Thursday, March 15, 2018

Day 8-9 - Peru

We spent our last two days in the city of Cusco, the capital of the Incan Empire! This city is at such a high elevation that it takes some time working up to the altitude.  The city sits at 11,000 feet up! In the city, we spent time learning how the cocoa grown in the jungles of Peru is used to make chocolate that is shipped out of Peru! Everyone got to make their own tray of chocolates and flavor them with mix-ins such as oreo, coffee, sea salt, marshmallows, cinnamon, chili, cloves, and nuts!

We had traditional Peruvian meals while in the city, and enjoyed shopping in the local markets for Alpaca sweaters, jewelry, hats, bags, and other goods while enjoyed freshly squeezed juice smoothies while we wandered up and down the aisles.  On top of shopping, we also took time to go to the highest point in Cusco city. At this point, there is a gigantic statue of Jesus that displays the influence that the Spanish conquerors have had on the city by forcing the Catholic religion on the original culture of the area.  Because it is the highest point of the city, the view was amazing!

For our closing activity in Peru, we did what is called "Rustic Ties". As a group, we stood in a circle and went around discussing what we used to think and how our experience in Peru had changed our perceptions of things! It was amazing to see how much had changed for so many of us!  Lastly, we each were given a locally made bracelet that was made with Alpaca yarn.  As we went around the circle, we shared our favorite experience with the person who's wrist we tied the bracelet on.  Although the trip was coming to a close, we all became so much closer with each other after all of our shared experiences! 

Day 7 - Peru

After seeing Macchu Picchu yesterday, we were wondering what else could be so awesome on the trip.  We only had to wait a few hours into our morning to find out! We were going mountain climbing and zip-lining today, and we were about to be challenged! We all put on our gear and were ready to take on the mountain.  We didn't realize we would be climbing 2,000 feet directly up the side of a flat rockface! We climbed up the rocks having to shimmy sideways, cross over suspended rope bridges, and encouraged each other along the way! We were amazed at the views we encountered on the way up!

After we reached the top of our climb, we got to enjoy the zip-lining down! It took 6 zip-lines to get back to the base of the mountain, and some were partner zips to increase the speed! It was so exhilarating!

On our drive back to Cusco, we stopped at a small shop that made textiles as the Inca used to during the hey-day of their empire.  The women showed us how the Inca used natural dyes to take the white alpaca fur and turn it into vibrant and beautiful colors! Then how they would turn the yarn into amazing blankets, shawls, and other textiles!

Day 6 - Peru

This morning started early! We began with our walk to the base of the Inca Trail that would lead us up to Macchu Picchu.  There are 2,000 steps carved into the mountainside that we hiked in basically a vertical line! It went straight up!  We need a few breaks along the way, but eventually reached the top and were ready to enter into Macchu Picchu.

We toured the beautiful, historic city that was "discovered" by American Hiram Bigham.  The city was amazing to see in person.  The views from the top of the mountain, as well as, the planning the Inca did to line up the city with the winter solstice's sun rise was innovative considering it was on the top of a mountain and they didn't have any tools! They simply used stronger rocks to shape weaker rocks and build all of the buildings! We learned that Macchu Picchu was still under construction when it was abandoned, and that the emperor that requested its construction, Pachacuti, was said to be the best and most revered emperor of empire.

Day 5 - Peru

We left Pacchar early in the morning to drive to a mountain top near the town Ollantaytambo. We got on all the the safety equipment and were ready to mountain bike back into the valley and take in all of the spectacular views along the way!

After reaching the city center, we grabbed a quick lunch before catching the train to Aguas Calientes, the base camp of Macchu Picchu.  We wandered around the town enjoying Peruvian donuts and the markets before grabbing a quick dinner and heading to the hotel.  We would be hiking up to Macchu Picchu tomorrow!

Day 3-4 in Peru

We worked on our community service projects on these days.  We were working to move rocks to begin preparation of creating a flat service for a water reservoir that would hole 100,000 liters and provide fresh drinking water to 3 communities in the Sacred Valley.  We also got to witness a typical Incan sacrifice to the "Pacchamama" or Mother Earth from our guide Raoul so that our project would be successfully completed.  He is from the Sacred Valley and had to study for 5 years to become a certified guide and expert on the Inca! We were all able to participate and supply the offering with our positive energy and hopes for the project!

Once we finished our service for the day, Raoul led us to an Incan temple (and up a LOT of stairs!) He shared the history of how the sun was a big factor in where the Inca built their temples since the reflection of sunlight was revered.  Afterwards, we returend to Pacchar to have on final dinner with our host-families before leaving the next morning.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Day 7 - Costa Rica Ecology Project

We were up at 3:30am to take a bus to the airport to catch our early flight. We said good-bye to some members of our group as they had separate flights that would take them home. We had a long layover in Atlanta and we were able to pass the time by playing UNO and Phase 10. 

A game of UNO to waste time at the airport. 

We finally got into Boston around 8:30pm. As a few of us drove back to NHS campus, I was able to reflect on our amazing time together. This group was able to connect positively, and I believe partly because we were not able to use any technology during the week. We were able to talk and interact together. It was sad to leave Costa Rica, but even harder to say good-bye to each other as we went on our separate ways for spring break. This trip truly opened our eyes about conservation and sustainability. We connected with the environment and the culture of Costa Rica. Thanks to EPI and our guides, Stanley and Marin, as well as the researchers at LAST who taught us so many research skills.

Day 6 - Costa Rica Ecology Project

We packed our bus and drove 30 minutes to zip line. Our last full day in Costa Rica was a day to have fun. We took a beautiful out-door tram ride through the jungle to the top of the mountain. Unfortunately, we don't have any pictures during our zip line adventure because we didn't want to lose our cameras. 

Group picture before we go zip-lining.
 After our adventure, we boarded the bus again because we had another 1.5 hours to reach San Jose. We stopped along the way to walk over a bridge and check out the amazing crocodiles. We learned from Stanley that the crocodiles have been attracted to this specific area because tourists drop food from bridge. It is against the law in Costa Rica to feed wild animals.

Ollie checks out the crocodiles hanging out below the bridge.

These crocodiles have been attracted to this area because tourists drop food from the bridge.

We made another stop at a local fruit stand to try some of the native fruit that we can not find back in the United States. 

Ms Moreau enjoying some fruit. 

 When we reached our hotel in San Jose, we gathered one final time to share reflections of the week. Stanley and Marin handed EPI diplomas to each of us. However, we received another person's diploma, and each of us had to get up and speak about this person then handed that person their diploma. Our diplomas from EPI represent everything we have learned this week about conservation and ecology.

Francesca gives a shout out as she presents an EPI diploma to a member of our group.

We received our diplomas from EPI for successfully completing their curriculum. 

Day 5 - Costa Rica Ecology Project

The group left Osa Peninsula by bus and traveled for about 3.5 hours to Esterillos Este, Costa Rica. We stopped for lunch along the way. When we got to our hotel, we took some time to swim before we met to work on our research projects. 

A game of Marco Polo during our free time. 
The groups had 2 hours to work together to analyze their data, then write out their investigation on a poster that would be presented to the larger group later that night.

Working on our research projects. 

Marin discusses with the boys how to analyze their data. 

Organizing their research project. 

Phoebe writes out the research project onto a poster that will be shared later.

Vadim, Ollie and JP work well together on their project.

Carla, Manuel, Nikki, Jae Bin and Yutang process their data and write it out on their poster.
Each group got 10 minutes to present their research projects. This was followed by questions from the group. The following are the research questions each group designed:

Vadim, Ollie, and JP: Is there a larger population of hermit crabs located closer to the mangroves or further from the mangroves? 

Phoebe, Francesca and Subhana: Is there a correlation between the number of snorkel roots of red mangroves and the distance to the ocean? 

Jae Bin, Nikki, Yutang, Manuel and Carla: Is there a correlation between the ration of the carps and the ratio of the plastron of a black sea turtle and a hawksbill sea turtle? 

Vadim, Ollie and JP pose for a picture after presenting their investigation.

Phoebe, Francesca and Subhana presented their research project to the group.

Yutang, Jae Bin, Nikki, Manuel and Carla presented their project.

After the group presentations, Stanley and Marin led a sustainability activity that got the group to think about how to incorporate different stakeholders into an agreed upon use of land that would sustain the community. The students got involved in a healthy debate.

A late night lesson activity about sustainability. 

Day 4 - Costa Rica Ecology Project

Our groups swapped jobs today at LAST organization. Ms Moreau's group worked on the mangrove restoration project, while my group worked with sea turtles. We started by loading our boat and taking it out into the bay. The boat stopped in the middle of the bay, and we had to jump out into the water to help set up the very long net that would catch the sea turtles. Once we finished, the boat took us to a deserted beach, while Mag went back out into the boat and waited to see if a turtle was caught in the net. We waited patiently on the beach. When the boat approached us, we were ready to help bring the turtle to land and take measurements. We took turns holding the fins, taking measurements, and writing the data down. We were very lucky and got to see 2 Hawksbill turtles, 1 black sea turtle and 1 green sea turtle. While we were waiting on the beach, we had a lesson about the different types of sea turtles, and conservation issues related to them. We also had some free time where we collected coconuts. At the end of the day, one of the turtles we caught had to be brought back to LAST campus because it was sick. It was not a fun job, but we helped with putting the net away properly, which took us about 45 minutes. We were rewarded with ice cream. This was our last night on the Osa Peninsula. The next day would be a travel day for us. 

Group waiting on the beach for the boat to bring in sea turtles.

Group brings to shore our first sea turtle. 

Francesca and Ollie hold the flippers of a black sea turtle. 

JP collects data of the black sea turtle. 

When we weren't collecting data, we had some free time to open coconuts. 

Francesca enjoying her coconut. 

Vadim and Phoebe hold the Hawksbill sea turtle off the ground so we can find its weight.

Ollie helps collect data of this sea turtle. 

The group collects data on our third sea turtle of the day. 
Releasing the sea turtle back to the ocean. 

Group picture after our last day at LAST campus.