Flooding in Peru

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We’d all heard that the awe-inspiring archeological site of Machu Picchu had been closed due to the same flooding that left hundreds—even thousands—of people homeless in the rural surroundings of Cusco. Nevertheless, we were unprepared for the surprise of an empty, somber city upon our return in late February; with Machu Picchu inaccessible, most Cusco-bound tourists diverted their itineraries and left a ghost town of closed restaurants and a dismal tourist industry. Another unexpected repercussion of the torrential flooding was the effect on many of our students; most know someone affected by the floods, such as an aunt living in a tent in her town’s main square, or grandparents whose home and fields were carried off by a river that had overflowed. At our rural high school, Pacca, a number of girls were literally stranded in their towns and could not travel for their two-week stay at school. The lack of students in our urban classrooms—about 15% of capacity—discouraged our usual early-semester announcements about our sports classes. We later discovered that so many children, especially male students, were absent as their bewildered families kept them close during the painstaking reconstruction of houses and fields. Nevertheless, the schools appear to be filling up once again within the last week. We had huge turnouts for our initial sports classes, and our students were as excited to see us as ever, with spirits un-dampened by the natural disaster.

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