After Retreat, Bound for Home

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

Elizabeth and Courtney arrived at Casa Goshen around 6 a.m., following a long bus ride from Arequipa.
Elizabeth and Courtney arrived at Casa Goshen around 6 a.m., following a long bus ride from Arequipa.

The closing chapter of our three-month semester of study and service in Peru was spent at Kawai, a church camp along the ocean, about an hour south of Lima.

We had time to share highlights of the past three months, especially service assignments, and to look ahead to the challenges and opportunities of re-entry in the States.

On Sunday, we celebrated Easter with brunch and a worship service.  That evening we enjoyed s’mores at a bonfire on the beach.

Earlier in the weekend students presented the findings of the research projects that they carried out while on service. Through interviews and other research methods, they explored  machismo, special education, design sensibilities of tattoos, the role of mayors, discipline in school, breads of Ayacucho, Peruvian dance, ceremonial use of coca and renewable energy in Lucre (this researcher came close to fashioning a hydroelectric generator for his family, built from scrap metal and nails, a misshapen bicycle rim, plastic soda bottles and other castaway items).

Joanna shares her research on bread in Ayacucho.
Joanna shares her research on bread in Ayacucho.

Eight of the nine students boarded a United flight on Monday evening, bound for Newark. One of our students, Elizabeth, will be staying on for a couple of weeks. She will be joined by her parents from the States, who will have a chance to meet Elizabeth’s host family in Lima.

Before they left, students shared some final reflections on Peru. Here are a few of their responses.

What surprised you most about Peru or Peruvians?

  • Some of the living conditions right outside of Lima and the other major cities, as well as the general economic disparity.
  • The incredibly genuine hospitality surprised me most because I’ve never been so openly welcomed without expectations. It felt like radical hospitality that very few people are capable of in the States.
  • The huge divide between “Christians” or evangelicals and Catholics.
  • The culture shock that I felt returning to Lima after service. The size and wealth of the capital was so different than what I found in Cusco and el campo.

What was the single biggest highlight of your time in Peru?

  • The relationships that I built with people here and in the group.
  • Being able to have important conversations that weren’t just small talk. They allowed me to connect with and understand people more than through just casual conversation.
  • Feeling how crazy much my Spanish had improved in meeting with my Lima family again, and being able able to understand everything that they said, was an awesome feeling.
With Celia Vazquez just before leaving for the airport.
With Celia Vazquez just before leaving for the airport.

What will you remember most about Peru SST?

  • Peru is such an incredible and diverse country. I’m still amazed I got to do all that I did in just three months.
  • Climbing seven mountains with my host family and friends.
  • I will remember how my way of living is neither correct nor better, because I still remember how successful and content people were, living in ways very different from what I am accustomed to.
  • The challenge, but how much it was completely worth it and how good I feel. The people who touched my life.