Sunday, January 29, 2017

Post-Journey Reflection

                I’ll never forget Peru.  It’s been two weeks since I arrived back in the states, and still, despite being busy with this semester’s classes, the memories keep flooding back.  Memories like eating dinner at a restaurant in Puno and speaking Spanish with our guide; memories like climbing up a rugged jungle path to view Machu Picchu; and memories like looking out from to the top of Amantaní and seeing the snow-capped Andes peaks in the distance – guardians at the edge of Lago Titicaca.

We saw so much, heard so much, and read so much in two short weeks that I’m still trying to unpack and organize all of the experiences in my own mind.  Nevertheless, I would like to use this, my sixth and final blog post for my second study abroad journey, to reflect on the significance of the H2Passport program to my own studies and understanding of the world.

I would categorize this trip as equal parts academic exploration, logistical scramble, and wonderment at the sheer natural beauty of our surroundings.  The academic exploration part of the journey was something that occurred during the logistical scramble – times when we were traveling from city to city – and during down time in the early mornings and late evenings.  We easily read some 300 pages (I’m estimating here) in our principle study book, The Peru Reader, and other academic journal pieces over the course of the two weeks.  We discussed the readings during full-class meetings and on-site, and many of our readings and discussions were also closely related to – and helpful background info for – the on-site presentations that my classmates and I conducted at major landmarks throughout the country. 

Perhaps my favorite theme from our daily readings and discussions was that of vision – and more specifically, how “seen” elements (as I termed them in my final paper for the course) can easily dominate our perception of the past.  For example, it is easy to look at Baroque-era structures like the church of San Francisco de Lima (the structure at which I conducted my on-site presentation) and succumb to a simple categorization of the structure as a “high Spanish Baroque church.”  Many of the scholarly articles I read on the church do so, and yet the history of the structure warrants a much more complex categorization.

In my final paper for the program, I argued that San Francisco de Lima is, in reality, an “Andean-Hybrid Baroque church” – one that is Baroque in style, but incorporates distinctly native Andean, and native Peruvian, elements as well.  The main native element, then, being the quincha architectural style, which was developed by Andeans, and, coincidentally (not!), used to build almost the entirety of the San Francisco de Lima complex. 

When looking at the past, it is important to realize that any structure, and any group of people, is fluid – constantly changing and evolving – in the past, just as they still are today.  San Francisco de Lima was built and maintained by architects of both old world and new world origin over the course of two centuries (and impacted by three or more major earthquakes!).  The Incan people and other Andean groups were ushered into the early modern age by the Spaniards, but the relationship was not one-sided.  Native symbolism, in both “seen” elements (Incan cantuta flowers, masks, and serpentine throwbacks to Nazca pottery) and “unseen” elements (such as quincha building style), shows up all over Peru in colonial-era structures.

I would like to transition now to the logistical aspects of our journey.  For the record, this trip consisted of six flights; three boat rides; two long bus rides (6 hours each); two train rides; and countless hiking, walking, and other bus excursions along the way.  Before I ever embarked on this journey, I had worried that the logistical aspects of the trip would somehow take over my experience – that I would become caught up in some Manichean battle between trying to enjoy the beautiful landscape and trying to catch the next train, bus, or plane on the schedule.  My fears were unfounded, however, as the logistical aspects of the trip turned out to be very beneficial to the overall learning experience.

I specifically enjoyed the scenery on our long bus rides from Arequipa to Puno and from Puno to Cusco.  The landscape was breathtaking – I kept feeling like we were traversing Rohan from Lord of the Rings!  All LOTR references aside, however, I also enjoyed the people and towns that we passed through, nestled in the Peruvian countryside. 

At one point – probably half way between Arequipa and Puno – I saw a middle-aged woman carrying a large bundle on her back simply walking on the side of a mountain in the distance, no civilization, discounting wild llama populations, in sight.  I wondered where she was going, and if perhaps she wondered where our bus was headed, and why we were in such a hurry.  

Large towns were scarce in southern Peru, so when we finally reached the southern city of Juliaca on our way to Puno, I found myself wondering at the sudden sprawl of buildings amidst the barren, yet beautiful, landscape.  We drove right through the center of town, which was bustling with people and crowded on all sides by tenement-style housing.  The interesting part about Juliaca to me, however, was a small, but well kept looking university on the outskirts of town.  “Learn English and get a degree in Tourism” the sign read. 

A degree in tourism and a middle class job is without a doubt the Peruvian dream.  Another dream – to make it all the way to the United States – is out of reach for many.  One tour guide told me that he has been trying to get a visa to enter the U.S. for 25 years, so far unsuccessfully.  I'm still holding out hope for that man and for all of the other hard working Peruvians of all classes.  In Peru, prolific poverty and unparalleled natural beauty exist on the same plane.  The only escape from poverty for the average citizen seems to be through education, and through tourism.  I couldn't help but imagine, seeing that sign on the side of the road, how the United States would be different if multilingualism was a surefire necessity for economic advancement.  Food for thought.  

If I had to pinpoint one memory that stands out to me more than any other, it would be standing on the top of Amantaní (after a rugged hour-long climb) at the temple of the sky god.  In that moment, overwhelmed by imposing storm clouds to the north; the deep blue water of Lago Titicaca lapping at the shoreline below us; and the snow-capped Andes mountain peaks in the distance; I felt like I was somehow standing at the edge of the Earth – at the edge of civilization.  As we turned to go, our guide pointed to a particular grouping of peaks to the southwest.  “Over there is Bolivia,” he said.  For some reason that simple statement resonated with me.  Here we stood, having traveled thousands of miles through the air and hundreds more on land, at the southernmost tip of Peru – and there was, well, just another COUNTRY.  The world may be small in terms of global communication, but the physical landscape is vast, and I felt the vastness in that moment.  

Thank you for sticking with me through this long and rambling wrap-up.  I will be posting pictures from my trip on social media very soon!  Lastly, I hope to study abroad one more time during my undergraduate career, perhaps long-term, and when the time comes, I will definitely be blogging about it.  Until then— 

Muchas gracias y saludos,

—Brock J. DeMark

    29 Jan 2017

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Machu Picchu, Chinchero, and Ollantaytambo

*Please Note: I wrote the majority of this post yesterday, but I am posting it now

        As I write this post, I am riding with my H2P classmates on the Peru Railways train away from Machu Picchu.  The Urubamba river is roaring just a few meters below us.  It recently rained here, so the water is muddy, but sharp rocks are still visible jutting up from the bottom.  If I had to guess I would say that this river is far to dangerous for anyone to navigate by kayak or raft.

        Though I'd like to detail a few other sites in this post, I want to start with Machu Picchu, while the tour-de-force of Peru is still fresh in my mind.

        We arrived to the small tourist town that sits just up river from Machu Picchu (called "Aguas Calientes") last night, and we left our hotel at 6:45 a.m. this morning to get an early start on traveling up to the ruins.  

        Our journey began with a bus ride up a tenuous switchback dirt (well, mud) road.  It was about a 25 minute ride to the top of the mountain.  

        The bus took us to the front gates of the ancient Incan city - and we glimpsed the entire layout for the first time after a subsequent 10 minute hike up a set of stairs carved into the mountain.  The clouds were clearing out when we arrived.

        Now for a little history.  The city was established in the mid-15th century as a retreat for Pachacuti Inca, the 9th Incan king.  The architecture of the city is notable for its mathematical precision, astronomical significance, and relationship to its Andean surroundings.  

        I really enjoyed the fact that we were able to explore the city - as we have explored every site here in Peru - with both our professors and a tour guide discussing important aspects of the architecture and cultural significance.

        Our class read a couple of scholarly articles just before visiting the site, which included a critical analysis of Martin Chambi's photography and a piece written by Hiram Bingham (the contemporary American explorer who "discovered" the site in 1911).  

        Bingham was very interested in what we might call a romanticized version of the city.  He wanted to "clean it up" - remove vegetation and overgrowth - in order to restore the site to its original glory.  Chambi, on the other hand, took very austere photographs that seemed to play with gender parity and indegenista relationships to the present socio-political climate.  More importantly, for Chambi, the site was somehow glorious just the way it is.  

        Today, Machu Picchu is a HUGE tourist attraction.  But there's still something mystical about it.  Maybe its the secluded location and the ominous clouds hanging just overhead.  Maybe its the rugged hikes...or  the sheer amount of work that went into building such an intricate and highly elevated city.   

        We saw the ruins from a wide variety of angles, but my favorites pictures were from the Incan sun temple (about a 40 minute rugged hike through the rain forest away).  Here's one:  

        Now I'd like to transition here and very briefly talk about a few of the sites that we visited yesterday: Chinchero and Ollantaytambo. These two towns are located on the way to Machu Picchu.  

        Chinchero was an indigenous town that the Spanish conquered and ruled in a hands-off fashion.  It is famous for its textile production and market, it's Incan terraces, and it's Spanish church (that features the painting Virgin of Montserrat by indigenous artist Chivantito).  

Colonial Catholic Church in Chinchero - established in 1607 by the Spanish

Textile dying demonstration in downtown Chinchero

Ollantaytambo is a town famous for its Incan ruins and it's location in the sacred Valley.  It's honestly a little bit strange that tourists don't flock to Ollantaytambo in the same way that they flock to Machu Picchu.  The ruins and the scenery at Ollantaytambo are nearly as breathtaking as their counterparts at Machu Picchu - and they're a lot easier to get to from Cusco!

Photo of Ollantaytambo and the Sacred Valley I took standing atop of a giant Incan terrace
"The Face of God" - a rock formation that juts out of the mountain opposite the large Incan terrace ruins in Ollantaytambo

         Machu Picchu, Chinchero, and Ollantaytambo were each unique in their own way.  It's been another whirlwind 48 hour journey for me, but it was worth every second.

        I plan to post at least one more time - possibly after I return from my trip early next week due to time constraints.

        As always, thank you for reading, and buenos noches!

    12 Jan 2017

Monday, January 9, 2017

Puno, Amantani, and Taquile

¡Hola y bienvenidos a la tercera entrada en mi blog!

Hello and welcome to my third blog post from Peru!

        Since my last post, my classmates and I have traveled from Arequipa to Puno (a 6 hour bus ride), from Puno out to three different Islands on Lake Titicaca, and from Puno to Cusco  (a 6.5 hour bus ride).  I've spoken a lot of Spanish, eaten some interesting foods, met some friendly people, and climbed three different small mountains (yes, at 12,000ft+ altitude)!  

        As I am quite exhausted and needing to recharge for tomorrow (when we head to Machu Picchu), this post will mainly consist of my favorite photos from the past 48 hours.  I offer a brief synopsis of our travels in the in-between paragraphs, but the photos themselves will tell the bulk of my narrative all by themselves.  

        Our day on Saturday began with a six hour bus ride to Puno.  During the ride, we stopped multiple times to see vicu
ñas, llamas, and alpacas on the side of the road.  We also got up to about 14,500 ft, which left most of us feeling lightheaded.  Luckily our guides brought a few cans of oxygen, which helped some of my classmates who were experiencing more severe altitude sickness.  For my part, I just kept drinking water - four bottles during the 6 hour ride.

Standing on the side of the road above tree line (14,000ft+)

Vicuñas on the side of the road on the way to Puno

    About 45 minutes outside of Puno, we stopped at Sillustani - an Incan and pre-Incan burial and ritual site - where we ate lunch and learned about the burial towers.  Each tower entombed one Incan noble, and the noble's family and servants were buried around the tower.

Incan burial tower at Sillustani

Picture of me in front of Umayo Lake at Sillustani

As our bus finally neared Puno, one of our tour guides informed us that Puno is "the city of fiestas."  Initially, I didn't read too much into this statement, but as soon as we arrived in downtown Puno, I knew what the guide was talking about.  Masses of people - locals and tourists alike - packed the streets.  Marching bands and dancers paraded all around town.  Some bands simply stood and played in the main square...and the festivities continued all night long.  It was a fun atmosphere.  The other remarkable thing about Puno was its hilly streets. I've never been to San Francisco, but I imagine the streets there are much the same as those in Puno.

"Fiesta" streets of Puno upon our arrival

        After one night in Puno (in which I slept like a rock) our group departed on a boat from Puno harbor to Amantani, an island located about two hours from Puno by speed boat.  We didn't go all the way to Amantani first, though, but stopped at a Uros floating island.  

        The Uros are a people who live out their lives on floating islands made of reeds that grow in the lake.  As Marcos (the president of the island we visited) demonstrated, the people not only form a reed lattice on which to live, but they also use the reeds as a food source (they have a soft, chewy interior) and a hut-building material.  Today, the Uros rely heavily on tourism as a source of income.  For my part, I bought a few handicrafts from the Uros to support the local economy.   

Marcos demonstrating the use of reeds to construct the floating islands

        After visiting the Uros, we continued to Amantani.  Amantani is inhabited by approximately 4,000 people today, divided into 10 communities.  The community we stayed with is one of the larger settlements on the island with approximately 1,500 people living there.  Our host was a very kind woman named Valentina who cooked for us and provided lodging.  

        The food that Valentina and her family provided was INCREDIBLE.  Our lunch on Sunday was prepared in the "Pachamanca" style, in which the food is wrapped in paper, and cooked in the ground underneath hot coals.  Fresh chicken and potatoes was the dish - prepared in front of us, cooked in the ground, and served in the family house. 

        After lunch on Sunday, our group climbed to the top of Amantani to the temple of Pachacuti  (the sky god).  The climb was very difficult given the altitude, and we had to stop many times to catch our breath.  A thunderstorm was rolling in, but luckily we made the two-hour trek up and down the mountain just before the rain started to fall. 

        We would venture out into the rain later on, however, to go to a community house and learn traditional dance techniques.  We were given panchos and alpaca-wool hats to wear for the occasion!

One of Valentina's family members using the "Pachamanca" method to cook our lunch 

Potatoes (prepared in the pachamanca style) and Peruvian corn - very tasty!

Me and the two Anthonys (Anthony my classmate just behind me, and Anthony the photographer and media editor behind him) at a cultural dance party on Amantani

View from inside the temple of Pachacuti.  It took about one hour to hike to the top.

         This morning we left Amantani early for Taquile, a neighboring island which according to our guide was named the fourth most beautiful island in the world in a competition a few years ago.  Tequile was long and skinny whereas Amantani was round - which was interesting because you could see Lake Titicaca on both sides of the island.  

View of Lake Titicaca from the top of Taquile
View of Lake Titicaca from Taquile where we ate lunch

        We ate lunch on Tequile - which consisted of fresh trout, soup, rice and veggies - and we also learned about the local (and decidedly chauvinistic) culture, in which the females always walk behind the males.  Everyone seemed very happy though....and I know I was!  Other than the rain storm last night, and despite it being rainy season here, the weather has been beautiful.  

Beautiful view of an Andean mountain (and some cows) on our ride to Cusco this afternoon

        We left Tequile shortly after noon and took a boat back to Puno (about 1.5 hours).  From there we hopped on a bus and rode on to Cusco (about 7 hours)....and here we are in the Incan capital.

        These last three days have pushed me past what I thought was the physical and mental brink of exhaustion, but the Peruvian people have inspired me to keep pushing forward in the times when I haven't been feeling very well.  The people here - especially those on Amantani and Taquile - are very friendly, they work very hard, and they speak multiple languages.  They want the world to know that their way of life exists and that they are proud of it.  

        These people definitely deserve a voice.  It seems to me like its very easy for westerners to dismiss the Uros peoples, those living on Amantani, and those living on Taquile as only a tourist attraction.  These people do benefit a lot from tourism, but not as much as they potentially could - this is because outside tourist companies eat into a lot of the profit for foreign visits.  

        The course I am taking here in Peru is an H2P colloquium - an honors humanities course.  Through that humanities perspective, I am realizing how the tourist economy here in Peru shapes the social opportunities of people living in different regions.  Tourism sustains the economies of the Uros, the Amantani, and the Taquile peoples, but outside tour companies (who hire guides with 4-year college degrees in tourism) limit upward social mobility for these people at the same time.

        As I continue with this blog, I will be analyzing other aspects of the socio-economic interplay in Peru.  I occupy the unique position of student-tourist-blogger, so I believe my analysis will be a little more well-informed than that of the casual observer.

         I thank you very much for following along with me to this point.  Tomorrow it's on to Ollantaytambo and then to Machu Picchu.  I hope to post again in 2-3 days.

Until then... muchas gracias!

9 Jan


Friday, January 6, 2017

Arequipa: Altitude and Culture

        Arequipa is my favorite city in Peru so far.  We arrived here yesterday around noon, and we started exploring as soon as we got off of the plane.

        According to our tour guide, who met us at the airport, Arequipa is the second largest city in Peru, after Lima.  It is located on the border between the coastal lands and the high Andes, and it is surrounded by three large volcanoes - one of which has been active recently.  The town itself sits at 7,700 feet in elevation - which is a good acclimation point for our group considering we head to Puno tomorrow (which sits at an intense 12,500 ft).

        The first site we visited upon arrival yesterday was the Jesuit Church of La Compania - an excellent example of "Andean Hybrid Baroque" architecture, in which Andean imagery mixes with the Spanish baroque.  Andean elements in the architecture consist of local flora and fauna carved into the front retablo facade of the church.

        My favorite aspect of the Jesuit complex other than the front hybrid Baroque facade was an interior painted chapel that is nicknamed "The Sistine Chapel of Arequipa."  Check out the vibrant colors (La Capella es muy llamativo!).

"The Sistine Chapel of Arequipa" (according to our guide) at La Compania

        As we were getting on a bus to leave the historic district of town, we suddenly heard what sounded like a marching band approaching from behind the vehicle.  My classmates and I rushed out of the bus and straight into what was a full-scale parade!  The parade, which was celebrating one of the oldest markets in Arequipa (one that was founded in 1881), included dancers, bands, and floats from various merchant-guilds within the market.

        The parade was not a hands-off affair either.  There was very little distinction between the street audience and the parade performers themselves, in fact.  A few of my classmates joined in the dancing in the street, and even one of our professors participated in the dancing.  Fresh produce, Peruvian candy, and even a puppy - YES, A PUPPY - were handed to our group (the puppy was eventually returned to its handler, but we kept the produce!)

        I really enjoyed the parade because it gave our group a glimpse into the local commercial culture here - but it was also just a blast!  Regrettably, I did not take any pictures as it was so spur of the moment, but I hope to post a video sometime soon!
        After touring La Compania and participating in the impromptu parade, our group visited one of the oldest neighborhoods in Arequipa - Yanahuara.  This area was inhabited by upper class Spaniards in the early days of the city.  It's main square includes another Andean Hybrid Baroque church as well as an excellent view of the city.

View of Arequipa from Yanahuara lookout.  The towers of the Cathedral of Arequipa are just visible near the right of the image in the distance.

        Yesterday evening, a few of my classmates and I ventured out to the main square - the Plaza de Armas - for dinner.  We ate on a balcony with an excellent view of The Cathedral of Arequipa, an enormous sillar-stone construction.

Standing in the Plaza de Armas in front of the Cathedral of Arequipa (after we ate dinner on the square)
        Today, we visited the convent of Santa Catalina, which is an enormous complex that now serves a dual purpose as a historical site and an active religious establishment (16 nuns live there now).  Convents like Santa Catalina were the centerpieces of a kind of "spiritual economy" during the colonial period.  The convents owned nearby encomiendas and acted as money-lending agencies for people living in the city.

One of the cloisters at Santa Catalina.  Notice the Moorish (Muslim presence in Spain) influence on the dome in the background.  The small corner structures almost look like miniature minarets.  The Spaniards who founded Arequipa were from southern Spain, and many of them probably had Muslim ancestors.

        After visiting Arequipa - our group stopped at a museum dedicated to "Juanita" a mummified female sacrificial victim preserved on one of the icy mountain-tops close to the city.  This exhibit was an interesting social/archaeological inquiry into the nature of Juanita's death.  The consensus is that she probably volunteered to be a sacrificial victim as a young girl.  Other sacrificial victims have been found in the Andes and are currently on display or undergoing preservation work.

        The rest of our day today was very relaxed.  We ate lunch at a "Chifa" (interesting blend of Peruvian and Chinese food) restaurant near La Plaza de Armas, and then I took a much-needed three hour nap back at the hotel.  I can definitely feel the high altitude here in Arequipa, but I have been drinking lots of water to combat the frequent dull headaches I've been experiencing.

        We take a bus up to Puno tomorrow.  It's a lakefront town of about 120,00 people located on Lake Titicaca, and it's also about 5,000 feet higher in elevation than where we are now.  The next four days will see our group staying in four different places - Puno, Amantani (indigenous island on Lake Titicaca), Cusco, and Machu Picchu.

        I'm not sure when I will have the WiFi to post again, but I thank you for reading.  I've had quite the adventure here in Peru so far, but, rest assured, the best is yet to come.

          6 Jan 2017

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Lima: Sensory Overload

         Forty-eight hours ago, the flight carrying myself and my H2Passport classmates landed in Lima, Peru.  In the time since, I’ve visited three museums, participated in two city walking tours, given an on-site architecture history speech to our class, and eaten a lot of chicken and potatoes.  I’ve slept very little, but I’ve learned a whole lot!  Our group leaves for Arequipa early tomorrow morning, but I wanted to take some time here to briefly detail a few of the sites and sounds we have experienced so far.

        Our Lima experience began in Callao, Lima’s port city, at the fort of Real Felipe.  The fort, which currently serves a dual function as both an active military establishment and a museum, offered a unique conglomeration of historical exhibits. The topics covered ranged from the Peruvian independence movement to a Pacific war with Chile and a different conflict with Ecuador.  The fort also offered an excellent view of the port at Callao. 

The port of Callao viewed from Fort Felipe Real
        Upon leaving the fort, we took an approximately two-hour walking tour through the historic center of Callao and out to la Punta (the point), a small peninsula that protrudes from the mainland into the Pacific.  I really enjoyed our walk from the fort to the end of the peninsula (probably a 1.5 mile trek) because we started off in a lower class neighborhood, but quickly transitioned to a well-kept upper-classer area where Peruvian navy captains live.  The contrast in infrastructure between the two neighborhoods - namely in the quality of the buildings - was really quite astonishing.  Even more astonishing than the contrast between the neighborhoods, however, is the fact that a large network of neighborhoods even exists in Callao today.  The port was completely destroyed by an earthquake-Tsunami in 1746, and has suffered much damage in subsequent quakes as well.

                Following our walking tour, we went to Museo Larco, which housed a collection of ancient Andean pottery, weaponry, ceremonial adornments, and quipu.  I enjoyed the gardens of this museum almost as much as the art itself, however, as our group rested on a lush green lawn surrounded by tropical flora for about a half hour before entering the museum.  The weather was nice yesterday – cloudy, but very warm.  Unfortunately, most of our group suffered a sunburn despite the clouds.  I, for one, will be lathering on the sunscreen every morning from here on out!


                I woke up this morning after our first full day feeling both nervous and excited.  I was nervous because I was the first student of the day to present an on-site speech, but everything turned out just fine. As part of our H2Passport curriculum, each of us is required to present a 10-15 minute speech over a specific aspect or structure of the historical landscape in Peru.  My topic of choice was the high Baroque basilica of San Francisco de Lima.  

        My presentation focused on the quincha building material - a pliable wood-rush and plaster conglomerate - which was used to help make San Francisco de Lima earthquake resistant upon its reconstruction in the mid-17th century.  While standing beneath the main facade, I also discussed the difficulties in deciphering colonial architectural style - namely multiple earthquakes and multiple architects - based on existing historical documentation.

San Francisco de Lima near Lima's historic center.  
        Following my presentation at San Francisco de Lima and a very interesting tour of the catacombs beneath the structure, our group took another walking tour - this time in Lima's historic center.  We visited other interesting churches - including Dominican and Augustinian order structures.  The most interesting aspect of this tour for me, though, was a glimpse of one tenement housing settlement in downtown Peru.  The settlement did not have running water and was quite run-down, which I found a little bit disheartening, especially  considering that later on today our group attended an impressively choreographed water-fountain light show set to music in one of Lima's central parks.  Just as the stark contrast between the impoverished and the upper-class neighborhoods at La Punta stood out to me yesterday, the contrast between tenement housing without running water and an upscale show where water was used as a form of entertainment was striking.  

Clotheslines hang above tenement housing establishment in downtown Lima

        We wrapped up our afternoon today with a visit to Museo Mali, where we saw paintings of both the Cuzco school and the Costumbrismo style.  These pieces are particularly interesting because they provide historians with a set of tools to analyze the perceived position in society and the church for native Andeans living in the colonial era.  


        I have barely scratched the surface here in describing our first two days, but I must end here due to an early-morning flight to Arequipa!  

        Thank you very much for reading!  I will be posting more in the next few days, and I hope to include more details about Peruvian food, and the aspects of Peruvian culture - both colonial and modern - that clash with our western historical perspective.

            4 Jan 2017

Friday, December 30, 2016

Setting Out: A Pre-Departure Reflection

¡Hola y bienvenidos!  Hello and welcome to my latest honors college study abroad blog!

In less than three days, I will be departing for Peru.  The program I am participating in, which will travel to four major Peruvian cities over the course of thirteen days, is entitled: H2P Passport: Indigenous Ways in Peru from Colonial to Modern Times.  H2P stands for “Honors Humanities Project,” a three-semester sequence of honors courses that I have been involved with since the inception of my University of Arkansas academic career. 

            I decided to participate in this program for two main reasons: it gives me a chance to apply the critical thinking skills I learned in H2P in a real-world setting, and it also gives me an opportunity to engage with a small group of students, faculty and honors college staff that value learning as much as I do.  As an added bonus, I will be able to practice my Spanish speaking ability in Peru – which is helpful considering that I may be adding a Spanish minor to my degree plan in the near future.

            While in Peru, I will explore a variety of landscapes and ruins, participate in daily class discussions, read source documents relevant to the sites we will be seeing, and of course, blog about my experience on a semi-regular basis. 

Map of Peru.  The cities I will travel to include (in this order): Lima, Arequipa, Puno (and the island of Amantani on Lake Titicaca), Cusco, and Machu Picchu.

             I will also be presenting a 10-15 minute on-site speech at the church and convent of San Francisco in Lima.  My presentation will focus on the quincha architectural style – an indigenous building formula adopted by the Spanish conquistadors in attempt to make large structures earthquake resistant.  I will also be examining the difficulties in deciphering architectural style elements based on existing historical records (more on this to come!).

            In order to reach all of the cities and sites on our itinerary, we will be travelling by plane, boat, bus, and train.  It’s going to be a fast-moving program, but I am confident after three-semesters of skill building in H2P that I have the necessary tools to keep up with and adapt to the different environments we will be experiencing.

            Perhaps the greatest day-to-day challenge will, in fact, be the environment.  It’s summer time in Peru right now, but it is also the rainy season.  Lima will be warm, but most of the other cities we travel to will likely be cool and wet due to their high elevation.  We will be staying above 7,000 feet altitude for the majority of our journey, with two days being spent at 12,500 feet (Puno and Lake Titicaca).  Layered clothing, rain gear, and hydration will be essential!

Packing.  I plan to take just two small bags, which is proving to be a challenge considering all of the different climates we may be exposed to!

I hope you’ll join me on this journey by following along with my latest travel blog! I plan to post at least one time in each city (for a total of 4-6 posts over the course of two weeks), but I will of course have to work all of the details out once I’m on the ground in Peru – Wi-Fi availability and our travel schedule may vary.  

This blog is intended to be both a catalog of my adventures as well as a critical analysis of the places and peoples I come into contact with.  I will explore cultural confluence - be that between the Spanish and the Inca, or between myself and modern Peruvians - through personal encounters and observations in the classroom and on-site in Peru.

  Thank you very much for reading and please stay tuned for more!

—Brock J. DeMark
    30 Dec 2016