Troop 243 – Peru Adventures

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After two years of planning, nine girls and three adults walked through waterfalls, sampled new foods, and connected with Scouts and Guides from around the world in Peru.

Culture International
Peru
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Troop 243

Why Peru?

Trip discussions began early. After a lot of talk, we knew we wanted to take a more unconventional trip – someplace where we could learn and experience a lot, but that most Girl Scouts troops don't typically travel. One of our leaders had always been really interested in Peru. After some research, we realized that it had something to offer for almost everyone, from shopping to history to nature. And, many of the experiences we had, from seeing a Cirque Du Soleil to staying at a biological research station, would not have happened had we not done our research and planning.

Connecting with nature

One totally unique experience we had was being able to spend two days at the isolated Wayqecha Biological Research Station, located in Manu National Park. The site, literally located in the clouds, is frequented by researchers from all over the world who come to study the unique habitat. Panchito, our guide and orchid expert, led us on a hike and showed us many varieties of plants, including an orchid that was only one millimeter long! After hiking all day, we had one of the best Peruvian meals of our whole trip, and Panchito was the chef! The sunset was amazing to watch as we sat outside on the cabin decks overlooking beautiful scenery. The next day, we took a spectacular canopy walk - a giant construction of light weight steel made to help researchers investigate in treetops without having to climb trees. We hiked, learned about new plants and animals, trekked through streams and waterfalls, painted mud on our faces, and felt like we were at Girl Scout camp – in South America.

Lima

Lima was a big city – gritty, but full of life and light. There we first understood the country of contrasts we had stepped into – where the city, the ocean, and the desert converge. We arrived in the evening and promptly got to two most vital of traveling activities- eating and shopping! With the help of a knowledgeable tour guide Oscar, we learned about the pre-Incan, Incan and Spanish societies that made Lima what it is today. We appreciated the historic sites in and around Lima, and took a day trip to see penguins and sea lions on Ballestas Islas in the Paracas Island nature preserve. Many of us braved the Pacific Ocean in the middle of the southern hemisphere's winter before partaking in traditional dancing. One night we tried Chifa - a mix of Chinese and Peruvian cuisine that originated during the 19th century's mass Chinese immigration.

Cusco and Culture

Throughout the trip we met new people and gained an understanding of what it means to be global citizens by connecting with complete strangers and learning something new. The most memorable experience I had in Cusco was the journey there. On the flight, I sat next to a lady who was returning to her family after working in Lima. We started talking about the beautiful snowcapped mountains that poked through the clouds. But, this conversation was different for me because it was all in Spanish. Even though I am only in Spanish II and have a limited vocabulary, l knew enough to carry on a real conversation. There were so many wonderful things we got to do and see and be a part of in Cusco, but seeing firsthand how valuable and useful my education had been was the best experience of all.

From the moment we stepped out of the airport and into Cusco, it had an entirely different feel than Lima. The archaeological capital of South America seemed like something from a storybook: cobblestoned streets, flags waving everywhere, and, in the countryside, winding roads interspersed with small villages. The group split up. Some of us headed to local cafes and chocolate shops, while others set out on a mission to find "meat-on-a-stick" that we had seen days earlier. A policeman directed us to a huge market unlike anything we'd yet seen. This market wasn't touristy at all. It was filled with locals and everyday items. Instead of being hassled to buy, we were free to explore the people's market and see how they conducted daily shopping. It was an adventure, and we found just about anything you could think of, including an entire pig's head!

Scouting Experience

Back in Lima, we had two opportunities to interact with other Girl Guides and Girl Scouts at the WAGGGS Western Hemisphere Conference Opening Ceremony and at a campfire hosted by Girl Guides from Lima. The conference was interesting because we were constantly being asked to pose for pictures like celebrities; and we got to gawk at the "U.N." of uniforms swirling around us and watch traditional Peruvian dances. At the end of the evening we got to talk, really sing, with one of the Peruvian troops. They sang to us, and then we sang to them, and it was one of my favorite parts of the night. At the campfire we got a chance to practice our Spanish, sing and dance some more. We discovered we had more things in common than I expected: a love for Lady Gaga, Facebook, and singing silly Girl Scout songs. We traded e-mails and our homemade neckers for their official Lima Girl Guide ones (which are so special I wasn't sad anymore about trading off ours!). Peru was amazing; however, the Girl Guides we met made the trip real. We weren't just tourists, we were Girl Scouts and I now know I have sisters all around the world, not just at home.

With a lot of careful planning and foresight, we put together a Girl Scout trip that was truly memorable for the diversity of experiences that we had, and the degree to which we were able to enjoy them. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Peru, and would encourage any group of motivated, culturally adventurous girls to take on the same!