“My view of our world is new now… I made discoveries that were not possible on the DelVal campus. The opportunity to experience culture with communities that value rituals, speak a language called Quechua, depend on llamas more than a car, and color the yarn for spinning with materials that derive from earth was invaluable.”
These are the words of DelVal alumna Adrienne Liszkiewicz, who travelled with a group of eight Honors students and two faculty members to Peru over spring break in 2012. The trip was part of an Honors colloquium focusing on the unique history and culture of Peru. While in Peru, students explored the ruins of ancient civilizations, witnessed the impact of Spanish colonialism and experienced modern Peruvian culture. Among the highlights of the trip were visits to the recently discovered 5000-year-old pyramids of Caral (the oldest known civilization in the Western Hemisphere), tours of historic Lima and Cusco, and visits to Inca cities of Sacsayhuaman, Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu.
“We marveled at the quality of Inca craftsmanship, their technological and engineering brilliance as well as their quest to live harmoniously with nature,” said Dr. Jack Schmidt, co-director of the Honors Program and one of the organizers/instructors. “We developed an appreciation for Incan civilization based on our studies of their history and culture prior to the trip, but the opportunity to walk among the ruins and to see first-hand the impressive stone carving, the terraced agricultural fields and the ingenious mountain irrigation system was astonishing. We all left with an increased respect for this magnificent society.”
In addition to touring historic ruins, the group also spent a day in the highland village of Misminay, a tiny agricultural community located above 12,000 feet in the Andes. The group visited locals in their small one- and two-room adobe houses and shared a meal of cuy (guinea pigs), choclo (Andean corn), quinoa and other traditional dishes with the community. After lunch the class observed local rituals, traditional farming techniques, as well as wool dying, spinning and knitting. The group also tasted home-brewed chicha (fermented corn beer) and participated with community members in the ritual of chewing coca leaves.
“The day we spent with the Misminay community was, for many of us, the highlight of our trip,” said Dr. Tanya Casas, assistant professor of sociology and an expert in Andean society. “The men and women welcomed us warmly into their village with Andean songs and dances, and provided us with a glimpse into a way of living very different from our own. The people were much more in tune with their natural and social environment. Many of us marveled at the level of unity and cooperation members of distinct families displayed as they worked together to prepare for us a truly exquisite meal with products from their farms. At the end of the day they hugged us as we departed and, as is custom in Quechua, said ‘see you later’.”
As in previous Honors trips to Berlin, Rome and Vienna, students formed close friendships with others in the group. Ms. Liszkiewicz writes, “There is bond in the honors group that developed at airport layovers (the trip home went through five airports and lasted 29 hours) and Inca ruins. It was an amazing experience to travel out of the U.S. on a short spring break to make discoveries, friendships and memories that will never occur on the small college campus. It was an opportunity that I will appreciate, reflect on, and be grateful for years after I receive the DelVal diploma.”