We are now back from Machu Picchu, an ancient city of the Incas and one of the wonders of the world. We returned today for one final week in Lima. We still have much to see and do. Tonight we are learning various Peruvian dances that we will see tomorrow night at a cultural show. Then we will visit downtown Lima and the homes where St. Martin de Porres and St. Rose of Lima lived. Then next week we do our last 3 days of work with the poor here, and then home.

Sorry I have not been able to post pictures from my camera, but you can see plenty of pictures (as in 1,000 plus) by going to the download site of one of the studentss on the trip, Charlie Castiglia. The address is:
At this blog, he has also kept a journal.

Okay, we may do one more update (the days are full and not much time seems left for these updates) before we head home.

Okay, adios,
Professor Griffin


Okay, so every few days one of the members of our trip will be posting some news on how things are going. And tonight, after day 2 our adventure, here is trip member Nic Kovatch:

We are still here safe and sound. We had a fun day today. We started working on the project up at the one Chapel in Bethelham. We got to visit some of the main chapels today in the Parish that we are apart of. We also got to go to a place called Metro, which is like walmart. While we were there we also went next door to Mcdonalds. The weird thing it i ordered chicken, and i litterally got fried chicken. It was weird, i got a breast and a leg. It was also cool because there were some local kids that sold us some candy. It was really cool because one of the kids started quizzing me on my colors in spanish, she was really cute, on the ride back we made the joke that she was mi hermanita. Oh, and we are going to watch the Dark Knight here sometime, this is like the world capitol for bootleg videos. So i am going to get to see the movie for dirt cheap. We only paid like 70 cents for it.



This year's trip will be from July 24 until August 14. Below you can find some actual posts that we made while on the trip last summer. And on the right side of this blog you can find out some general info on this amazing trip!
last year's group at Machu Picchu

Our Time in the Andes

Back from Cuzco and Machu Picchu. What an amazing, though physically challenging, trek through the Andes Mountains. Everyone made it, though, and it is surely an accomplishment none of us will forget. Almost 15,000 feet at one point! Below are some pictures from the trip; but first here to tell you about is Peru Crew member Abigail Stopczynski:

So, three days hiking in the Andes was not an easy feat. Even some of the most experienced hikers on this trek had some difficulty. At 15,000 feet above sea level, breathing was a hard task. When the elevation wasn´t taking our breath away, the views were. Snow capped mountains, llamas, alpacas, and so much more were surrounding us. The only way to truly explain how beautiful the sites were are to see the pictures we will post very soon. In a way, this was a trip of firsts for many of us: first time hiking, first time camping, first time without a "real" bathroom, and my first time riding a horse. Although it was extremely trying, the end result (Machu Pichu) was incredible. It´s hard to believe that it is still standing after hundreds of years. Anyways, the pictures will be able to tell the rest.

Capilla de Belen

This beautiful Sunday morning we returned to our beloved Belen to attend mass. It was a new experience for us because for the first time the mass was said in both Spanish and English, so we could actually understand what was being said, haha. It was a very intimate mass because we have spent to much time with the people of Belen, and being able to pray with them and sing along in spanish was very touching.
Even though the mass was a new experience for us, what happened after mass REALLY took the cake! We all ate beef heart with potato and corn. We were told that beef heart is a typical Peruvian meal, and for most of us, this was a first. Another interesting thing was that we met an elderly woman in Belen whose husband was killed by the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), a terroristic communist group which ravaged Peru not more than 20 years ago. After her husband was murdered, she traveled from a village in another region of Peru seeking refuge from the Sendero, and eventally found her way to Belen. She lives in a makeshift house of miscellaneous pieces of ply-wood and woven grass mats, and her next-door neighbors, who are just starting to build the foundations for their house, had broken into her house and trashed the inside, and tore down some of her walls, all because they want her to move so they can use some of the land for their house. In the province of San Juan de Lurigancho, where Belen is, they don´t own the land they live on; they simply find a place they like and build thier house on it. Pretty much what we know as ¨squatting¨. So anyway, we decided to help defend her by building her a strong brick wall so that her neighbors cannot terrorize her anymore. We will begin construction the day after we return from Machu Picchu.
Other than that we didn´t do much today, aside from packing our bags and getting some last minute things together in preparation for our hike to Machu Picchu tomorrow. We are all very excited and cannot wait to start our Journey!!! This will be the last blog until we return from Cuzco on Friday. We miss you all and will fill you in on how our hike went once we return! Adios!

- Chris Castagnetti a.k.a ¨Keoni¨

July 28: Fiestas Patrias!!!!

Today, on Fiestas Patrias, Peru´s Independence Day, we just spent the morning in Belen for a festival of games and sports. It was great! Belen is among the poorest places in Lima, and the chapel there is kind of the place that Holy Cross College has adopted each year. So, a great morning´we´ll be back there tomorrow for Mass. Now we are heading into downtown Lima to see one of the most famous churches here and to see how they celebrate their Fiestas Patrias.

And now.... here is the newest Peruvian citizen, student Mike Hodge, who has claimed Peru for a second homeland....

Where to begin? It has been a week since we first got into Lima and it has been an incredible journey. The past couple of days we have been visiting the local school ran by Holy Cross Fe y Alegria, doing house visits with the hardest working people I have ever met, and painting one of the local churches.

Doing all of this keeps us busy, but we are meeting wonderful people along the way who I will never forget, including one Brother who was at Holy Cross the day it opened. The kids at the school are great. We have been sitting in on english, and religion classes where we play rosary bingo. One of my favorite parts so far has been going on house visits with the workers at Yancan a Huasy. They work long days and visit people with special needs. I was able to go to one of the most poverty stricken areas in Lima to vist a child with cerebral palsy. The walls of some of the homes are made of cardboard, but despite the poor living conditions each family welcomed us into their home as if we were their family. These past two days we have been painting all day, and even though are hands are stained blue it was well worth it.

Amazing Time Here

The days are so full that bloggin is getting cut out. But tonight Michael Hodge will be the guest blogger. This place is just so amazing. The main highlights so far are:
--our work at Fe y Alegria school, run by Holy Cross here, 2,000 poor students from K-12.
--our time at Yancana Huasy, a rehabilitation center where trained therapists go to do house visits to teach families how to care for children or siblings with severe palsy or Downs. Also quite common is a child who as an infant had fever, the family had no way to lower it (a simple Advil would have done it, but no they had access and maybe a local remedy did not work), the fever went to 104, brain damage occurred and the child is crippled for life. In Peru, this is quite common and often families are ashamed of having a member like this (same as in other places, but in wealthier world people can be ¨hidden¨easier.) Anyway the parish here runs Yancana Huasy to change this situation. The therapists are amazingly devoted, a few strike me as true saints.
--we are also working with the poorest section of the city, Belen (Bethlehem), working with the kids there and sharing some fun time in the festive days (Independence Day is Saturday)
--we are painting the very old and paint-deprived walls of another chapel in the parish here. By the way, this is one of the largest parishes in the world, over 200,000, though many here (also as at home) do not go to Mass. The name of the parish is Lord of Hope parish. And that is the mission of Holy Cross here: hope. No illusions about ¨fixing¨ Peru, just sharing life here and seeing the hope amidst suffering.


Ladies and Gentleman, I present today´s student blogger¨ Micaela Cochran...
Well we arrived here safely. So far it has been quite an experience. The first crazy experience would have to be the first bus ride we took. The driving here is very crazy. Today we went to Huyana a place where they take care of people with disabilities. We broke up into groups and I got to go with Devon to visit three patients. It was interesting getting to see the inside of the houses and meeting the people here. They are all so nice. They were polite and welcomed us into there homes. Then we broke up into larger groups, and my group went to the school here. We got to play Bingo with the students, with a religious twist. The students were so excited that we were there, and everyone asked us for our email address before we left. With the first class my team won the game of bingo. In the second class we had a tournament going on, the game would not end. Chuy kept calling Bingo, but kept answering the ´religous questions´ in Spanish wrong so he never won. It was a lot of fun getting to see what the children are like here. Then we went to our fourth mass, yes we have been here two days and already have gone to four masses. By the end of the day we were all pretty exhausted. Adios. -Micaela

Guinea Pigs and Bingo

Today´s student blogger: Abigail Stopczynski

So, day two is officially over and one of the main things that I have found to be the most interesting is, by far the people. The people have been so incredibly hospitable and courteous to us every where we have gone. Today, we visited and went to mass in Belen (Bethlehem)which is one of the poorest areas in Lima. Walking into the church (pic above is right outside it) I was immediately reminded of how lucky we are in the states to have actual churches. Coming from South Bend where there are practically Catholic Churches on every corner it is weird to see Catholic Churches that resemble more of spacious huts than actual church buildings. There are no bishop appeals or million dollar renovations, the people of Belen are literally lucky to have a roof on their church.

Tonight after going to another mass, we went to the Bingo-and-Chicken night the school and church was hosting. You get a Bingo card and some chicken to it while playing it. I, and I think I can speak for everyone on this trip, also witnessed our first ever Guinea Pig Race. Unfortunately we did not win either the Guinea Pig Race or Bingo but the locals were very excited to see us and get their picture taken. We also had our first taste of Inca Kola (the most popular soft drink here).

The children here, we have found out are fascinated by digital cameras and are already posed before you can even turn your camera on.
Anyways, so far I am really enjoying this experience and look forward for whats in store for tomorrow and the days to follow. Remember, you can post any comments you have by simply clicking comments, type in your comment, click anonymous (remember to sign your name so we know who is commenting), and click post.
Buenas Noches!

We are here!

Well, we made it. And already we have seen so much; we are in for an amazing adventure. And, it turned out, the adventure started before we got on the plane. Here to explain that is today´s student blogger, Chris Marten:

I had a small (uh, if by small you mean big) issue at the airport today, being many places in the world with my passport it has become rather worn and a meeting with the washing machine really recently tore it up. The airline refused to let me on the plane because my passport was ¨mutilated.¨ But with Mr. Griffin´s negotiation skills and some prayers to St. Christopher, the situation was resolved just in time for me to get on the plane; so I am especially excited to be here.

The drive from the airport to Holy Cross´s Peyton Center (where we stay) was very interesting apparently in Peru there seem to be no traffic laws. (apparently, though, the roads are safer because people actually know how to drive). We have been welcomed with open arms by the whole community and everyone seems excited we are here. We went to mass tonight at a small parish and we were introduced individually to the parish with an ovation from all who were in attendance. The whole community really embraced us and this has helped make our transition to life in Peru a little less stressful. -Chris (Peruvian nickname ¨Chuy¨Marten)

-Okay, Mr. Griffin here now. Yes, that was quite an incident with the passport. Thanks be to God it got resolved. Enjoy the pictures from our arrivial (where you can see us with our great host here, Lucho, the Center director) and then first dinner, prepared by Isabel. As you can see the Peyton Center here is very nice. Even crazier is that around us is a slum--but the center here does not exclude the people. There are always folks here, having concerts, catechism, meetings. It is a real oasis in this community.

Okay, this 26 hour first day must end now, with some serious sleep.

The eyes which See Peru

Students: read the cover article, which continues onto pages 4-6. It was written by a doctor who traveled to work at the Holy Cross-run clinic; it's a good intro into the kind of things we will "see" in Peru. The article is here

More Good advice

From Dr. Alter: I might suggest that the students carry a light coat in their cary on luggage. That way they can get to it easily when in Lima when they might need it. Would not have to go into their big luggage in the airport.

Also, this is from one of you: You should all bring some moleskin, which you can get at any pharmacy type store like wallgreens, CVS. Bring a roll or a few packages so you can put some on the back of your heels and on the ball of your foot. This will help prevent blisters, and for some people, prevent them entirely! Also bring extra socks for the hike! Changing your socks frequently will help keep your feet dry!!! SWEATY, OR DAMP/WET FEET CAUSE BLISTERS!

And again folks, here is the link for the hike itinerary. SO COOL!!! Click on the following link (and scroll down to where it says LARES TREK TO MACHUPICCHU 4 DAYS)

First Impressions

In a new place first impressions are interesting. The flight from Chicago was OK. Leaving at 3 am is not great, but as always I talked to a few interesting people. The stop in San Salvador was long. For some reason there are tons of duty free shops in this airport, even though it is small. I don't understand why anybody would buy in one of these shops as the savings are minimal.

The airport in Lima is fine, clean and modern. My wife met me and we took an interesting cab ride to Miraflores. There don't seem to be many rules about driving in Lima, other than to survive. Your immediate impression is one of diesel fumes mixed with cooking odors. Darkness comes early, so I didn't get to see much until the morning. My impression was that it was very much like Mexico. The next morning that proved to be correct from the architecture to the grime in the city. We went down and ate breakfast near the ocean in a nice restaurant with good food and then went to local high-end grocery store. The prices were similar to the US. We also went to a open air market which was only partially open on Sunday. Again similar in type to other third world countries, interesting new vegetables and fresh meat hanging in the open. Weather is cool and cloudy.

John Alter

About the Hike

You really should check out the hike info link below in an earlier post. It is going to be SO cool. about 6 miles a day, not too bad. But definitely make sure to get EXERCISE this week to be ready.

About the shoes, I had said maybe a really good pair of sneakers okay, but if you have hiking boots, or even could borrow some, it may be better. Now, I don't want you to have to go out and buy a pair ( though I did), but you should know they do recommend this, because you will get ankle support and good soles.

And, one more thing: during one of the nights of our hike, apparently we get to visit some of the Hot Springs in the Andes. Very cool. So also bring a swimming suit.

A Little Geography

It might help before we go to Peru to get a little orientation to Lima by looking at a map. There is a nice map at The airport is in Callao which is along the coast in the northwestern part of Lima. I will be staying for the next week in Miraflores which is in the center south of the map. This is the "high end" part of Lima (rich) and also contains a lot of the government buildings and so on. The brothers mission is in Lurigancho which is north and slightly east of Miraflores. The city of Cusco where we will be hiking to about 400 miles to the southeast of Lima. Lima is a large city, about 9 million people, and contains about 25% of the total population of Peru. By clicking on the small symbol in each area of Lima the map will zero in on a particular area. Good luck and have some fun.

John Alter

Just Received This Info

1) I have noticed in myself that as I think about packing, I am in summer-mode. But remember, it is WINTER there now. The only days where it will be summer like are the 4 days we hike in Cuzco, and even there the nights get cold. Nights can get down to below 40 and days in Lima are in the high 50's. A good break from the heat here.

2) I have JUST RECEIVED a notice that I am really glad I received so we were not blindsided. The info is this:
You need to BRING YOUR OWN TOWELS and SHEETS. So, pack your favorite 2 bath towels, some sheets and a pillow case for your bed (they are single beds, the regular twin size). ALSO, they HIGHLY recommend you bring a sleeping bag or (if you do not have one) a warm blanket. Best would be a warm sleeping bag; all I hear is just that the weather, esp at night, is really cold. Also, if you bring a sleeping bag, we won't have to rent one on the 2 days we are camping during the hike. You can, if you like, also bring a small pillow. They will have pillows, but you may want to have your own. I realize this will mean maybe bringing one more piece of luggage, and if need be, that is okay: the limit, though, is 2 pieces of luggage (see size restrictions on a post below) and a backpack.

Flight Itinerary and Details

Remember, the bus leaves Holy Cross College circle at 9 p.m. Friday, July 20
Those meeting at O’Hare arrive there by 11 p.m. Friday, July 20. We will meet you in O'Hare's TERMINAL 5. Also, for the folks meeting us, but also for all, you should have my cel phone #, 574 514 8358. And everyone, please post a response to this with your cel phone, just in case I or others needs it. You can also reiterate, just so others know, if you will leave from South Bend with us and if you will return to South Bend with us.

By the way, if you have any further questions about baggage, or simply for your folks to have this info, the # for Taca is 1 800 400 TACA and on the web at
Here are the flight numbers:

TACA 589 Z 21JUL 6 ORD SAL HK10 3:10A 8:00A
TACA 51 Z 21JUL 6 SAL LIM HK10 9:05A 2:15P
TACA 007 Z 30JUL 1 LIM CUZ HK10 6:00A 7:15A
TACA 008 Z 03AUG 5 CUZ LIM HK10 7:55A 9:20A
TACA 050 Z 08AUG 3 LIM SAL HK10 3:00P 6:15P
TACA 588 Z 08AUG 3 SAL ORD HK10 7:00P 1:55A(Aug 9)

Remember, this is a course

Okay, make sure to read the post below on packing, and make sure to respond to EVERY post with questions, to simply share where you are at in trip prep, or you can even just sign off that you read the post.

I also want to remind you of the course requirements for the trip. It is titled Theo 390: Eyes of Faith. This may be the most impactful course of your life, so give it all you got! I already gave you the requirement sheet, and you can get another copy in Peru, but the basics are this: 1/3 participation, 1/3 for a 7-10 page essay due September 14, and 1/3 for a public presentation (can be done in group of 3 or less). So as soon as you arrive, start thinking of topics to learn more about.

FINAL PREP: Practical Details

Okay folks, after you read this, post a comment. You can share your packing strategy, suggest some items to add to our list, offer any questions you have, or simply share some thoughts you have as the trip gets closer:

After the last update, some of you asked for a list of things to pack. So let me give that shot.

Remember, the limit on our flight for checked luggage is 50 pounds and no more than 62 inches total (height + width + depth). For carry-ons, the limit is 22 pounds and 45 total inches.

Therefore, you are permitted to bring: one piece of luggage and one backpack. You can also bring one small carry bag, esp. if your backpack is too big to carry on.

Before the list, let me give you the weather scoop: because the weather in the Cuzco region (where we will hike) can get very warm in the day and quite cold at night, you will need to be well prepared. So here are my suggestions. Feel free to offer your own:

-several pairs of shorts, including some gym shorts
-2 pairs of lightweight pants (for women, capris are fine too)
-a pair of jeans or warm pants for nights in Cuzco
-several t-shirts
-lightweight cap
-2 collared shirts/blouses
-pair of sandals
-hiking shoes (or sneakers with good support)
-a water bottle
-swimming suit
-shower flip-flops if you want.
-a sweater or two
-a light jacket
-a heavy jacket
-winter cap
-Though it is up to you, you can bring a 10 day supply of underwear/socks and then do wash by hand once while there.

Okay, that's a start. Let us know your questions/packing strategies and in general how ready you are, both mentally and physically!

One Credit Added for Peru Experience

As Mike as said, we are getting close to the trip. I will be going this Saturday, the 14th one week early. Will post from Peru next week to give my first impressions.

All students going on the trip will be getting four hours academic credit, three for Mike Griffin's part and another hour credit for what we are going to do. The short syllabus will be given out when you get to Lima. The course will consist of just noticing what we are seeing. You will be asked to talk about this in the evening and after the trip incorperate this material into your talk and paper that you are doing for the other three hours. This should be a lot of fun and I am looking forward to it.

Our Journey to Machu Picchu

We have secured a space on a very, very exciting trek to Machu Picchu, via the breathtaking Sacred Valley. I looked at all the options for high traffic touristy Inca Trail, which require passes that are near impossible to get, and then I found out about this, a different route to Machu Picchu, but with a more moderate pace and with more time spent in local villages where life has hardly changed in 500 years!

At first I was bummed that the typical trek was not an option. But when I learned about this trek to Machu Picchu, called the Lares Valley Trek, I was more and more glad with each detail that we are choosing it! Much more relaxed, much fewer tourists on the trail, much more time learning about the ancient culture of the Andes.

By going this way, we also get to Machu Picchu before the tourist groups. We will enjoy sunrise there andthen time to explore this ancient Inca city. This will be amazing!

No one should be worried if they are not a hiker. Neither am I, and we will ensure a moderate place. Plus, the deal we have is that there will be porters (and even horses!) with us to carry most of our gear. The folks who do this are pros and will take care of us. Having said that, why not make it a summer goal for all of us that we work to be in great condition for the trip!

Anyway, learn more about this trip by clicking here. And here are some more pics:

The Scoop on Vaccinations

Okay, it seems we may have another way to get insurance coverage for shots. The first thing to do is find out what insurance you have. It is on the health form I gave. Or ask your folks. Then contact them and tell them about this trip, that it is required, and ask where you should go. The chances are that if you go to a doc in your network it will be covered. For Peru, you may have many options to get the shots. The doc below is excellent and local

Curtis Gongwer, M.D.
(574) 288 1200
He is located just north of
St. Joe Hospital in Medical Pavillion 1

You can also call his office , tell them what insurance you have, and see if the insurance works there . I know for a fact that he is in Blue Shield/Anthem network, but he also is in like 15 others.

Again, you probably will have many docs to choose from; just ask your insurance.

Now, if insurance looks like it will not cover this, then the cheaper route is the St. Joseph County Health Department. You can go there individually or in small groups, to receive the vaccinations. Then you can get the anti Malaria meds at a nearby pharmacy. Here are their phone numbers. Health Department for shots: (574) 256 6233 You can tell them you are with the Holy Cross group going to Peru . They are located at 219 Lincoln Way West, Mishawaka IN 46544.

And here is the list of shots you need and their price at the health clinic:
Hepatitis A $33
Hepatitis B (you may have had this shot; if not then a and B total $50)
Tetanus $8
MMR (most have had this shot already) $50
Typhoid $58

Doctors charge more, but if insurance covers them and not the health clinic than the doc is the better option.

Finally, I am attaching the letter I gave you if you need to forward it to your insurance provider.

Any questions, email me.

2007 Trip: July 20- August 9

To get used to using this blog (and yes, we will be posting from Peru so your family and friends can follow our trip!), you can get general questions addressed by posting a response. Past students who have gone on the trip will be using this blog too and can help give tips. If you have specific questions, you can of course email me.

The Belen Connection

One aspect of the trip that deserves special mention is our connection to the people of Belen. Belen (Spanish for Bethlehem) is one of the poorest villages in Lima. The homes are built high up on the mountainside, constructed of anything from scrap metal to cardboard and everythign in between. The have a chapel, pictured here, and their faith is what joins them. Holy Cross priests come here to say Mass each week, and during our trip we spend lot of time here. Last year we mixed and poured concrete by hand and made a floor. We also helped rebuild their roof. Most importantly, we get a sense of what that original Belen was like, where Christ was born in the same midst of poverty and faith.