Amazing Kids! Magazine

Machu Picchu

By Aazan Ahmad, age 16, South Korea


I opened the book, and out slipped a photograph. Heaving a sigh, I picked up, thinking it was probably just one of my baby pictures. Suddenly, one glance at the photo knocked me out of my drowsiness. It wasn’t just a photograph of me; it was a photograph of me triumphantly standing on top of the Andean Mountains, overlooking the ancient city of Machu Picchu.

Just a month ago, I coerced my parents to sign me up for a two-week school field trip to Peru, where we would go see the ancient city of Machu Picchu. Part of the reason I wanted to go was my friends, including my best friend, were going, and the other part was going on a school field trip to a foreign country was much better than spending a whole month at the family farm. Just by Googling photographs of the ancient citadel, I knew going to Peru for 14 days would be better than feeding pigs early at 6:30 a.m. every single day of June.

Flashing my report card at my parents did the trick. They took one proud-of-me look at it and gave me their permission. “Just remember one thing, Jimmy,” my dad instructed. “Stay close to the teacher!”

“And have fun! Take lots of pictures!” my mom remarked, squeezing my cheek.

“You two sure you don’t want to come?” I asked one last time, hoping for a different response this time.

“Nope, we can’t wait to hurry to and sojourn in our family farm. We could really use some fresh air,” my mom replied. Then she glanced at my dad. “Honey, don’t forget to mark your calendar on your phone. Jimmy’s going tomorrow and will be back on Sunday, the second week of June.”

“Don’t worry, Anna,” my dad nonchalantly waved his hand, “I will be sure to pick him up from the airport. I’m pretty sure I won’t forget about my own son’s returning date.” My dad winked at me. “Champ, get my wallet; I’m going to give you $50, okay?”

I nodded and thanked him as I went to get my dad’s wallet from his room. When he handed me the $50 note, he cautioned, “Don’t spend it all in one place, and don’t lose the camera.”

I admit I had butterflies in my stomach when I waited to board my plane. It was my first time traveling to foreign country alone. Well, I was with my teacher and my buddies, but the issue was it was my first trip abroad without my parents. With them along, it would have been a family plus school trip combo; yet, I knew my dad’s saying, “We all have different ideas of fun!”

“So, how much spending money did your parents give?” my best buddy Joe asked, once we all settled down in our seats.

“Oh, a $150,” I lied.

“You mean $50, don’t you?”

“Ding dong! We have a winner! How about you?”

“Same!” We high-fived each other.

Moments later, our hostess came by to offer us cool beverages. I had mango juiced, and Joe had Coke. After we finished our drinks, I read a tour book on Peru, which my dad gave me from his personal library—I didn’t ask why he had a tour book on Peru. Meanwhile, Joe played Mario Kart on his Nintendo DS. Maybe what makes us best friends is that we are polar opposites.

After couple of hours, we finally arrived at the airport. The teachers exited first, so they could do a headcount to make sure nobody would get left behind. Fortunately, no one did.

When we arrived at our hotel, the teachers didn’t need to tell us to go to sleep. We were all so tired; plus, we knew if stayed up late, we would be too tired to tour the town Aguas Calientes and beyond. The head teacher Ms. Norms informed us each room had two beds, so naturally there’d be two students per room. One might think I was glad Joe and I were sharing a room, but I wasn’t. Joe was a heavy snorer who occasionally talked in his sleep while I on the hand did neither of those things. I learned this part about his personality at a sleepover Joe hosted. Still, at least I could sleep in and rise at 9:30 a.m. instead of at 6:30 a.m. for shower, breakfast, and exploration—the best part.

Joe and I were both so eager to get started. I had my journal in my messenger bag but my polaroid camera in my hands, ready to take pictures. Meanwhile Joe was playing a video game on his phone, the same one he intended to take pictures with—that is, if the battery doesn’t die. Our history teacher, Ms. Park, took attendance before she asked which ones would like to go to the history museum. Upon Joe’s insistence, I raised my hand. We still have 13 more days.

Although I was learning interesting facts at the Museo Manuel Chávez Ballon museum, not to mention I took a considerable number of photographs of artifacts, I still wanted to go exploring. So, I asked Ms. Park about it.

“Jim, if you wanted to go exploring, how come you didn’t join Ms. Noram’s science group?” Ms. Park asked curiously.

“I didn’t want Joe to be without his best friend.”

“I see. I was surprised when you raised your hand back at the hotel. You don’t seem all that interested in history at school.”

“Frankly, I’m more of a science guy, but I do sometimes read biographies.”

“Well, luckily for you, we will meet Ms. Noram and her group for lunch. Afterward, you are welcome to go exploring. I heard she would be taking her group to Los Jardines de Mandor.”

“Great! Thanks for letting me know.”

When I asked Joe to come with me with the science group, he half-heartedly complied. At least he was considerate enough to say yes even though he clearly didn’t want to go.

Going exploring at the Los Jardines de Mandor was one of the best decisions I ever made. I took lots of selfies, and on my request, Joe took pictures of me standing next to the waterfall. I wrote in my journal about what I was observing and sketched some interesting-looking tree. Ms. Noram smiled when I showed her my detailed sketches and notes.

“Good observations, Jim! Keep it up, and one day you will be a prominent ecologist!”

“Thanks, Ms. Noram!” I replied, smiling. Ms. Noram was my favorite teacher; usually we would talk about wildlife conservation after school. My pragmatic methods on better conservation of nature always impressed her. As a matter of fact, it was Ms. Noram who taught her science classes so passionately—especially the chapters on ecology, plants, and animals—she kindled my interest in ecology, so much I decided to become an ecologist one day.

A week and a couple of days passed when Ms. Noram announced she decided to take us on a hiking trip to the ancient city Machu Picchu. A hike to the ancient city of Machu Picchu! My prime goal of this whole trip!

“We would have to walk about a mile before we actually start our one- to two-hour hike up to the Andes Mountains where the Machu Picchu is located; it’s going to be a challenge! Who’s up for it?”

I raised my arm up so high, I thought my arm might sprout wings and fly away. Ms. Noram smiled and nodded in my direction. I nudged Joe in his ribs. Joe sighed and said, “I really don’t want to go; I just want to go to the museum.”

“Come on! Do it for me; I will keep you busy. You can take a picture of me when we hike up to Machu Picchu,” I pressed him.

“Fine, I will go since you have done what I wanted these past days,” Joe smiled.

“Super!” I replied, giving him a pat on his back. These past days it rained, so I agreed to play Joe’s favorite card game, UNO. We played for countless hours although I could have been reading my tour book.

The three-mile walk really made a group of five, including Ms. Noram, quite perspired for a bit. After a three-minute rest, we begun our hike on Machu Picchu. The trail was very beautiful; it was even more beautiful than the Eiffel Tower. What’s surprising was even Joe quit playing a game on his phone. Clearly, he realized the scenery along the trail was more interesting than the scenery in Temple Run.

When we finally did get to the top, the first thing I did was take pictures of the citadel. It was the most fascinating piece of historic architectural work I had ever seen. Before I asked Joe to take my picture with the citadels in the background, Joe requested I take three pictures of him first, which I did. Then he took a picture of me looking at the camera and the citadel in the background; then he took one with me looking triumphantly at the citadel with hands on my hips. Finally, I asked a fellow classmate to take one with both Joe and me in the background.

As we made our way down, Joe said, “Going on this hike was the best thing…or maybe one of the best things I’ve ever done. Thanks for compelling me to come.”

“That’s what smart friends are for; they help their best friends realize there’s more to life than just video games,” I teased.

“Hey, what do you mean by ‘smart friends’?” he spoke, narrowing his eyes at me a bit.

I began to whistle, a sign that I was kidding. We both started chuckling away.

“Thanks for picking me up, Dad!” I said when I was comfortably seated in the car.

“Sure thing, Jimmie!” my dad grinned. “So, did you have fun? I look forward to reading your journal, Explorer Jim!”

I nodded my head. After showing him some of the souvenirs I bought, a question popped into my head. “Hey, Dad, how come you have a tour book on Peru?”

“I’m glad you asked. It’s a long story, which I will only tell during dinner; it goes far back when I was an archaeologist before I became an archivist and then a professor.”

“You? An archaeologist! How come you never told me you have been on cool explorations?”

“Because you never asked, and besides, none of those adventures are anywhere as great as the two biggest ones; it was because of them I decided to settle down,” came the reply.

“Which one?” I inquired.

“Marrying your mom and settling down to start a family, followed by spending leisure time with you both, have been the two greatest adventures of my life. Next time I promise your mom and I will tag along rather than just feed pigs for fun.”