Recent Posts

March 17, 2012

Service in Ayacucho

Our first service visit was to the city of Ayacucho, an historical city situated in a verdant valley 9,000 feet above sea level.  Ayacucho has plenty of historical significance — the last battle in the war of independence against Spain was fought here.  More than a century later, the Shining Path guerilla movement got its start at a local university and the conflict spread throughout the country, finally ending in the early 1990s.  Today the city of Ayacucho is home to 150,000 people.  Its colonial architecture is charming and the hills that surround the city are green with the summer…

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February 24, 2012

At the end of our study time in Lima we throw a going-away party called the despedida.  In preparation for this event, each student designed a thank you card for their host family using water colors or colored pencils.  They practiced their speeches, skits and songs.  They ate seven entire pollos a la brasa (rotisserie chickens).  And they spent one last afternoon practicing a play with their Spanish instructors — Ollantay is a love story that takes place in the sacred valley during the time of the Incas. By the time seven o’clock rolled around, we were ready to go. …

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February 21, 2012

Animals and Art

Peru is known in equestrian circles around the world for its caballos de paso, or riding horses.  These creatures are bred and trained for an extremely smooth ride.  We visited a ranch in Lurin for barbecued chicken and a chance to meet these animals up close.  Actually, “ranch” is an understatement. The Instituto de Educación Superior Tecnológico Privado (INTAP) trains people from all over the country in the art and science of horse rearing (  Our tour included a variety of animals, some familiar and others foreign.  At day’s end we had the pleasure of witnessing a riding demonstration by…

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February 19, 2012

Learn, Work, Play

There is so much to learn about Peru.  Nestor Vergara taught us about the social and economic realities of life in the marginal areas that surround Lima.  He moved here from the rain forest city of Iquitos to pursue a college degree and explained how he and his wife built their home — from straw mats to plywood to concrete block — over several decades.  The statistics Mr. Vergara offered to quantify problems such as domestic violence, child abuse and other social ills were sobering.  But he sounded a hopeful tone at the end of his presentation, reminding us of…

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February 9, 2012

Another Side of Lima

Villa Maria is an hour’s bus drive south of Miraflores, where we have our lectures, workshops and Spanish classes.  It’s often referred to as a pueblo joven, or young city, because it didn’t exist fifty years ago.  In fact, most of the populated areas in the “cones” that occupy Lima’s periphery were bare hillsides in 1950, when less than one million people lived here.  Today there are over 8 million inhabitants. What is life like in a pueblo joven?  We organized a two-day visit to Villa Maria with our program assistant, Alicia, to find out.  Alicia settled here in 1979…

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February 5, 2012

We began our Lima study program at Catedral del Buen Pastor (Cathedral of the Good Shepherd), our venue for lectures, workshops and Spanish classes.  The host families helped each student find their way to Good Shepherd using public transportation, a small but significant feat given the complexity of Lima’s commercial bus system. Our study coordinator, Celia, gave a presentation on Lima culture, comparing the customs in Peru’s capital with those in the Andes.  James Plunkett, an American who has lived here for over 40 years, described recent political events and gave his perspective on Peru’s rapidly-growing economy.   Dr. Eduardo Arroyo…

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February 3, 2012

Lima Families

We returned from our 19-day adventure in the Andes and were warmly welcomed to Peru’s capital city by twenty-three eager host families.  Several of the families who live near the Lima airport met us there while the others gathered at Catedral Buen Pastor (Good Shepherd Cathedral) in Miraflores.  Our study coordinator, Celia, made the introductions and we enjoyed refreshments prepared by our program assistant, Alicia.  Then, one by one, the families departed with their newest members and ventured out into the warm evening air.

February 2, 2012

Machu Picchu

One of the seven wonders of the modern world.  UNESCO World Heritage site.  Best-preserved Inca city in South America.  Probably the most-visited tourist destination on the continent. There are many ways to describe Machu Picchu (“old peak” in quechua).  For the Inca people, this was a sacred place, somewhere people came to offer gifts to Inti, the sun god, and Pachamama, mother earth. The remote location kept Machu Picchu a secret for centuries.  In 1911 Yale professor Hiram Bingham “discovered” this archaeological marvel with the help of local farmers.  He returned a year later with a grant from National Geographic…

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January 31, 2012


We said goodbye to the host families in San Jeronimo, Huacarpay and Lucre and prepared for the last leg of our adventure in the Andes — an exploration of the Sacred Valley.  We began in Pisac, touring the vast archaeological site high above the valley.  Then we hiked down, down, down to the main plaza in the center of town to check out the Sunday market.  It’s the rainy season and we were due for a good rain.  And hail too?  We got soaked on our way down the mountain! The next day we awoke to sunshine and spent the…

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January 28, 2012


In the early 16th century, the Inca Empire extended over all of modern-day Peru as well as parts of Colombia and Ecuador to the north, Brazil to the east and Bolivia, Chile and Argentina to the south.    Twelve million people lived in what was called Tawantinsuyo, the quechua word for “four parts together.”  Cusco was the capital of this empire and was widely referred to as the “navel of the world.” We spent a day visiting Cusco and several of the archaeological sites that encircle it.  We began in Tambomachay, a resting place where the Inca (King) and his family…

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