Location: Ollantaytambo

We began today with our usual 8 am breakfast, which consisted of bread and jam, yogurt, and fruit, as well as pancakes (for those who were fortunate enough to snatch some before they disappeared). We split into our usual two groups and everyone headed over to their schools for our final full-service day of the trip. However, today’s activities completed at the schools were not the same as the ones carried out in the past few days. Today, instead of doing the usual service of sweeping, sanding, painting, etc., we got to do something more exciting: make crepes for the children!

Upon our groups’ arrival, Meca (one of the workers of MySmallHelp), explained our task for the morning: we were to prepare 57 fruit-filled crepes for the students of the school. Sophia and I began right away making the orange juice to be used for the fruit filling; cutting the oranges into fourths and squeezing, by hand, every drop of juice possible out of each quarter; a task that was surprisingly more difficult than I anticipated, but still enjoyable. While we were doing that, Eve and Avery B. got to work peeling and slicing apples and bananas as the rest of the group prepared two massive bowls of batter. Once the batter was ready, half the group started on cooking the crepes while the other half began combining and cooking the ingredients of the filling. It was difficult to maneuver around the cramped cooking area, but we somehow got into a system that worked successfully and soon had the first batch of 17 fruit-filled, jam-topped crepes, along with 17 cups of juice, ready to serve to the first of four classes. By the 4th batch, we had fallen into a group rhythm that worked well for everyone and making the crepes became easy and enjoyable.

As fun as preparing the crepes was, laughing and joking with my friends the whole time, the part that was most enjoyable for me was delivering the crepes to the classrooms. Each time we entered a room, the children would yell out “Hola!” as their eyes eagerly followed those who were holding plates, waiting anxiously to be served. After each student received their food, we stood as a group at the front of the room and told them our names and said what we were there for. In each class we visited, a child would stand up and thank us for bringing them food and painting their school. As we exited each room, each time it was to a chorus of little voices yelling “Gracias!” In one class, the children even sang us a song and yelled out “Thank you!” as we left (but it sounded more like “Tank choo!”). After hearing a little bit about the children that attended the school (apparently a lot of them come from poor families) and seeing how appreciative the kids were, we all headed to our usual lunch destination feeling satisfied with our morning’s work. We picked up the other half of the group, who’s mornings were spent similarly, and ate a delicious lunch of soup, chicken, and cake for dessert, as we shared the events from our days so far. We then had a much-needed siesta in the grass area outside of the restaurant, which most of us spent sprawled out on the ground relaxing and enjoying the beautiful view of the mountains surrounding us on every side. Today, like every day, we marveled at the beauty of it all, and how it is so impossibly amazing that it almost looks fake as if the scenery is a backdrop of a Hollywood film. Despite the fact that we’ve been here for two and a half weeks, I sometimes still have to take time to process the fact that we’re actually in Peru.

After our siesta, we got to take part in a traditional Incan ceremony, in which each person received three cocoa leaves which were going to be burned in a ritual carried out by Incans as a thank you to mother nature. This was an interesting, eye-opening experience in which we were able to see, as well as take part in, a portion of traditional Incan practices.

The whole group then returned to one school where we spent about an hour finishing up the final layer of our painting job. After hours of sanding and painting from the pervious two days, it felt great to finally complete this task. We then returned to the hotel for some free time, which some of us used for shopping in the square right down the street. The group later headed to yet another delicious dinner at a nearby restaurant, and afterward ended the day with some highs and lows and appreciations. It’s sad to think that the trip is coming to a close, but I’m excited for the next few days and for memories I know the final days will bring.