Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Longest Journey - Day 2

So as I mentioned on Day 1, the 9 of us packed into this small pick up truck and headed into the depths of the Andes. Before I go on I want to adjust the mental picture you probably have in your mind. When I say we drove to the villages, this doesn´t mean that we hopped onto a paved highway and just sat back until we arrived at our destination. No, it means we braved the one car width dirt paths that wind around the Andes as they slowly climb toward the peaks. The entire ride you are looking out your window thinking that at any moment you could be going over the edge into the abyss below. For 8 hours we continued up into the Andes, always hoping over the next mountain our destination would appear.

Beside a bit of anxiety, the trip was going well. That is until we reached the little town of Capillas where after the sun had long left us, we found mounds of dirt and rocks blocking the only passage through the village. We spoke to a local resident and he told us it would be 10 days before the road was rebuilt. Of course we could not wait that long so after some ingenious thinking and some expert driving skills from our driver, Oscar, we leveled the dirt enough to be able to make passage through the village. Wow...that was a close one. Another piece of important information is that once the sun goes down in the Andes you have nothing but a freezing cold environment where no one can be found wandering around the town. That is unless a truck full of Gringos is passing through your pueblo.

A couple of times the four guys in the back seat and the two in the bed had to get out and help push the truck up the dirt roads. It was quite an adventure to say the least. I remember constantly trying to comprehend the reality of our situation. It was unlike any experience I have had in all of my previous travels. In addition to the cold you get copious amounts of dust swirled up by the spinning tires. All of our bags were left in thick layers of dust from the trip. Around 9:00 pm we finally arrived to Sangayaico where we would be staying the night and leaving Ben and Steven for the next three weeks. The trip thus far had really allowed all of us to become very close friends and it would be difficult to continue on without the full team present. Upon arriving we ate some bread with cheese at the local restaurant which is really just someones house where food is served. Steven Ramirez who had traveled the entire trip in the bed was nearly frozen and covered in dust. All any of us wanted was just a place to lay down. During dinner, Edwin searched for places for us to stay for the night. The two women got beds in one of the teacher's home, three guys were staying in an open air room, and that left Anthony, Edwin, Oscar and myself searching for somewhere to spend the night. After failing to convince one family we were left sleeping upright in the truck in which we had ridden to the pueblo.

Well I have to head back to Laramarca but I believe I will be back in Ica next weekend and capable of using the internet. Im feeling some sickness coming i hopefully I can fend it off. Take care everyone!

On break in middle of nowhere to cool down car engine with water. Beautiful out here.

Steven and Ben relaxing.

Ramirez building a road.

Early morning fresh session.

Curious little girl.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Before I finish my detailed account of our journey to Laramarca I just wanted to let everyone know about my current state. I arrived to Laramarca on Wednesday. The small, pueblo sits isolated high up in the Andes Mountains. I´m not sure of the exact number of residents but you can walk the town in an hour. I am actually in Laramarca with one of the other interns named Kate. The two of us are being housed in some humble accomodations in the municipal building. Most of the homes are made of adobe bricks and the kids of the village all have red cheeks and aged hands from the intense climate conditions. These conditions include nights where temperatures dip below 30 degrees and days where temperatures skyrocket into the high 80´s. Laramarca is quite impoverished yet the people in the town are hospitable and glad to have us in their small pueblo. The view of the moutains from the town is incredible. On Thursday, I did some exploring of the city and made my way up to the ´mirador´ which sits high above the town giving adventurers an extraordinary 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains. Although they don´t have many of the creature comforts we have come to expect in the US such as hot showers and internet, I am learning to adjust. Things have not always been easy but I have learned to always remember the reason I am here and that is the children of this developing country.

Although I have only been able to spend one day in the school of Laramarca which consists of six classrooms each with its own teacher, I have seen something amazing in the kids who attend this school. I spent Friday morning with the first graders and you should see the potential they possess. They were quickly writing their names, pronouncing simple words, and matching words with their appropriate drawing. Even from just one day I can tell that the XO laptops have brought an excitement to learning that these kids desperately need to justify even coming to school. For the last 45 minutes of class the children got to use the laptops to enhance the lessons they completed during the first half of class.

This weekend we are in Ica which is the nearest city to Laramarca. As I mentioned before Laramarca is not equipped with internet so I will not be able to update my blog for at least a week. This experience is truly making me appreciate everything and everyone that I have and has given me the drive to make a difference in the lives of these children. They are no different than our own children in the USA except that they were born into this world in a different place. They deserve every bit as much of an opportunity to live a decent live as we do. Over the course of the next two weeks Kate and I will be working in the school to help enhance learning using the XO´s and creating a project that the teachers can use to address one major problem the pueblo faces each day.

I love and miss all of you!

Church in Plaza of Laramarca

Kids taking photos using their XO laptops in Plaza of Laramarca


View of Laramarca from Mirador

Proof that God does exist

The Longest Journey - Day 1

Wow...It´s only been a week but I am willing to say this is the most eventful week I have ever experienced in my lifetime. Last Sunday, June 14th, six interns (Steven Cymerman, Anthony Tijero, Steven Ramirez, Kate Voss, Ben Bell and myself) and one representative of the Peruvian Ministry of Education (Norma) set out on a journey that would span four days and an absurd amount of rugged moutain ¨roads¨. Our week of training in Lima had come to a close and all of the interns were being sent out to their deployment sites where we will be for until July 3rd. After a great night out in Lima, the six of us loaded up into cabs and made our way to the bus station where we would catch a ride to a pueblo called Huaytara which resides in the Huancavelica region of Peru. Before leaving the hotel I took a shower. This tidbit of info will play a critical part later on in my story. All of us with luggage in hand made some last minute purchases (*a tip for anyone traveling to South America especially Peru, always have some TP on hand. It will make life much better) and then loaded into the bus. The journey started out with a bang which came as a result of being seated in on the second level and in the front row of a double decker bus. We all had an amazing panoramic view from our seats. The ride took around 5 hours and included an exceptional meal of a local dish called lomo saltado. It is essentially a stir fry of beef, onions, and french fries ontop of rice. The perfect addition to an already great situation. At this point none of us really knew what the future would hold for us.

As we traveled south from Lima we headed into the desert where not much live was found present. The scenery became more bland but this soon changed as we made a quick turn and began east bound into the Andes. I spent last summer in Peru but as the sun went down and the stars came out I soon remembered how beautiful the landscapes of the Peruvian Andes are. The first part of our journey soon came to an end as we got off the bus at the foot of the small pueblo of Huaytara. It seemed a bit strange that the town was so dark as we collected our luggage from the cargo hold beneath the bus. We were quickly informed that the city was without electricity until a unknown time in the near future. We were greeted by a lady from the local municipality who guided us through the darkness to our accomodations for the evening. As we passed through the town we were met with gazing eyes from locals, an action that we have now become accustomed to experiencing. Let´s just say not too many Gringos make it to the parts of Peru where we are now living. Our hostal was a humble building with nothing more than the basic necessities that a shelter should offer. After a quick dropoff of our baggage, we headed to a small restaurant for some late night Peruvian Cuisine. Half of us ate fried trout while the others chose another round of lomo saltado. The restaurant owner, a stocky, fast talking Peruvian gentleman, made sure we were well fed. Following dinner the six of us made our way to a quiet spot to take in all of the beautiful stars overhead and just discuss what we thought of how things were playing out. In the middle of our conversation, the lights suddenly show down on the pueblo below, signaling to us that the electricity had decided to return to Huaytara for the time being. After an hour or so, tired and our stomachs full, we decided to call it a night.

The next morning, with the sun beating intensly down on us, we returned to the same restaurant for a quick bite to eat before meeting with Edwin, a representative of the local branch of the Ministry of Education, who would be coming along with us for the remainder of our journey. Our meeting with Edwin gave us further insight into the sites at which all of us would be staying. We found out internet was unlikely, and cell phone service was probable. At the conclusion of the meeting each of us used the internet for any last minute correspondence that we had and loaded up on any supplies we thought we might need including a lunch to eat on the road. It was at this point that our adventure truly began.

Norma had told us to get our bags and meet back in the main plaza where our transportation would be waiting for us. As we approached the square in bags in toll, we saw two brand new, shiny vans waiting for us to board. As we walked toward them we were intercepted by a Peruvian man named Oscar who informed us that he would be our driver for our trip. Next to him were two older, well used trucks. We assumed at that point our luggage would be thrown in the back of one while all of us would be riding in the other. This was not to be as Oscar told us all nine of us and our luggage would be packed into the small Nissan pickup and driven to our first destination of San Francisco de Sangayaico where we would be dropping of Steven Ramirez and Ben Bell. We were baffled at how this was to be done but as I have come to learn in Peru, nothing is impossible. After about 30 minutes of figuring out how we would be arranged, we began our journey into the depths of the Andes mountain range.

The view from the bus on the way to Huaytara

Our accomodations in Huaytara

Our group with the Director of Education in Huaytara

15 suitcases. 9 people. 1 small pickup truck.

The Journey continues with Day 2

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Miraflores 2

Today, along with William, Kate, and Becky (other interns), I went back to Miraflores to visit and go shopping for some last minute supplies before departing tomorrow. It was so cool to be back in the part of Lima where i spent last year´s summer taking spanish courses. just to back track a little bit. i actually came to miraflores the day of my arrival in lima. i decided to venture back and try to visit the lady with whom i stayed during my time in peru last summer. after negotiating a fair price with a taxi driver i hopped in and ended up getting out at the parque kennedy. this park sits just one block away from the building where i had stayed. after taking it all in i walked over to the building´s front gate only to be greeted by the same doorman who had held the post last year. after finding out Elma was not at home but in the park selling her hand made jewelry, i ventured over to the park. before continuing on to the mini market where i assumed i would find her i was stopped by the scene of some older couples dancing in a circular concrete depression in the park. this is the place where Elma met the man with whom she now lives. i stopped for a couple of minutes and just watched as these couples took pleasure in the simple things in life. i had a overwhelming sense of joy and tranquility come over me as i often do when i travel and just soaked up all of the scenery. one lady stole the show when she used her suave salsa moves to bring the crowd to an abounding round of applause. soon thereafter, i headed toward the market and suprised elma and carlos as they had no idea of my plans to be in peru this summer. it was an extraordinary feeling to be back in miraflores speaking with her seeing as when i left last summer i had no idea i would be back so soon. we caught up on recent happenings in our lives and then i left but not before promising to come back and visit them upon my return to lima in early august.

So today the four of us ate at San Antonio in miraflores, an overwhelming favorite for all of the students in the program last year. the food was just as good as i remembered it being. we were all quite satisfied with what we had ordered and ate until we were content. we then made our way down to larco mar which is a fairly new and quite posh shopping center that was built into the side of the rocks overlooking the coast of peru. the ever present fog in lima obstructed our view of the shorelines however the cool temperatures made for a pleasant walk. we then made our way through miraflores to wong´s (a walmartesque store) where we loaded up on presents for the children such as soccer balls, colored pencils, and markers.

our next stop was a lowes type store called maestro where we picked up some multiplug extension cords to help outfit the schools where we are going. the xo laptops are an excellent tool but making sure they are all charged and capable of being used during classtime is an issue we came across in our trial run on thursday. most classrooms only have a few plugs and the adapter on the xo sometimes limits the amount of xos you can charge at one time. hence the reason for our supply run.

we finally made it back to the hotel around six only to be greeted by a red carpet leading the way into our hotel. come to find out the hotel bolivar is hosting a red bull party tonight. perfect news as tonight will be the last time all of us are together until late july.

This week has been incredible and has really made me eager for the next six weeks during which we will have a chance to make a real impact on the lives of the children of peru. i dont know what the internet situation will be like where we are going so im not sure how often i will be able to update my blog. i will soon know and pass the news along.

que te vaya bien!


¨La Selva No Se Vende¨

On thursday the indigenous people of the jungle regions organized a protest in the plaza de san martin. it just so happens that our hotel resides in the same plaza. so lucky for us after returning from the school and enduring the traffic created by the protests we were able to walk through the middle of the action. here are some pictures to illustrate the events:

Alan Garcia as the Terminator on a sign

No they weren´t protesting for that..its just the flag of the incans

La Plaza de San Martin

Fuera Garcia, coming to a town near you

The protests

Friday, June 12, 2009


I want to start off by saying that I couldn´t find any words to describe all of the ´awe´some events that have occured this week. So Monday morning was the first day of our week long training in cooperation with members of the Peruvian Ministry of Education that is supporting the OLPC effort in Peru. Going into it our group (which consists of 22 of us) knew very little about what we would set out to accomplish during our week of meetings in Lima. That morning we met in the lobby of the Hotel Bolivar, which resides in the center of Lima, and after introducing ourselves to each other made our way to the meeting spot for the duration of the week. The meeting spot is the home of a small startup called Escuelab. They are a center for learning, using, and creating with technology. The head of the organization, Kiko, is a really cool Peruvian guy that also speaks english and german fluently. He has a very intriguing vision for Escuelab and has some good financial backing from some Spanish, Danish, and Peruvian municipal organizations. We are meeting in this location because they have all of the appropriate technology that we need to be able to facilitate the meetings.

Upon arriving to the Escuelab we were introduced to the members of the Ministry that are heading up the OLPC Peru Program. They spoke to us about their reason for this program and the progress they are acheiving. Right now Peru has very big problem to tackle with regards to education. They do not currently have the necessary resources to produce the desired amount of well educated children from their educational system. Most of the schools here are ¨multigrado¨ meaning that there are children from all grade levels in the same classroom being taught by one teacher. We were afforded the opportunity yesterday to see first hand what this situation is like in a school on the outskirts of Lima. Our entire group was bused to the school to give assistance to the teachers in the school which had recently been given the XO laptops to implement into their curriculum. Some of the other interns and myself were able to work with the younger kids (grades 1st and 2nd). These kids were absolutely incredible. Here are some pictures to explain:

We found out earlier in the day that some of these kids walk for miles just to arrive at school, some even without having eaten breakfast. (Just as an aside: Peru unfortunately has some very impoverished regions and children often begin working to help their familes make money at very early ages. So because of this poverty, the breakfast that each of us is fortunate enough to eat every morning for these children can be a rare ocurrence.) The teacher really did an amazing job of keeping these kids focused which was assisted by the programs offered on the XO laptops. The eight or so of us that were in this classroom worked with the kids to use various programs to do educational yet entertaining activities to help them to benefit from the day´s lesson. One program in particular allows the kids to take a word from the teacher, type it into the program and after clicking hear the large cartoony face repeat the word allowed. This experience allowed us to not only see the XO in action but also see the issues that this little laptop can begin to help address. It was a great preview of the situations in which we will be immersed beginning on Sunday when we head to our various deployment locations. I will actually be going to Huancavelica which is located in the Andes just southeast of Lima. (Map of this location:,+Huancavelica,+Per%C3%BA&sll=37.509726,-95.712891&sspn=30.931016,53.261719&ie=UTF8&cd=3&geocode=FWHsPP8dMQSI-w&split=0&ll=-12.618897,-73.894043&spn=9.55256,13.31543&z=6 ).

Going back to our training sessions. Throughout the week I have gotten to know some really incredible people who have like myself wanted very much to take part in this internship. Most of the interns are either current students in different Universities across the country or recent graduates like myself. There is also a gentleman named Man Bui, who is friends with one of the members of the Ministry from their previous work at IBM, who along with his son has taken time off from his consulting work in the USA to help the Ministry improve this Program. He may be the most genuine and friendly individual I have ever had the chance to meet. His son, who is high school age, has been given a really great opportunity to expand his horizons before pursuing a college education.

All of our meetings take place in Spanish which has really helped me to improve my Spanish language skills. This aspect alone has made me extremely glad to have decided to come down and take part in this program.

I have to go because we are all going to happy hour at one of the Ministry Director´s homes. I will be sure to finish this entry. I wish everyone the best!

Ok I´m back to finish my thoughts. (the shift key on this computer doesn´t work real well so i´m sorry about no capital letters) But as I mentioned before i have really seen an improvement in my speaking abilities in only a week of being in Lima. this makes me look forward to the next six weeks when i forsee spanish being my only means of communication. We found out our assignments yesterday. we haven´t been given many details but we know we are catching a bus tomorrow at noon to go to Ayacucho which is in the Huancavelica region. From there we will go to the first school where we will be helping out for the first three weeks. these schools will be fairly modest and located in the andes. after three weeks we will move closer to ayacucho to help at another school for the remaining three weeks. essentially we will be helping the teachers to develop lesson plans that implement using the xo for learning purposes. as i mentioned before we don´t have many details because of the unforseen change of plans that occured because of the protests in the jungles. So wish us luck and safe travels!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

La Primera Semana

This week we have been training with members of the OLPC Peru Program and the Ministry of Education of Peru. I haven´t been able to update my blog but I will be sure to before I leave on Sunday for Huancavelica.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


Before I get into how I got here I want to let everyone I made it safely to Lima. I am actually sitting here in the Hotel Bolivar ( I just woke up from crashing hard in my little humble chambre after an exhausting journey. It began yesterday around 5:30 pm at the Charlotte-Douglas Airport where after saying goodbye to my parents (a thing that they have become all too familiar with) I headed through security and to my gate. I had been looking at the weather prior to arriving at the airport and conditions did not look too good in Miami (my connecting city on the way to Lima). We boarded the plane on time and set off on our little regional jet headed southbound. Halfway through the flight the pilot notified us that there were some storms in the Miami area so we would be redirected around the tip of Florida over Key West and come into Miami from the southern side. As we approached the city all you could see were thick storm clouds and flashes of light from all directions. At this point my heart started to beat a bit faster. This only contined as we neared the city and it seemed an impossibility that we were going to be able to land safely. After some intense prayers we manuevered our way around the storms and roughly below the clouds. We finally landed safely in Miami and I made my way into the terminal in search the location of my next departure gate. A bit anxious and tired I stumbled across a little bar that was showing the USA-Honduras World Cup Qualifier. It was the second half and tied 1-1 at this point. I am by no means a drinker but boy would an adult beverage help to calm the nerves at this point. After watching the remaining minutes of the second half which resulted in a 2-1 victory for the US thanks to a Bocanegra header, I found the gate for my flight to Lima. It had just occured to me that as I entered the terminal after getting off of my earlier flight I noticed a long line for those waiting to rebook flights that had been cancelled due to the weather. At good ol gate D43 there was quite a crowd as apparently the flight had been overbooked with people who had come from the line that I just mentioned. They were all waiting anxiously to see if their lucky number would be called.

Just as I was gathering everything that was going in that moment I saw a little bright green object out of the corner of my eye. An XO laptop! Soon its owner returned and I approached her to introduce myself as I assumed she was headed to Peru on the same program as myself. She confirmed my assumption and told me her name was Kate. She also mentioned how she should have already been in Lima earlier that day however, she was one of the victims of the cancelled flights. We talked for a while and I found out she is from Massachusetts and pursuing an undergraduate degree in a multitude of disciplines. It was at this point that I got my first taste of just how intriguing the XO laptop is tochildren. A precious and hardly shy little girl approached Kate, who has kept her laptop out, and asked her what she was doing. For the next hour the little girl, Sammy, who I would actually end up sitting next to on the flight to Lima, was completely drawn in by everything the little laptop had to offer from digital painting to solving puzzles. It was also interesting because at first Kate was mostly controlling the activities they were working on but by the end Sammy was sitting on the floor oblivious to us working intently on the laptop by herself. This event made me extremely excited for the work we will be doing in the schools over the course of the next six weeks.

We finally began boarding the plane and to our dismay Kate was not lucky enough to land a ticket on this flight. She is actually still in Miami at this point and hopefully arriving tomorrow morning. Everyone was thankful to finally have boarded the plane. There was one minor detail that the crew failed to mention. Apparently a couple of people had accepted vouchers to allow other passengers to take their place on the flight. That is all well and good however their luggage had already been loaded into the airplanes cargo area. After a 2 hour delay we finally took off in the direction of Lima. The flight was fairly uneventful except that I could not sleep. Around 6:30 am (5:30 am EST) we landed in Lima. After making it through immigration services I changed some money and collected my checked bag. Having been to Peru last year made things less anxious for me which only made me concerned for the others in the program who were arriving alone without any previous experience in this unique city. Once you collect your bags in Lima you get to play a game before you exit. Essentially how it works is that you hand your declaration paper to the airport worker and then you proceed to press a button. If the button comes up green you win and get to exit the airport...but if it turns red. You dont even want to know what happens. Ok well you have to step to the side and workers check your bags thoroughy which I would refer to as losing the game. In the three times I have played I have maintained an undefeated record. After the excitement of winning the game I passed through the automatic doors into the land of taxi drivers. They crowd themselves anxiously awaiting potential suckers...I mean customers. Luckily I had done this before so I found a man that looked legitimate and agreed on a 45 Sole (Pronunciation: Soul-ehs, the typical exchange rate is 3 nuevos soles to one dollar) fair and proceeded toward the Hotel Bolivar where I was staying. This taxi driver turned out to be first-rate. He gave me some history on the city that I had never heard such as how in the mid90s a group of kings and ambassadors were held hostage by terrorists in the Japanese embassay in Lima. (the conversation was in spanish so this is my interpretation of the story) After four months of negotiations, the special forces group surrounded the building and created a plan to enter into the building and take out all of the terrorists who said that if they didnt get their demands fulfilled would shoot a person a day until they were all gone. So the special forces dug tunnels into the embassay and ambushed the terrorists killing all of them in an intense fire fight. The jolly old peruvian man had successfully gotten me to the Hotel Bolivar by the end of his extraordinary tales of Lima. I checked into the Hotel which is quite large and historic in appearance. After a quick arrangement of my things in my room I laid down on the bed around 7:30 am and awoke six hours later.

So that brings me to the present. After finishing this entry I will head to the store for some bottled water. Tomorrow I will meet the rest of the group in the lobby around 8:30 am and begin training for our deployment assignments.

God bless!


Sunset from the plane to Miami

Paul Wight aka The Big Show in the Miami Airport

Adorable girl at the airport that came up and started using the XO

My room in the Hotel Bolivar

La Plaza Mayor en Lima

Friday, June 5, 2009

You've had two pairs of gloves the entire time?

I found out this morning that the plot has taken an interesting twist. Until about 10:00 am this morning I was set to be deployed in the San Martin Region of Peru. This region lies right on the edge of the Amazon Jungle where many indigenous people both live and work.

Well, come to find out these people have organized a massive protest against Peru's President Alan Garcia and nine decrees that affect their lands specifically with regard to the extraction of raw materials such as crude oil, gold, gas, and timber. The government has opened the lands to exploration and development by foreign companies which has given the Jungle Tribes reason to create resistance in seven of Peru's twenty-four regions. The indigenous people have already caused disruptions at airports, bridges and main river traffic sites.

So needless to say the Peruvian officials leading the OLPC Program have chosen to find alternative sites at which we will be working. I have been notified that the locations will be in the mountains and since it is winter in the southern hemisphere, temperatures are going to be quite low.

With most of my things gathered to handle the climate of the Amazon, I am set to alter my wardrobe selection for something more suitable for temperatures in the low 30's. This is the kind of excitement I expected with this trip, so don't worry my spirits are still high.

Thanks to everyone for their kind words of encouragement. It means a lot to me knowing I have such a great support system from my friends and family. Love you all and look forward to my next entry from Peru!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Today I found out that I will be deployed in the San Martín Region of Peru. There will be six interns at this site including myself. I am super excited and still have no idea exactly what our daily tasks will involve. I'm thinking that not knowing is contributing to this excitement. I'm currently in the process of learning a bushel of facts about the San Martín Region so that I can be prepared for when I arrive.

I'll add to this entry when I become better informed about my temporary home for the next six weeks.