Courtney and Elizabeth: Serving in Arequipa

By Karen and Duane Sherer Stoltzfus
Peru SST
Co-Directors, 2014-2015

Courtney and Elizabeth will hold the record this term for taking the longest bus ride to their service location: 16 hours from Lima to Arequipa.

Courtney and Liz pose in the Plaza de Armas in their service town of Arequipa.

Arequipa is Peru’s second-largest city, with a population approaching one million. This is a land of snow-capped volcanoes, including El Misti, at 5,822 meters, or 19,101 feet, which nestles between two other volcanoes,  Chachani and Pichu Pichu.

Arequipa is known as the “White City” for its colonial buildings dressed in white volcanic stone called sillar.

Courtney and Elizabeth, both of whom are education majors at the college, worked at a private Christian school in Arequipa, Francisco Rojas, assisting with classes in English. The school was close enough that Elizabeth could walk from her home, and Courtney joined her host brother, a student there, in making the commute.

Our visit happened to coincide with what family members described as rains of historic proportions. On the two days that we were available to visit the school, classes were canceled because of rain.

We enjoyed our visit with Elizabeth’s host parents, Julio and Nancy Chavez Talavera. Our conversation ranged from the Assemblies of God church, to which the family belongs, to the often underappreciated balance that lefthandedness brings to the world (a personal passion of Julio’s). Nancy served a light supper that began with grenada, or pomegranate, juice.

Elizabeth with her host parents, Nancy and Julio, and their dog, Aria.

The next day we had the good fortune to visit Courtney’s family on the very day that her mother, Dolly Gonzales Puma, was celebrating her birthday. We were there to help Dolly’s husband, Juan Carlos; their children, Johaquin, 6, and Valentina, almost 3, and a large gathering of family and friends sing “Happy Birthday” and “Feliz Cumpleaños.”

Courtney’s host mom prepares to blow out her candles as her host dad and brother watch.

During one weekend, Elizabeth and Courtney visited the Colca Canyon, which at a depth of 13,650 feet, is more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. Visitors can watch Andean condors climb up to the rim of the canyon, in ascending spirals, each morning.

Elizabeth and Courtney during their hike in the Colca Canyon, outside Arequipa.