My Machu Picchu Experience (4/12)

NOTE: This article is part of a series of 12 articles on Peru and the many beautiful aspects of this country. There is a post for each day I spent there, although some may not be relative to that particular day. I intend to post two articles a week for this series, on Thursdays and Mondays.

People always mention how places take their breath away. I thought this was complete bogus until traveling to Peru and spending time in the Andes. Maybe it was because of elevation but I complete lost my breath and was in awe of the area around me. To see such detailed architecture made with such primitive tools and the sheer beauty of the isolated area was the most amazing thing I have ever seen.

The breathtaking view of Machu Picchu


My group took a fairly simple route to get to Machu Picchu, which was great. We were based in Ollantaytambo, my favorite little town in Peru. From there, we took the train to Aguas Calientes, the gateway to Machu Picchu. This mountain town is awesome and completely safe. From there, we took a bus to the bottom of the park, which was a route involving many switchbacks and tight turns. At the entrance, we used the bathrooms (cost 2 soles, or 66 US Cents) and entered through the gate and met with our tour guides. The path to the postcard like view is crowded but for the most part, the park seems quiet and not near as busy as it actually is. My advise is to skip taking pictures at the first opening, but to wait and move up higher. From there, you can decide where to go.

Josh on Peru Rail’s train to Machu Picchu


Machu Picchu was created around 1450 by the Incas. It took many years to build and was created with no machines that we have today, but purely by human and llama strength. The large stones were split by filling natural cracks in the rock with wood and then filling the wood with water, causing it to swell. The rock would fall and would be brought up to the necessary place by the people. In 1532, the conquistadors from Europe ventured into the Andes. The Inca people survived due to their bodies being acclimated to the altitude, but Machu Picchu was then isolated for many years until 1911 when Hiram Bingham, an American explorer followed the local myths into the mountains, where he discovered that Machu Picchu existed.

Incan masonry lacked mortar, only stone on stone, often with no room between

Quite impressively, the buildings had remained intact despite earthquakes and time, all due to Incan masonry and today, Machu Picchu is open to the world and remains one of the New Wonders of the World.

This slightly angled shape helped support the building walls and windows.


Unbeknownst to me, Machu Picchu has many hidden secrets. For starters, the main mountain that it is built on, is actually the face of a sleeping Inca. All this time of gazing at photos and I never realized it! Try tilting your head to the right to see it!

The sleeping Inca and the Incan Trinity. The painting is done by Santos Castilla.

Additionally, there are many different features about it. For example, if you look upon the ruins from the peak in the middle, they look like the outline of a condor, which was the Incan symbol for the afterlife. The snake, which is the guardian of the past world and the puma, the guardian of the present world, along with the condor represent the Incan trinity.

Also, the Incas were heavily interested in astrology and incorporated this into their buildings. There is a stone that recognized both of the solstices during the year and also a sundial. The most peculiar feature is a rock that gives the exact directions of North, South, East, and West. If you don’t believe it, try aligning your compass on your phone!

This rock reflects the cardinal directions
The Incan sundial

Also, make sure to take note of the impressive terraces everywhere. There are so many across Peru in general and many are still active, using Incan methods of agriculture. Peru is famous for its many types of potatoes, which were created by planting the same plant and the different levels of terraces got more oxygen than others, creating different kinds of potatoes.

Steep terraces on the side of Machu Picchu


The hike to the Sun Gate is a good option to consider adding into seeing the main ruins. It takes about 45 minutes to get to the top, but is mostly stairs, which can be tiring, but its worth it! It is almost a 1,000 foot gain but offers a fantastic view and more ruins to explore. One can also continue to the Incan path, which can  be dangerous and time consuming, but rewarding. It takes about 15 minutes to get down.

The more level part of the trail
Part of the view from the top


I would highly recommend visiting Machu Picchu to anyone and everyone. It is a safe and clean experience offering some of the world’s best sites and some of the most rewarding views. If you ever get the chance to go, take it!

PS. Don’t forget to stamp your passport!

Getting my passport stamped at the station

A Summary of Lima, Peru! (2/12)

NOTE: This article is part of a series of 12 articles on Peru and the many beautiful aspects of this country. There is a post for each day I spent there, although some may not be relative to that particular day. I intend to post two articles a week for this series, on Thursdays and Mondays.

I have spent almost my entire life in a town of 7,000 people, occasionally making cities a drastic and sometimes difficult difference. However, Lima captured my heart with its energetic environment, beautiful street art, and things to see.

In my 12 day trip to Peru, our first stop was to Lima, where we stayed for about two days.  Our hotel was El Tambo 2, in Miraflores which was an awesome but cheap spot for being close to so many things to see and do. I would completely recommend this hotel. Plus, if you have friends in another room, you can communicate via atrium!

One of my fellow EF travelers, Josh, in the atrium

We saw many sites in Lima, of which my favorite were Huaca Puccllana, San Francisco Cathedral, and the Pacific Ocean.

Huaca Puccllana is an ancient pyramid that was only discovered recently in the grand scheme of things. It was once a motocross track before they realized something was underneath it, and sure enough, a pyramid built by the Lima people was buried below. However, after decades of work to uncover it, there is still about 30 years of work more to go before it is entirely unearthed. It costs 7-12 soles (2-4 USD), depending on if you have student ID or not.

The uncovered portion of Huaca Puccllana

The San Francisco Cathedral is so incredibly beautiful and full of rich history. It was built by the conquistadors and still stands today. Some of the best parts to see are the library that houses books all the ways from the 1500s and the ever so popular catacombs. The low ceilings hover over all the arrangements of real human skeletons, and a tour guide will tell you of the process used to be buried there. Honestly, I felt like I was in the Goonies with all the bones and labyrinth-like passages. In terms of price, it’s 15 soles (5 USD), which includes the entry and a 45 minute tour.

San Francisco Cathedral Catacombs

Lastly, the Pacific Ocean is so incredibly beautiful and offers such great views of Lima. Two of my favorite places on the coast were from Parque del Amor (Park of Love) in Miraflores as well as on the beaches below. Luckily, seeing this one is free! Here are some pictures to emphasize the sheer beauty:

One of the many beaches
Miraflores Coast
Parque del Amor

Food in Lima was incredible and relatively cheap, with a full lunch being around 30 soles (10 USD). Peru food often includes chicken, potatoes, and some vegetables, but how it is prepared varies from place to place (all are very good though!). However, there are many other options that are common such as alpaca and anticuchos (beef heart), as well as many different types of vegetables. On our first night, I had all of these food items from a restaurant called El Parquetito. The food was delicious and the hosts were very sweet. Just look for the yellow umbrellas! Also, as a treat, a vendor across the street sells churros in the park for 3 soles (1 USD), which are incredibly good. I highly recommend them.

Potatoes, corn, and from top to bottom: chicken, pork. alpaca, and anticuchos

Also, as I mentioned earlier, the street art is beautiful! Here are a few examples:




I’m so glad I got the opportunity to go here; it is absolutely beautiful! I would recommend Lima to anyone and hope to return one day!

A Weekend in the Town of Sandpoint

Ahh, the weekend of Lost in the 50s. Often only rivaled by Fourth of July and the Festival this weekend in Sandpoint, Idaho is one of it’s busiest with the streets filling with twentieth century cars and poodle skirts.

My schedule was almost as packed as this town, but I shared time with my friends adventuring around Sandpoint while procrastinating on German and French homework (I do not advise this).

Throughout the week, we also had dress up days, starting with Monday being 90s and counting down to 50s on Friday. I tried my best.


Starting on Friday, I met up with friends after work before heading to the parade.


We watched the parade of cars for an hour or so. As far as I know, there was only one breakdown, but the man played some tunes on the radio to make sure he wasn’t taking away from the event. Here are a few of the cars that came by:


Afterwards, we dined at Beet and Basil, an awesome and affordable restaurant specializing in street food. I ate their Naan with curry and I had to get a refill because it was so amazing. It was also only six dollars so it was a total score.

The street dance began around 8 I believe, but we got there at 9. While I remember this as a mostly middle school event, this year there were old and young alike, and a ton of people in general. It was Bashful Dan’s, the DJ’s last time hosting this dance after 25 years and as always, he did an excellent job.


The next day was spent adventuring with friends through University of Idaho’s Agriculture Center, which is teeming with fun activities. From those trails we walked to the Popsicle bridge and were able to explore other parts of Ponderay. We also went up Schweitzer briefly.

Last but not least, I got to end Saturday with some good friends and a campfire. Unfortunately now its back to homework and responsibilities.


Life Lessons from Three School Dances in One Week

So in addition to prepping for AP tests and finals, soccer games, and student leadership responsibilities I had the opportunity to attend and spring mixer and two proms, which equals complete and utter chaos and a lot of money down the drain. So for your sake, if you ever find yourself in this position, here is a list of lessons learned:

1. Spring Mixers can be awkward. Make sure you are prepared to mingle and have more of other people’s sweat on you than your own. Gross, I know. Also, don’t wear heels and please avoid the cringey couple dirty dancing in the corner.

2. Please don’t spend over $100 on your dress/tux. It’s just not worth it. Check out clearance racks! I got my two dresses for about $110 total.


3. If you can sew, use those skills! I hemmed my own dress, and I’d say it turned out pretty good. I used a straight stitch and then a decorative stitch. It was just the right length.


4. Please save money and do your own hair/makeup. If you are not talented like me, have a friend do it, but it’s not worth the cold hard cash. I did my hair and makeup by myself both times.

5. Make sure to suggest the Walmart Yodeling Kid. You can’t really hear it in the video, but its a hit with high schoolers. Sorry for low quality.

6. Make sure to get a dress/tux that you actually like. Don’t think you have to get something just because it’s pretty by other people’s standards. You do you.

7. Go with people that make you laugh so hard you have to grab the bridge rail for support.


8. Don’t think you have to go expensive for dinner. Cheap is good too. We went to sushi one night and pizza the other and I loved both.


9. Pants are really great for prom. if you haven’t worn pants to a dance, I suggest it.

10. Goofy pictures are important too! Take more than just nice ones.

IMG_304011. If you are going to a different school, make sure to make new friends too. I met a lot of new people and I hope to continue being friends with them.


12. Make sure you like your date! Otherwise its really awkward.

13. Just make sure to get out there and have a good time. It’s only as fun as you make it!


In Honor of Earth Day

In honor of Earth Day, here are some beautiful things around the world.

Image 6-11-17 at 2.05 PM.jpg

From pelicans in Cabo San Lucas


To the shores of the English Channel


To food like this funky green cauliflower


To beautiful lake views

IMG_2856.JPGTo gorgeous spring blooms (Picture credit to Kiah Mays)

jQ2yB4MjTAa7O++eYQCRJw.jpgTo this hidden building,


To winding rivers,

IMG_2768.JPGTo awesome vistas

IMG_1973.JPGTo flowers in January,


And to beautiful skies.

Thank you Mother Nature for all your beauty!

The 6/22/16 Version of Me

Once a long time ago (aka just over a year), I was spending my last day on a hilltop looking over Orbomba, Tanzania.  My group and I had one final mission- to write letters to ourselves.

While this is typically a personal thing, I truly felt something stirring deep within me and  I have decided to share it with you. Some personal pieces have been omitted, but I hope this piece moves you to do some action planning.

Dear me,

…I deeply hope that you will not ever forget what you experienced on this trip. Don’t forget how lucky you are, how much you have, or how little work you have to do to obtain necessary resources. Don’t forget your friends here in Tanzania, the mamas, the kids, Mollel, Leki, Jackson, Jacob, Charles, Nixon, any of them. They are the reason for your spur of excitement to change the world around you. They are what started this plan of action to change lives. Don’t forget the filthy water source, Jackson’s three hour walk to get to school, Nixon’s dislike of cutting his nails, the flies surrounding the children, the amount of time it takes to build a school, the effort required to haul thirty liters of water for miles, the talent it takes to cook one meal, the hours of time spent herding goats, the air of poverty hanging around the slums of Arusha, the low budgets of the people here, the days one might go without food, the disgusting feeling one gets after eating cup after cup of porridge. Don’t forget the charisma of the people, the spirits that they all keep and maintain even though the times get rough, their joy seen in their faces, the determination of the mamas when they hike mile after mile with water slung across their back. Don’t take anything that you have for granted. Don’t complain, don’t ask for excess or luxury when you don’t need it. Don’t waste what you have because someone somewhere was wishing that they had it. Don’t let the struggles you have witnessed go to waste. Do something with it, change those around you, make the world a better place. You did not go halfway across the world, on the other side of the planet, to experience something insightful and just let it all go to nothing. You did not pay five thousand dollars to let this experience go by and not do something about it. So get off your lazy ass and go do something. Stand up for those with no voice, help provide the resources needed to get a family through a day or week. Don’t let the things you have learned rot away into oblivion. You learned a lot here, you changed a lot here, [so] go make [some more] change, a difference. Go live and help others, if not, you’re throwing away all you saw, all you learned, all your experienced. Go do something.

Until next time,

6/22/16 Version of Me

A Moment On Sunset Lake

As the sun deepens into the hills and the sky began to darken to its silky black fabric, we strolled slowly to the bottom of the long green hill. The night was young and the fire brightly lit, illuminating Sunset Lake and its chattering loons. This was our great victory of the summer- getting Great Grandma Lindbeck to the dock. It was the first- and the last- time I would see her there, in awe of the rippling waters and in the vast and beautiful world that settled around us.

While I do not remember the conversations, sources of our laughs, or moments of love and joy, this is a memory that I summarize my time with Grandma Lindbeck with. If I had to assume, we probably discussed how her and Grandpa met and fell in love, jokes about the “Tervetuloa” sign that we all confused with meaning “toilet” (it actually means “welcome,” Blake Shelton’s song “Boys Round Here,” to which the lyrics in Grandma Lindbeck’s mind were “Chew tobacco, chew tobacco, chew tobacco, shit,” my travels and languages I am learning, or her adventures with her brothers and sisters in the good ole UP.

Grandma Lindbeck was a woman made up of humbleness, kind thoughts, curiosity, and an incredible talent for making the world’s best nissua. While I only saw her once a year or less, she was someone I admire greatly, a person of good etiquette and manners, a Scandinavian proud of her heritage and roots, a woman who was completely unstoppable, a grandma and mom that taught the meaning of right and wrong, and above all else an angel I was blessed to spend time with.

What impact she left on me could never be summarized in a few sentences, paragraphs, or even pages. Maybe it can’t be described in words at all, but rather, actions. She is a woman that taught me to be confident and unique in my own way, but stay loyal to my roots and never be anything else but humble. What she has taught me is something I could never achieve in school, or maybe even in the work force, but can be simply put in one phrase: how to be a good person.

I am so appreciative of her being in my life and will miss her dearly.

Fly High Grandma


Author’s Comment:  The photo in the header was from the night we succeeded in taking Grandma Lindbeck to the lake. I added it to share the beauty of the area. Below is a photo of my two angels, Mom and Grandma and a little version of me

A Visit to the Sravasti Abbey

Sometimes, you learn more while missing school.

On Thursday, my cultural anthropology class traveled to Newport, Washington to visit the Sravasti Abbey, a Buddhist monastery hidden in the hills of eastern Washington.

Buddhism is a beautiful religion, focusing on self and moral improvement. Typically, buddhists try to follow the eight-fold path focusing on a wholesome lifestyle, ethical actions, and proper treatment of yourself and others. It also follows four beliefs- that suffering is real and present, suffering is caused by unenlightened craving, suffering ends with the end of unenlightened craving, and the way to reach unenlightened craving is by following the eightfold path. Becoming enlightened means entering nirvana, where you transcend out of the universe and reach pure happiness.

In Sravasti, reside Tibetan monastics- buddhist nuns and monks devoting their life to reaching nirvana. They spend the days walking in the forest, cooking, cleaning, studying, and meditating. They do so in quiet, choosing only to focus on one thing at a time, providing them with right concentration. They live off their own land, as well as by what the people have provided them with (their expenses are all donation), and in turn, give back to the community.

For me, this trip was at first, another opportunity to experience a new culture, while focusing on a specific religion. In my area, we lack diversity in religion with most religions being Christian, Mormon, or Catholic. I have hosted a Muslim exchange student, but other than that, have little to no experience with other religions. Buddhism is the first Asian religion I have encountered, and by far one of my favorite to experience and study.

We began with talking to the Abbess, Venerable Thubten Chodron who told us the main teachings of Buddha- the Dharma- and her encounters with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. We then opened to a question and answer session in which I asked a few questions.

In response to whether or not they play sports Venerable Chodron said, “Well, we do chase the cats to bring them inside. But I do not like sports with a ball. Why do people care so much about a ball?”

It was also mentioned that even as monastics they vote, gently confront people when their behavior is subpar, and read the translated texts of Buddha and the Indian and Tibetan commentary on them.

After visiting with Venerable Chodron, we took a tour of the grounds with Venerable Thubten Damcho. She took us on a path to the best view, from which I took a photo. She explained how she moved from Singapore and is adjusting to the cold and how shocked she was to see snow being shoveled from the roof.

We walked back down to the grounds to see the meditation hall and the house of the nuns, as well as ordinary places, such as the workshop and barn. It was all fairly simply decorated, unless it centered around their religion. The altar in the meditation hall has many ornate buddhas shrouded in bright fabrics and gifts.*

From there we went back to the Chenrizig Hall, where we meditated on the kindness of others. It was helpful to think about all the people that contribute to our daily food and clothes, as there are so many from the farmers to the packagers to the shippers to the people that stock grocery stores. We took about thirty minutes to thank them and others.

We then ate lunch, which for the first twenty minutes we ate in silence, again to thank others, but also to focus on the food itself. After the first twenty minutes, we began to talk. At my table sat two travelers experiencing Buddhism, one from Belgium and one from Portland. Also there was trainee from DC, who definitely had the soft qualities of most buddhist monastics, but also the rough and tumble qualities of someone from the east coast. Lastly, there was Venerable Thubten Nyima, a nun who reminded me greatly of my great-grandma.

“You asked a lot of good questions today. Are you satisfied with your answers?” she asked me from across the table.

I thought briefly, and yes, I was greatly satisfied. I was given in-depth thoughts on such an inspiring religion that values the happiness of others and self, while maintaining internal and external humbleness.

I continued the conversation with her and we discovered we had something in common- the death of parents. While I have lost my mother, she was orphaned and moved from her home in Columbia to the US. She considers California her home since Columbia is painful for her but she finds comfort in her religion and is slowly repairing her mindset and mental health.

At the end, they prayed for worldwide happiness and for the food to be medicine to their bodies.

We unfortunately had to leave soon after, and I reflected on how much I took away from their teachings and lifestyle. The importance of gratitude is huge, and can make or break one’s happiness and success. I will never forget this trip.

*Note: It is important to understand Buddha is not a god, merely the creator of the religion and first to reach enlightenment. He was a prince raised away from suffering, that when he left the palace, was astonished to see the sickness, death, and poverty encompassing our daily lives. He then proceeded to study the origin and cessation of suffering.

14 Reasons You Should Complete a Service Trip In Your Lifetime

I completed my first service trip in Tanzania in 2016. We went to a super impoverished area where the average family of seven lived on 5 USD (10k TZS), which could buy a couple fruits, soap, and a kilogram of corn for the entire week. In the time we spent there, we completed a water walk as well that involved walking several miles with 40 liter containers of water that was mud filled and potentially contained loads of deadly bacteria. This is the daily routine of the women who walk 7-8 times a day for this poor water source. These people were also lacking in education, which is what we helped with, by building a new school. This trip ultimately changed my life, and I definitely recommend completing a service minded trip for these reasons:

Often times, while traveling, we tend to be engaged in the cliches, whether its the perfect aboriginal experience in Australia, or Big Ben and Parliament in London, or Machu Picchu in Peru. While these are not bad experiences by any means, it is nice to get away from the mass crowds of people and experience people who are dressing and acting as themselves, not to attract tourists.


Doing the cliche tourist activities comes hand in hand with cliche tourist pictures. Again, not bashing on tourist culture, but to me, a picture of you helping alongside locals who each have a story behind them is much more valuable than you pretending to hold the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Again, those photos are not bad, but taking service oriented photos gives variety to your Instagram, scrapbook, or just you iPhone gallery.

Whether you are just in National Honor Society in high school, or just trying to set an example amongst your peers and fellow coworkers, helping those in need is a seriously good way to do so. You are showing that you are willing to do more than just helping the elderly across the street; you are literally globe trotting to aide those in need. That shows a lot of integrity and character within itself to influence the people around you with.

Instead of blaring, bright signs telling you where the best places to eat are or where the best shopping is, have the locals, the people you are working with, tell you. This potentially can save you a lot of money, and once again, gives you an authentic experience. The mom and pop restaurants off the beaten path are usually the ones with the best home cooked meals and lowest prices.

Suddenly, your trip is filled with a focus on a specific community rather than a whole bunch of spots scattered across a city. You are fully immersed in a group of people that somehow make you feel at home and even treat you like family. In fact, in Tanzania, I had a family in Orbomba, that the mother looked a lot like mine and once she saw a picture of my mother, decided that I am part of her family and called me her daughter from there on out.

You are not only completing a large group project such as building a school, but you are also helping in ways you don’t recognize. Maybe that is by teaching the little children some English, or educating them a new way to filter water, or teaching a skill that will help them earn money. There is essentially endless possibilities.

Photo Jun 21, 01 46 23

Some of my closest international friends are from the trip in Tanzania. These people are the ones you will be spending only a couple days with, but they will impact your life forever. The people that helped guide me around, such as Lekihiti and Mollel, were so difficult to say goodbye to. There were tears everywhere, but I still talk to them today.

These projects aren’t just for the people you meet now. The things that you do are impacting generation after generation. That school will educate for years to come and that water system will sanitize water for more and more individuals as time passes. The work may be temporary but it will last a very, very long time.

At some point, regular travelers will question why they are fueling this addiction and spending their money. Well, amongst the desire to learn about other cultures or ecosystems or places, a service trip allows you to help, another reason to gain a stamp in your passport. Helping people is also a very positive reason to travel, it aides yourself and others all in one!

I still laugh at really incomprehensible phrases like “sleeping like a pancake” or “schwarz!” that only have meaning to those who were with me on the trip. You will experience this often and it brings so much more memories and good times when you look back on your trip.

If you live in a first world country, poverty is much different in your country than poverty in a third world country. Here, there are resources for the poor, whether that is water, food, shelter, or education. Areas without these are few and far between. However, being below the poverty line in a third world country can often be severe, see my journals, photos, and above descriptions for more info on what I saw in Tanzania.

Especially in areas new to development, one will often have downtime that allows them to experience some new card games, or games in general from both your own country and the one you are in. This is super helpful in times of boredom, and in reflection of your trip. I will never forget the reigning spoons champion, Shania and the 24 times Kyle beat me in speed. Maybe I need to get better at card games.

Those structures you build or things you do are going to impact someone, possibly by keeping them alive. Maybe if you didn’t build that water filtration, some individual along the line may have contracted a disease, or maybe the schools taught the kids something they would need to know later in life. You will never truly know the full impact of your work, but it will for sure make a huge difference in many lives. This effort of yours will be for the better.

Coming home will be one of the most insane things you have done. Who would think that your little hometown would make you feel this way about things. For me, one of the biggest things was water. How did I get so privileged to have this resource so abundant and at the turn of a faucet? Why do others continuously struggle with finding adequate amounts of safe water. This took me a while to grasp, and I felt guilty for a very long time, but I learned to turn that guilt into gratitude and action. It changed me for the better, in every way.

After reading this, I hope I have inspired you to take a trip not just to see sights but to help others. What you do makes a difference!

Did you like what you read? Share to social media to help others understand the importance of service traveling!