Friday, July 1, 2011

Groton Peru Day 4

As Craig shared with you all, we began on Tuesday morning by rafting down the Urubumba River. The students enjoy the rafting obviously, but I am pleased that we have kept this element in the program because the rafting allows the students to see Ancco Pacha, where we work, and Ollantaytambo, where we live, from a different perspective. We then take the kids up Pinkuylluna to the Incan granaries, and here the students are able to look down on all of Ollantaytambo; they can see the town’s central plaza, the river, the sun temple, the agricultural spaces, and many can spot the tops of their host family’s houses. And yesterday we began the day with a tour of the remarkable Inca ruins here in Ollanta, which house the sun temple. Yet another perspective from which to view the town below and a chance now to look across to Pinkuylluna to the granaries where we gathered days before.

Visiting these locations, we try to emphasize the benefits of coming to know a place by seeing it from multiple perspectives—from the river and from the mountains, left and right. We foreground this idea, for it serves to illustrate what the whole experience is offering our students – a chance to gain new perspectives about themselves, their peers, about their homelands and the developing world, about what community and service mean.

In our last blog we shared with you some of the students’ reflections about the first active day of work in Ancco Pacha. We also asked students a few days ago to reflect upon what new perspectives they are gaining about themselves during their time in Peru. A number of students suggested that they had previously regarded themselves as being very picky about food and fastidious about personal hygiene, yet a few days into their stay here they were realizing that they were quite comfortable without a daily shower and that they were less picky eaters than they had previously imagined. A few students also reflected upon how they had regarded themselves as fairly reserved when meeting other people, but were realizing that they could be outgrowing and were, in fact, quite adept in making connections with member of their host families. Some are realizing that their Spanish is not as good as they thought it to be and others are realizing how they can make themselves understood and understand others without much Spanish.

We also asked them to share with each other any new perspectives that they are gaining about life beyond the self, and their observations were quite remarkable. Many talked about how they were being led to wonder about how they define happiness and success, as they recognize how joyful and content so many of the people they were meeting were—people with so few resources and so little opportunity in comparison to all of us. Students commented on how they were becoming more conscious of their own privilege through their time in Ollanta, and one student then noted that while he recognized his privilege, he was seeing how attractive this lifestyle is, how appealing in its simplicity and sincerity. Others commented on how they were recognizing the value of community and tradition in new ways. I was particularly interested by these observations because, of course, at Groton School we try to emphasize the importance of community, yet sometimes we all need to see something from a different perspective to be able to understand the idea more deeply. I am reminded again about how these experiences abroad are so valuable not only as a means of stretching our students and exposing them to what is unfamiliar but also as a means of strengthen our School community.

Just as our students have been moved by their host families’ hospitality and warmth, Craig and I are continually struck by your childrens’ openness, flexibility, and kindness. Here in Ollanta they are representing Groton School and your families in the most honorable ways, and we thank you again for allowing them to live and work with us in Peru this summer.


Nancy Hughes


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