City Lights

As the end of the first school year approaches, there’s naturally been a great emphasis on after school tutorials and late night study sessions. Nonetheless, we managed to sneak in a formality that neither school nor dormitory could possibly deny its students: an end of the year field trip. Last week, the girls, Maura, Alex, Eli and I hopped into a minivan and made our way out to Cusco.

Many of the girls had never been to Cusco, and for those that had, it had been years if not a lifetime since their last visit. The trip from Ollantaytambo to Cusco itself was a thrill. The girls marveled at the distinct landscapes, gawked at high altitude lakes, admired other families’ livestock and guessed at the names of passing towns.

Our arrival into one of the largest cities in Peru was both intimidating and awe inspiring for the young ladies. After a hearty menu of chicharonnes, beans, chicha morada and flan, we headed out to the Incan fortress of Sacsayhuaman which presides over the city of Cusco. The girls had never been to the ruins, and after a brief lesson in the history of the site, they set off to chase alpacas, navigate pitch black caves and explore the massive Incan stonework.

Of course, as with most adolescents (and some of us adults), the favored activity soon became gliding down the ‘Incan slides’ of Sacsayhuaman. While I doubt that the smooth rock formations were originally used as slides by the Incas, more recent generations have taken to smoothing the surfaces via continual use. For three quarters of an hour or so, we too did our part to continue the wearing process.

Once our Sacsayhuaman escapades were done and over with, we explored the city of Cusco by foot, passing through old Incan roadways and colonial squares.

As the day drew to an end we made our way to Maura’s house so that the girls might meet her family. It was a truly special occasion, though a bit awkward at first. Maura’s son shared some hilarious videos of street mimes and acrobats with us while we all drank up delectable mugs of hot chocolate.

Finally, though some of the girls were nodding off and others vehemently refusing to budge from the couch, we managed to load everyone back into the minivan and head back to Ollantaytambo.

Every time I leave Cusco at twilight, I marvel at the beauty of the luminous lights of a city encircled by barren mountains. As we snaked our way out of the city, the girls themselves gasped at the impressive sight, and Nohemi made apparent exactly what they, if not I, were all thinking. ‘Pobre planeta’ she mused. Poor planet. Though it took me back a second, I couldn’t help but to marvel at both how insightful a comment and how indicative of our distinct backgrounds.