and the people are friendly.  I’ve never met people so open to conversation, making me realize the way most tourists are treated in the states is wrong. Rather than shunning me when I sound like a confused American. They ask around for someone who also speaks English to help you rather than brushing you off as if you weren’t there. All together, this day in Peru has changed my life for the better coming to the realization I have it much better than others, giving me a greater understanding of what truly matters.

FROM WALKER: I awoke in a peaceful state, full of aspirations and enthusiasm for our travels to the ancient city of Cusco. I stretched my legs, and slowly descended down the ladder of my bunk bed. Walking out onto the balcony, I looked up to the sky, then down to the sweet little patio of the hostel. I meandered down the steps to the patio, pulling up a chair to the table with a bottle of water, popped my headphones in, and started my favorite Grateful Dead live set, Hartford 77. As Jerry’s melodic riffs coursed through my heart and mind, I reflected on my time so far and what is to come, for I know times like these are the ones which influence me the most; seeing different parts of nature and mankind, broadens my view of life and helps me to be even more positive and respectful.

FROM PAYCE: Our four hour Spanish class was absolutely wonderful. I learned so much in Spanish it was amazing. Tyler reported that he had learned more in these hours than he had learned taking Spanish class for years at Marshwood. Tyler was wracked with temptation the whole day it seems by the abundance of stray dogs. Every Time Tyler would spot one we would have to hold him back or else he would rub his hands all over the animals and as a result have any disease they were holding all over his hands. He is also in the process of fighting the urge to tell every street artist he sees that he will buy their work in less than an hour. He recently told a shopkeeper next door that he would buy her painting and as a consequence we have to hide him every time we walk past her shop. After that besides a very sunburned nose it looked like Tyler had a good day

Walker was the unfortunate victim of the group to fall prey to altitude sickness. His day was filled with coca tea and pill swallowing. Aidan seems to be have resisted the temptations and the sickness of Cusco and is the only reason Tyler and I did not get lost in the city at least 5 times. Aiden seems to be the only student to keep his head on straight. I’m glad he is here to help me not get lost forever in Cusco.

My day was great. I am so dazzled by everything we see in Cusco. I bought a little flute sort of thing today and am finding great difficulty trying to play it. I’m not sure what kind of instrument it is but I will keep trying to figure it out.

FROM AIDEN: Today Payce, Tyler, Jim (guide) and I went to a volunteer children’s shelter, I learned one thing that I really am awful at Spanish and have no idea what the kids are saying. Being around a culture that almost always speaks Spanish can be quite difficult sometimes, but also it’s a lot easier to pick up on things as we’re in an American Spanish class. As soon as class is over you go right back to speaking English, here there is no English… All in all this trip has been amazing so far and I can’t wait to see one of the seven wonders of the world this weekend, Machu Picchu!

FROM MARYLYN: Machu Pichu does not fare well with words as it is more than what is seen, but the feel of ancient spirits and a strong connection between humans, the earth and all creation is pretty powerful. The mountains rise up like gigantic monster teeth softened by green from the cloud forest ecology. The bus that takes people there takes 25 minutes to switch back and forth up an impossibly steep mountain.

Then, there is this beautiful, inspiring place that the Inca built. Our wonderful guide Fermin, was a gentle treasure chest of lore and knowledge.  We learned so much it is hard to know where to begin. I will not tell all, as I know all the boys have things they want to tell you. If someone thatched all the roofs in Machu Pichu, people could move right in. There are water ducts, bathrooms, terraces to grow food with irrigation, llamas, ventilated food storage buildings, the most beautiful stone work I have ever seen, all of which is still standing after 500 some odd years of being there alone and abandoned.

Next week we begin journaling in Spanish and answering 4 questions, in Spanish every day: What did you learn ­­­today about Cusco or Peru? What did you learn about yourself?  Who did you talk to in Spanish today and why? What questions do you have that you would like answered? We navigate surprisingly well in Spanish around town. I am going to sleep to the sound of the brass band playing salsa up the hill with a vigorous drummer to match my heartbeat.

FROM PAYCE: Hey, it’s your mad Payce again, giving you another unnecessary update on my pan flute practice. It seems that I bought the wrong pan flutes twice so I got a third one and am cursing the other two.  Marylyn and I went to a pan flute lesson downstairs and it was all in Spanish so I understood… um…. a little of it. This means, however, that I must have gotten the right one third time around because it sounds really nice. Saturday we are going to a concert with the man who gave the lessons playing in it. Can you believe that we will be leaving in like a few days?

FROM WALKER:  Well, today is our final day in this ancient city of the Incas, known as Cusco, where unique architecture like I have never seen before lies around every bend of the wonky cobblestone streets. In our time here we have done many things; from long hard hours of Spanish classes, volunteering at Club Corazon where we work and play with children of poverty, checking out different markets with uncommon clothing and food, meeting those native to this land, and lastly hiking one of the seven wonders of the world:  Machu Picchu. Each of these activities has had a profound effect on all of us, in an array of different ways, helping to shape who we become. For me, the biggest aspect of myself I have discovered while on this trip has been how important traveling the world and seeing different cultures means to me; for I wish to educate myself through experiences in life, see the worst and best and compare. Only by experiencing different cultures and people do I think I will truly mature into the person I wish to be.