Laughter, llamas and loving families: Final reflections by the Fall 2013-2014 unit

The seven students who made up the Peru Study-Service Term unit for Fall 2013-2014 hailed from Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky and Oregon. Their majors included biochemistry, communication, mathematics, nursing, physics, sociology and Spanish and they had a wide range of interests.

They left Goshen on Sept. 5, during the heat of summer, and arrived back on campus Dec. 2, after snow had already fallen. For Peru, however, the students arrived in coastal Lima amidst the coldest weather in 30 years and left just as the clouds and fog were finally lifting, bringing warmer temperatures with spring about to turn into summer.

Becca, Alan, Rudy, Jacob, Joshua, Landon, Lauren carved distinct paths in Peru and all made deep friendships. Naturally, they provided intriguing answers when asked to describe their experiences on SST. What follows are excerpts of their final reflections of their study and service experiences in Peru.

Expectations versus reality:

“Peru has met my expectations… I didn’t expect to enjoy the time as much as I did or have it pass so quickly.” (Alan)

“My experience met my expectations in that I was greatly challenged by a new language and new culture, but I was unaware how much I would be impacted and truly blessed by the people I encountered and lived with.” (Becca)

“I knew that I would be able to study the rich history of Peru. I wish we studied more current stuff.” (Jacob)

“I think I came into Peru (with an idea) of what this country is like and what SST is like, but there are so many things you don’t expect and things you can’t explain how amazing it was.” (Josh)

“The culture was not as laid back as I had been led to expect.” (Landon)

“I tried to come with no expectations and that made it better.” (Lauren)

“The differences in cultures between different areas surprised me. I was in a way expecting Peru to be more united and similar throughout.” (Rudy)

Most humorous (or unusual) experience during SST:

“Not sure. Maybe having my host Mom tell me that I wasn’t dressy enough for a quiceañera (15th birthday celebration) because my dress wasn’t short enough and I wasn’t wearing heels.” (Becca)

“Following the river from a waterfall to the resort in La Merced and encountering that huge spider.” (Jacob)

“I never thought I would be riding around in a limo in the jungle for a quiceañera as a chambelán (escort).” (Joshua)

“The impromptu dance lesson from my host mom.” (Landon)

“Taking my 9-year-old brother and Rudy and his 9-year-old sister to see Eso Es Guerra (This Is War TV show) live and waiting in line for over four hours – and they ran off a lot.” (Lauren)

“Carrying a lamb to slaughter.” (Rudy)

Biggest highlight:

“Machu Picchu is up there along with all the sightseeing parts in Cuzco, but honestly, visiting the waterfall behind my La Merced house with two friends was the most serene and powerful, maybe.” (Alan)

“Simply living with families. Feeling a part of families as they introduced me to their lives, food, favorite things and places is one of the biggest things I will take away.” (Becca)

“Machu Picchu was indescribable.” (Jacob)

“I would say becoming close to my host families and friends. It is amazing the warmth and love they give you for only being there for such a short time.” (Joshua)

“Feeding llamas on Machu Picchu.” (Landon)

“In the mountains being away from the city and spending time with families.” (Lauren)

“Going to Machu Picchu was incredible. Spending time with the group and appreciating the beauty of nature.” (Rudy)

Biggest surprise about Peru or Peruvians:

“Well, maybe the friendliness in general that I felt in Lima and La Merced – maybe more so with older people than younger.” (Alan)

“I was surprised by the variety of backgrounds and people living here to the extent where I realized that I could not know who was a Peruvian and who was visiting just by observing them from a distance.” (Becca)

“I was surprised about how friendly people were in Peru. They are just friendly and genuinely care about you and what you are doing.” (Joshua)

“Their love of cooking and reading recipes.” (Lauren)

“There is no such thing as planning in many situations.” (Rudy)

Biggest challenge and what it taught you:

“Honestly, one of the biggest challenges was to not get frustrated by Spanish. It taught me the vitality of the language and increased my desire to become fluent in the end.” (Alan)

“One of my biggest challenges I faced was honestly the volume of bugs during service. Bugs have not always been a strong suit for me so it was rough to always be surrounded by them, but it forced me to let go of a pet peeve and appreciate the helpful bugs.” (Becca)

“Changing from being driven to objective driven to relationship driven. (It taught me) patience and humility.” (Jacob)

“My biggest challenge was just being flexible, letting go with what is going on around us. It taught me to be flexible and not to worry about what will happen.” (Joshua)

“Not knowing what was coming. Being okay with not knowing what was going on.” (Lauren)

“Dealing with younger siblings. I learned about patience.” (Rudy)

When you felt most at home in Peru:

“Probably when I came back to visit my Lima family and it was like I hadn’t left. My brothers and I picked up right where we left off.” (Alan)

“I really felt at home during Casa Goshen time. There were moments when I did with families as well, but I really appreciated these mornings as a group to process and just rest on really comfy couches.” (Becca)

“At Lima taking the micro. It reminded of taking public transportation to school.” (Jacob)

“I think just coming back to Lima and having a sense of ‘I know this place.’ It just made me feel like I belonged.” (Joshua)

“Visiting my Lima family after service.” (Landon)

“At my Mom’s growing-up-house in the mountains and singing Happy Birthday and just sitting around in a circle and being with family.” (Lauren)

“When I returned to Lima and met with my family again. It literally felt like coming home.” (Rudy)

What you will remember most about Peru SST:

“I think the Cusco experience, the group stories, and the people I met.” (Alan)

“The people – both in the group and the people I lived and worked with during both study and service. My host families really will be with me for a while, in addition to the stories and memories and quotes from my group. I will also really miss and remember the food.” (Becca)

“The people I met. They will be a part of my life who made me into the man I am today and will be for the remainder of my life.” (Jacob)

“I will remember the quiceañera. It was my first experience at one and being chambelán was something amazing. I will never forget about it.” (Joshua)

“The mountains and the coast.” (Landon)

“My Lima family and their love for me.” (Lauren)

“The hospitality I was shown throughout – from family and people I worked with on service. I have learned many lessons in hospitality.” (Rudy)

We wish our students the best and look forward to our next group of students, arriving Jan. 8, 2014. Safe travels to all!

– Richard R. Aguirre and Judy Weaver