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Chocolate, Spanish Classes, and Building Playgrounds in Ollantaytambo

We have just finished our week of home-stays in the beautiful town of Incan ruins, Ollantaytambo.

For the first half of the week we took Spanish classes at a nearby Spanish school from 9 am to 1 pm each day. Classes would consist of a few hours of Spanish practice and grammar in the classroom and then a few hours of exploring ruins, nearby markets, and the town with our Spanish teachers. On one of my walks through the market with my teacher I tried a prickly pear (tuna in Spanish) for the first time and it was so delicious! Our three days with the Awamaki school were definitely a good way to end our Spanish classes.

On Thursday and Friday during the morning we stopped with our Spanish classes and instead volunteered at a nearby school by helping to build a playground. Kuska School is a small school for kids ages 6-11 that is based on an alternative teaching system. The school does have a curriculum, but instead of having individual class periods, they just work on interdisciplinary projects that in turn incorporate the different academic subjects. Between the progressive pedagogy and the happy faces of both the students and the teachers, I couldn't help but wish I were a student at the Kuska School. Not to mention, it was in the middle of a farm and surrounded by gorgeous mountains. The two days that we volunteered there flew by; the students were eager to help us with the building of the playground and they were so ecstatic to see the final product by the end of Friday. After all the hole digging and log scrapping, it was so satisfying to see the smiles on the kids´ faces as they swung on the swings and climbed the monkey bars.

Although we were very busy in the morning, we definitely found ways to entertain ourselves at the chocolate store in town during the afternoons. I think we all realized the extent of our sugar problem during this past week… We would go to the chocolate store AT LEAST once a day, filling up with chocolate in all different forms: hot chocolate (Mayan AND European), chocolate croissants, iced hot chocolate, you name it. We probably also exhausted their free sample supply…

On Saturday the group used the activity money to enter the town's ruins. I think we all agreed that seeing the Incan ruins was probably one of the most interesting parts of the trip.

As we say good bye to our week in Ollantaytambo with our bellies full of chocolate and our cameras full of photos of ruins, we prepare for the final stretch that we have been waiting for for 3 months, Machu Picchu!