This country is incredibly diverse — how do we even begin to learn about Peru and the changes that are taking place here as the nation evolves from a people steeped in Inca culture and tradition to an up-and-coming global player?

The students began their first day on Peruvian soil walking the streets of Miraflores, recovering from their 24-hour journey from Goshen and taking in the sights, sounds and smells all around them.  The district of Miraflores and neighboring San Isidro are affluent by any standard.  The group instantly recognized names and businesses that are common in North America:  Starbucks, McDonalds, KFC, Chilis, TGI Fridays, Coca Cola.  Most of the movies showing in the theater here are American with Spanish dubbing or subtitles.  And most bills are paid in U.S. dollars, not nuevo soles, the nation’s official currency.  It is strange to come to a place expecting a different culture and finding instead a culture that is quickly becoming much like our own.

After our walk we got settled at Casa Goshen, the fourth-floor apartment that the directors call home, and introduced ourselves.  Each student had a chance to check in with the group, sharing the emotions they are feeling as they prepare to spend the next 90 days away from family, friends and home.  Some were nervous; most were excited.  We introduced the idea of a tribe — this is what we are forming over the next 90 days.  We talked about how each student will need to rely on the members of their new tribe, not only the other 21 students they are sharing their experience with but also the Peruvian families, coordinators, instructors and friends they will live, work and play with during their time here.

At lunch time we took another walk, this time to the malecon, or bluff-top park, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  Our picnic bags contained causa; it is like a cross between potato salad and lasagna, with chicken salad in the middle.   We played two group games afterward, first a name game and second a game of trust called Amoebe.  Then we returned to Casa Goshen and discussed safety, food, transportation, money and other salient topics.  We enjoyed a dinner of baked chicken, rice and ensalada rusa (Russian beet salad), a favorite of Limeños.  Then we walked back to the hostel and gave the group a chance to rest.