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May 28, 2012

Lima Culture

During our first week in Peru’s capital we began learning about local criollo culture.  Celia Vasquez, our study coordinator, described Limeno greetings, habits and cuisine.  James Plunkett, an American businessman who migrated here 48 years ago, taught us about Peruvian politics and economics.  Father Eduardo Arens spoke about Jesus’ use of humor in the gospel of Mark and recent developments in the Catholic Church.  Pedro Farias taught us dances from the coast, southern mountains and rain forest. To learn more about animals and, in particular, the famed caballo de paso, we visited the Instituto Superior Tecnologico Privado de Tecnicas Agropecuarias…

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May 26, 2012

Lima Families

We returned to Peru’s capital after our time of study, service and travel in the Andes and were greeted by Celia, our study coordinator, Alicia, our program assistant, and twenty-one eager host families.  We introduced the students to their new family members, shared coffee and sandwiches, and snapped photos before they departed for their new homes.

May 24, 2012

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is one of the “New 7 Wonders of the World,” a list that includes the Great Wall (China), Petra (Jordan), Christ the Redeemer (Brazil), Chichen Itza (Mexico), the Colosseum (Italy) and the Taj Majal (India). Scholars believe that Machu Picchu (“Old Mountain” in Quechua) was a refuge for the Inca Pachacutec, a sort of “Camp David” perched atop a mountain and surrounded on three sides by water. We were awestruck by the sight of this magnificent place and the entire group — 21 students, 2 directors and 4 children — hiked to the top of Huayna Picchu (“Young…

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May 24, 2012

The Incas

The Inca culture is known worldwide for its epic architecture.  Temples, palaces and fortresses were assembled from massive stones cut from nearby quarries and fitted together like a puzzle.  We visited two classic examples:  Sacsayhuaman and Ollantaytambo. Sacsayhuaman is a huge complex perched on a hill overlooking the city of Cusco, the Inca’s capital.  The main construction is a three-layered wall designed in the shape of a lightning bolt.  Lightning is of mythical importance since it intersects three realms — the heavens (home of the condor), the earth (home of the puma) and the underworld (home of the serpent). Ollantaytambo…

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May 20, 2012

A Changing World

Our theme this semester is, “A Changing World; A Changing Peru”.   In order to appreciate where Peru is going, we need to know where it has been.   If we had a time machine we could travel back to the era before the Spanish Conquest to see how Andean people lived, worked and played before the influences of colonialism and globalization.  Absent such a machine, we ventured higher into the Andes for several days to experience life in a village where ancient traditions are still prevalent. San Juan de Quihares is three hours from Huacarpay via a seldom-used unpaved road.  Our…

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May 16, 2012

There are many ways to gain understanding of a culture — lectures, workshops, service projects and learning tours. Juan Carlos returned for a second time to teach us more about Andean spirituality.  Catarina, an agronomy professor at San Antonio Abad National University in Cusco, described the political, social and environmental realities of mining. Jesica and Herbert demonstrated traditional folk dances from the Cusco region and walked us through the steps.  Some of the traditional beliefs and ethics presented by Juan Carlos and Catarina were embodied in these dances.  To understand their rhythms and cadence we needed to try them ourselves!…

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May 13, 2012

Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day!  Feliz Dia de La Madre! Mother’s Day is an important holiday in Latin America and the students surprised each host mother with a rose and hand-made card to celebrate the occasion. Our Peruvian host mothers want to say thank you to all the North American mothers who brought these students into the world, nurtured them into adulthood and graciously sent them here to spend a semester studying and serving others in Peru. Gracias!

May 12, 2012

Food and Clothing

Every culture must find a way to feed and clothe its members.  During our time in the Andes we have tasted many dishes and observed how people protect themselves from the elements.  To learn more, we took a day-trip to the town of Chinchero and a nearby archaeological site named Moray. Chinchero is home to the Andean Weaving Center, a family-operated business that employs local women to produce textiles and demonstrate their techniques.  The center is home to a small group of llamas and alpacas and we learned how their wool is dyed with natural colors, spun into yarn and…

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May 5, 2012

Life in the Andes

We began our first full week in Peru with lectures, workshops and language classes.  Pastor Celestino welcomed us to the church where our classes are held and spoke about the history of the Mennonite Church in Peru.  He recounted the experiences of missionaries in the 1980s as they overcame language barriers, initial distrust, persecution and other challenges and their development of health and education programs to serve the needs of local communities. Juan Carlos Machicado, author and anthropologist, gave an intriguing presentation about Andean spirituality.  His research casts doubt on the common perception that the Inca people worshiped the sun,…

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April 29, 2012

Our second day of orientation took place in the city of San Jeronimo, nestled high in the Andes Mountains.  We first flew to Cusco, then took a bus to the San Jeronimo Albergue, a retreat center owned by the Peruvian teachers’ union that hosts educational groups such as ours.  At 3,244 meters (10,643 feet) above sea level, we combined worship and information sessions with plenty of down time to give us a chance to acclimate to the thin air.  The setting was beautiful — we marveled at the views of the surrounding mountains and got a rare glimpse of a snow-capped peak,…

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