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World Perspectives Program Blog

Final Thoughts from Piscacucho

By: Ethan Parker, `19 & Oliver Diamond, `19

As we prepared to leave Piscacucho the next day, we spent our final day continuing and finishing our service work at the school. Over the past few days, we have made steady progress in crafting bookshelves for the classrooms. After cutting, sanding, and drilling the wood components together, we painted a base layer of paint. Today, we put the final touches on the shelves and moved them into the classrooms. Additionally, we put a fresh coat of lacquer on the picnic tables and benches in the school’s outdoor dining area and painted the concrete wall red for a vivid touch. We also re-painted, re-arranged, and solidified the fence posts bordering the school’s courtyard. Although we accomplished quite a lot at the school, we all understand that what we gave to the community pales in comparison to what we learned. Working in Piscacucho meant we were travelers, and not tourists. Earlier in the trip our WLS instructor, Johan, explained to us the fundamental difference between a tourist and a traveler. A tourist observes a community, while a traveler seeks a more complete understanding of the community by interacting directly with it. Several times each day, trains barrel through Piscacucho a mere ten feet away from most houses, packed full of tourists traveling to Machu Picchu. Many have their camera pressed against the window of the train, capturing video of passing-by towns, people, houses, and farms. Although these people have video or photos of Piscacucho, this footage cannot give them the knowledge and experiences that we have been able to pursue. To truly understand Piscacucho, one must step outside of the train, in front of the glass, and live alongside the community members. By allowing us to live inside their homes and follow their lifestyles, Piscacucho allowed us to be travelers. I would like to thank Piscacucho for giving us this opportunity.

We ended our homestay experience with a giant meal known as Pachamanca. Pachamanca means “earth oven”, a perfect description for the process of making the food. We assisted in the construction of a rock oven, although during the construction process we had many doubts about the ability of this structure to cook anything. This doubt was linked to our lack of knowledge around the actual cooking methods, which involved heating the rocks with a fire for almost 2 hours, then proceeding to pile meat and vegetables among layers of smoldering rocks. The end result shocked all of us who had doubted this method, with bins full of tender meats and vegetables. Our entire group along with our homestay families and many other children attended the feast providing a perfect situation to end our visit. Joining in a traditional meal with many of the town’s inhabitants that we had grown close to perfectly reflected the trips thrusts for cultural immersion. Nevertheless, in thinking about our assumptions and doubts as we constructed the rock oven, we realize that we have more assumptions that have yet to be challenged and lessons yet to be learned.

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Comments (4)

  1. Diana Galik
    June 22, 2017 at 1:04 pm · Reply

    Safe travels guys! We are looking forward to seeing you all and hearing everything you have experienced first hand. So glad you had this opportunity to step off the fast moving train and experience life as locals.

  2. Michael Diamond
    June 23, 2017 at 2:27 am · Reply

    Sounds like you guys learned a lot from this trip, and I’m sure your help in the school and the connections you built with your host families were much appreciated. It’s a good distinction to explore – between a tourist and a traveler – these are a set of experiences that will shape you forever. Reminds me of the famous quote attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes — “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” Can’t wait to see you back home … and hear about all these adventures in person! Travel safe. Enjoy Machu Picchu!

  3. Benny
    June 23, 2017 at 3:51 pm · Reply

    Sounds incredible. Thanks for sharing. Can’t wait to hear more.

  4. Melissa Parker
    June 23, 2017 at 4:31 pm · Reply

    Wow, what an incredible experience for all of you! We cannot wait to hear more and wish everyone safe, easy travels to Machu Picchu. Enjoy!!

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