- Ways to Give
By Susan Hartman and Jennifer Shopland
Last spring when we found out that we were the recipients of the Education Foundation’s Eleanor Venture Travel Grant, we were so excited to finally visit Peru and experience first-hand some of what we had been teaching for so long. We also believe it is important to share with our students a world culture that is so different from our own.
High on our list of goals was to attend school in Peru in order to practice our Spanish. We chose Cuzco as our home base, both because it used to be the capital of the Inca world and because of its proximity to the Inca city of Machu Picchu. For 18 days we stayed with a fantastic Peruvian family, la familia Fernandez, in which both of our hosts were retired teachers. Their hospitality was wonderful. We’d enjoy their delicious meals, and then spend hours drinking mate, sharing stories, and trying to solve the world’s problems. All the while we were soaking up the culture, improving our Spanish and, of course, learning about Peru.
We teach a Spanish unit on ancient civilizations and the Incas, so we were anxious to actually visit Machu Picchu. After trekking all day through spectacular terrain and seeing ancient cities only accessible on foot, we arrived at the sun gate above Machu Picchu. Below it is a breath-taking city that was hidden from the Spaniards because of its high altitude location. Since we arrived late in the day, all of the tourists were gone, and it was just us and the llamas. We actually toured the city the following morning at 6 a.m., but we will never forget our first sight of the city. It was truly an inspirational experience.
Another highlight of our trip was the experience of going to school in Cuzco. Cuzco is an attractive city located at an elevation of nearly 11,000 feet, and has a pleasingly international character.
It has Inca ruins in and around the city and the sacred valley is accessible by bus. It was a pleasure to walk to school every day just to experience the atmosphere and sights of the city. Despite the cold weather and signs of poverty, we loved just walking around and, of course, shopping. We were impressed with the high quality of handmade goods. We also enjoyed being students again. We learned so much being on the other side of the desk for a change. All of this we brought back and have been sharing with our students. When we teach the ancient civilizations unit, we will show them our power point presentation, but in the meantime, we continue to share with them the little daily experiences that we were so fortunate to have had last summer thanks to our grant from the St. Vrain Valley’s Education Foundation.