1. Be ready to work as a team and do a lot of manual labor.
When working in the community, most of the work had to deal with nature conservation, involving building greenhouses and fences, and digging holes and trenches. Many of us had not experienced work like this before, so we were all learning the entire time. The long days of work were humbling, and put our attitudes to the test as we had to stay positive and keep working together towards accomplishing the task.
2. Food is a great way to learn more about and connect with the community.
Walking throughout the main plaza in Cusco, we saw a lot of delicious looking food being sold along the street. Often when we would travel to the community and the generous locals would offer us food. Even if we didn’t partake in every dish, the local Peruvian people were ecstatic when we would try some of the food that had been prepared, and we were very glad to be able to try new foods and experience new tastes.
3. The work you will do on environmental conservation and sustainability is extremely relevant not only to the community in Peru, but also to communities back home in the US.
While we were there, we took lessons on how to also teach the local children about preserving the environment. The members of the community were very welcoming. However, it was the work ethic and ideas that we learned from local Peruvian community leaders that helped our ACE group learn about this mindset of environmental consciousness in the first place.
4. Try to speak as much Spanish as possible with the local people, even if you don’t know a lot of Spanish! Be respectful, and ask first if they would be willing to help you with a phrase or a word.
It was often easy to be intimidated by the locals who speak very quickly. I found myself trying very hard to both understand and to have conversations, pushing my knowledge of the Spanish language to its limits. Often times, I had to ask them a word or the proper grammar, and they were more than happy to help out when they saw I was making an effort to learn more.
5. Machu Picchu is one of the coolest things that I have seen in my life so far; the place is a testament to the hard work, skill, and planning of the indigenous people of the region many years ago.
As soon as we finished the fifteen-minute hike, the trees open up and we could see Machu Picchu, the feeling was indescribable. Having talked about the place so much and only having seen pictures, I never really thought the real thing would be that much different, but when I saw it for the first time, my breath was taken away. I was amazed by the view and the testament to such incredible work done by the Incan people. The place speaks to the hardworking and detail-oriented nature of both the Incan culture, and also of the culture of the communities with whom we worked in Peru.