Peru On My Mind

A Quechua woman weaves near Cusco, Peru. Photo: Aubrey Ryan
In the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking about Peru a lot. In a partnership with the Peruvian Embassy, National Geographic is hosting an exhibition to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the Hiram Bingham expedition that rediscovered Macchu Pichu. The exhibition features original photographs that popularized the Inca among American readers. The free photo exhibition, housed at the National Geographic headquarters in D.C., started In June and runs until September 11th. You can see the photographs on the Nat Geo website, and also learn more about the expedition here
But I have a personal connection to Peru as well. In the early 1990s, my family took a vacation to Peru for 6 weeks. Two small wars simmered at the time–a border dispute with Ecuador, and a civil war between Alberto Fujimori’s regime and the Shining Path guerrillas based in Ayacucho. These conflicts were largely hidden from our eyes, and if my 6-year-old senses picked up any tension, it was only for a few fleeting moments. 
What I really remember are packed busses,  bottle caps of Peruvian sodas, and haggling with taxicab drivers. Even today a sip of Inca Kola–the yellow, bubble-gum flavored soda–brings me back the busy streets of Lima: White-gloved policemen direct traffic across hills of grey cobblestone. Three-wheeled taxis bump along in a mosaic of blue, white, and rust. Little boys sit on black wooden boxes, waiting to shine shoes. Similarly, any photograph of a piranha reminds me of the Quistococha zoo, near Iquitos in the Amazon, where I first watched the creature’s beady red eyes through the glass of a fish tank. 

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“Our City Film Festival” evokes power of place in the nation’s capital

ourcityfilm-773127.jpgMany people think of Washington, D.C. as little more than monuments, museums, politicos and government agencies. Our D.C.-based MWW team regularly strives to quash such misconceptions by exposing the rich cultural geography of our home town. We also champion initiatives like the Our City Film Festival.

Our City, presented by Yachad Inc., a nonprofit affordable housing and community development organization, explores local Washington through films that tell some of the area’s countless and engaging stories.

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EE Week Guest Blogger Series: Do you know where the water in your town comes from?

This is the second post in our EE Week Guest Blogger Series. Read the previous entry, “Wondrous Wetlands,” by 4th grade teacher Tasha Kiemel of Sammamish, Washington, to learn more about how educators across the country are incorporating hands-on environmental field work into the curriculum.
Dave Wood teaches 8th grade Environmental Science at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC, and he serves on the National Environmental Education Week (EE Week) Teachers Advisory Committee. EE Week promotes understanding and protection of the natural world by actively engaging K-12th grade students and educators in an inspired week of environmental learning before Earth Day. This year’s EE Week celebration occurs April 12-18, 2009, and the theme is Be Water Wise! To learn more or get involved, visit

After teaching 8th grade environmental science at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C. for over a decade, I came to realize that our students did not know some fundamental facts about the water upon which their lives depend.  For them, water just magically came out of the tap, and it had to be clean and healthy because, evidently, no one was getting sick from drinking it.  And, when my students dumped anything and everything down the drains or toilet, they assumed that, of course, the sewage treatment plant would take care of it all–because that’s why it was called a “treatment” plant.   Where their drinking water came from, how it was treated, and what happened to it after it was flushed down the drain; they couldn’t say.  And, I had to admit, neither could I.
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Dave taking his students out for some field research.

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