The period of working in service assignments in cities across Peru came to an end, and the students caught night buses back to Lima, and then taxis to Casa Goshen. They arrived early in the morning on November 28 – Thanksgiving Day back in the United States, but just an ordinary workday in Peru. The students were tired but happy to be reunited as a group and excited to share stories about their service experiences.
After hugs and greetings, students enjoyed the traditional welcome breakfast of pancakes, eggs, bacon, coffee, tea – and lots of catching up. Then, after a few tasks such as preparing a backpack for the weekend retreat and leaving behind books they had read, the students left one by one to visit with their Lima host families, do some final shopping and check into Miraflores House, a hostel, for the night. Some students returned in the evening to Casa Goshen for a meal of turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans and pumpkin pie.
The next morning, we met at the Anglican Cathedral of the Good Shepherd (Buen Pastor) for some final academic work. Students had a Spanish oral examination and quiz on their readings. While waiting, students snacked on leftover pumpkin pie with whipped cream. Some students played a game in which they placed a dollop of whipped cream on a hand, and then raised it quickly, sending the white sweetness into the air. Sometimes the whipped cream landed in their mouths and other times on their faces. After two hours of work and play, students boarded a bus for the retreat. Our destination was a Christian retreat center called Kawai, located on the beach about an hour and a half south of Lima. The retreat center consists of a wonderful collection of buildings amid well-landscaped grounds, just a few hundred yards from the Pacific Ocean.
We spent two days at Kawai. The retreat is an important step toward helping the students return to their lives in the United States. Students had a chance to reflect on their experiences abroad before the emotional roller coaster of jumping from sad good byes in Peru to joyous family reunions back home. The students presented their final projects, which ranged from presentations about natural remedies, food and the education system in Peru to television viewing habits of children and soccer team allegiances. Students shared stories from their service experiences, reviewed their challenges and best experiences in Peru, learned about “re-entry shock” and played a rigged Monopoly game to help them consider inequities of wealth and poverty as they prepared to return to a wealthier nation.
Students also had time to walk on the beach, play, chase down crabs, sit around a bonfire and participate in a worship service. There was a lot of laughter combined with the bittersweet feelings of being together as a group for the last time and excitement about returning home. SST Peru Co-Directors Richard Aguirre and Judy Weaver felt very proud of Alan, Becca, Jacob, Joshua, Landon, Lauren and Rudy for successfully completing their Study-Service Terms in Peru.