October 7, 2010. Theater students along Debora, and Ana Correa, and Augusto Casafranca from Yuyachkani Cultural Group from Peru after a workshop on the uses of the masks.
From May 19 to June 30, 2010, fourteen Viterbo students and two faculty participated in the GATE-Mexico program. During those days they the group met several social workers, academics and human rights activist in Mexico city and also Chiapas. The picture was taken at one of Sergio Castro's Water Projects in the indigenous communities surrounding San Cristobal de Las Casas.
Painting by Ecuadorian artist Hernan Illescas and Viterbo students made on October 22th -23rd. It will be displayed in the library soon. Title: Global Warming, Technique: Acrylic, Size: 150 x 140 cm.
Walking Forward: Accounts from Peru
by Michael Krueger
Sunday, November 16th
As Wisconsin experiences the wonder that comes with colder temperatures, dulled colors, and the beginning renewal of rain turned snow, it is a different walk of life among the city streets of Perú. Though I have been caught in the occasional downpour, which turns sidewalk into a rushing flow of water, drops heavy upon the earth, it is more to the brightened sun, jacketless steps, and the colors found among the trees and fruit-side stalls that give form to these spring time days. And as much as such differences give to each new day, there are a few similarities that have led me to feel as though I am no more than a moments walk away.
A few weeks ago, as many in the States set out upon the concrete path to travel from house to house with a bag in hand and a mask upon the head...I too set forth. Though in years past, autumn for me has been marked by lighted pumpkins resting upon a porch, a walk through an orchard of apples on high, and pile after pile of leaves raked from the covered land, this year sorry to say, there was none of that...but what there was were eleven kids in masks and costumes setting out from our alleyway with me as their guide for an hour of stopping by corner shops and local cafes in the hopes of receiving from a tradition now here. And so, for that evening night, I could have been on a street in my own neighborhood, with the porchlight on, and a bowl of candy laid out. It´s only a guess, but I may be out of luck for a similar tradition of pumpkin pie and a plate of turkey - seems that may just be an American holiday!
Though I´ll be passing on that celebration for the year (of family gatherings, and plates of food), waking to a glass of fresh mango and banana juice seems to be an alright trade. As is getting in a game of streetside footbal (fútbol) on an early Saturday afternoon. I´ll just have to wait to see if these high-altitude games and walks to school pay off for me when I once more wake to a 6am sky in that great community of La Crosse and set out for a run to the river´s edge and up a dirt trail to the bluffs that surround. For now though, with four more weeks to live and breathe this thinned air...four more weeks to walk the city street, past a view of traffic light and houses high into the hills...four more weeks to speak a language that I am only beginning to understand...and four more weeks to be as a witness to a life that is lived in community and within a culture...I may take just one last walk out amongst this daily movement and passing voice.
Weeks IX and X
Our footsteps carry with them a means by which to gently walk the landscape, leaving but an imprint, though carrying away a world seen for a moment in passing. Looking back you see a trail already traveled, and looking forward, face into the wind, a light morning mist rising from the earth, you continue on...not because it is the destination you are after, but because the cool air breeze, the stilled silence, and the distant gaze of a mountain far off call you on. And so you step, a weight upon your shoulders, the gentle breeze across your face...
5am is an early start to any morning. It´s an even earlier start when you head off to bed the night before a mere five hours earlier after some last minute packing. The day did come though, and with the backpack thrown across the shoulders, I headed out to the city street, grabbed a taxi, and found myself sitting atop a bench with a few other companions, awaiting the bus that was to take us away from the city limits and out into the surrounding landscape. We traveled by bus through paved streets and by city shops for the waking morn hours, until slowly, the cityscape of constructed dwellings became a dirt road of winding turns, and the corner shops transformed into mountain valleys and rising heights. Though at times, a glance out the window led to nothing but a steep descent down the terraced side, eventually the dusted road that traveled upwards came to the community from which we set off.
There´s always something about the start of a trek, whether it is the feeling of your hiking boots against the dirt floor, the strapped buckles of a backpack tight against your chest, or the knowledge that from here you begin to walk, that moves forth and excites an inner-spirit that dwells within. Surrounded by mountains in the distance, and a trailhead in front, we began to walk.
When you are away, in an environment that cannot be explained but only felt, walking steadily in unison with those around, amid a steady solitude and expanse of limitless pathways, a gentle understanding is brought forth. Though what is seen by the eyes portrays a wonder of vision, especially here admist these mountain passages, windswept plains, and rockstrewn valleys, it was a girl off to the side of our trail who allowed for me to see a life lived here, a life so different from the one which I did step.
She sat in clothes of vivid color, here in an environment without dwellings or distant figures, watching over her family´s herd. The trail which we had stopped on to rest was located within a small valley of grays and dark greens, rocky hills rising up on each side. Our guide reached out and offered a snack, and the girl, rising from the position she did sit, ran up in laughter and raced back down once more. It was then that we found out she was deaf. For years she walked these hills, away from conversation, away from the exchange of voice, with only the morning sun, these desolate hills, and a family members care to guide her...and yet, a smile was present and a happiness which I knew nothing of. She sat for hours in quiet solitude, daily among this land, present to a wonder that I had come to merely pass through. The life she carried, I lived for but a moment...the faith she expressed, I could not even imagine...here in such silence, such beauty, without voice or conversation, but that of the winds blowing touch and the gentle feel of an afternoon rain.
The continual motion of foot upon the earth, rising and falling, was a journey I lived for a number of nights and days spent walking. While stepping out across this scape of many sights, we passed through streams of water flowing from heights up above, valleys of continuing colors that stretched beyond the sights of eyes, blowing winds that carried the sting of rain upon the face and drenched the skin, and constant climbs toward steep emarkments of rocky outcrop. We also though, passed through small communities of earthen houses, met along the trail children from distant walks of life, who came in bare sandals up these mountain sides, a light dust across their face, to smile up and offer hands held out. There was also a man and a woman of wrinkled complection, who had walked these trails for over a century now past, and still walked on, bent over in age, but welcoming to our coming presence. And in each community that we did pass, among each household set apart from road and city, ancient tradtion and a continuing culture were witnesses to our passage.
On the fourth day, after a train ride to a town miles off, I arrived at Machu Pichu. As seen in thousands of pictures and atop billboard and tourist ideals, it remained for us. A wonder present amid a landscape of rising mists and a natural life. But for me, though amazing in itself, it was the walk that led here, away from hundreds of cameras and voices calling out, through serene trails and in communion with those who lived apart, that I discovered a truer spirit and wonder...present admist a beauty seen by but a few, and walked by the feet of all those who step daily through this environment...for it is their home, their spirit, and a relation of tradition passing and a communion forming.
Such was my walk.
Weeks VII and VIII
For as much as we can seem to understand the passing day, so much goes undiscovered in that which is ordinary. Daily as I walk to class, along sideroads and through paved streets, the ordinary is present. Whether that be the strong sun beating down in the early afternoon, a passing rainstorm that creates rivers in the channels below, the passing van with twenty travelers inside, or even a streetside vendor selling newspapers, snacks, or a hot drink...that which is ordinary. Along the streets of Cusco, there is plenty which is ordinary, and there is a tendancy to forgot that within the ordinary lies the sacred.
Over the past few weeks of class, (I´m still the only student, so maybe class isn´t the right word, but conversation and discussion) the focus has been on those events which are still so much a part of the history and culture here, however dark they may have been. Dictatorships, government sanctioned terror, kidnappings, conflict, the disappeared (desaparecidos)...such topics can be difficult to cover, but as a current history, they are necessary to be discussed and understood. Among this population, found in the traditions, the colors, the stories, and songs, there is a living, breathing rhythm of life...found in the passing stranger, the child playing in the dirt, and those who daily walk the street...but also within the household, within my 10 year old brother Brenny, within Eva who cooks the meals, within my teachers who share with me their personal lives and ideals, and within the family who´s internet cafe I now sit.
Of the amazing opportunities that Peru has brought, having this present week off for vacation doesn´t get much better. And so, after a few days of resting up, tomorrow at 6am I head out for a journey that will take me across landscapes, through mountain valleys, and among rural populations...for four days I will walk, arriving Friday at the ancient site of Machu Pichu. After spending a few months going without the experience of the trail, I am ready to pull out the sleeping bag, dust off the backpack, and place on the hiking shoes to begin the walk once more.
August - September, 2008
Week V and VI
Peru sits atop a vast array of ancient landscapes and carved out ruins. Over the years, centuries more like it, many have been drawn to its splendor...from those who originated, to those who conquered...each awed by what was to be found and seen. And so, deciding for myself that it was finally time to set out and discover the history of this land, perserved in culture and tradition, I took it upon myself to board a bus and hop in a taxi so as to see what lies among these mountains and valleys that have shaped Peru and its continuing history. What follows is my account.
The Bus and Taxi Ride
For a little less than $2 I purchased a one way ticket by bus to small town located off of the beaten track. Driving to this town, along a road which winds back and forth through a valley, with mountains rising up on each side, I began to see for the first time a Peru away from the city, among the communities that live and work the land. Driving through the mountains, you cannot help but be in wonder of all that surrounds.
After about an hour and a half drive, through ravines and outcropping cliffsides, we arrived at a small bus depot. Still unsure of how to get to where I was headed (the ancient site of Tipón), I found myself walking off the bus and into the front seat of a nearby taxi. Though I do have the dark hair and a bit of a tan going for me, I still present the appearance of an outsider, and so, locked in the cab of the taxi, I found myself persuaded to hire him for the day, as both driver and personal guide to Tipón and a few other sites along the way.
When you´re in the front seat of a taxi, and there´s no radio to provide background noise, and there´s really no other cars around because you are off in the highlands of this Andean landscape, small talk tends to come about. And so, we talk...and who would have guessed, he only spoke Spanish. Apart from the amazing opportunity to build confidence through conversation, I couldn´t help but look out the window and see the landscape before me. While driving to the many different sites I saw that day (Tipón, Moray, and the Salineras), it was often the drive itself that portrayed the wonder of this land - staring off into fields of browning grass that stretched on for miles to the base of snow-capped mountains, watching children at the side of the road...sitting among the animals they herded, llamas and goats (a work that goes back thousands of years), seeing mountains rise up, and valleys flow below...
The Many Sites of Peru
Over the course of that week I visited many different areas, each with a history and understanding of its own. Whether located in the depths of a valley or alongside a mountain edge, I came to see Peru, through these sites, as a culture and society etched into the past but living on into the present. What follows are the sites I saw that week, and a link to those photos which bring to light what words cannot.
Though there are no autumn breezes or chilled morning air to meet me as I get up each morning, there is plenty of sun, moutains off in the distance, and the sound of dogs barking down one of the many sidestreets. Peru, being a few thousand miles south of the great North American state of Wisconsin, is easing out of the winter months and turning to the summer. Though the air is still plenty cold in the early mornings and late evenings, and the rising hills are still bare and brown, there is a sense of the coming summer in the warm air that arrives each and every day. And so every morning I wake, usually around 7am, do a bit of reading, and head downstairs for breakfast. Even though I´ve had to cut back on drinking cold glasses of milk from six or seven times a day to zero, a warm glass of milk, the fruit smoothie, and the roll with honey do the job just the same.
My day then shifts to a period of "not a whole lot going on". Why is this you ask...well because I don´t begin class until 2:20 each afternoon. I find this morning time to be great for additional reading, walking to the nearby internet cafe to check emails and stay in touch with world events, and to spend taking in my surroundings. Fastforward to 1:15, I head downstairs once more for lunch, rapidly eat the rice, potatoes, and chicken on my plate, swallow it down with a warm glass of juice, and begin my daily 50 minute walk to school.
Monday through Friday I have class from 2:20 until 6:30pm. Class sizes...well, when it´s just you and the professor and possibly one other student you have plenty of opportunities to ask questions. It amazes me how I can understand fairly well a four hour lecture, but put me back on the street or with my host family, and I can´t get past a few sentences without stumbling...but hey, give me another month, or two, or six and I should be well on my way. For the next three weeks I will be taking Incan History, and one of the many benefits about studying abroad is that often you can travel by bus or foot to the Cathedral or ancient ruin being taught.
Come 6:30 I am on my way out the door and off again onto the night streets for my 50 minute walk back home. Passing by the many vendors, school kids, and taxis one of my favorite views is to look up a sidestreet and out into the mountains, seeing the many lights of houses reflected against the night sky. After the long walk, I arrive home, sit down at the table and enjoy yet again another plate of rice, fried eggs, and chicken, followed with a warm glass of juice. It´s then off to watch a pirated move dubbed over in Spanish (released in theaters only the day before back in the United States), and then off to play a game of Skipo or Uno with my brother Brenny.
The day then ends where it began, back in my room reading and reflecting on the day now past.
It is not every day that you can walk down a cobblestone street and have the chance encounter of meeting a llama, but here among the narrow streets and twisting alleyways, that is exactly what I encountered. Looking around, I witness the colors of a landscape formed by history and cultivated by a people who have walked these steps for thousands of years. It is a history as ancient as the ruins that surround, but everchanging, as the people work to renew their sense of identity and tradition - through daily labor, protest, and story.
This past weekend I had the opportunity to walk with my host brother Brenny the many streets that form the city of Cusco. With our sights set on the mountains, we headed off and climbed the rugged trails. Reaching the ancient ruins of Sacsaywoman and realizing that we didn´t have quite enough money to enter, we went for the next best option and set off on horseback to head further off into the highland landscape. The scenery of Cusco is beautiful, but away from the city and up in the mountains, it is inspiring. We rode for an hour or so, breaking only to stop and stare in wonder at another ruin hidden admist the the rocks, and returned once more on the path we came.
We then set out to see the statue of Christ which overlooks the city. Upon arrival, we gazed down at the city from the view held by Christ...watching over a population that is a living witness to the spirit which has formed admist both poverty and development. It is a spirit and a faith that all individuals carry within.
And so the day ends, but the walk continues.
At 9,000 feet up and surrounded by a vast expanse of mountains one would think that sending out emails would be hard to come by...well this is proof, that even if you are a few thousand miles away from the great state of Wisconsin and at an elevation such as this, things still continue onward. If at this point you are wondering, what is going on, don´t be alarmed, this is not a standard email sent out by a communications firm asking for you to change to a new messaging system that works even at 9,000 feet (I´d be impressed by that)...but no, instead for the next four months about every weekend or so you´ll be getting an email from the Andean highlands of Cusco, Peru - now who wouldn´t be excited by that!
Many of you I´ve had as teachers, some as friends, some as co-workers, some as bosses, and even a few of you are relatives thrown in for good measure. If you still have not connected the dots, I´ll be straight-forward...of the many names that I have gone by or have been called, the one we´ll stick with for now is Michael Krueger.
The majority of the emails I send from here on out will be a bit more descriptive as to what I´ve experienced, discovered, and been challenged by, with a good bit of reflection thrown in here and there. I have now been in Cusco, Peru for a little over a week, and still I am adjusting, still I am unsure of what´s to come. Being surrounded by a country so different from that which I am used to, living in a culture and among a people so like myself and yet so full of incredible differences, being away from all that I am familiar with and have grown to know, it is a challenge, but a challenge which brings both amazing insights and understandings.
What I have come to know thus far is that even admist such great change, I carry with me what I have learned, the perspectives I have come to understand, and the values, thoughts, and experiences each one of you has taught or shared with me along the way. Thank you.
Latin American Studies Faculty Trip to Ecuador, Summer 2008
From May 19th to June 30th, 2008, Latin American Studies Faculty and colleagues from other programs went to a seminar in Ecuador sponsored by Viterbo University Global Education Office. In the picture above Alida Herling, and Stephanie Genz with a woman healer at the Health Care Center in Otavalo.
During the experience, we had the opportunity of learning about the country and its historial, political and cultural processes since pre-columbian times to the present. Besides Quito, we visited Otavalo and Cotacahi in Imbabura province, where we stayed with locals for two nights and participated of several workshops, interviews and meetings with regional social movements activists. In the picture above Stephanie Genz, Marlene Fisher and Rolf Samuels during a break at the Afro-Ecuatorian Center in Quito.
In Quito we had academics exchange with colleagues from the Center for Ecuatorian Studies, several universities, professional institutions and organizations based in the Quito. In the picture above Silvana Richardson, Dean of the School of Nursing along with Ecuatorian nurses
On January 4, 2008 Latin American Studies Program faculty members visited the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis to view the Frida Kahlo exibit.
On October 10th Pedro Juan Hernandez gave a lecture at Viterbo University to students and faculty on the political situation in El Slavador now that the US has begun its war on terror. Hernandez works with a group called Cripdes which advocates for the development of rural El Salvador. He also gave his lecture in the Valhalla room in the Cartwright Center At UW-La Crosse
On March 28, 2007 students listened to a presentation on genocide in Guatemala. Beth Sanders, from Kickapoo/Guatemala Accompaniment Project, spoke about how there are political and business interests being put before the people who live in the Ixcan region. These people are being displaced by oil exploration, a hydroelectric dam, and a highway. Beth is with a human rights organization that is monitoring the situation in that area so there are witnesses to the human rights violations.
Latin America and Viterbo
Ricardo Rivera, exchange student from Metropolitan University in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Ricardo is here to complete his final clinical synthesis in area hospitals.
Faculty from the School of Nursing at the Metropolitan University in San Juan, with Stephanie Genz, Beth Moore, and Christine Wilson.
An outdoor classroom at the Metropolitan University in San Juan.