Saturday, June 27, 2009

Saludos from Ollantaytambo

We arrived in Lima early Thursday morning and met Lindsay who was waiting patiently at the airport. After a short nap and breakfast, we started the day with introductory meetings in our On Assignment teams. Archaeology and Ancient Culture students were introduced to their subject with a visit to Huaca Pucllana, a mud-brick temple constructed by the Lima Civilization in 500 AD. It was exciting to see archaeologists actively excavating the site. They told us that only five days ago they found remains of a human sacrifice! Photography students began with a meeting and slide show about learning how to control all the settings on the camera and an overview of what being ´On Assignment´ entails.

The group spent the afternoon visiting some of Lima´s most famous sites, including the Parque del Amor, a cliffside coastal prominade where locals lounge and tourists fly by, paragliding on the coastal wind currents. Photo students captured the commotion of the historic Plaza de Armas while the archaeologists were intrigued by the the catacombs of the Monasterio de San Francisco, where the remains of 25,000 people have been sorted and arranged into eerie designs. A local guide walked us through the fascinating private collection in the Museo Rafael Larco Herrera, home to some of the most famous and well preserved artifacts of Peru´s many ancient cultures. We finished with a dinner at a local Peruvian-Argentian restaurant.

Yesterday we woke early to catch our flight to Cuzco. Miguel, our local contact, met us at the airport and drove with us to Ollantaytambo, our home for the next 10 days. We walked through ancient Inca streets on our way to lunch where the group tried chicha morada, a local drink made from purple corn. Adjusting to the altitude (2800m/9186ft) wasn´t a problem but we relaxed for the afternoon and finished our orientation activities.

This morning students caught up on sleep or woke early to catch soft morning light with their cameras. A few worked individually with Michael, learning more about the camera´s capabilities. Next, we visited the local museum, CATCO, which opened especially for our group. During lunch at Hearts Cafe we had a chance to meet and speak with the owner Sonia, who runs a local non-governmental organization (NGO) with the profits made from the cafe. Students were happy to have a chance to speak with Sonia about the NGO´s health, education and conservation projects in local mountain communities. After a break from the sun, the we broke into On Assignment teams for special projects. Archaeology and Ancient Culture students spent the afternoon walking through Ollantaytambo on an scavenger hunt where they learned about local foods, exploring Inca city streets and practiced Quechua words from locals. The photo students began with a short critique of the photos from this morning and yesterday before breaking off into small groups to continue shooting around town.

With all the action we can´t believe we have only been here in Peru for three days! We are excited to get active tomorrow on a rafting adventure and on Monday to meet with our National Geographic Expert, Peter Frost.

Hasta luego,

Michael and Lindsay