Number Dos

Sit back and watch it happen. Why

are we having all these people

from shithole countries

come here.

Engagement could get ugly.


They tell lies to keep us quiet.

Twitter is a tool they use to skew

facts to blue or red but America

was built on immigrants.


They don’t teach us that in school.

We are taught not to question unless

asked to answer. We are taught

to only speak when spoken to.


These are surface problems though.

To dive deeper,  deeper than

a Syrian boy washed up

on a Turkish shore.


Europe finally wakes, realises

that there are 65.6 million refugees forcibly

displaced Unlike Odysseus, an Odyssey

they will not return from. Left behind

is the  ocean, as their cycle will be

one of endless relocation.


Meanwhile back in America…

The elephant in the room is– he

thinks we can drink oil or that

he can touch her

in ways without consent

She lets him control her,

and he does

He has her

under his fists

blocking out anyone who tries to save her

Or reach her


Someone needs to tell him– he

cannot control her borders or

block out the rest

of the world with his endless reign

of hurt. What did they do to you

to make you so cold?

They ask.


“It’s not you, it’s

me”,  she says.

But in reality, it’s

neither, it’s



& so she asks him, how

can we integrate

in a world of

different ethnic groups?

He stops, thinks

replies with a short–

We can’t.


The world has no say–

whether you can integrate or not

You have to decide


So I call you — you

the person in the corner

the person with guts to jump

off cliffs but not stand up

for yourself, you

who goes to class expecting-

the same person

To taunt you everyday

Just because you–

Are different


Across the seas and defy borders

She will welcome you with loving arms

And if he won’t I will

And if he refuses

Let him

He doesn’t deserve you

anyway, but you deserve to be

here, stay

Teach us how

To hope, to love, to


Number Uno

My privileged self loves sushi

I think about it whenever I am hungry

Left right, left right, sushi, sushi, sushi–  I

am hungry.


The selfishness unfolds around me today  

A stipend of 8 euros per meal

Won’t–pay for all of the sushi I could eat

2 rolls are 9 euros

That’s a euro over my budget


with sushi on my mind

I pass someone that is normally invisible

on the corner a glimpse of a pink dress

Brown hair hiding a small face


My friends and I stop

I am told talking would be uncomfortable

So I am silent, silent, silent.

Silence makes me guilty


I am too wrapped up in what I don’t have

a void I can not fill

We walk past the glimpse of pink


I could have said more

All I said was hi

Even on a gray day, Lake Superior’s beauty is mystical. 

Jamie bought me a new Sony a6000 camera for Christmas and I am thrilled! Charlotte and I headed out for our first picture expedition at Herbster Beach on Lake Superior. We intended to catch the morning sunrise glow but it was quite overcast. However, that’s the beauty of Lake Superior. Her many moods are sharpened by the weather. A gray day can be haunting, eerie, almost mystical. Her powerful waves create strange and beautiful ice formations, transforming our sandy beach into an icy, driftwood obstacle course.

The Ancient Farming Site of Moray – Finn Steckart

Scientists believe that Moray was an ancient Incan agricultural research station that is 50 kilometers Northwest from Cusco. This place has rings that go down into the ground, kind of like an amphitheater that we saw in Greece. The biggest ring is 150 meters deep from top to bottom. That’s as big as one and a half American Football fields.

The Incas were smart. Scientists believe that they where trying to find out what crops would grow the best in different places in Peru, like in the mountains, the plains and near the ocean.   At the top of the rings it was colder and at the bottom was warmer. So they would put the crop that grew on the top of the ring, like on a mountain, and the ones in the bottom would be the crops that would grow by the ocean. The crops they grew at Moray were different kinds of potatoes and corn, quinoa, tomatoes, peppers, strawberries and herbs for medicine that they needed.

A cool thing about Moray is that like the Greeks, they have aqueducts too, but at Moray, theirs are built underground. Even though there is a rainy season in Peru, the big hole will never get flooded. All over Peru, food was dried out in the cold and then stored in buildings like silos called Colcas.

The Incas lived in family groups called an Ayllu and everyone had a job to do.  The Incas where a good empire because they could feed all the people of Peru. Because of Moray, they knew where they could plant different food types. This is why the Incans had such a big empire. They would invite other tribes to join them by offering to share their food. The Incas where happy because everyone got food no matter what. This ended when the Spaniards invaded Peru. The Incan Empire only lasted a 100 years.



Art Service Project at a Peruvian School by Piper Steckart

img_5692While we lived in Urubamba, we did a service project at a Peruvian school called San Isidro Labrador Sillacancha. The kids that go to the school can’t live in the mountains because there are no schools in the mountains. Their parents do treks with the llamas they own for a treking company. All the kids stay at the school during the week in the valley, and on the weekends they get to see their mom and dad.

During the week the kids live in the village near their school. The school is for 1st to 6th grade students. There is one classroom for each grade. One classroom had holes in their floor made of wood. The desks were wooden and the chairs too. There were no books. They had a sink outside that everybody used. There were sticks and stones and food in it.


Here are some pictures of the school and the art projects we did with students from the school. These are my reflections from the days at the school.


September 7, 2016

Today I went to a Peruvian school and it went from 1st grade until 6th grade. I helped with the 3rd graders with art and I helped the little girls. We did water coloring together and they really enjoyed tapping the water off the paintbrushes into the water cup.

The girls I worked with were very sassy. My mom asked “what is your name” and the little girl said “I don’t have a name.” All the kids in the school, their parents worked at Llama farms up in the mountains, so they don’t get to see their moms and dads a lot. They only get to see them on the weekends and they eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at the school.

September 14, 2016

Today I went to the Third Graders then the Fourth Graders. In the Third Grade classroom we started out outside on the playground. We played Red Light Green Light which is called Lions and Cobras in Peru. We couldn’t speak Spanish very well, so it took a long time to show them the game. Then they wanted to play Duck Duck Goose, in Spanish it’s Pero Pero Gato. Then we played a Follow the Leader dancing game.   There was a really cute white dog there. He sat down right next to me for Pero Pero Gato. When my sister was it, she pat the dog on the head when she said Pero, Pero, Pero, Pero Gato.

We had three rotations. First we did clay with a group of boys. Everybody got one color and we made our favorite things. I made a cat, one boy made a spider, other kids made a duck, a skateboard, a condor, and three cats. They really enjoyed it. I could tell because they were laughing and smiling and taking pictures of their clay things with my mom’s phone.

Then, we did bracelets. The boys really liked it. Everyone had a bracelet on their wrist when they were done. After that we traced out our names with stencils on paper and we colored them and decorated them.

Then we worked with the fourth graders and they were acting really crazy when they were walking in the door. They were piling on each other in their classroom and the teacher did nothing. Finally she told them to settle down in Spanish. Once they were at the tables they were fine. The first group made bracelets. Some of the girls already knew how to do it and were making them fast. One girl didn’t want to show everybody her bracelet so she hid it. Then we made things with clay. We all made cats and butterflies. They were really bummed out that we didn’t get to do the last activity.

September 21, 2016

The starting of the day we played Perro Perro Gato and a tag game Sharks and Fish, kinda like Blob tag. They chased me around for about 5 minutes but they couldn’t catch me because it was such a long line of kids. I was so scared I was flailing my arms around and screaming. Everybody loved that game. That was with the fifth graders. We all went inside with groups and we did bookmarks first. You take a strip of white paper about three inches wide and we folded them and then we did designs like butterflies, trees, flowers, shapes with colored pencils. After that we did clay. We also made fortune tellers that you fold with white paper and you write tiny fortunes inside.

Next we went outside to do recess. All the kids played limbo. They used a broom and everyone takes turns going under the broom to see how low you can go. I think the kids played it a lot because they are very good at it. We also climbed on top of a basketball hoop and it was also monkey bars.   There was a little girl who was in first grade and she got up on the basketball hoop all on her own. It’s pretty high up. I couldn’t even do it.

After recess we went into the second graders classroom. All the kids went in there and then we all went out and played more. I stayed inside to help set up the art projects. When they came in I was sitting at the clay project. We made different types of things. One kid sat right next to me and he just grabbed three pieces of clay so I had to tell him no in Spanish. So then the TGS students told them you can only get two colors and you can mix them or make anything they wanted. Then we took pipe cleaners that were sparkly and we made glasses and crowns and some kids made their own things. It was very noisy today, but it was fun!

October 5, 2016

Today was the last day at the school. We decorated the school walls to make them pretty. My job was to help paint inside the circles. I filled in places that the kids missed. Chung Man told me to fill in the circles that looked sad. At the end of the day, we had to clean all the supplies in the outside sink. We did not want the red paint to get into the farm water. It looked like blood coming out of the sink. We got two buckets and we took them to the ground pipe and we filled them with the red paint water and dumped them in the grass so it wouldn’t go down to the farms. The principle really liked the red circles on the wall and asked us to paint more. He loved it. The school looked amazing!

Museo de Arte Precolombino



Today we set off to tour the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art. It was quite small, but was impactful in it’s displays. Here we saw art displayed from 3,000 to 1,500 years old.  The displays in this museum were from various regions of Peru dated before the Incans united the first nations of Peru. Here we saw pottery and jewelry that was both decorational and functional at the same time. We learned that Gold and Silver were used for sacred purposes and for adornment. Gold and Silver was not viewed as something valuable until the Spaniards arrived and turned it into an exploited resource used for trading and money.


This pottery below reminds me of the Etruscan Pottery we saw in Italy, black and smooth.

Here is a necklace and bracelete made of seashells.  These came from the costal regions of Peru. When these were discovered by other regions, they began to make their way to places like the Andes and the plains of Peru, far from the ocean.

Here are some examples of gold used for jewelry. On the left are nose rings.  On the right are earring gages that were so big, it caused the earlobes to hang to their shoulders.  The Spanish Conquistadors called the Incans, “Long Ears.”

These are some wooden carved men, described as “totem” like.  They reminded us of statues we saw in New Zealand.

“In pre-columbian times the representation of the feminine figure was fundamentally associated with fertility and, in this set of figurines, even an added sense of playfulness seems to be present.”

“I like their eyelashes. I think it’s neat that they thought about that detail back then.”


The people of Peru were (and still are)  very connected to the earth, to nature, the seasons, and animals.  Here we see many examples of  vases and decorative art depicting animals as humans.  Below we see owls, a deer, foxes, a pelican and llamas.

About the foxes:  “In Andean mythology, the fox is considered an animal that connects the worlds.  Moche art shows that it was considered a very important animal in the Moche world and mythology.  These personages are sitting in the position usually assumed by the priests, and their outfits express their hierarchical position.”

Peru and the Sioux: Thoughts on the Environment from the Head of a Traveling School 10/24/2016 Reblogged from the Huffington Post

Original Link to HuffPost Submission

This blog is dedicated to the thousands of activists who stand up and lend their voice and energy to preserving our natural resources. I especially want to spotlight the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, who are protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline crossing the Missouri River. Plans for the 1,170 mile pipeline’s designated path call for it to run straight through sacred and historical areas of the Standing Rock’s land, placing their water supply in jeopardy.

“Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.”
-The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Part 1

The human race is adrift, much like the ship that is described in Coleridge’s poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Through hubris and greed we have wounded Mother Earth, much like the ancient mariner’s killing of the albatross. As in the poem, the destruction of nature comes with dire consequences. In the mariner’s case, his entire crew died and corpses haunt his memory. Hell is no longer an abstract concept, his ship becomes his purgatory.

Recently, I had the honor of participating in a traditional Pachamama Ceremony on the shores of Laguna Huaypo, just outside Urubamba, Peru. Three Incan shamans led our students and staff through a sacred ritual offering for the health, work and welfare of Mother Earth. The ceremony also served as our welcome to the Andean community, and the three shamans kindly called for ancient spirits to guide us in our Peruvian endeavors.

2016-10-24-1477321573-2744873-P1010273.JPGPachamama ceremony. Photo Credit: Jen Buchanan, Media Specialist at THINK Global School

Being at the lake was especially meaningful for me because as a child I grew up on Lake Michigan and now have a home near Lake Superior in Bayfield County, Wisconsin. For some people, mountains speak directly to them, for others it is the plains or the desert. For me, it is water that has always provided a connection to place and family.

As the head of school for THINK Global School, the first day of each term starts in a different country. My family travels with the school; we have been to New Zealand, Costa Rica, Greece, Sweden, Italy, Bosnia, and now Peru. We have the honor of witnessing immense beauty firsthand as well as the destruction of our planet. Whether we are in the fjords of Sweden, the cloud forests of Costa Rica, an island off the coast of Athens, or the mountains of Peru, water is what binds all living things together.

William Forster Lloyd in 1883 wrote “The Tragedy of the Commons.” In it he describes a pasture that all herdmen can use. Due to disease, warfare, and other factors, the carrying capacity of the pasture is only reached after many years of community growth.

Fast forward to 2016. All across the world the “commons” are reaching their carrying capacity and as a result whole ecosystems are collapsing. Since no one really owns the commons, it is easy for a polluter to go unchecked. Often the public is only outraged after the damage has been done. Due to the nature of water, damage done at point A is only seen at point B, C, or D, making it extremely challenging to hold anyone accountable for the damage. Gross damage done by large corporations is easier to point a finger at, but remediation of corporate violations is harder to settle and takes years in the courts for a decisive decision while entire communities are continuously and irreparably harmed. Often companies factor the cost of environmental fines into their products knowing full well they will be damaging the environment. Or through political influence they often times shape the rules that regulate their own industry.

Have you ever sat on the shores of a glacier watching a 30-foot wall of ice slide into the ocean? I sat at the edge of the Sherman Glacier outside Cordova, Alaska with a group of students when I was the director at another school. The city of Cordova won’t ring a bell to most people, but once I add the name Valdez-Cordova to it, people of my generation may recall the tragedy of 1989 when the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince Williams Sound, spilling 38 million gallons of oil into one of the most pristine wildernesses on the planet. 18 years later, when I spoke with Dr. Ricki Ott, a marine toxicologist, she said not only did the spill wreak havoc on the natural community, but the human community was and is still reeling from the effects. According to her, Exxon told the community it would make them whole. She vehemently disagrees.

2016-10-24-1477322514-4836363-valdezcleanup.jpgPhoto Credit: National Geographic Magazine

Let’s revisit those TGS host countries I listed earlier. Plucked from the headlines, here are articles from each country citing a water quality issue or disaster that has occurred in the last five years:

For me, number seven hits home for a number of reasons. During the Pachamama Ceremony, we looked across the water and saw majestic mountains, their peaks covered in snow. Eagles soared above us while Peruvian farmers plowed their fields with oxen. The lake water is deceptive, so beautiful but unfit to drink. I can’t drink the tap water in town, and raw sewage drains into the rivers and lakes of this amazing country.

If you listen closely you can hear the despair in Mother Earth’s cries. She cries from the rivers of the Ganges, the Citarum, the Matanza-Riachuelo, the Cuyahoga, the Buriganga, the Sarno, the Mississippi, and thousands more. She cries from the carelessness of one of her most advanced creations: humans. There is still time to change the course. We have yet to become stuck like the ancient mariner, but we are slowly creeping to the point of no return.

Part 2

It’s a curious thing. Often learning opportunities hit you when you least expect it. Last week our local Peruvian contacts told us that a general strike was being planned for September 12 and 13th. The strike centered around the cost of electricity and the monopoly of one company profiting from the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu. So, as head of school, I talked to our team and we decided to take the conservative approach and keep our students at their residence for those two days. Our staff were scattered across the city of Urubamba, so lessons would be conducted online with students.

On the first day of the strike, I was sitting at the table with my own three children eating breakfast. Finn, my middle child, has become very interested in the Vietnam War, so while eating I was hit with a number of questions regarding that topic. At first I tried to explain the cause of the war within the narrow confines of 1960-1975. All three children sat while I begin my explanation, but one thing led to another and I had to back up in history to help them understand the precursors to that war, which in turn landed us smack dab into a serious discussion on the history of colonialism and how it relates to past and present day conflicts. More specifically, how colonialism has ties to the strike occurring at that moment in the small town of Urubamba, Peru, as well as the conflict over Native American rights in the Dakotas.

2016-10-24-1477323857-281957-29585008651_33f519683e_k1.jpgProtestors in Minneapolis stand in solidarity with the Standing Foot Sioux. Image Credit: Flickr user Fibonacci Blue

Naturally, my curious children asked why did colonialism exist? I began by saying that as a species, humans have a hard time sharing when there is a perception of not having enough resources. In order to maximize their share, people often fight, lie or steal to get what they want. In the past, countries did this to other countries through colonization.

Exploitation and domination is the essence of colonialism. Objectification of indigenous people so they can be pushed aside, murdered, and forgotten. The quest for limited resources often ending in the hands of a rich elite few. The poor of one group pitted against the poor of another group to maintain the status of an aristocratic class. It was an easy lesson to teach my children, past and present day are littered with examples of the practice. In the past, military might was the means to the end. New age colonialism is done through corporations, the IMF and global banks; governmental incursion occurs through the exercising of legal means.

Freedom is a universal concept and resilience astounds me at times. Being able to craft your destiny, your life, your family transcends country and culture. It can be beaten down, repressed and driven to the point of extinction. Yet time after time, we see it re- emerge, overcoming incredible odds to survive.

The Spanish introduced the horse to the Americas, beginning with Columbus’s journey in 1492. Over the course of American history, the horse made its way to the Dakotas and gave rise to the great horse culture of the Lakota people of the plains. The relationship between the people, the horse and the buffalo became inseparable. Then, it became American policy to destroy the buffalo, which would in turn drive the Lakota and other native peoples to the point of extinction through overt massacre.

Today, oppressed people are subjected to a more subtle form of killing: environmental racism. Corporations build oil pipelines in sensitive areas, often times picking a path through indigenous people’s land. Toxic waste becomes dumped and mine tailings ruin water supplies, destroying a tribe’s ability to exist on a land that can no longer support them. Despite concerted efforts by colonial powers to suppress and exterminate native peoples, in the end it may come to pass that the native people save humanity from itself.

2016-10-24-1477324614-2199423-29555901422_5ae2488d8f_k.jpgImage Credit: Flickr user Fibonacci Blue

Facebook was launched in 2004 and in 2007 the first iPhone came on the market. I remember succumbing to a smartphone in 2011. Why are these dates important? What does this have to do with our discussion of native people? In 2010, the Arab Spring lit up the Internet. Average citizens with a smart phone began using that technology in ways never seen before. Governments in Tunisia and Egypt were powerfully affected by this technology.

Had the Dakota Access Pipeline been built prior to 2010, no one would have known that the company was carving a path through the Standing Rock’s ancient burial grounds. It would have been just another unrecorded tragedy, and the voice of the tribe would have died by the time the oil flowed. Ansel Adams sums it up best, “It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.”

This brings us back to our discussion of the Vietnam War. It was the first war where the media played a role they had never played before. News outlets told the news honestly, and opposition to the war and the United States’ eventual withdrawal were direct results of how the news informed the population. From that point on, I suggest that a free press became inconvenient and thus more controlled. Major news outlets with their corporate agendas and 24-hour news cycles more closely resemble scripted talk shows than the in-depth reporting coming out of the Vietnam era.

Despite the demise of an truly independent press, we are moving into a new era of reporting and relating to the world that bypasses traditional methods. Protest movements no longer need to rely on major news outlets to get their voices heard. In his book 1984, George Orwell highlighted the idea of Big Brother watching everything the public does, but he never addressed how technology could be used by the masses to hold government and businesses accountable. The oppressors are being watched and their deeds recorded. Funding for movements, campaigns, and projects can be crowd sourced with vast sums of money being raised over night. In this way I am hopeful. Technology can be used to leverage local, national and world opinion instantaneously with the potential to minimize damage before it occurs. If only the masses don’t get distracted by loaves of bread and the circus.

Part 3

In Minneapolis, on the corner of Lyndale and Franklin, stands the historic Rudoplh’s BBQ that I used as my pre-Google Maps landmark. Twenty five years ago I drove my grandfather’s Olds Firenze on the way to pick up my partner. I had just graduated from the University of Minnesota’s Graduate School and got my first job with Voyageur Outward Bound School (VOBS). When people think of VOBS, they think of wilderness, but my job was located in the heart of the city working with at-risk youth.


Now I consider myself a big man, over 6 feet and weighing in at 230lbs (at that time), but my partner made me reconsider the word “big.” Lynn LaPointe personifies the concept of big. Nothing Lynn does is small, not his stature nor his ideas. On a spring day in 1991, I pulled up to his apartment on Franklin, parked my car, and rang his bell.

There are people in your life that come and go. You meet them for a short period of time and then they drift out of your life leaving little or no impact. Remember, Lynn personifies the concept of “big.” We worked together for that summer of 1991 in some of Minneapolis’s most challenging neighborhoods, with youth that are historically discounted and cast aside. At the end of that summer, VOBS closed down our program and Lynn and I parted as partners, but Lynn made a “big” impact on me. For the next 20 years, Lynn and I would design and create spaces for marginalized youth, often floating in and out of contact but never out of touch.

Service learning was the “big” idea that Lynn I and discussed and applied to our work with youth. Its impact made an indelible impression on my practice as an educator. Born from the Wisconsin “idea” at the turn of the century, service learning “rested on the conviction that students and university-trained experts could apply themselves to the problems of modern society and make democracy work more effectively.” Drawing from John Dewey’s concepts in experiential education, service learning has been put into practice by Kurt Hahn, the founder of Outward Bound, at the United World Colleges’ many campuses, and by the worldwide association of schools, Round Square. Its practice later found a home at the University of Minnesota and the creation of the National Youth Leadership Council in 1982.

Service learning was one of the bonds that tied Lynn and I together. I think it is common that people look to government to solve all of their problems, but we knew that government could only do so much. Lynn and I began together as a small team committed to making the world a better place for the youth we served. We took the concept of service learning and began to apply it to every organization we started or worked for. We developed allies, trained youth workers, teachers, and students, giving them the tools to change their small part of the world.

2016-10-24-1477327303-3658353-Lamapackschool009.jpgTGS students are engaging in service learning while in Peru. Image Credit: Jen Buchanan, Media Specialist at THINK Global School

Last week, I reached out to Lynn. Lynn is working with the state of Michigan, and as mentioned before, I am currently working in Peru for THINK Global School. Mother Earth is in trouble, her life blood is being poisoned across the globe. I needed to reconnect with someone from my past that “got it.” We spent a few hours on the phone discussing current events surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline’s path through the Standing Rock Reservation. The movement on the plains of the Dakotas inspired us, something great and special was happening as a gathering of people on the ground and in the cloud converged to say, “enough is enough.”

People often think, “there’s nothing I can do. I’m just one person.” So much of the time we read or hear about events that leave us in a pit of despair, and there is nothing worse than reading an article or hearing a newscast that leads you down a path of hopelessness. Often people throw up their hands and walk away denying their community their talents. Lynn, myself, and countless others have ingrained into our spirits the words of Kurt Hahn: “it as the foremost task of education to insure the survival of these qualities: an enterprising curiosity, an undefeatable spirit, tenacity in pursuit, readiness for sensible self denial, and above all, compassion.”

It matters not who sits in the White House come November, it never does. All that matters is a unified voice from the people. It is how all great movements and changes begin and how they are successful. Now is the time for people of passion to join together, tenacious in their pursuit of a better world. Find your own motivation in the Standing Rock Sioux’s stand and lend your energy to a project, a cause to make our world cleaner, more just, more drinkable, more breathable, less poor and more compassionate. This task is not for the faint of heart, but every heart can rise to the task. Only then will we be able to leave the world a better place for our children.

-Jamie Steckart, Head of School at THINK Global School

Water: You don’t realise how good you have it… until you don’t have it

One of the biggest challenges here in Peru is it’s water source.  The lack of hot, clean water on demand.  We all take our water for granted.  At our home in Cornucopia, we turn on our tap and we get clean water straight from our well. Our water comes from 300 feet  underground.  In the city, your water is treated, it is clean, and ready to drink. (That is if you don’t live in Flint or 32 more cities in America with contaminated water.)

Looks can be deceiving.  Water can look clean, but take caution in Peru.  I have been told that none of the water in Peru is safe for drinking. Take a look at this beautiful scene.  A lake atop a plateau surrounded by mountains.  Beautiful, right?  Wrong.  Farm animals are used down to the very edge of the lake for plowing fields, thus contaminating the water.


In the first city we lived in, Urubamba, there was no water treatment facility.  The water comes directly from the mountains, flows down into the valley and is shared by everyone.


If you live downstream, you are guaranteed to be drinking contaminated water, as everyone drains their waste water straight back into the water source, including the farm animals of the Sacred Valley.  As a result, water must be boiled to rinse our dishes as well as for cooking.  You want a clean cup of coffee?  You must first boil the water before you put it into your coffee maker. (I learned this the hard way.  I ordered a cappuccino once and got sick from it, probably because they didn’t boil the water first.) Are you brushing your teeth?  Make sure the water is bottled.  The water also affects the vegetables and fruits grown in Peru.  Everything must be peeled or boiled.  This can be problematic if you like to eat salads.  Eat leafy greens only if you trust the restaurant or person cooking for you.

We all have two knobs in our bathrooms and kitchens back home.  One for hot and one for cold.  In Peru,  your only option is cold.  We all enjoy a hot shower, right? For a hot water shower, you must have an electric heating source or a solar panel.  Do you want hot water for cleaning your dishes?  You must boil it first.  I have been using boiled water as my final rinse so we don’t risk getting a stomach bug from the rinse water.


When we lived in Urabamba, every Wednesday we visited a rural Elementary School to do art projects with the children.  On the last day, we did a painting project where we painted polka dots on the exterior walls of the school.  I thought beforehand, how are we going to clean the paint brushes?  We had no choice but to use the outdoor sink, the school’s only water source for cleaning and drinking.


I felt horrible about this.  The water drained out through the bottom of the sink, through an underground pipe which emptied into a concrete ditch and out under the school yard wall.  The best we could do was to catch the paint water from the pipe before it went into the ditch.  We captured one pail at a time and poured it in the grass.  I figured the ground would at least filter it before it entered back into the shared water stream.

The unclean water affects us every day here.  It is something we have gotten used to, but it is a serious pain in the butt.  However, we do what we have to do because we don’t want to get sick.  We have been pretty lucky so far.

As we go through the motions of daily life in Peru, I am watching our Native brothers and sisters of Standing Rock fight for their right to clean water and it hits close to home. Knowing what it is like to live daily without clean, safe water, I am totally standing behind the fight for clean water rights.  Clearly, the greed of a few is overriding the importance of keeping citizens of the United States safe and healthy.

The Dakota Access Pipe Line is planned to cross the  Missouri River and Lake Oahe.  Not if, but when there is a break in this proposed pipeline, it would affect 17 million people that depend on the Missouri River for clean water. The city of Bismarck, North Dakota saw the writing on the wall.  Who wants a pipeline running through their backyard?  They surely didn’t. I don’t.  I’m sure you don’t either.  Well, neither do the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe clearly has the moral high ground. An earlier proposal for the pipeline to cross the Missouri River north of Bismarck, North Dakota, was scrapped because it threatened the capital’s water supply. So the very decision to move the route south was to sacrifice Native communities. A decade ago, even a couple of years ago, that might have worked. But not in the era of social media. People of goodwill easily recognise this injustice.

These people are not protestors, they are “Water Protectors.”  They are standing up for clean water, not just for themselves, but for the 17 million people down stream from them. They are setting an example for us all to stand up for our right as human beings to have access to clean water.

Water is life.

We cannot live without clean water.

We stand with Standing Rock.