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.”

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.









Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Bittersweet Independence Day

Looking down from my window today, I saw people gathering in Veliki Park  at the monument dedicated to the children who had died during the Siege of Sarajevo.  When I think of Independence Day, being American, I think of America’s 4th of July when we declared ourselves a new nation, independent of The British Empire.  I conjure up images of spectacular fireworks, people waving the flag of their country, parades and jubilant celebrations. Alas, this is not the scene in Sarajevo.

Even though today is Bosnia’s Independence day, it is a bittersweet one.   The celebration of Independence Day for Bosnia and Herzegovina celebrates the days between February 29 and March 1, 1992  when a special referendum was held to vote on the independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The referendum question was:

 “Are you in favor of a sovereign and independent Bosnia-Herzegovina, a state of equal citizens and nations of Muslims, Serbs, Croats and others who live in it?”

Bosniak and Bosnian Croat voters supported the referendum, while Serbs largely boycotted it.  Some sources cite that Serbs in some cases boycotted the vote or were prevented from voting by Bosnian Serb authorities.  In the end, an absolute majority of the voting-age population of Yugoslav Bosnian Socialist Republic voted for the independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  The total turnout of voters was 63.6% of which 99.7% voted for the independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina.(wikipedia)  Despite the fact that the European community supported and recognised this decision, the political representatives of  Bosnian Serbians rejected it, thus leading to the initiation of the Bosnian War.   It was not until March 1, 1995, three years later, (and still in the midst of conflict) Independence Day was celebrated for the first time.  The Bosnian War would not end until 8 months later, when the Dayton Accord was signed on November 21, 1995. It should be noted that the Serbians of Bosnia and Herzegovina or the Republika Srpska (Serb Republic) boycott this holiday and celebrates its own Independence Day on the 9th of January.

So many lives were lost, especially in the city of Sarajevo.  It is no surprise that the day intended to celebrate the independence of their country also commemorates the many lives lost who fought for that independence, including the 521 innocent children of Sarajevo who would never live to see this day.

Flowers for Independence Day.