Saturday 7/21:

We experienced a rude awakening. The last thing any of us expected was a big rain storm the day of our biggest service project—the STRIVE Pisac 5K. As miserable as a day this was for all of us, we managed to pull it off well. 30 local participants ran (almost as many as last year in good weather) including our hostel manager Cecil. I was impressed with the positive attitudes displayed by our group despite the conditions. All of the high schoolers contributed their hand at various stations, such as race registration and the refreshment stand. Several of us ran in the race as well although not competitively. Post race, the kids all jumped into the biggest puddle near the start line of the course. This made for excellent photography and good laughs of course. Overall, we did our best to put on a successful event given the less than ideal weather and muddy road.

Lunch at the market after the hour long clean up process. Everyone was in good spirits as the rain continued to fall. It was time for the. Much anticipated souvenir run at the market. I accompanied the boys’ group and helped them find their favorite llama and other patterned sweaters. However, the main attraction was Andean shawls. Most of the group tried one on, but none were cool enough to purchase one

Polleria for dinner at 6:30. Another classic Peruvian chicken dinner concluded an interesting day to say the least. Sometimes things don’t go according to plan and rather than stressing out about it, the STRIVE Peru crew responded with enthusiasm, turning a gloomy day into a memorable one. Thankfully, the weather cooperated Sunday for our next adventure—Cusco.

Sunday 7/22:

The day started with long runs for most of the interns and staff. Remarkably, the mountains looked even more spectacular than usual. The muddy roads kept us on the pavement for an out and back. Katie crushed her 10-miler with Mariana, while Will and Sierra each completed their longest run ever of 14 miles! During the run, we observed snow dumping onto the Pachatusan Ridge (the mountain we climbed previously this trip) as well as our favorite mountain we call Mt. Doom because of its ominous rocky peak. The magic in the Andes mountains seems endless and the group looks forward to much more exploration and discovery during next week’s Salkantay trek. Meanwhile, the high schoolers hit the market for breakfast and were fueled for a day in Cusco with us.

In route to Cusco, we stopped at the Al Paca textile shop and museum. The highlight of this experience was feeding the llamas and al pacas some tasty greens while posing for numerous photos too. It doesn’t take much to entertain high schoolers. Next, most of the group shopped for gifts in the store. Al paca wool hats and socks were the most popular choices. Finally, we departed for the rest rest of the way to Cusco.

Upon arrival, we all were treated to cheap Peruvian massages. The results were mixed from the $6 hour massages. The high schoolers had funny reactions, which to me at least made the experience well worth it. Post massage, it was already lunchtime—off we went to the San Pedro Market. After a large satisfying meal of bistecks, milanesas, and other traditional Peruvian dishes, the high schoolers craved more tourist shopping. They got plenty of it. In addition to the famed llama sweaters, hippie pants and fake al paca blankets were some big items of interest. Before we knew it, 4pm rapidly approached and we walked over to our meeting ground for Hector. After the scenic drive home under the setting sun, we got dinner at the chaufa restaurant across the street from our hostel. This dinner was not as well received by the kids, but you can’t win them all. Overall, they have impressed me with their group cohesion and open mindedness. It’s been a blast hanging out with them and serving as a role model to them.