Summer 2009 SST Unit in Peru

Follow along on our journey! You can click on any square picture to see a larger image.

Wed, 2 Sep 2009

Welcome to Peru

The Fall Peru SST group arrived ahead of schedule early this morning. We got settled right away at Home Peru to get some rest. We plan to meet later this morning to walk to Goshen Tambo and begin our orientation.

Fri, 4 Sep 2009

New Homes in Lima

On Thursday evening students met their new host families. They greeted their adopted mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers and cousins with kisses, handshakes and hugs. Then they grabbed their luggage and backpacks and headed to their new homes.

Sat, 5 Sep 2009

A New Home for our Program

This week we opened a new chapter in the Peru SST program, hosting our language classes, lectures and workshops in Lima's only Anabaptist Church. Reverend Jose Manuel Prada and his pastoral team gave us a warm welcome to the Comunidad RETO Internacional Lima, loosely translated as the International Community of Total Reconciliation in Lima.

Pastor Prada explained that "total reconciliation" refers to our need to reconcile ourselves with God, with each other, with ourselves and with the natural world. The church is affiliated with the Mennonite Brethren denomination and was planted by Pastor Prada, his wife Esperanza and staff member Jackie Hidalgo seven years ago.

The first activity in our new facility was language class. Half of the students will study Spanish, or Castellano, will Oswaldo Aguirre and the other half will work with Leonor Marin. Living with Spanish-speaking host families, attending lectures and using public transportation are motivating the students to take their language skills to the next level.

Mon, 7 Sep 2009

Exploring Lima

Lima is a city of 8 million people, or is it 9 million? Hard to tell.

We began our time of exploration with a walk from the hostel Home Peru to Goshen Tambo, stopping to see the Union y Paz (Unity and Peace) monument along our way.

We got to know each other a little better. And, indeed, we got to know Lima much better by touring downtown with our able guide, program coordinator Celia Vasquez. We began with the changing of the guard ceremony in front of the Presidential Palace, then learned about how the buildings on the four sides of the Plaza Mayor represent four major powers in Peruvian society -- national government, Catholicism, local government and commerce. We dined at the historic Hotel Bolivar, then drove to the top of Cerro San Cristobol for a view of the city. Our afternoon ended with a tour of the catacombs beneath the San Francisco Monastery.

Fri, 11 Sep 2009

Inside Look: A Student's Personal Reflection and a Description of one Peruvian Home

During orientation we gave the students a chance to pretest their dispositions using an assortment of exotic fruit in an exercise developed by J. Daniel Hess. Below is a journal entry of one student's reflection on their ability to adapt to the adventure that lies ahead.

1. Who are you by nature? “I tend to be the more experimental, impulsive and adventurous type. The fruit exercise reflected this. I saw the plate of fruits, none of which I recognized upon first sight, and was immediately excited to try them. I observed the color, texture, smell and taste of each fruit and loved doing it. I get really excited about trying new things, especially when I’m in a foreign country. I love going out to explore and seeing what I can find. I won’t necessarily eat large portions of anything, but I at least try just about anything.”

2. When you’ve had just about enough of the strange and ambiguous and seemingly unpatterned, how do you reestablish your sense of structure and reinforce your feelings of security? “When I’m feeling overwhelmed and intimidated by all the cultural differences I’m encountering there are various tools that I’ve found helpful. Journaling to get out whatever feelings of fear or discomfort or frustration I am feeling is one of the most helpful tools. I also brought along some quotes and notes from loved ones that inspire hope in me and help me regain my passion and strength. Sometimes I talk with a friend, go for a walk or run, or read a book. And sometimes if I’m especially bothered, the best thing may be just going to sleep that night, knowing that I will probably feel better in the morning, ready to face a new day with a fresh start.”

3. What in your personality, your experience, your training, or in your companions will help you in your initial adjustments to Peru? "The training I have had thus far in social work, women’s studies, and peace and justice studies will hopefully help me interact with people here in more positive, constructive ways. My companions have already been very helpful during these first few days. I could not have asked for a more caring, considerate and helpful group. My hope is that we can continue to care for and support each other through our struggles, whether emotional, physical, or spiritual.”

In another exercise, we asked students to write their first observations of their host family’s home as if they were an anthropologist: “Stick only to description. Do not evaluate at this point. For now just describe what you see.” Here are the field observation notes of one student:

”This family lives on the top floor of a 2-story apartment. Their grandparents live directly below them. They share use of the courtyard and 2 parking spots. The walls of the main living/dining room are painted yellow. The entrance door is made of yellow-tinted glass, divided into artistic designs with strips of metal. The glass covers ¾ of the wall. Beside the main door is an alarm that beeps occasionally. Security around the house seems very thorough. In order to enter the courtyard one must unlock a heavy sliding garage door, as well as a second separate lock attached to a door. All of the floors are hardwood, except the bathrooms and kitchen have tile. In the right hand corner of the living room when you first enter the house is a tall, triangular stand that displays various trinkets and souvenirs from the family’s travels throughout Peru. The walls are mainly bare, except for 3 hanging landscape paintings. On the coffee table are framed photos of past SST students who have lived here. In the kitchen, the only trash can is a small plastic bag near the sink. The family has assigned mugs to each person and reuses the same glasses and plates at each meal after washing them in the sink. The central living space is not in the living room, but around the dining room table, which faces a large stand with a TV, VCR, and stereo. The house is the same temperature as the air outside because windows are often left open. Many potted plants decorate the balcony, stairs, and laundry room. In the laundry room a metal overhang covers half of the space, under which my mom hangs clothes to dry. My sister, who is 18, and I share a room. Her room is decorated with stuffed animals, posters of Japanese singers, and small toys. She has her own TV mounted on the wall. Overall the house is very clean and well kept.”

Tue, 15 Sep 2009

Politics and History, Jewelry and Dance

Our first formal lecture introduced us to a topic that is on many Peruvian's minds these days: politics. James Plunkett is a retired American who married a woman from Lima in his twenties and has lived here for 45 years. He told us a charming tale that wove his personal journey of exploration with a chronicle of the deeds and personalities of each Peruvian president since the mid-sixties. He finished with some speculation about who might run for office in 2010.

The next day we dove farther back into Peru's history, visiting the Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology and History in nearby Pueblo Libre. Our guides walked us through thousands of years of pottery, textiles and other artifacts unearthed during the past century. The dry climate has preserved an amazing array of items produced by the ancients, including vessels used for ceremonies, jewelry for adornment and a 4,000 year old piece of cotton cloth.

The following day we focused on one particular ancient culture, visiting the Huaca Pucllana archaeological site less than a mile from Goshen Tambo. The Lima people who constructed the temple pyramid and administrative center that we toured lived here on the coast between 200 and 700 A.D. The society was matriarchal, led by female priests and administrators. In contrast to the Incas and other groups who worshiped the sun, the Lima culture considered the moon and sea to be divine.

Perhaps the most memorable history lesson of all, however, was a visit to the Fortaleza de Real Felipe (Fortress of King Philip), Spain's largest military outpost in the new world. The site tells the story of the rise and fall of Spanish military might, with walls up to 14 meters thick and hundred of canons designed to protect Lima's port from pirates. Ironically, the fortress was used against Spain to defend the young Peruvian state from the colonial power's attempt to reconquest South America several years after independence.

Workshops give our students a chance to learn about Peruvian culture using their own two hands (or in some cases, feet). Ricardo and Eliana brought an assortment of beeds collected in the rain forest and dyed using natural materials, describing the unique features and properties of each. Students then tried their hand at creating a bracelet or necklace, producing results that are one-of-a-kind and pleasing to the eye.

We began our look at Peruvian dance with an informative talk by Nelida Silva, an experienced teacher and practitioner who discussed the original purpose for traditional dances as well as the current state of folkloric dance in modern Peru. Then Pedro Farias, a long-time friend of the Goshen SST program, led the students in dances from the highlands, rainforest and coast.

Sat, 19 Sep 2009

Children and Gardens, Language and Art

Lima is surrounded by Pueblos Jovenes, "young cities" settled by families from other parts of Peru. In North America those living in poverty typically populate the inner cities. In Lima the poorest of the poor live on the unplanned and under-served perimeter of this rapidly expanding metropolis. One such area is known as the Southern Cone.

On our first visit here we spent the afternoon with patients in the pediatric wing of the Maria Auxiliadora Hospital. Some of these children have been abandoned by families with limited financial means who hope their children will have a better chance of survival in the hospital. Others are in need of surgery and are awaiting beds in other hospitals.

On our second trip to the southern cone we volunteered at the Nino Jesus Community Garden in Villa Maria. This project is intended for families who are living in extreme poverty and have at least one child under the age of five. The goal is to encourage parents to grow organic vegetables to supplement their diet as well as provide extra income. After a tour of the well-tended plots we feasted on barbecued anticuchos and then set to work planting potatoes, harvesting sweet potatoes and breaking ground for a new section of the garden.

This semester we planned a series of language practice sessions with Peruvian university students. The idea is to exchange English practice with the Peruvians for Spanish practice for our students. Our first session was at Cenfotur, a private college that trains young people to work in the tourism and hospitality industries.

One of the long-time favorite field trips for SST students in Peru is a visit to the home and studio of artist Victor Delfin. We continued the tradition this semester, beginning with a tour of his private collection of paintings, carvings and sculptures and ending with a spirited talk by this 82-year-old master.

Mon, 5 Oct 2009

The Road to Machu Picchu

We began our journey to Machu Picchu, the most-visited tourist destination in South America, somewhat differently this semester. Students started their adventure in Cusco with opportunities to serve in several subsistence-farming communities far off the beaten track. And we lengthened the trip from four days to eight to give us plenty of time to both work and play.

World Vision, a nonprofit organization supported by donations from Europe, North America and Australia, operates sustainable development projects in the rural communities near the Incan capital of Cusco. We spent a day with Sandro and Walter visiting a "participatory tourism" project aimed at bringing mountain bikers and others seeking adventure to the community of Pumamarca (Cougar Track) to tour the residence of one of the Inca's wives. The organization is helping the local farmers prepare for this by cleaning up their homes and farms so that they can host the new visitors. The primary focus during this early stage of the project is to promote childhood health and nutrition by improving living conditions both inside and outside their homes. Simple technologies, like adobe stoves equipped with stove pipes, can lengthen lives by diverting smoke from people's living quarters.

Next we traveled to a tiny village nestled high in the Andes called Huchuy Cusco, or Little Cusco, to visit a similar project that is now 12 years old. We arrived late in the evening at an adobe farm house to discover a delicious dinner and comfortable beds awaiting us. The next morning we awoke to an awe-inspiring view of the sky above and valley below. That afternoon we got our hands dirty harvesting ocas and lisas, two types of tubers that grow like potatoes, as well as a type of bean called ava. Several of us tried our hands at weaving and others just enjoyed the peace that can be found above 10,000 feet on a sunny afternoon.

On another day we volunteered at a community garden project in Katinaray, using hand tools to prepare beds for planting in a huge greenhouse. We learned about the Fundacion Almeria project from its founder, Oscar, a native of Lima who described his vision for helping the disadvantaged in this small community. We also toured the school grounds that were built with the help of past volunteers, a resource to over 200 children from the community. Some of the vegetables from the garden are prepared by parents each day to supplement their diets. The rest of the produce is sold at a local farmer's market to generate funding to support the project.

On Sunday, day four, we enjoyed a well-deserved Sabbath rest in the village of Pisac. We witnessed the end of a Catholic mass and wedding conducted in Quechua, the language spoken by the Incas and still in use in the Andes today, and spent the rest of the day relaxing.

The next morning we toured the impressive ruins at Pisac and, later, the "living museum" of Ollantaytambo, a village built before the reign of the Incas that offers perhaps the best view of what life was like in the Andes centuries ago.

Our journey through the land of the Incas ended at Machu Picchu, a city perched high above a river valley in the upper rainforest that was undiscovered by westerners until less than a century ago. When we arrived early in the morning at the front gate our able guide, Oswaldo, informed us that there were still places available for the hike up to Huayna Picchu, an opportunity to ascend the steep mountain that provides the backdrop to most photos of these famous ruins. Many of us jumped at the opportunity to be among the few permitted to make the climb that day. The rest accompanied Oswaldo on a hike to an even higher destination, the Sun Gate, which lies along the famed Inca Trail.

The day in Machu Picchu engaged us in three ways -- body, mind and heart. First, we experienced this amazing place physically by climbing to a vantage point high above the ancient city. Second, we returned to the maze of walls and buildings that make up the city to learn what we could from Oswaldo about the people who lived here and the intentions they had. Third, we spent hours simply soaking in the quiet majesty of this monument to Incan ingenuity, imagining what life might have been like had we been born in a much different time and place.

Mon, 12 Oct 2009

Afro-Peruvian Music and Dance

The Chincha area is home to an unusual ethnic mix. Communities like El Carmen are populated by Afro-Peruvians descended from slaves from modern day Senegal and Angola. The Ballumbrosio family hosted us for two days, performing traditional music and dance that reveal a unique blend of Spanish and African influences. Our first day began with a meal at the famous Mamaine's country restaurant. Next we spent several hours in the river valley above Chincha, taking in the quiet and hiking around on the hills that overlook the valley. As darkness fell we returned to the village of El Carmen and enjoyed a dinner prepared by members of the Ballumbrosia family. But the highlight of the day came afterward as we gathered near a fire built on the dirt road just outside the home of our host, Mirabel.

The show began with a single violinist, joined soon by five men who tapped out a rhythm with their feet while engaging in a call and response reminiscent of the songs slaves would sing to pass the time centuries ago. Next, the performers settled behind their drums and cajones, square-shaped wooden boxes once constructed from packing crates, and took up a complex rhythm. The men were soon joined by women who encircled the fire, moving their bodies to the beat of the drums. Our students later joined the celebration, copying the moves of the dancers and helping keep the beat on the cajones.

The next day we awoke to a breakfast of rolls, fish cakes and spicy pork. We said our goodbyes to the family and headed north to visit the Unanue Hacienda, a plantation where slaves from Africa and, later, China were put to work in the fields. The centerpiece of the hacienda is Unanue Castle, an architectural marvel constructed in 1843 in a Spanish-Moorish-inspired style that is difficult to describe. The castle was home to plantation owners for a century, then fell into disrepair after the land reforms of the late 1960's.

We began our tour in a large billiard room where the family would entertain guests. But the ugly side of life on the plantation soon revealed itself with a visit to the dungeon underneath the house, the room next to the slave quarters where whippings occurred and the plaza at the far end where slaves were auctioned off at prices based on their gender, age, height and condition of their teeth.

Slaves were liberated by the Peruvian government in 1854, several years before abolition in the United States. According to Professor Rafael Leon, who lectured on slavery the day before our visit to Chincha, the Peruvian government purchased the freedom for over 25,000 slaves that year, paying slave-owners up to 10 times the going price. Equal rights were guaranteed by the constitution in 1933, several decades before the U.S. Civil Rights Act. Racial discrimination still exists in Peru as it does elsewhere, but Professor Leon emphasized the dramatic progress that has occurred in the last several decades.

Wed, 14 Oct 2009

A Spiritual Reflection

I want to lead people towards the music

the kind that takes social awareness and uses it

guiding the clueless, the poor, the hungry

to feast that includes the knowledge and honey

milk and some money

riches of the mind show the blind how to see and start running

restrictions please illiteracy means

that we need to be some story tellers describing what we’ve seen, social assertion, musically erected

words, rhythms,sounds that drive intervention.

Tue, 20 Oct 2009

Saying Goodbye to Lima

Goshen College has a tradition of hosting a despedida at the end of our time in Lima to thank the host families, language instructors, coordinator, cooks, house keeper, church staff and others who have supported us for the past six weeks. This semester's event began with words of gratitude and a collection of hymns in four-part harmony. Next were two original raps and several musical renditions accompanied by piano or guitar, including the Beatles' Black Bird. We followed this with a slide show of photos from our field trips and visit to Cusco.

Then we moved outside to the patio to witness a dance from the selva (rain forest). Seven students dressed in grass skirts and feathers, with wooden boas for the women and bows and arrows for the men, performed marvelously. The music was live this time, with one student playing a flute, another shaking a bottle of stones and a third beating out the rhythm on a cajon, a fitting accompaniment to a memorable dance.

The party closed with American-style refreshments -- chicken salad sandwiches, chocolate chip cookies and sliced fruit -- followed by picture-taking, gifts and teary goodbyes.

The next day we finished our preparations for service with worship and a final orientation at Goshen Tambo. We sang what are becoming our favorites from the Sing the Journey hymnal, "The Lord Bless You and Keep You" (with all those lofty Amens) and "Be Still" (...God will fight your battles if you just keep still).

We ended with a group hug and said goodbye until we reunite again on Thanksgiving Day.

Mon, 2 Nov 2009

Service in Mancos and Caraz

Mancos is an Andean village located in the foothills of Peru's highest peak, Huascaran. Chelsea is working there with her host mother, Noemi, to develop an after school arts program for children in the community. Our hope is that she will be able to bring opportunities for artistic expression, including new techniques and media, to the students with whom she meets each week. Chelsea has also begun assisting the English teacher at the local secondary school in the mornings, a steep kilometer's walk down the hill from her home.

Izamar and Krista live further down the valley, called the Callejon de Huaylas, that divides two mountain ranges. They are working on a new project developed by the municipal government of Caraz to promote sustainable tourism in this region. They assist the office of business and tourism with a variety of projects each morning, from tabulating visitor data to updating a directory of tourist services and facilities.

In the afternoons Izamar and Krista teach English to students at a local secondary school and a nearby institute, helping those who will one day interact with foreign visitors learn necessary vocabulary and useful expressions. The hope is that North American and European visitors looking for an authentic Peruvian experience that is off the beaten track will choose to spend some of their time and money in Caraz or the small farming communities that surround it. This economic activity could help stem the tide of migration from this scenic valley to larger cities as people search for work and opportunity.

Thu, 5 Nov 2009

Service in Huaraz

Hogar Arco Iris, or Rainbow Children's Home, is an orphanage founded ten years ago by a Spanish physician named Maria Jesus in the city of Huaraz, high in the Andes. Each morning Clayton begins his day by taking a disabled boy to school. Hannah begins by playing with a boy and a girl who are too young for school. Later they help out with a variety of tasks: tutoring the older children, helping to prepare and serve lunch, playing with the kids after school. But perhaps the most important thing they do each day is serve as role models, reminding children who do not know their parents what it is like to have young adults in their lives.

Wed, 11 Nov 2009

Service in the Selva

The Gerbi Family is descended from Italian immigrants who settled in the Selva Central, or upper rain forest, over a century ago. Moises, a coffee farmer and outdoor guide, learned about tree planting from his grandfather and uncles and has begun a reforestation project aimed at bringing back native species to the valley where he and his neighbors reside. Daniel has spent the last several weeks collecting and propagating hundreds of seeds from the Quina Quina and other trees that once covered these hillsides. He and Moises are building a collection of seedlings that will be transplanted once the rainy season arrives early next year. Their hope is that the seeds they have started will one day mature into full-size specimens that will shade the coffee plants, provide habitat for wildlife and protect the water shed.

Jose is the founder of Chanchamayo Highland Coffee, a fair trade exporter of roasted coffee, fruit juices and other rain forest products to Europe. He intends to provide a sustainable source of income to the hundreds of families that grow his raw materials -- tropical fruits and coffee beans -- using certified organic methods. But he also wants to provide full-time employment to the dozens of workers who transform them into finished products. Brooke has spent the last several weeks helping to prepare the marmelades and juices that bear the Chanchamayo Highland label, serving the customers who visit the tasting room and meeting the farmers who live nearby. She has helped to redesign the tasting area to better highlight the local products and has begun helping the company prepare for its U.S. debut at a fair-trade product expo next year.

Tue, 17 Nov 2009

Service on the Coast

Three students are volunteering in low-income, urban neighborhoods located on the coastal plain near the Pacific Ocean. Chincha is home to about 50,000 inhabitants, many of them descended from African slaves. The city is an agricultural center located several hours south of Lima. Chincha is surrounded by orchards of avocado and mandarin oranges and several large textile factories have recently set up shop here. James spends his days volunteering at Alianza Christian Missionary Church and School. The church's long-term plan is to provide social services to the community based at a facility on the church property. The staff has discovered James' skill for painting and has kept him busy helping to prepare the first wing of a social service center. A group of medical missionaries from the U.S. will staff the modest medical clinic for the first time this week. James has also discovered how much he enjoys spending time with school kids, playing basketball and soccer or simply hanging out.

Chimbote is a fishing port and mining town located six hours north of Lima. It is home to over 300,000 inhabitants. While some cities suffer from poverty, Chimbote is said to suffer from misery. Father Jack and Sister Peggy began their social and spiritual ministry here over 35 years ago, operating a social service network headquartered at the local parish church. Ally volunteers at two teen prevention centers. In the morning she can be found working with children on their homework and English lessons. The center offers a safe and welcoming environment for community children who attend school in the afternoons. After siesta you can find Ally at the Familia Sagrada (Sacred Family Center), an after-school program for abused and neglected children from the neighborhood. She has worked with the staff to design a system of positive rewards to help bring order to the often chaotic activities. She also participates in a support group for teenage girls, continuing the work of former students.

In a community with a high incidence of prostitution and drug abuse, Emily felt called to design a public school curriculum to promote reproductive health. She has developed a series of lesson plans and supporting activities for use in secondary schools. The topics include information about sexually-transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS and cervical cancer and practical methods of prevention. The local public school director values the program and shows her support by providing ample class time to educate her teenage pupils. Emily has designed the curriculum in a format that can be easily adopted by future volunteers.

Mon, 23 Nov 2009

Service in Arequipa

Arequipa, Peru's second largest city, lies at the foot of a volcano named Misti. It is known as the White City because its buildings are typically made of sillar, a volcanic stone that dazzles in the sun. Arequipa is a popular tourist destination, historic and well-kept, but not all its citizens enjoy an adequate standard of living.

David volunteers at a children's home located far from the main plaza. Casa Verde, or Green House, is an orphanage funded by a gift from a German philanthropist. Each afternoon David helps the teens with their homework and household chores, serving as a positive role model to kids who do not know their parents. He is assigned to focus his attention on three boys who are particularly at risk. The boys are kept busy during the week with schoolwork, household chores and independent living skills. On Sunday afternoons David enjoys his favorite leisure activity: teaching the boys how to throw a football.

Realizing this would leave him with considerable free time each morning, David decided to volunteer at his host brother's school, assisting the English teacher by helping her students with their pronunciation and use of idioms. Many people here listen to American music, a powerful incentive for learning the English language.

Fri, 27 Nov 2009


After six weeks of service in the mountains, coast and rain forest, we reunited again at Goshen Tambo just in time for Thanksgiving. We enjoyed a traditional North American meal of turkey, dressing, mashed and sweet potatoes, green beans and (white) pumpkin pie. Then we sang and sang and sang...

This weekend we swim with the sea lions and then head south to the retreat center at Kauai to share final project presentations and process all that we have experienced. We have many things to be thankful for!

Tue, 1 Dec 2009


The semester ended where it began -- the Pacific Ocean. We headed to the port city of Callao for a day trip to Islas Palomino to marvel at an island populated by thousands of sea lions. Upon arrival we had a chance to squeeze ourselves into wet suits and jump into the frigid water for a closer look.

Then we traveled south for a weekend retreat at a beach named Kauai. Each student had the chance to share findings from their final project. One taught us highland dance steps, another demonstrated how to play a cajon and a third revealed the traditional recipe for the caramel-like dessert called manjar blanco, followed by delicious samples. Others discussed perceptions of racial bias in print advertising, the contrast between ex-patriot and native-owned businesses, myths regarding sexuality, the concept of machismo, reforestation, ceramics, programs to help children and strategies to alleviate poverty .

We began our final day with worship, singing our favorites from the Sing the Journey hymn book. The students then found a quiet place outside to read the letters they had written to themselves on their first day in Peru. Afterward we gathered to talk about what each might expect upon return to the U.S., including strategies to deal with reverse culture shock.

We finished with a challenge: Will our students remember SST as a "bump in the road", something they survived, or a "turn in the road", something that changed their life course? Our hope is that SST will be a pivotal experience that sends each student in a new direction -- promoting intercultural understanding and helping to bring about about God's kingdom here on earth.

Goshen College
International Education Office
Kevin Koch
+1 (574) 535-7346