Day 3: Incan history vs American Exceptionalism

Text by Ethan M. :

Highlights of the day: alarm clocks, jump roping,  family, legos, and ceremonies.

For the boys, the day got off to an abrupt start. We were supposed to be ready for an 8am breakfast but we didn’t wake up until 8:10 am (when Mr. Jewett knocked loudly several times on our door). Needless to say, we were very late for breakfast (the girls, however, were perfectly on time.) To be fair, we didn’t set an alarm because we fell asleep last night before we were able to learn how to use our alarm clock so the fact that we were only 20 minutes late for breakfast is nothing short of a miracle. And, at lunch today, Ms. Torres taught us how to use our alarm clock — we look forward to being perfectly on time tomorrow! Important life lesson from Mr. Jewett: always be on time and always know how to use your alarm clock.

Speaking of lunch, here are some pics of our delicious and beautiful meal:

After breakfast, we did our first team building activity with World Leadership School (WLS). Basically, WLS had us do a series of jump roping activities all leading up to a “final challenge” which consisted of each of us jumping under the same rope at the same time. To do this, we had to be strategic (going in order of height, ability, and energy were just a few of our many strategies.) Aside from the exercise, this activity was great because the group couldn’t stop laughing and smiling. Bailey, Ketaki, Miro, and I are in the same grade and we’ve all been friends for a long time now, so it was great to laugh with them, but this jump roping activity allowed all six of us to bond. I’m really glad that we’re getting so close to Bao and Vicky and I can’t wait to see how close all six of us become by the end of the trip. Ms. Torres and Mr. Jewett have pointed out multiple times how much of a “family” all of us have become in just three days and I couldn’t describe our group better.

Jump roping wasn’t our only form of exercise today: we spent two hours climbing the Incan ruins in Ollantaytambo, and given the high altitude, this was certainly a challenge. Our local tour guide, Monica, knew everything there was to know about Ollantaytambo and Incan culture. The sights from the ruins were all beautiful (see how amazing in the pictures we post!) but what really struck me was my misconception of what it means to be an “advanced society.” As an American, I often find myself falling into the trap of “American Exceptionalism,” a concept we learned about in history class. “American Exceptionalism” is the idea that America is the best country with the best culture just because we’re American.  What we learned from Monica today dismantled my misconception. She taught us about the Incan agricultural system of using “microclimates” to grow different crops in the same season in the same places, using a terrace-system. Thousands of years ago, Incans figured out that different crops need specific climates for growth, and to increase efficiency, Incans built incrementing “steps” in mountains. Given our altitude of 9100 feet above sea level, each step in the mountain was 2 degrees Celsius cooler than the last step. For example, the decremental temperatures allowed Incans to grow crops like Coca leaves (high temperature crops) on lower steps and crops like Potatoes (low temperature crops) on higher steps. Incans also increased efficiency by designating different “steps” as farming, supporting, and decorative. Not only that, but the Incans built systems like these using giant legos. Not exactly, but the Incans figured out (hundreds of years ago!) that they could cut out a piece of granite and use that separated piece to connect it to another granite stone. In this way, the Incans didn’t have to use clay or another adhesive to build & connect structures, instead, they more efficiently connected granite as if the granite were legos. The reason why this information dismantled my idea of American Exceptionalism is because seeing all of this technology reinforced the idea that there is no “best culture.” America isn’t alone in its exceptionalism, other countries and cultures have equally unique and amazing aspects too.

Later, in a group discussion, we talked about how we have a different way of life back home in NJ but this doesn’t necessarily mean that the people we’re meeting in Peru want our lifestyle or would switch places with us. These people are happy and their way of life is just different from our’s, not better or worse. I hope we’re all cognizant of this when we meet our homestay families tomorrow.

Our last activity of the day was a ceremony honoring Pachamama, or Mother Earth. I won’t go super in-depth about this ceremony because Ketaki is going to talk about this tomorrow. All in all, we’re all excited to continuing getting closer as one big family and expanding that family to our homestays.

We’ll post additional photos from other photographers in future posts.

These photos are all from Ms. Torres.

6 thoughts on “Day 3: Incan history vs American Exceptionalism

  1. Wow! The food looks amazing!!! Ethan thank you for writing the blog. It seems to capture the moment and feelings. Looking forward to seeing more pics. Bailey, I think the food looks amazing & grandmas meatballs will be home waiting for you. I love you.♥️

    1. We are loving reading all about your adventures and all that you are learning.So glad to hear that you are bonding and enjoying each other’s company. You will have great memories to last a lifetime. Keep all the fabulous photos coming, be safe and above all, have fun!

  2. Loved reading your blog Ethan. Your personality shows through your blog! Keep writing and sending us the pictures. Hope Ketaki is getting food that she can eat 🙂

  3. We are loving reading about your adventures and all that you are learning. So glad that you are all bonding and enjoying each other’s company. You will remember this trip forever. Keep those fabulous pictures coming and enjoy every minute!

  4. Very nice details and wonderful photos! Thanks to Ethan’s words and Ms. Torres’ photos! We are learning remotely as well! What a great idea if each of the students take turns to write the Blog everyday… looking forward to more to come! Thanks for sharing with us!

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