July 31, 2014

Reflections on Peru SST by the Excellent Eighteen

The 18 students who made up the Peru Study-Service Term unit for Summer 2014 came from Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Their majors included biochemistry, biology, education, environmental science, informatics, mathematics, music, nursing, physical education, physics and sociology.

The students departed the United States for SST on April 30, after what turned out to be Goshen’s snowiest winter in recorded history. They arrived back on campus July 28, on an unseasonably cool day, with temperatures in the mid-60s. In Peru, the students arrived during a pleasant fall and left during a winter in Lima which brought overcast skies and damp, chilly nights.

The Peru SST unit for Summer 2014 is shown minutes after their arrival in Lima, Peru on April 30. They are (front row, left to right): Stefan Baumgartner, Emma Caskey, Derek Schwartz, Miranda Earnhart, Edith Fraire, Andrew Lehman, Alejandro Genis, Lucas Harnish, Sierra Wheeler and Jaime Stack and (back row) Michael Darby, Derek Swartzendruber, Leah Amstutz, Brody Thomas, Joel Yoder, Matt Wimmer, Brian Sutter and Tim Lehman.

The Peru SST unit for Summer 2014 is shown minutes after their arrival in Lima, Peru on April 30. They are (front row, left to right): Stefan Baumgartner, Emma Caskey, Derek Schwartz, Miranda Earnhart, Edith Fraire, Andrew Lehman, Alejandro Genis, Lucas Harnish, Sierra Wheeler and Jaime Stack and (back row) Michael Darby, Derek Swartzendruber, Leah Amstutz, Brody Thomas, Joel Yoder, Matt Wimmer, Brian Sutter and Tim Lehman.

Alejandro, Andrew, Brian, Brody, Derek Peter, Derek William, Edith, Emma, Jaime, Joel, Leah, Lucas, Matt, Michael, Miranda, Sierra, Stefan and Tim all did extremely well on SST. They also had transformative experiences in Peru. What follows are the final SST reflections of a group that we will remember fondly as the “Excellent 18.”

EXPECTATIONS VS. REALITY:

“My expectations of wanting and having an adventure were definitely met. I got to experience an incredible culture and enjoy my time on service. I did not expect to get as close to everyone in my group the way I did, so that was a pleasant surprise.”
– Alejandro Genis

Andrew Leaman

Andrew Leaman

“I was right in expecting craziness, busy-ness and uncomfortable encounters with people and culture. I was wrong in thinking that I would be stuck, unable to communicate or interact with people.”
– Andrew Leaman

“I expected to be pushed outside my comfort zone, and I expected there to be parts that really dragged. I was certainly stretched in new ways, but overall I was amazed at how quickly it all went.”
– Brian Sutter

Brody Thomas.

Brody Thomas.

“I knew before SST that I would face a lot of challenges in language and relationship building with people from a different culture. While those issues were always present, I was happy and proud with the way I adjusted and learned from the experience.”
– Brody Thomas

“I expected that there would be times I would feel homesick. However, I never experienced it as much as I thought I would. I expected that I would feel welcome into my family, but I never expected how much and how quickly I bonded and became a son or brother.”
– Derek Schwartz

“This is a difficult question for me. In some ways, it was exactly the same, but in others different than I had ever even imagined. I guess the biggest difference was how surprised I was about all of the really close relationships I formed, with my families and group members as well. Another way it differed was how much easier to transition it was than I thought it would be and how somehow (magically) I didn’t get sick and instead actually felt healthier than back home.”
– Derek Swartzendruber

“SST was very different to what I had expected and planned for. I thought I would hate every moment and cry myself to sleep every night because I missed home, but I haven’t. I have learned to love and make even the hard times into cherished memories. I was never excited to come and now I can’t manage to become extremely excited to go home.”
– Edith Fraire

“I was an SST kid in the Dominican Republic in fourth grade, so I thought I knew SST. It was humbling for me as I realized how different it is to be on the other side – a student on SST. I’m glad my expectations weren’t met – things happened that I never could have imagined.”
– Emma Caskey

“When I heard people tell me or try to prepare me for SST, it felt unreal and just beyond comprehension. What actually happened was the same as what I’d been told, but going through it didn’t seem as unfathomable as hearing about it.”
– Jaime Stack

“Different: I expected to be able to force myself into whatever form that my surroundings demanded. I realized that I can’t just make myself change, but that it takes time and/or willingness to give up control and let things come. Same: I got sick.”
– Joel Yoder

“I expected that I would be able to connect and feel comfortable with my host families. This expectation was fulfilled although sometimes comfort came quickly and other times there was more of an adjustment curve. Because of my (light) skin color, I expected to stand out a lot. This was definitely true on service, but not as much as I expected in Lima. I expected to be challenged in more or different ways than I was.”
– Leah Amstutz

“Met expectations: 1. Got sick. 2. Service was indeed better than study. Difference: 1. Learned more Spanish than I thought I would. Throughout my journey I had many doubts. 2. Had a lot less free time than I though I would.”
– Lucas Harnish

“When I came into SST, I didn’t come with many expectations, because I didn’t want to be disappointed. In some ways, I’m glad I did this. I was never let down by anything. But, of course, there were goals I had and they were exceeded farther than I imagined.”
– Matt Wimmer

“I saw SST as being a three-month-long adventure through Lima or climbing through the jungle. Both of those things happened, a lot. But I’m not sure I was ready for the full weekends where time seemingly didn’t move and I had nothing to do.”
– Michael Darby

Miranda Earnhart.

Miranda Earnhart.

“I came in to SST expecting to experience some great difficulties. I definitely dealt with problems like speaking Spanish, as well as adjusting to the concept of time here. That being said, I don’t think I really had to deal with ‘great’ difficulties, and for that I am truly grateful.”
– Miranda Earnhart

“I didn’t have many expectations for SST. I knew I would have a lot of fun and also probably struggle with Spanish and both of those happened.”
– Sierra Wheeler

Stefan Baumgartner.

Stefan Baumgartner.

“I expected Peru to be a lot less time based and more relationship based. That definitely met my expectation, but in even more subtle ways than always being late or something like that. Peru has also been different because in so many ways, Peruvians are just like us and I’ve learned so much from them.”
– Stefan Baumgartner

“The language barrier was definitely a accurate assumption. However, I didn’t expect how much more comfortable I would get with Spanish, even if I wasn’t fluent.”
– Tim Lehman

 

BIGGEST SURPRISE ABOUT PERU OR PERUVIANS:

Alejandro Genis.

Alejandro Genis.

“I was surprised to see how kind they could be and how quickly I was made a part of my host families. When I got to Lima (after service), my host mom greeted me like a son she hadn’t seen in years.”
– Alejandro Genis

“I was surprised by both how similar and different they are at the same time. Some goals and traits are very similar, but many deeper and culturally ingrained traits cause some sizable disconnects.”
– Andrew Leaman

Brian Sutter.

Brian Sutter.

“I was initially surprised by how much pride they have in their country, in everything from its food to national symbols. More than anything, I think this just showed how little I knew about Peru. As I learned more about the rich culture of this country, I’d be extremely proud, too. Peru is a beautiful country.”
– Brian Sutter

“The Peruvian sense of community and hospitality was most surprising to me. Relationships are really most important things here and Peruvians do a lot to uphold and respect them in ways that Americans do not.”
– Brody Thomas

“What surprised me most was how the people treated me. Everyone treated me kindly and would stop whatever they were doing to talk or help. The feeling of importance by this and their custom of always greeting and saying goodbye.”
– Derek Schwartz

“Although I was told many times before I left, I was still surprised by the warmth and hospitality I felt. My families and community just accepted me so quickly, and I soon felt like I was a member of the family.”
– Derek Swartzendruber

“The great hospitality they have. Co-workers I barely knew offered to take me out to eat and paid my meal, drinks and even my taxi home.”
– Edith Fraire

“How much there is to love. I knew I would love parts and meet amazing people, but I did not expect to feel this country as my own. I have fallen in love with Peru and know it will always be a part of me.”
– Emma Caskey

“I was surprised at how much indirect communication there was and how much it annoyed me, especially when making plans. Just tell me what you think!”
– Jaime Stack

“What surprised me most was how different my environment was from my home in the USA yet how similar the people are. Everyone has similar desires to be a part of something, be accepted, give something of themselves, be more than a person who just makes a living.”
– Joel Yoder

“Different aspects of living in a relationship-based culture such as the greetings, stopping to talk to everyone, kindness and sometimes special treatment of me, the guest, and the great hospitality.”
– Leah Amstutz

“They are very welcoming and calm. At least in the jungle, many were much more laid back and happy to just sit back and relax, unlike many Americans I know (including myself).”
– Lucas Harnish

“I wasn’t expecting my host families to take me in with so much love in the beginning. That really helped with everything. Peruvians are also very genuine people, which I loved.”
– Matt Wimmer

“How quickly my host mom referred to me as her son. It is only a small image, but I think it illustrates how open everyone I met was to having me be a part of the family.”
 – Michael Darby

“What surprised me most about Peruvians was their concept of time. Sometimes they wouldn’t do something until five hours after the planned time. It was surprising and interesting to adjust to.”
– Miranda Earnhart

Sierra Wheeler.

Sierra Wheeler.

“The people that we met and how kind and hospitable everyone was; the host families, especially. How quickly we were accepted.”
– Sierra Wheeler

“They are some of the nicest people I’ve met, but not necessarily just individuals, but the whole community-based culture as well. With that, though, also brought indirect communication that was something to adjust to.”
– Stefan Baumgartner

Tim Lehman.

Tim Lehman.

“The wide variety of people. There is a huge gap between the Lima people of European descent and the mountain peasants. This difference brought about an interesting dynamic to the culture.”
– Tim Lehman

 

BIGGEST HIGHLIGHT:

“Making relationships! I would have never made it through three months in a foreign place without the support of my group and host families.”
– Alejandro Genis

“My biggest highlight was just finding all the history and nature to enjoy. One of my favorite activities was climbing up and looking out from a mountain top over some ruins or beautiful plains.”
– Andrew Leaman

“My biggest highlight was hearing the sixth grade students I worked with on service express their gratitude towards me on my last day at the school. They apologized for the times when they misbehaved, and some gave me small gifts of whatever they had, writing their names on them so I wouldn’t forget. And I’ll never forget any of those kids.”
– Brian Sutter

“My biggest highlight was service at the kindergarten ‘Los Jazmines’ in the jungles of Oxapampa. I really became close to several of the students and liked being a positive role model for them. I will never forget teaching and singing songs with the kids.”
– Brody Thomas

Derek Schwartz.

Derek Schwartz.

“There was not one ‘biggest highlight’ for me. What will always stay with me are smaller memories with my families and Goshen students here like conversations, eating meals, playing games, meeting extended family and birthday parties.”
– Derek Schwartz

“My biggest highlight was my service assignment and the relationships that I formed during that time. I just felt so welcome and so at home during my time at San Miguel and I have so many memories from my time there. Although I was only there for six weeks, I just know my family and community there will continue to be an important part of my life.”
– Derek Swartzendruber

Edith Fraire.

Edith Fraire.

“Loving Peru and my experience, being able to assist in medical procedures and enjoying it, meeting new people, having a bigger family than I ever have, late night conversations and bonding with my siblings, the freedom from stress, and the opportunity to feel so free as far as responsibilities I have at home in the United States.”
– Edith Fraire

“Feeling that INABIF, my work location, become my home. The staff became my family with all our crazy kids running around and it was so much fun the way their faces lit up when I came to work was met with me lighting up when I saw them. I can’t believe the love I experienced there.”
– Emma Caskey

“My biggest highlight was the times I would stop thinking and moving and worrying and just be. Taking moments to slow down, soak it all in and enjoy was the best part of all the pieces of SST.”
– Jaime Stack

“The single biggest highlight for me was being able to connect with kids and on a deeper level. To be able to connect non-verbally through a wink or a strange face and for kids to respond in a similar fashion was special in that it acknowledged that we both were accepted and loved for who we are.”
– Joel Yoder

“Traveling and navigating the city and area around my service location. This was a highlight because I loved getting to know the area and see the beautiful landscape. But it was also a great time of getting to know two of my service friends better and it built a great sense of independence and empowerment.”
– Leah Amstutz

Lucas Harnish.

Lucas Harnish.

“Jogging with the boys of Kimo and swimming across the river with them. It was a great experience and, for whatever reason, unforgettable. We painted our faces with the plant the Ashaninkas use and I taught the boys a chant/cheer as we marched down the mountain.”
– Lucas Harnish

“Those times where you’re sitting and talking with your host family and you could understand everything and speaking just came with ease. My host families were amazing people and I cannot wait to see them again. Also, this group. I formed a lot of new relationships within this group and I don’t want to lose them.”
– Matt Wimmer

Michael Darby.

Michael Darby.

“Laying in my bed on service with my 6-year-old brother either drawing, taking pictures or wrestling. This is my single biggest highlight because I will never forget my relationship with Irachi.”
 – Michael Darby

“I think that my biggest highlight was getting to teach music and sing with the kids at the clinic. It brought them such joy. I saw them all light up each time we sang. Their joy brought me great joy.”
– Miranda Earnhart

“It’s hard to pick one specific highlight. One of them would be the Cusco trip and seeing all those things and an area other than Lima.”
– Sierra Wheeler

“I would say my biggest highlight in Peru was laughing in its purest form with the kids at INABIF. It made me see what is important in life and learn to revel in the little joys that life gives.”
– Stefan Baumgartner

“My biggest highlight was getting to know the SST group better. There were several people I didn’t know too well, but I can definitely say I am much closer to all of them. It was great building relationships with them,”
– Tim Lehman

 

BIGGEST CHALLENGE ON SST AND WHAT IT TAUGHT ME:

“One of my biggest challenges was being on service and not meeting some of my expectations right away. This taught me how to deal with these kind of difficult situations and how to count on those who are there to help me.”
– Alejandro Genis

“My biggest challenge was the laundry list of annoyances I encountered on service (some due to the kids I worked with, some with the church and many due to culture). It taught me that the local culture is fine for the current locals, but not for me. I prefer my home culture infinitely.”
– Andrew Leaman

“Learning how to work with students when I didn’t always know what to say or understand them. It taught me to listen, reflect and choose my words carefully as I gained the vocabulary I needed.”
– Brian Sutter

“My biggest challenge was dealing with the Spanish language on a daily basis. While I enjoyed a great deal over my time here, I could never communicate exactly what I wanted to say like I can in English. This helped teach me the value of communication and the value of language in the world.”
– Brody Thomas

“My biggest challenge here in Peru was the inability to communicate completely. However, this taught me that communication and bonding is more than just talking. Someone can become family through broken talking and actions.”
– Derek Schwartz

Derek Swartzendruber.

Derek Swartzendruber.

“The biggest challenge for me was meeting new people and being pushed out of my comfort zone all of the time, especially at the beginning. Usually when I meet new people, I am quite shy and am quite nervous about it. Through this experience, I have had to do this so many times that I became used to it and actually began to look forward to the chance to meet and form new relationships, especially with those from a different culture and who speak a different language. In a way, I almost became comfortable being outside my comfort zone.”
– Derek Swartzendruber

“Having my grandfather pass away in the middle of service. (Director of International Education) Tom Meyers told us to go visit that one person (who might die during SST), but I had no way of doing it and now I will never be able to do so. At times I feel I have failed my family, especially my Dad for not being there when I know he most needs it. I have learned that you just have to keep going. Life is not a walk in the park and it will happen whether you are ready or not.”
– Edith Fraire

Emma Caskey.

Emma Caskey.

“Being away from friends, family and Goshen really stretched me. I missed people like crazy; that part didn’t go away, but what I gained was incredible. I found independence and self-reliance that I’ve never before experienced. I know that is something I will always have now, and I’m incredibly grateful.”
– Emma Caskey

“My biggest challenge was language. Learning how to say what I wanted to say in a different way and language was difficult, but I love how much better I am now.”
– Jaime Stack

“My biggest challenge while on SST was adjusting to life in my service location. Everything was unfamiliar and I was not in full control. I realized that the real discomfort stemmed from being away from the strong community that I love and trust which in turn has made me value my Goshen community much, much more.”
– Joel Yoder

Leah Amstutz.

Leah Amstutz.

“I didn’t feel like I had really huge challenges to overcome during Peru SST, only smaller things. I experienced small challenges, like a little homesickness, at first not connecting well or understanding my host mom, cold showers, and unexpected service work locations and assignments. I guess I learned that I am able to roll with the punches very well and not dwell on things that go wrong or unexpected changes.”
– Leah Amstutz

“The long transit of the city (Lima). I realize that the city is simply not my style.”
– Lucas Harnish

Matt Wimmer.

Matt Wimmer.

“My biggest challenge was actually studying. I was loving everything so much that I didn’t want to study. I just wanted to be. It taught me that I really love Peru and I want to come back someday.”
– Matt Wimmer

“I had two equally challenging parts of SST. The first would be feeling completely helpless and dependent on my (Ashaninka) family whose second language was Spanish. And the other was keeping my spirits high and open to strange experiences while I was feeling some of the worst fatigue and tiredness I could imagine. Both of these experiences taught me how to let go of myself and keep pushing through the challenges with a smile.”
– Michael Darby

“My biggest challenge on SST was my disagreement with how the kids at the clinic were treated. The lack of discipline was very prevalent. Through this experience I gained a great deal of patience, not only with the kids but also with situations I cannot control.”
– Miranda Earnhart

“Speaking and communicating every day in Spanish over service and finding out that you couldn’t express yourself as much as you wanted to.”
– Sierra Wheeler

“I think one of my biggest challenges was sometimes feeling very uncomfortable in my skin as someone who had to hide a part of my identity. That made me realize how that part of me really shouldn’t define me as much as I let it now. I am human and that is enough.”
– Stefan Baumgartner

“My biggest challenge was getting over feeling stupid for not understanding Spanish or not wanting to talk for fear of sounding stupid. This taught me what people who come to the United States without English knowledge experience. It made me look back on how I should act to them.”
– Tim Lehman

The Peru SST unit for Summer 2014 is shown several hours before their departure from Lima, Peru on July 27. They are (front row, left to right): Derek Schwartz, Alejandro Genis, Stefan Baumgartner, Miranda Earnhart, Emma Caskey, Jaime Stack, and (second row) Sierra Wheeler, Edith Fraire, Michael Darby and Joel Yoder and (back row) Andrew Leaman, Matt Wimmer, Derek Swartzendruber, Brian Sutter, Brody Thomas, Leah Amstutz, Tim Lehman and Lucas Harnish.

The Peru SST unit for Summer 2014 is shown several hours before their departure from Lima, Peru on July 27. They are (front row, left to right): Derek Schwartz, Alejandro Genis, Stefan Baumgartner, Miranda Earnhart, Emma Caskey, Jaime Stack, and (second row) Sierra Wheeler, Edith Fraire, Michael Darby and Joel Yoder and (back row) Andrew Leaman, Matt Wimmer, Derek Swartzendruber, Brian Sutter, Brody Thomas, Leah Amstutz, Tim Lehman and Lucas Harnish.

 

WHAT I WILL REMEMBER MOST ABOUT PERU SST:

“The constant feeling of being on an adventure! At times it was a struggle, but I gained an immense amount of independence and SST has made me feel like I can take on anything.”
– Alejandro Genis

“I’ll remember that I was able to handle myself and find enjoyment where I was. I’ll remember at the same time, though, that Peru is definitely not my home and three months isn’t enough to try and change that, if it can even be changed at all.”
– Andrew Leaman

“I’ll remember nights of sitting in a small room with my family in Tarma, eating fresh bread and drinking hot tea to stave off the evening chill. Life was simple. We conversed, drank tea and just enjoyed time together.”
– Brian Sutter

“I will remember it as a time of personal growth; a time when my life at home in the States was set aside while I learned a great deal about myself and the world around me. I will remember the little things, too – the way our group bonded, the smell of freshly fried platano chips for breakfast in the morning, the hugs I received from my kindergarten class on a regular basis and the moments of genuine laughter.”
– Brody Thomas

“I will remember most my host families and Goshen students who feel like family.”
– Derek Schwartz

“Looking back, there are many things I will remember – my host family, travels, experiences, etc. However, the single biggest thing I will remember are the times that I spent with our group, and all the relationships and memories that we formed during this time.”
– Derek Swartzendruber

“Honestly and hopefully the majority of the experience. I loved that I was granted the opportunity to experience everything that I have.”
– Edith Fraire

“Living in the jungle and the lifestyle that came with that. There was such a simplicity living day to day with very few worries. I’ll miss the mountains, the palm trees, the birds, but I’ll never forget the way of life in the jungle.”
– Emma Caskey

Jaime Stack.

Jaime Stack.

“There’s not one thing I’ll remember most. In every day life, I will be going through the motions and remember life in Peru, stories and memories of how I would have done that particular thing that day in Peru. I’ll remember my experiences collectively; they’ll just pop up at different times depending on what I’m doing or thinking of that day.”
– Jaime Stack

Joel Yoder.

Joel Yoder.

“The things that I will remember most are the little things; a stranger with a machete stopping to talk with me while on his way to work; kids continually being fascinated with my watch and pushing the buttons at every meal; the blue jungle sky; and the coolness that comes from the rivers and streams that were all around me.”
– Joel Yoder

“The people; all the fun and thoughtful times with my wonderful group and leaders; the love and care of my host families; and the friendliness and hospitality of my co-workers.”
– Leah Amstutz

“I will remember the different ways I was able to communicate even without language. Just spending time with someone can be the best way to build relationships.”
– Lucas Harnish

“Families and relationships without a doubt. I formed so many great relationships on SST and I don’t want to lose any of them. Peru and this group are filled with so many great people.”
– Matt Wimmer

“Everyone will remember the trips to Machu Picchu or the other sites, but what makes SST amazingly unique to every person are the new families we have made. The lessons I learned from my Lima family and the memories I made with Irachi and Percy, my service brothers, can never be forgotten.”
– Michael Darby

“It is too difficult to say one thing that I will remember most. I have made so many memories here with so many different people. Maybe I will remember relationships the most. Each relationship I have made sparks so many memories, and not just Peruvians, but with my SST group as well.”
– Miranda Earnhart

“The people and community and the little everyday things on service and in Lima.”
– Sierra Wheeler

“I will remember the beauty – the beauty of the jungle around San Ramon; the beauty of doing service in love; and the inner beauty of all the people here, both Peruvian and in my group. Everyone has a story and it is important to listen.”
– Stefan Baumgartner

“I think I will remember the way the feeling of SST can change so easily. There were days that dragged on, but later that week it would be one of the finest experiences ever. The difference made SST exciting and it is something that will stay ingrained in my mind.”
– Tim Lehman

 

 

 

 

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