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Students Spend a Month Exploring Peru

The students and staff members left Juneau on Dec. 11, destination: Lima, Peru.

By: Randi Spray

While most of us were visiting with relatives, opening up presents and gorging on holiday feasts this winter break, a group of 14 UAS students and three faculty members were in Peru on a joint Spanish Emersion-Anthropology trip.
  The students and staff members left Juneau on Dec. 11, destination: Lima, Peru.
  From Lima, the group spent a week in the city of Puno on Lake Titicaca where they visited the island of Amantani and witnessed indigenous Quechua culture and traditions. After leaving Puno for Cuzco, they embarked on a four-day hike up the Inca Trail to Manchu Picchu.
  On this grueling four-day, 33 mile hike, they were able to take in Peru's vast landscape of mountains and rivers as well as visit the ruins of centuries of Incan past.
  On the last day of the trip, there was a competition between different international groups from as far away as England and Japan to reach the Sun Gate of Manchu Picchu first, which the UAS constituency won. The group spent the rest of the day exploring Manchu Picchu and learning about its history and the significance of the architecture. Students described it as “awesome,” “crazy,” and “indescribable.”
  From Manchu Picchu the group returned to Cuzco, where they spent a week exploring the museums and archeological sites in and around the ancient Incan capital. After that, the group split; some went for a five day trip into the jungle with Arlo Midgett while others went to Trujillo on the coast of Peru with Claudia Wakefield while others stayed with Dan Monteith in Cuzco. All the students returned to Juneau by Jan. 14.
  The trip was organized as a joint venture between Spanish Language emersion and Anthropological study. It was offered as both a Spanish (Spanish 313) and an Anthropology (Anthropology 393) class for a total of 6 credits. The learning attitude on the trip was very informal. With only one group meeting a day, the emphasis was on experiential learning.
  The Spanish came when the students were thrust into an all Spanish-speaking environment. The tactic of Spanish emersion was described as "definitely forceful but very helpful at the same time," by Freddie Muñoz, a 19-year-old from San Angela, Texas.
  "I felt decent in Spanish, but when I was there if you wanted anything you had to speak it. If you wanted to get to a certain place, if you needed some medicine because you were sick, if you just wanted to get some food you had to speak Spanish," Muñoz said.
  From the anthropological side, the students attended some lectures and kept a field journal of their experiences in Peru. They also visited the many ruins that dot the Andean mountainsides.
  According to Muñoz ,"Anthropology-wise, it was just so eye opening. We went to so many ruins. Ruins are everywhere in Peru. Every city we were in, it's just like you go out of town a little bit and there'd be some ruins. And even in downtown Cuzco, there are ruins. Everywhere you go its just history and culture."
  While they were in Peru, the students were confronted with some strange and difficult aspects of South American culture. Summer Christiansen, a 15-year-old high school sophomore getting her Associations in Art this semester, noted the differences in food; “Their main specialty down there for food is actually guinea pig, which they call ‘cuy’. They eat alpaca as well. So food was a big difference. If you ordered a cheeseburger, you’re going to get it with regional cheese, so you have no idea what animal it’s coming from. It could be guinea pig cheese for all you know.”
  For Megan Johnson, an 18-year-old from Juneau majoring in social sciences, the most valuable lesson from the trip were the people of Peru's attitude.
  "I'm from a white upper-middle class family, I've been that way my whole life and so to go and see people who have nothing, but they are so much happier than anyone you see walking on the streets here. There'll be some one who has no money for shoes and they're begging but they're laughing and they're smiling. I just think that there's so much that western societies can learn from that,” Johnson said.
  Johnson asserts that there is a different attitude prevalent in the United States than the one prominently displayed by the citizens of Peru.
  “Here everyone is worried about tomorrow and what's going to happen next week and I don't know what I'm going to do next year and where am I going to go to school. There are just all these things that everyone worries (about). They spend five days out of the week looking forward to two. They don't do that there. They enjoy life as it comes. Every moment is a moment that will never come again kind of thing."
  The trip was both student orientated and motivated. The students had a major hand in planning where they went and what they did both before and after they arrived in Peru.
 “We had a fairly well defined itinerary before we left that the students had agreed upon. We used that kind of as a guideline as to what cities and where we would go. But once we got to each new town or city, then the students would make decisions day to day what they wanted to do,” Dan Monteith. Professor of anthropology at UAS stated.
  The trip was also surprisingly affordable with airfare costs totaling at around $1600 and the students spending an average of $30 a day plus the course fees. The large Permanent Dividend Funds and financial aid helped students afford their Christmas sojourn.
  When asked whether another trip like this would be offered next year Monteith said, “We’d always like to keep it open. Open to input from students on what counties they’d like to go to. It’s nice to go to some new places. Maybe next winter break or who knows. It really depends on the level of interest of students.”
  Cuba, Argentina, and Northern Peru were mentioned as possible locations.

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