Trip to Peru

November 4, 2007
By
This past summer, I had the opportunity to travel to Peru with twenty other students from my class and five middle school teachers. We spent ten days traveling around the country as a group of tourists, learning about the Peruvian culture and the issues that Peru has today. The trip changed my perspective on how I live my everyday life with cars and dish washers, here in the States, and even tough it is a huge cliche, I now understand how easy our lives are.

During my first hour in Lima, Peru I realized what kind of lives that many of the Peruvian people were living. During the thirty minute bus ride from the airport to our hotel on the very edge of Lima, I saw more homeless people than I had ever seen in my life. The big city created such a contrast with my little old resort town back in Idaho. In Sun Valley, I might see one homeless person every couple weeks, but here, they were lining the streets shouting out in Spanish and waving sticks at our tour bus. One man even drew up the courage to tap on the bus window as we were stopped at a traffic light, causing the girls sitting in that particular seat to shriek. The impact that situation had on my life was not noticed until I got back home and saw how few impoverished people my home had.

When I reached my hotel in Lima, I was already wishing to be anywhere but there. The air was heavy with humidity, and I could feel the moisture condensing on my forehead. After seeing the streets in Lima, I wasn’t very optimistic about the quality of out hotel. As we pulled up in front of it, I noticed the sign. It was a Best Western. It was my impression after the bus ride, that all of Lima was poor and run-down, but our hotel looked just like any other hotel, only lacking decor and a TV. That struck me even harder, because it was the first time I noticed the huge differences of social classes. If you walked east from my hotel, you were in a edgy neighborhood with homeless people lining the streets, but if you walked west, you came to a huge, glamorous outdoor shopping center with American designer jeans, and Italian sun glasses. The shopping center jutted out over a huge cliff, with the heavily polluted ocean spraying the rocks below. The people there were an elite class, and there wasn’t a homeless person in sight. What really struck me was the Hooters where, by some odd chance, we ended up eating lunch.

By the end of our third day, I was happy to be leaving the city and taking a three am red eye flight to Cuzco. To put it my way, I’ve been up that late plenty of times, but never that early. From Cuzco, we took a four hour train ride to literally the most beautiful place I’ve seen. I’ve lived in the Rocky Mountains for most of my life and visited the Roman Colosseum and Forum, and I’ve found many a mountain lake while hiking, but I’ve never seen anything of this caliber. The town of Aguas Calientes is situated at the bottom of a deep valley with steep mountains covered in trees surrounding it. From Aguas Calientes it is a twenty minute bus ride to the ruins of Maccu Picchu. You reach the top of a mountain and climb almost two hundred steps, by the end of which most are very winded due to the altitude of ten thousand feet. As you walk around a corner your breath is robbed once again. Before you is the Incan city of Maccu Piccu, where long a go an Incan king fled to when his kingdom was threatened by Spaniards. The stonework is perfect, and you can almost see the children running through the narrow alleyways. To look out on that beautiful place has a calming effect on you as you breathe the clean mountain air. We spent hours listening to our tour guide explain how the ancient Incan culture had rubbed off on modern Peruvians and learned how to identify the people that have Incan roots (the nose is a dead give away). The Incans worked with impossibly primitive tools to construct one of the best preserved cities of the ancient world.

That trip opened my eyes to a beautiful culture, so rich with details, that in the ten days I was there, I only got to learn about a fraction of it. I will always be interested about the goings on in Peru, because the country now has a special place in my heart. Late last summer, there was a huge earthquake in Lima, a little over a month after we left, and my thoughts immediately turned to the thousands of homeless and wealthy people alike that suffered. It is such a beautiful place, and I hope to be returning there in the near future to learn more about the ancient people of Peru, and those living in the streets at this very second.





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