Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hi Again

Happy thanksgivin! The Sammers celebrated a little early by enjoying a huge feast and playing secret turkey for each other. We all are very well rested after a very amazing and spiritual stay at our yoga retreat. Sunday, a very sunny woman at that, shared her Hindu practices of meditation, astrology, and all the different yoga types and philosophies with us. The courses were intense, we sang, danced, meditated, and most of us are capable of doing headstands now. That is until Keegan farted and everyone had to kneel while he just laughed. The food was wonderful as well. Healthy and tasty. Plus since Sunday is from New Mexico we got a little taste of home in the US. Every part of the yoga retreat was inspiring, especially baby Mira Vie.

Now with full bellies, we are ready to take part in the very anticipated final part of the trip, a 5 day trek to Macchu Picchu. We are all very aware that this is our last week together and hope to make it the best one yet! But we can´t wait to see you soon! Love and kisses,

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Floating islands, a place none of us have ever expierenced before. The people create their land from condensed dirt and place piles of yellow reeds on top. The sun light reflects beautifully off of the islands as well as the lake, which creates a gorgeous contrast. Along with the reed monster boats that dock outside their homes. These islands literally float and in order for them to stay in place stakes need to be pressed down, and weights thrown over the side. The communities are very friendly though when in disaggrement, they have been known to pull stakes out of their neighbors part of the island to hopefully have them drift away. The islands that we visited were Uros and Taquiles. It was a very scenic boat ride to get to both islands, although our boat driver fell asleep on the way there time to time. We were graced by double halo rainbows which surrounded the sun throughout our trip. When we got the Taquiles we took a 20 minute walk to the top where we ate lunch. Jeff ended up dying along the way in our current game of lover. Then we returned to the boat with our happy tour guide since we were the happiest group and played chess and cards the whole way back to Puno.

Although Puno was relatively small, we were all able to do many activities in the town, such as the carnivals and coca museum. Alot of us hiked up to the look outs, one having a pointing statue of Manu Chipac, the first born Incan. The other look out had a giant Andean condor statue that provided a much larger and breath taking view of Puno, literally breath taking because of the altitude. One night after dinner, we stumbled upon a professional womens volleyball game, Puno vs. Juliyaca. We all had a roaring time as we acted like 12 year olds yelling ¨JULICACA!¨ although most of the time we thought Puno was playing Cuzco. Keegan also caught a volleyball that was thrown in the crowd during halftime. After having the ball for five minutes, a little sweet kid came to him and asked him for the ball very politely. Bugged eyed and mouth grinning, Keegan shouted ¨¡ES MIO!" and cackled, making the boy run to his mama. After all the insults we threw at JuliCACA, #6 Thunder Strike and #10 Big Mama, led Juliyaca to victory. We left with happy faces knowing we would be in Cuzco soon.

We got a welcome to Cuzco gift by getting some of our stuff robbed on the bus ride there. We put it behind us with all the fun things we did. After all the strenuous research we did at all of the many travel agencies here, we decided to go zip lining and horseback riding. We giddied up and rode em horsies all around the ruins. It was amazing to see the advanced engineering the Incas did to make these ruins, but mainly we were more excited just to ride our horses. Then we strapped into our harnesses and zipped and zipped and zipped. We had a blast riding the 3 zip lines the park provided, but had a crazy time repeling down a 100 meter rock. Kieran seemed like she had the most fun doing that. While Shelby wasnt so fond of taking other peoples advice while repelling. What is special about these zip lines are they are the highest in the world, but only above sea level. It was nice having amazing adventures in Cuzco before we left to volunteer at the House of Miracles.

Well we all crammed into a cozy little van and headed off to House of Miracles, an orphanage in the Sacred Valley. To get there we did the unmanagable and fit all ten of us and our bags into a wee little car. Its a colorful building full of love. The American couple, Marie and Allen, who manage and fund the place are so sweet and genuine. They welcomed us with coca tea and smiles. Charlie, Blue, Rover, and Sid all gave us barks of kindness. We spent most mornings weeding the drive way to help bring down the lease of the property. In the afternoons, we chilled with the homefries playing games and sharing jokes. Jose Luis was the name maker of the group. Will being Chubaka, Kieran being rat..but its only cause she taught them egyption rat screw, Keegan, Princess Leya, Dan as Squished Tomatoe, Jeff was Girrafe, and Andy was the sad clown. One of the days we took a 2 hour hike stright up the mountain an Incan Ruin. After exploring the girls and Milo sat in the wide opened feild and played the the dancing sparkles. We giggled and wondered why we were seeing these white specks and balls of black. At one point all four of us were waving our hands in the air, all with smiling faces. The rest of the boys kept walking and went to the Incan tower. On the last day at the orphanage, we had an indoor bon fire where we all laughed and feasted on smores. In the morning the kids gave us hugs goodbye and we went to Cuzco for just a night. Now we are all excited for the yoga retreat and are savoring the few days we have left.

Until later,
with love,
Kieran and Keegan

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Lake Titicaca

Here we are - it´s free travel time! We are in the tourist haven of Puno right now, super fried after our two weeks of spanish classes in Arequipa.

Colca was incredible, as you could probably tell from the pics.

After a 6 hour bus ride in a double decker, flying on all sides of the ¨road¨ through the most picturesque landscapes of the Peruvian mountains we arrived here with mouth fulls of coca to ease our aching heads - Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world. It is beautiful here. This morning, Raul, a very different Shaman than ours from the Amazon, did a ceremony to the Pacchamamma (Mother Earth) with us. He taught us about the pre-Incans´ belief that the three most holy animals are the snake, which connects you to the underworld, your innerself and the knoweledge of the earth, the puma which connects you to the physical world and your drive and inner warrior spirit, and finally the condor which connects you to father sky and the cosmos. All of the Andean philosophies also believe in the concept of duality, creating a balance between opposing forces: the positive and negative, or the masculine and feminine energies in everyone and everything. On our journey to ¨the door of knowledge¨ we first sat at the rock of the puma where four cat foot prints lay embedded into an acient rock, then we traveled across the spine of the snake which was a long ridge leading to the nest of the condors, which was a series of natural rocks in the shape of condors overlooking a cliff. Along the way we participated in two rituals - one where Raul supported us as we leaned out with open arms over a cliff and released the negative parts of our past so that we can better face the future. The second was at the ´door of knowledge,´ where we became one with the earth, entering columns carved into the cliffs by either natural means or the ancestors of humans. We entered one column, felt its energy, and then entered the other, finally ending between the two, literally in the door, where we also felt the energy from the Pacchamamma.

After we all did this ritual, Raul and another Shaman prepared an offering to the Pacchamamma: sweets, coca leaves, wine, and the fetus of the llama. We all offered a handful of coca leaves, expressing our best thoughts for the universe, and then they burned the offering in a fire pit made of cow poo. The poo turned white as it burned, a sign that the Pacchamamma accepted the offering.

Tomorrow we head to the floating islands, and then Tuesday night we will be bound for Cuzco! WE GET TO RIDE A HOT AIR BALLOON OVER THE SACRED VALLEY HAH!

Peace out from Team SAM
Your bloggers, Maddie and Andy

Monday, November 2, 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Greetings from Arequipa!

We have emerged from the jungle and now we have arrived in Perú!

Our week in the Amazon was muy interesante. We stayed in a lodge on a ridge above a village on the Puyo-Pongo river, and our project for the week was to build the stairs to get to the lodge! The path was steep and slippery and in need of a lot of maitenance. We perfected our machete skills chopping up trees to make steps and spent hours pounding them into the ground. We also got to trek through the jungle and visit a shaman. Andy got to hang out with a monkey. It was pretty chill.

The shaman visit was fascinating. He began each of our cleansing rituals by smoking a cigarrette and demonstrating how the cigarrette represented each of our bodies. Then he stuck the wrong end of a different cigarrette into his mouth and blew smoke all over us. The stains on the cigarrette were our ´mal aire´or bad energy. To cleanse us, he did a series of rituals like spraying us in the face with sugarcane alcohol, blowing smoke on our heads, and using magical rocks to call spirits from the jungle and cleanse us. We were all given a specific herb to smell six times per day, three times in the morning and three times before bed, for three days. After three days our current sicknesses we supposed to be healed. I think as far as shamanism goes it is nessicary to believe to be able to see, rather than to see to believe. For some of us the experience was more meaningful.

After a dirty ass week in the amazon, we took off for Quito at 6 in the morning with bags full of wet clothes and mud. Upon arriving we chilled in Quito for two days. Some of us got to visit el Mitad del Mundo - the official equator - while others got the chance to have a private tour of the US embassy with Jeff´s friend Mike, the head of security there. The US embassy in Quito is brand new, cost $80 million dollars, and is considered small. Don´t try breaking in, even to use the water-conserving toilets that can actually handle toilet paper (a major novelty in these parts). After a couple of days in Quito we all wke up at 3 in the morning to catch a flight to LIma Peru and then transfer to another flight to Arequipa, our new home...for two weeks.

Arequipa is a cool city - it´s hot and dry during the day and cold and dry at night. It´s actually on the north end of the Atacama desert... or you could just call it Tatooine. We´re living with wonderful families. OUr mornings are spent taking intense Spanish classes. Tomorrow we apparently have to give speeches in front of the entire school, to demonstrate our bomb spanish skills. Andy, Milo and Dawn entered an agreement on Monday: Andy and Milo would quit smoking for five days, and Dawn would fast. Andy and Dawn are holding strong on day THREE, but Milo not as much... and he has paid the price - he TOLD us to pants him if he smoked... and Keegan is not one to let him go back on his word.

We´ve passed the afternoons exploring this new place... we saw the market on Monday - anything you would ever EVER need. Yesterday, we went to the Monastary and explored the seemingly never-ending labrinth of bedrooms, kitchens, and sanctuaries. We´re also in the midst of planning our weekend to Colca Canyon - hopefully we can find a mule (or puma. or condor) for Maddie and her knee to ride down on! Free travel plans are also in the works - Lake Titicaca, here we come!

Peace from the SAMtastic team!

Hasta luego - photos to come!

Your bloggers, Maddie and Andy

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Alto Choco

hello home! que tal? we have some bad news... ecuador lost the world cup qualifying game...we were in quito that weekend and the streets were crazy. we even tryed a little dancing in one of the clubs that night... an interesting experience that some of us enjoyed more than others. then we packed up and headed into the cloud forest of Alto Choco for the week. we were planing on staying there for two weeks but our plans changed and come monday we will be at another reforestation project in the amazon! how great is that!!??!! hopefully no one gets jungle fever...uh ohh. i am personally hoping to see some monmkeys or an andaconda or soemthing very unique and tropical-like. in Alto Choco we planted a lot of trees, helped build walls out of bamboo, cooked, and went nof a very beautiful hike. the mornings were so beautiful- it aint called the cloud forest for nothin. right now we are in a cute little town called banos...we may even go to the natural banos tonight. today we all went was a lot of fun. i am planning on posting pictures tonight on our shutterfly so keep checking that if you need to see more. we know that you guys love to live your lives through us. we love you. we miss you. muchos besos.

your blogggers- Shelby and Milo

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Week In Otavalo

This cloudy friday morning finds us once again happily settled in the mountain town of Otavalo. We´ve spent the week attending spanish school, practicing spanish with our new found ecuadorian families members, hiking liberally around the area, and imitating bird calls in an attempt to tease flight out of Andean Condors. We eagrly await reuniting with our group mates, now lost amongst the forest of clouds. This weekend there is a highly anticipated soccer game and if Ecuador can win and score 3 goals they automatically qualify for the world cup. The tension is palpable, and we look forward to being in Quito this weekend to witness the excitment boil over from the stadium and into the streets. We´re trying to upload pictures but are having complications due to poor internet connection. Hopefully we will have success soon. Till then, we miss you all and hope your time at home is magically delicious.
With much love,
Will, Dan, and the rest of the SAM crew

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Hiking a Mountain!

Today we encountered our first mountainous obstacle as a team...literally. We climbed a mountian. We scaled one of the largest mountains in the area around Otavalo, a mountain by the name of Fuya Fuya. The views were incedible and the acsent steep, but we enjoyed every second of it, relishing in the challenge. At the top the clouds wisped up the mountain and enveloped us like a blanket left out all morning to collect dew. It was one of the most amazing experiences of the trip thus far, especially considering it came right on the heels of the group reunion after a seemingly never ending week of being seperated by many miles of forest. We all had fascinating stories to relate while many a hug was shared. While the other group was staying with their homestays in Otavalo and going through rigorous spanish lessons, myself, Will, Shelby and Milo were spending our week in the Cloud Forest teaching basic english (and sometimes basic spanish) to a fine group of youngsters living in the area. Even though some of the children (especially the young ones) proved to be more of a challenge than was expected, we still had a marvalous time. The other group explored Otavalo and the surrounding areas in the mornings, and perfected their spanish in the afternoons. They also visited many sites around the city like the Cascada de Peguche where our fellow traveler Kieran´s shoe descended the waterfall only to be retrieved by our fearless leader Jeff. More pictures to follow this weeks activities..

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Due to complications with Flickr, we created a brand spankin´ new account through shutterfly, which allows all of us to sign in under 1 username. Here´s the link, check us out:

Saturday, September 26, 2009

greetings from otavaloooooo!

This dark saturday eve finds us nestled in between mamma and pappa volcanoes in the ever magnificent Otavalo Ecuador. After two weeks spent working the farm at Rio Muchacho, today we were able to satisfy our insatiable American need to consume, storming one of the largest handicraft markets in South America, scouring the streets for gifts, plauging store owners for their unnescesary knick knacks made of alpaca hair. We now set off with misty eyes as our group seperates for the first time. Half bound for the cloud forest to teach the younglings of ecuador, and half to work on our ever improving spanish vocabulary and grammer at a language school in Otavalo. Soon we shall reunite in a joyous embrace, until then its off deep into the forest for Dan and I. Wish us luck, we miss you all at home.
with love, Dan Will and the rest of the Carpe Diem SAM trip

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Hi Family! We are having such a great time in Rio Muchacho and want to tell you all about our trip so far! We started out at Saiunanda, a beautiful place just outside of Bahia. Alfredo, the owner, opened our eyes to a new way of living, as we all tried something new and did a singing bowls meditation. Peacocks roomed the land, along with many other birds and animals including iguanas, sloths, horses, parrots, dogs, puppies, cats and much much more. Each meal was delicious, even the sloths tried to sneak into the refrigerator to grab a bite. One of our favorite days was going to the mangroves with Cati. We covered ourselves with mud!! Getting dirty never felt so good. We laughed, were happy, and felt blissful as we connected to the Earth, wildlife and to our new friends. Now at Rio Muchacho, an organic farm, we are eager to get our trip up and rollin! In the day time we experience as much farm work as possible -shoveling poop, making compost, pulling weeds, feeding the animals, and helping in the kitchen. But at night is when we get it poppin! We jam every night -Keegan on the drums, Andy on the guitar, and everyone else joining as they please. Dawn and Dan play shit boots but you better watch out cause Dan will jack you up son! Milo brings a calming wisdom and offers meditation for us all. Maddie likes take small childrens soccer balls and kick them off a cliff (Thanks, Kieran, writes Maddie). Shelby enlightens us with her metal singing skills. Kieran helps keep the bugs away, and is always willing to give a WHOO WHOOOOO! Will is always the person to look at when you need a smile, giving us a lot of insight and laughter. And Jeff has been doing a swell job at providing a monologue that always cheers us up. We have one more week in Rio Muchacho where we will begin our Spanish classes, which we all are super excited for. Hopefully we will vbe able to enter another blog post before we travel to Otavalo for our next adventure!
Bloggers Kieran and Keegan

p.s. we made a flicker account! go to to see the pictures

Friday, September 11, 2009

Greetings from Bahia!!!

We´re here!!! After a verrrrrry long day of travel, we have arrived at our orientation location on the coast.

We´ve been released into the city of Bahia de Caraquez by Jeff and Dawn, who (very lovingly) said to us this morning, `Now leave this beautiful hostel we´re staying in, fend for yourselves, and come back for dinner! No, we won´t be helping you. At all.´

So here we (Will and Maddie) are, having just finished a delicious meal of rice and beans and chicken and beef at a restaurant overlooking the Bay. We will spend the rest of the afternoon seeking out transportation options and other hostels as `foreshadowing´for more responsibilities we will be taking on later in the trip. Woo hoo!

Hasta luego, amigos! Sending good vibes your way.......

Maddie and Will

we´re here!

hola amigos! we have made it here to ecuador and are in la ciudad de bahia de caraquez! this is our first stop so we havent seen much of the city, but the hostel we are staying at is mucho bien. there is even a sloth that live in the kitchen. we are on a scavenger hunt and are hoping we find some great things. the new culture is sometinhg we enjoy a lot....but our spanish is not as good as we´d like...hopefully we dont get too lost today! xoxo padres we love you

Nosotros Estamos En Ecuador

Sup guys its Dan and Keegan reporting live from an internet cafe in Bahia, Ecuador!! Being the first ones to post on this blog and to find internet access by ourselves we would to take this time to congradulate ourselves... After a strenuous day of traveling were eager to explore more of this town on foot. Our hostel that we are staying at is luxurious, very peaceful and full of delicious meals. There were many interesting creatures that inhabit our hostel, from terantualas, to sloths! Well, we still have a lot to discover so until next time.. adios.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Let the Journey Begin!

I've just spoken to Dawn and Jeff and the group happy, together and are heading through LAX airport security as I type this blog. With one slightly delayed student everyone arrived without injury and with all bags present - truly, this promises to be a wonderful and affirming semester!

Please stay tuned for regular blogs from our students on a mostly weekly basis.

Yours in spirit,

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Let It Begin:)

Well Hi Thar:)
This is your future co-leader team, Jeff and Dawn, just checking in with you, sending out warm welcomes. We have been spending many days together now, running around Portland doing last minute errands, talking Heaps about our upcoming adventure and how truly excited we are to meet all of you very very soon, and simply learning about each other. We've been going over our itinerary, finalizing a few things as well. Anyhow.
So this is the first of many Blogs to come, which ya'll will eventually be taking over; it is a way to share with friends, family, and loved ones what we are all up to. You may notice that there are previous entries from the last group who were on this trip...we want to keep these old Blogs as an ongoing way for everyone to access past memories and to see what future groups are up to!
We are sooooo very excited to meet you guys, and to have the opportunity to share such amazing and magical moments with you all.
Yippee Kye Aye,
Jeff and Dawn

Friday, May 22, 2009

SAM and beyond

Well, its been a fantastic journey through America del Sur, and it has now come to an end. To recap:
After we got back from the yoga retreat, we had a successful trek to the famous city of Machu Picchu. Along the way, we met a lot of nice people, saw some amazing scenery, and felt the presence of the ancient Inca in every footstep. For some, it was our first time backpacking, and we all thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Watching the sun rise through the mist as we got our first view of MP on day four of our hike was unforgettable. The only drawback was that Tessa had injured her knee and so her and HEather had their own journey through the sacred valley - on horseback and raft instead of on foot. We had a happy reunion at Machu Picchu, toured the site as a whole group again, and then, tired but happy, hopped on our train back to Cusco. We were sorry to say goodbye, but every good thing comes to an end, and we have many amazing journeys ahead of each of us. We will always keep the memories of the past three months with us as we go forward in the world.
Paz Afuera
Adam, Heather, Jenn, Tessa, Karen, Amanda, Paul and Onyx

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Omm Govenda Ommmm.

We just got back from our Yoga retreat. Wow, what an amazing experience that was.

We got there Sunday night, and started right into a yoga philosopy class. We learned about the begining of yoga. We had our first yoga class that night. That night was really just spent relaxing and getting our yoga on.

We started our next day and everyday after that, with a session of meditation, then went right into our yoga. The mornings were always nice there. It was a very interesting week, we put our bodies to the test of how well could we all really bend. I got laughed at a bit by Jenn, for my non felixble body. We all laughed alot at some of the postions, ¨ ok now everybody, sexy cat.¨ But there were some great partner yoga postions, some of mastered some crazy headstands.

During the morning after breakfast we would do daily ¨selva¨which is service of making things beautiful and doing things that are beautiful. We would work in the kitchen, sweep, and water plants. After our morning selva, we would have a different class, 2 of the days we learned about Chakras, we all learned how to read Chakras as well! So be prepared parents, we will tell you what ones of your Chakras are blocked and the things you need to work on to un-block them! ;) At night we would do more yoga, and just relax before a great vegitarian meal. We were veggies all week, and boy was this food great.

Before we came back yesterday, we did a great ceremony. We all burned things that we wanted to leave at the Yoga center. We all went around and said a quote or a mantra that we wanted to leave as a legacy. It was amazing.

This week was one of the more relaxing weeks we have had, a great way to go into MAchu Picchu tomorrow. We leave around 6am, tomorrow to head off to our trek to find the lost city.

We will write when we get back from our trek.

Ciao, Onyx and Jenn.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Swine Flu - Update from Carpe Diem HQ

The following is a post recently made to our FAQ page that we wanted to include to all of you who might be reading this blog.

Swine flu has recently been confirmed throughout Mexico and parts of the US. A few other countries have also reported possible infections. While we're in touch with the CDC and monitoring all of the international news we can put our hands on, we also feel we are uniquely placed to handle the situation given that all of our field staff are trained in Wilderness Medicine; two of our office staff are currently Emergency Room nurses; and the other is a Wilderness EMT. We also have contact with a variety of local doctors (including a few with advanced training in international and tropical medicines) that should needs require we can reach out to.

Our spring & fall 2009 programs will continue to run as scheduled although we plan on requiring flu shots for our fall programs as they have been proven (with Avian Flu for instance) to much reduce any severity of infection. We may also choose to outfit our medical kits with extra supplies such as extra hand sanitizer and the like.

Swine Flu is an offshoot of the 1918-19 flu: just as every flu since then has been. In that strain of flu as well as most that have followed including Swine, Pneumonia has been the actual concern and the one we're most on guard for. The good news is that once recognized there are very good treatments for Pneumonia and we are very familiar with good doctors in the areas our students travel. Of course we plan on continuing to take the proactive approach and deal with any medical potentialities quickly and professionally. Since that initial pandemic in 1918, the subsequent strains have historically been more and more benign. The Swine Flu is presenting thankfully as a low-mortality flu (currently, in the US as an example, there have been 50 suspected cases and only one took an overnight in the hospital before being discharged in good health). So, while this particular flu strain is stronger than the typical seasonal flu, we are hopeful that it will continue to be as easily treatable as it has been.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

We left Pilcopata after our almuerzo(lunch), loaded up the 4x4 that would take all of our food to the community, and headed out on foot to Huancaria. Our jungle stroll took us about two hours, hiking on rough muddy roads with just our water bottles. We met our Jeep in the main plaza of the town, picked up all our supplies and walked another ten minutes to the raised and covered platform constructed for visitors of the village. Everybody pitched tents and then was ready to jump in the river.
All the little kids came to our campsite, curious to see us and what things we were bringing with us. The niños found us very funny, playing with Onyx´s hair, saying that it was sheep´s hair and naming me Small Mouth. At the same time we were all suprised to see little girls with nose piercings. The next morning we were woken up by our first rain forest rain. We headed over to the center of town, where the soccer field and the school houses are. We met with the head teacher, a woman from a nearby village named Veronica. We immediately set out cleaning the dirtiest and oldest of the three school buildings, taking out all the desks and school supplies, and giving it all a good scrubbing. Once finished cleaning it was time to paint, a fresh layer of red and yellow. We spent that afternoon playing volleyball with the children befote heading back to camp for the night. Our evenings were spent learning from our guide Andreas about the Machiganga and Machipaya people that inhabitat this community, hearing myths and legends of the native peoples, and hearing incredible stories from our contact Hugo Pepper ranging from the lost city of Paytiti to his time at Woodstock.
The next day we continued our painting of the schools and finished work on the second building. At this point we still had only had contact with the children of the village, who were constantly hanging around and in school during the day. The men of the village had been busy investigating the news that people were in their territory cutting down trees, and so were out protecting the village. That afternoon we spent time making bracelets and necklaces with Nora, the wife of Alberto the world traveling medicine man. We worked with her and her children and then had fun shooting a bow and arrow.
We spent the next day working with men and women from the village out in the fields. We split into two groups, half of us going with Guillermo to clear a field for planting and learned about the village as we talked and waiting for all the wood to burn. Land is communally owned in the village; if you want to work on a certain plot of land you do, and you are the owner of the crops you produce. It is only when you want to cut down trees that you talk with the community to make sure it is ok. The other half of the group worked on a hillside clearin land with machetes. That afternoon we got to meet with Alberto and take a tour of his medicinal plant garden - he laughs like a mad man and knows how the uses of every plant in the jungle.
The following day we left the jungle at 7 in the morning, traveling back to Cusco in one day. We had to hike back to Pilcopata, jump in our bus and ride the bumpy dirty roads of the jungle, and cloud forest, traveling from sea level to 3326m, reaching Cusco at 7pm. Food, and sleeping in beds and no more bug bites! Our jungle expedition came to a close.


Welcome to the Jungle.

Hi all! Sorry its been so long- we have just been so so busy!
So last week, after a lovely couple of days in the beautiful city of Cusco, the group set off onto a ten day expedition... to the jungle. It took us a few days to get out there being that it was so far away and we made a few pit stops. We left Cusco on Tuesday, spending Tuesday night, Wednesday and Wednesday night at a beautiful 300 year old hacienda just outside the town of Paucartambo. The house was a big, gorgeous ranch with a big old fireplace to warm up with at night. During the day we worked to clear a field on the farm there that will be used to grow corn.
Thursday morning we hit the road bright and early and drove to a spot on the Madre de Dios river where we hopped in a boat and headed to a tiny lodge in the cloudforest called Atalaya. We spent one night there, and took some really nice hikes in the afternoon to explore the jungle. The next morning we woke up incredibly early to boat down the river to see macaws flying along the river banks. Totally incredible sight. Later that morning we continued on our way, braving landslides and some serious mud along the road, to the town of Pillcopata inside of the Manu National Reserve. We stayed one night in this little, dusty town at the Paradise hotel and finally the next morning we took off for the jungle community we would stay and work in for the next few days... Paul will take it from here to tell you all about the jungle!

xoxo Ciao!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Triviaaa whaaaaaa.

Well I didn´t have this weeks trivia on my lost post, so here it is guys!

Peru is one of the leading exporters for paprika, and asparagus. As well as gold, and they have some of the best silver you will ever find!

As a lack of education in Peru, they arent able to really get into the exprting as other countries are. So they sit on the moto of ¨Poor man sitting on a golden chair.¨

Well thats this week trivia for you guys, we are heading out to Cusco in a little bit.

Hope all is well at home.

- Jenn

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Jugo de Rana.

Well tomorrow we have our last day in Spanish school. These last 2 weeks have been filled with learning and new experiences.

Today at school a few of us travel to the market, where some of us saw things we didn´t really want to see. Parts of animals that should never be shown. I know my teachers were trying to make me try Frog Juice....Ehhhhhh, no thanks! :-/ It definantly would have been a crazy ride for the stomach. They would take the live frogs just right out of this container they had in the open,and just blend them on in. I don´t think the poor guys knew what they have coming. The market is filled with so much diversity, from seafood to all the jugos you can imagine. On the 3rd level is the animals. They had the cutest bunnies you will ever see, and the BIGGEST turkies you can imagine. And of course they had cuy, I wish they were pets like they were in the state, the poor little guyswell accutally they aren´t small at all. They are huge here.

Tomorrow is our last day of class, which is definantly sad. I know I have had some awesome teachers, and have learned a lot since Viva Verde in Quito. It was nice to have a refresher on mi español. Today we received cerfificates of completion and had some really dulce postres. Mmmm mmmm good. We head out to Cusco tomorrow, on an allllllllll nighter bus everybody. Please pray for us that it is comfortable. Then we are headed on our way to meet our new contact for the rest of the trip,get this name Jugo Pepper. What an awesome name. We will shop for supplies for the jungle where we will be starting Tuesday, for 10 days.

Well thats our last week, and the rest of our weekend folks.

Hope all is bueno, up a la norte.

Ciao, Jenn.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Colca Canyon.

Well this weekend, we hiked to the bottom of the 2nd deepest canyon in the WORLD! And there is only a couple 100 meter difference between the first and second.

Sheese it was a crazy weekend, we woke up on Saturday morning around 3:30 am, and got on to a bus and tried to sleep since we knew we had a long day ahead of our selfs.

We arrived to the Condor Park around 9:30 or so, we watched the condors for over an hour just fly throughout this beautiful canyon, some were big and some were small but good god they were a sight to see. They would fly directly over your head, and almost were praising your presence for a good photo to be taken.
From there we took another crazy bus ride for about 15 mins, to the begining of our deep desent into this goregous, almost deepest canyon. In total to get to the bottom, and to our arriving point of the ¨Oasis¨, catchy name huh? It took us about 6 hours, with an hour or so break for lunch as well in the bottom of the canyon. We arrived there in perfect timing before dark. That night we spent steripenning water for a good hour or so. We were all so tired, sore that walked down definantly kicked our ass, and we all knew that we still had to walk up the next day. We had a very enjoyable dinner, of pasta with tomatoes. It was sure nice to get a big meal. That night we stood out in front of our little adobe house and looked at the goregous moon and stars. Boy oh boy were they bright. Good thing though, we needed them at 4 in the morning.

We all woke up again, that next morning and started our ascent up this canyon around 430. Amanda and I were not feeling so well that next morning and road mules all the way up. I cannot speak of how hard it was, yet I can hear stories. Perhaps somebody who walked up will help me post a blog this week to talk about their expereince. I know that we definantly have our worked cut out for Machu Pichu, everybody. Good thing we end with that. Ha! But yeah it was a goregous sunrise that morning heading up the canyon. A bit cold but we came prepared. Everybody arrived to the top of the canyon around 8 am, nothin like a good ol´4 hour hike to start your day! :)

We arrived to this little town, and had breakfast in a hostal. After breakfast we all headed to the main part to wait for our bus. It was a funny sight to see all of us alseep in this park on the grounds the benchs any where we could get comfy. We headed out to Chivay after that, and went to the hot springs. Boy were they nice and HOT! It was so nice to soak your sore body from head to toe, it was relaxing. We ate lunch at this little sandwich shop in Chivay as well. After lunch we headed back to Arequpia, where most of us were definantly looking forward to our beds, and a nice shower.

That was our weekend, it was a crazy & beautiful weekend.

This week we are continuing a nother week of Spanish school. Hopefully on our way to fluency! Haha, probably not but we can always HOPE.

I will post more this week.

Ciao from all of us here in the Southern Hemi.
Hope all is well at home!

- Jenn

Friday, April 3, 2009


Hello Lima, wait, no, hello Arequipa!

We only took a pit stop in the Lima airport to use our first Soles, and taste some fantastic gelatto.

And now here we are, settled in with our families, getting used to the groove of Spanish school, and spending our afternoons walking around the Plaza de Armas under the hottest sun in the world, so says Jenn's homestay Dad Freddy. But Freddy also told us El Misti is waiting to explode (I checked to make sure, it's actually dormant) phew. El Misti, what a fantastic sight, overlooking all of Arequipa at a tall 5,822 M, thats over 19,000 feet!. But not only does Arequipa have El Misti but two more volcanos on either side! Chachani and Pichu Pichu, also very high, but smaller, and with more peaks. Snow tops all of them, which feeds Rio Chile, Chile is actually a Quichua word that means cold. Similar to chilly, don't ya think?

On the flip side of this valley, some five hours away, past the towering earth, is a canyon twice as deep as the grand canyon. It's the grand grand canyon! Also known as Colca, or "wake up early" canyon. Not that Colca means wake up early, but we're leaving at 330 in the morning tomorrow. What a muy temprano time of day.

It will be nice to take a journey out of this city, and glimpse a bit more of Peru, and its birds. Flying Andean Condors will be the focus of our first stop on the long hike, lasting two days in and up, up, up out of the canyon. It will be the highlight of Arequipa, besides maybe the delicious pastries, or the cheap magnificent chinese food, or the churches made out of volcanic rock. I've got to say, Arequipa has it all.

Chao Chao!
amanda and the group

did you know?
Alan Perez is the presidente of Peru.
(thank you Onyx. Let's hear it for Trivia master!!!!)

Friday, March 27, 2009

The way we roll, ya know?

All is gravy baby in this here land they call Ecuador

So as of now, the crew is kickin it in Quito yet again before heading down to Peru-a-go-go where all should go equally swell. This past week Adam and Heather entrusted their sanity, safety and well being in the hands of us, spanglish speaking loonies, in hopes that we wouldn´t seriously hurt, or offend anyone. All i can say is bless their souls...bless their souls.
Our week of fun in the sun began with a surprisingly smooth bus ride down the coast. All went well, and the group was taken aback my Amanda´s travel brilliance, and I have decided to name my first born after her as a token of my gratitude. Hope she won’t mind.
Anywho, Puerto Lopez was oh so lovely except for all the trash that these here Ecuadorians find to complement the breath taking beaches so well. It makes strolling down the play a bit treacherous when you are constantly avoiding lord knows what in the form of day old plastic wrapped little gifts of surprise. Well I guess in a place as tranquillo as the big P.L. you need something to keep you on your toes.
Also, Adam has decided to write a short novel on the ramped mating habits of street dogs that really just can´t seem to get enough. I personally find it a bit perturbing but that is neither here nor there. It was classic, every morning we would be enjoying heaven on a plate (also known as desayuno) and without fail, the wild mongrels would perform a rather strategic shag-dance fest-thing that would consist of much barking, yipping, and ever awkward fighting mid thrust between the males. Talk about mildly unpleasant!
Beside the dogs, however, there was much wildlife to been seen. On Monday, we ventured out to Isla de la Plata where we saw three types of Boobies and yes, needless to say, there were far to many attempts to stifle our oh so mature laughter. It’s quite pathetic really how one simple word can set off a group of young adults. One would think that we are all professionals here but no, Boobies are just far too absurd to keep a straight face when discussing the importance of saving their habitat and all that good stuff. The island itself was large, dry, and rather hot but beggars’ can´t be choosers when it comes to Boobie spotting. Our afternoon was spent swimming around the island and basking in the glory that is the Pacific Ocean. The color of this water was enough to take your breath away, which as you could expect made the whole snorkel\swimming thing rather difficult.
Day two was spent at Agua Blanca, which ironically had very little water, and if you ask me, it was more brown then white but there’s no need to get caught up on the particulars now is there. We learned that they buried the dead in pots about the size of a small water cooler. I asked the guide if the whole stuffing a body in a pot thing was difficult and he explained that the people of this region, back in the day were rather small and no, it wasn´t difficult. I don´t think he saw the humor in my question, but that isn´t surprising at all. Also at Agua Blanca there were some lovely sulfur hot springs that smell all the better in mid-day heat.
Day three was one to go down in the books for the simple reason that dearest Paul celebrated his 20th year of life in style. We went to Los Friales, possibly the best beach in the whole world, but I´m not going to get ahead of myself. There were absolutely no other people on the expansive playa and the sun, water and world were all in celebration of Paul´s big day. The crew was able to pull together a picnic that pretty much was the bomb. We feasted on marmalade, and manis (peanut butter, which by the way is surprisingly difficult to come by) samis, local oranges, and cookies galore. What a life we lead!
Yesterday, we spent a long 12 hours on a bus from the P.L. back to Quito. Can someone say fun cuz I sure can! Anyway, life is, you know what I speak of, and we all look forward to Peru with the excitement of a child on Christmas morning, or some other really excited creature.
Well then, hope all is peachy in the grand states up north and give a shout out to all the fam and friends that are deprived of our tender love.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Composting Toilets

What up yall this week has been a blast. the organic farm called rio muchacho was an amazingly wonderful place. everybody loved it.

We had a full five days there at rio muchacho. we did something new every day. A reguler day consisted of waking at six and doing the morning chores, varrying from cleaning the pig pens, helping with breakfast, cutting grass with machetties and fedding the horses, or cleaning qoy cages. at 7:30 we would eat breakfast and some one usualy two people would be on dishes. at about 8:30 we would take a class on organic agriculture. tought by Dario. we did tours and classes most days in the mornings of the garden and different eco friendly systems. like solar energy, the composting toilets, compost bins and etc. after lunch we would do something like make rings or cups and spoons out of a gord like plant called mate or make necklaces out of tagua, or working in the gardens planting weeds or choping and pulling weeds. we would rest the rest of the day at around 4:30 and eat dinner. in la noche we would chill out maybe watch a video or play cards. and sleep like we hadent slept in days.

So we did alot and had a blast, after today we leave early in the morning for puerto lopez to begin free travel.

Till next blog, onyx

Saturday, March 14, 2009

"Im a G in the jungle"

We left Otavalo a week ago for the Alto Choco Forest Reserve in northern Ecuador. Ramiro and Carolina, Ecuadorian mountain man, and a Swedish woman, our two contacts there, met us in town to get us started. We ended up in our own small van following a rocky road through the mountains driving through thick clouds to get to the town of Santa Rosa. We got out at the start of the town, just a couple of houses, a store, and hiked into the forest to the house we would be staying in for the week.
Staying with us were Ramiro, Carolina, and three Belgian boys that had been there for 5 weeks already.

We brought all the food for the week up with us, excluding the avocados we picked off a tree, and got our water directly from a river in the jungle that we had to hike to when it got clogged, and of course it did.

We did a variety of things in our stay in Alto Choco. We used machettes to plant baby trees and branches of trees that would grow quickly. We cleaned out the tree nursey and helpéd order what was in there. We spent a lot of time unearthing plastic bags with soil in them that were to be used for seedlings but I guess were forgotten and completely covered with soil and the new arbolitos. We went into town for a crochette lesson, making bracelets from all natural materials, and for our last day we hiked up the house the Belgian boys were working on and hiked further into the reserve to the corn fields meant to feed the rare spotted bears that are protected by the reserve. We planted more corn and then had our lunch of rice sandwiches in a spot cleared by a hungry bear.

We did important work reforesting some of the last 40 acres of the reserve that had not been reached, and we all loved the peace and tranquillity of the reserve, relaxing by a fire at night in a hamock.

Today we are hopping on a bus for the coast and a week working at Rio Muchacho organic farm, making chocolate and milking cows!


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Otavalo Take Two

Hey all! We are back in Otavalo for another weekend in the city. We have just returned from a week in the Cloud Forest, teaching English and computer skills to little kids. They were all absolutely precious and it was incredibly rewarding. As far as English goes, we taught the kids numbers, the alphabet, colors, days of the week, months of the year and basic greetings like hello, how are you and my name is _______ in English. They all learned pretty fast!
The setting we were in was incredibly gorgeous. Green mossy mountains everywhere you looked, with a minty green river snaking its way through. There were banana trees and tropical flowers everywhere you looked. Each day we took a 45 minute walk from the house where we were staying to the school where we were teaching, so we got to take in a lot of the scenery.
Living in the house all together was fun. The girls had a bit of a bug problem in our room so Im sure it was pretty funny for everyone else to hear us shrieking for about 5 minutes before and after we stomped on another big cockroach. Turns out some of the men who we were staying with and were helping us with cooking etc this week had some shamanistic abilities, so they taught Karen, Amanda and I to be ¨brujas¨or witches and our ceremony to become brujas involved having to walk through a huge waterfall! Ouch! It was an incredibly refreshing and amazing experience. We are witches now so look out!
We have had a lot of fun trying different plates of Ecuador, drinking fresh pinapple, papaya and blackberry juices, playing thousands of rounds of cards, and getting to spend time with the kids.
Next step- working in a nature conservation park but we aren´t sure yet what our jobs will be exactly.. wish us luck!
¡Hasta luego y muchos besos!

Saturday, February 28, 2009


Hello from Otavalo! We have safely arrived in the beautiful city of Otavalo. We had a nice late drive last night, and were able to see a bit of a sunset, I think the first since we have been here!

We woke up this morning, and had a nice start of the day by walking around the HUGE, market. I think a few of us are slow trailing things behind in the places we stay to make room for all of our purchases today. Sheese.

After our day in the market, we went to Parque Concord and saw some beautfil birds that had been through very rough lifes. This place is a bird rehiblitation place, but some birds go back out into the wild, and most don't. But it was a very tranquil place to be.

For tomorrow we haven't completly decided what we are going to do, whether it be hiking to some of the near by waterfalls, or a hike around a huge lake.

We head our tomorrow as well, for a week. We are going to a school to help out with teaching, painting, roofing, or anything they need us to do.

We will be out of service of internet for the week so their won't be any blogs for the week. But there will be lots to talk about next weekend!

Hasta Luego from SudaAmerica!


Thursday, February 26, 2009

¡Huevos Rancheros!

Today is our last night in Ecuador, we are going to go put our Salsa Dance Moves to the test. Hopefully all goes well, Haha . We have spent the last couple of day finishing up our last week of Spanish School. Learning all about past tense verbs, it has been a difficult week, if I might say so my self.

On Sunday the group, went to Mitda Del Mundo as well as Pululahua, the crater right outside of Quito. What an amazing view that was! We all stood at the center point of our earth. And made cool experiments with balancing an egg on the head of a nail, and seeing the different ways the water flows on the different hemispheres. It was awesome to see when the drain was in the middle of the world that it went down straight, and on the southern it went left, and on the northern it went right.

Tomorrow we are going to our final day in Spanish school, in Quito. Then we are doing a cooking class, after school then heading on our way to Otovolio. Where we will arrive late Friday night, then get up bright and early for a fun day in the best market in Ecuador! I hope we all don´t splurge to much ;).

Overall it has been a great week!

Talk to you all soon!
¡Hasta Luego!
- Jenn

The group at the feet of El Panecillo, overlooking Quito.
From left to right: Onyx, Paul, Amanda, Jenn, Tessa, Karen, Adam, and Heather

Saturday, February 21, 2009

el panecillo & the basilica

Standing so close to El Panecillo, the angel, the virgin mary, who looks over all of Ecuador brought us all closer to the city and it´s energy. The statue is amazing, standing tall above our heads, we strain our necks to look up at her halo of stars. She stands atop a serpent, holding it´s neck with a chain. Certainly majestic, she watches over a magnificent view of the city of Quito, which streches through the valley further than the eye can see. The sunniest day since we´ve been in Quito gave us a fantastitic view,seeing the Basilica from afar, amidst houses, tall building, and city. Nonetheless, beautiful green mountains surrounded us, as it always seems to be in Ecuador.

After spending lots of time, and taking lots of photos, we ventured back to old town, the historic part of town to find lunch. Tessa and Jenn were the most sucessful in finding the biggest empanadas I´ve ever seen for only a dollar each!
A whole plate full of one empanada.

On to our next experience of Quito, visiting the Basilica. The most serene and beautiful church I´ve ever visited. Sitting in the pews, I felt an overwhelming sense of the prayers, confessions, sermons - all spoken within the church. Really, the overwhelming faith of the people of Ecuador. I walked, gawking at the beauty of the architecture and stained glass windows, as we all did. Taking pictures, and exploring the details of the church. If you look between the clock towers, through an opening in the wall in the shape of the heart of Jesus, there´s a perfect view of the Virgin Mary, atop the mountain we had just visited. It´s an incredible sight.

For broader views of the city, a few of us even ventured to the top of the clock tower, even fewer ventured to the very top, where more amazing views of the city, and closer views of the building entranced our eyes.

Overall, we have had an amazing Saturday exploring the religious aspects of this beautiful country, and their equally amazing monuments to Catholicism.

amanda & the group

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


After spanish classes for three days, we´re all beginning to sound a little more like South America. Yesterday, we had the chance to walk through the huge market with our spanish teachers. Though only around ten in the morning, the smells of delicious Ecuadorian food made us all a bit hungry. It was hard to concentrate on the names of all the fruits and vegetables that were stacked together. Piles of apples (manzanas), pineapples, guanabana (though I´m sure that´s spelled incorrectly), oranges, so many blackberries, and more names that we couldn´t remember, and many more vegetables, including baby corn, a personal favorite of mine. The finale to the market is a small square where people sell flowers of all sorts, either natural, dyed with bright colors, or fake. It was cool to see a market so different from those in the states.

Today was also a real adventure - after spanish classes the group walked down the block to try our luck at Salsa dancing! Through many misteps, dizzy turns, and patient instructors, we managed to learn a good amount of moves, and had a fantastic time. We can really try our luck at a salsateca this weekend!

Ta-ta for now.
amanda & the group

Monday, February 16, 2009

First Day in Quito

hola familia y amigos!

Last night we arrived in Quito! After a bus ride in the rain, watching Samuel L. Jackson movies in spanish, we came into the city, passing the equator monument, to get into taxis to go to our new homes. Excited and nervous, we arrived to meet Rosa, the director of the language school, and mom to Tessa and Amanda. Tired, we were grateful for generous meals, and comfortable beds.

After sleeping well, we awoke early, venturing from our homestays to our first day of spanish class! At all sorts of levels, it was great to talk one-on-one with instructors. From going over the days of the week to irregular verbs, we all learned something new. After class we explored Quito more, walking around town we found colorful coin purses, cool leather boots, and crazy white chocolate candy with nerds- gollock. It was fantastic. We ended our day strolling through the park, when it started to rain - it rains a lot. Prepared with rain jackets, we made our different ways back home. Dinner should be ready in a few hours, and tomorrow we´ll start another day. Plans for the week include salsa dancing and learning how to cook delicious Ecuadorian cuisine.

Adios for now!
Amanda & the group

Saturday, February 14, 2009

atempt #2

After a previously failed blog attempt, onyx and I (karen)are out to actually post our regards to all the fam an friends back home. we have come to realize that our espanol es horible y nosotros necesitamos practicar mucho, mucho, mucho mas! all is well in the world and Mino is a completely lovely place. Onyx is fellin swell and says hola partir de Ecuador y yo entrigo mi miros. If any of this is correct, i will be completely suprised, so sorry in advance for my spanglish rambling.
bueno for now.
karen y onyx

Greetings from Mindo!

Hey all, Amanda and Tessa here reporting in from Mindo, Ecuador.. in the cloud forest! It´s been amazing so far. Yesterday, after some group dicussions and activities, the group hiked up to a zip line company near the hostel and we spent a few hours enjoying 13 different zip lines, letting us fly over and through the amazingly gorgeous canopy of the cloud forest. Later we got to enjoy time in the hot tub to relax and had an awesome dinner at the Hostel. Today is our scavenger hunt in the town of Mindo. We´ve been asked to question people in Spanish about things like the name of the President of Ecuador and what their favorite birds are. We found a little internet cafe here so we can write to yáll! Tomorrow we drive back into Quito to meet our host families and check out the language school where we will be studying for two weeks. Everyone´s excited and having a great time. The best thing we´ve found in Mindo so far has been a beautiful garden and the cutest puppy.
That´s all for now!
All our love
Tessa and Amanda

Nuestro grupo en Mindo! Enjoying life (and sunshine) in the cloud forest. Off to Quito mañana. Hasta pronto.
Con cariño,
Heather, Adam, Jenn, Paul, Tessa, Amanda, Onyx, and Karen

First Day in the City

Hey guys, this is Paul and Jenn. Its our first day in Mindo, we are currently doing a scavenger hunt around town for some fun. It has been raining alot but it still very warm. It is a beautiful day today partly cloudy with some sun. Yeserday the group ziplined through the cloud forest, on 13 different zip line courses. It was beautiful veiw from that high up, it rained a lot but that did not stop us!

¡Todos esta bueno! Vamos al la calle, paz

Paul and Jenn

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The SAM group sends its love!

We've just received a call from Heather letting us know that they've all safely arrived in Mindo (outside of Quito) after a couple hours' ride in a minibus. Everyone is healthy, happy, and ready for adventure. (They will not have internet access for another 2-3 days at best, so they wondered if we would post for them so you all can know that all is well and they send their amor.)

So, stay tuned in a few days to hear from the group members themselves!

Passing on muchos abrazos from SAM, this is HQ signing off-

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Welcome to the airport!

Well, it is indeed official. Another South America Carpe Diem group has come together to find themselves embarking on their journey. The entire group is together in South America and they'll be boarding a plane South to Ecuador "prontisimo." We're sending them off with great wishes and blessings aplenty for a phenomenal semester!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

First post of spring '09.

Hola from Portland, OR, and welcome to the South America spring '09 blog! We are very excited about the upcoming journey and have spent the past week here at Carpe Diem HQ going over all the final details. We are looking forward to meeting you all on Wed. Feb 11th at 10pm at the TACA airlines counter in LAX. Enjoy your last few days in the states and we will see you soon. Hasta muy pronto,
Heather and Adam

Saturday, February 7, 2009