Summer 2007 SST Unit in Peru

The Summer 2007 unit has returned, but we'll leave the pictures and stories here.

Thu, 26 Apr 2007

Getting Ready for Students' Arrival

Marg, Sueann and Celia have been busy working on details for the Summer Peru 2007 unit. We've been having a lot of fun meeting host families and learning about the places around our new home in Lima.

Thu, 3 May 2007

New friends and family

Students arrived safely and have connected with their host families for the next six weeks. Tonight starts the beginning of new relationships and an exciting journey during our Lima stay.


We spent our first day together going over information about Peru and specifics about our SST unit. Oswaldo Aguirre helped prepare us for our upcoming "culture shock." Sueann led us in a ceremony where we annointed each other asking God to bless us with "open hands" based Henri Nouwen quote.

Sat, 5 May 2007

Placement Test

Everyone arrived at the seminary on Friday safely for their oral language spanish placement test. Some came in taxis. Some came on the bus. Everyone feels a little challenged about negotiating transportation in the big city, but we are confident that practice will make us perfect at this. Especially since we have such wonderful parents who make sure that we will get there safely until we feel confident!

City Tour

After testing was finished, we jumped on a bus to see the sights of downtown Lima.

One of the things we've learned so far is that culturally Peruvians have a different concept of space. In a lecture during orientation, it was referred to as the "guinea pig" culture. As you can see in the photos, our first bus ride helped us practice being up close and personal.

We got to see some great architectural details. We took a bus ride up a big hill/small mountain to see a beautiful overlook of the city and to visually comprehend just how large a city we will be living in for the next six weeks.

We finished our day at Larco Mar which is a beautiful spot right on the ocean. Students traveled in small groups by taxi to Larco Mar. They negotiated their own rates for the taxis and all got their safe and sound. They told of exciting conversations with their taxi drivers about politics, the war, etc. I was so proud of all them! They tenaciously bargained for a great price and jumped into this task with a sense of adventure rather than fear. Our unit rocks!

Sun, 13 May 2007

Field Trips

We've been out and about seeing the sights and sounds of Lima. Field trips this week included a trip on Monday to La Huaca Pucllana to see a pre-columbian ruin and artifact museum. They have a very interesting sort of hairless dogs there that are descendants of dogs that would have lived at the huaca during that period.

We also visited El Convento de Santo Domingo and the Palacio Torre Tagle on Thursday to see ornate architecture built at the time of the Spanish colonization.

Friday, we had a cooking class and tasted some typical Peruvian dishes including ceviche--raw fish marinated in lime.

Saturday, half of the group spent some time working with children in a shantytown. This was a completely different world than the world we've been experiencing in Lima. The living conditions were harsh, but the children were amazing.

Mon, 14 May 2007

Swimming with Sea Lions

We had an excursion at Islas Palomino off of the port of Callao. This entailed a 4 hour boat trip along the cost of Lima and included an opportunity for students to swim with the sea lions.

Sat, 19 May 2007

Tambo Map Skills

One group activity at Tambo is putting together a map of all of the areas of Peru. This helps us practice the names, as well as their locations. This week people were particularly interested in paying attention to where their particular service assignments might be.

Pamplona Visit Grupo B

The rest of the group visited the shantytown this week. Last week we realized how water was a precious resource in the community so this week we went with water bottles for all, much to the delight of the children. Beads, playdough, drawing and shoveling a lot of sand rounded out the activities for the morning. The following is a journal entry written by Yovana about Pamplona

This Saturday I visited Pamplona for the second time. This time, I was able to appreciate the trip much more. Not that a trip to a shanty town needs to be fun, but this second time I was more comfortable, more rooted in Peruvian culture, and I knew what to expect. I was also surrounded by my gringo peers.

It felt good that some of the children there remembered me, and knew my name. Pamplona is a community of sand dunes, a collection of straw mats, stones, and lumber stacked together to form homes. While there, I had the feeling of standing in a giant sandbox. I felt that with the first gust of wind or water, the entire community would erode into nothingness.

There are few plants and even less water. Instead, there is sand. The twisting, steep pathways are rivers of sand, ebbing and flowing and blowing.

Every Saturday, some of the children who live in this place gather in a small school house. Milagros (my host mother) and others from her church meet the children here and offer them games, snacks, and Sunday School lessons. I admire her dedication to this community. She desperately wants the building plans that have been formed to become reality so that improved facilities can be used.

As I interacted with the children, I was shocked that even they have been touched by my "gringo" culture. They could count to ten in English, they could identify a variety of colors and objects. They spoke of Play Station and celebrities and American cartoon characters. No matter where I go, even to Pamplona Alta, my collective identity as an American precedes me and seems to be privileged.

As our group was preparing to leave, I heard one child ask a GC student, "So when are you coming back?" The answer to that is more complicated than the child could have suspected. The sad truth is that we will not return. I personally will go back simply because I will accompany Milagros. But our presence as a group was only for a fleeting moment. We go, and we see. We take pictures and cluck our tongues in disbelief and sorrow, but then we leave and forget about Pamplona in a few days, once the pulverized filth is out of our pores and the sand is washed out from between our toes. We secretly try never to think of this place again, lest we be plagued by guilt and sadness.

I would like to think that something could be done on the contrary. I hope that our visit to Pamplona has a lasting impact on all of us, and that we remember it as we make future decisions and form relationships. I had a fun time relating to the children, and I hope that they enjoyed our company as well. I find comfort in people like Milagros, who make the trek every week, and in the fact that I made a few new young friends.


One of the things that gets noticed quickly by students is that traffic is quite different here than in Goshen. Read Jon's journal entry from his first week in Lima.

May 7

One of the first things that comes to mind when thinking about the city of Lima is its chaotic, yet organized traffic. The traffic in Lima put fear into my eyes when I first saw it. Street names that are unfamiliar, taxis and microbuses swerving all over the place, hardly any street lights, potholes, and cars stuffed with twice their limit are enough to put fear into any eyes. This chaos is madness! What sense is there???

A foreigner such as myself, may ask such a silly question, but a Peruano knows the true answer: It is easy – to have order there must be chaos. There is no choice.

After a time of observing the traffic from a distance and getting a handle on the inner workings of these drivers’ brains, I am now able to venture into a taxicab. I remind myself: This is not Nascar, nor a demolition derby. No, it is Lima. There is order in its chaos.

Taxis have a system, a universal language really, called honking. They all know the meaning of each honk, although they may come at the most random times.

One may think that all of this chaos would cause an increase in accidents. The opposite is true. Lima’s accident rate is quite low and although I have seen many close calls, I have not yet seen an accident. Then again, I’ve only been here 5 days. I do find the traffic of Lima a little ironic though. One would think that a culture that puts so little emphasis on time would do the same with driving. Perhaps drivers are trying to gain back on the road the time used up in relationship building. It has me perplexed.

However crazy Lima traffic may be, I believe that driving here would be quite exciting. Maybe that internal rush would wear off after getting to know the city.

Order must co-exist with chaos.

Mon, 21 May 2007

Water in the Desert

Ben writes

I remember our first night in Lima at the hotel and using the sink to brush my teeth. I just didn't feel comfortable using the water from the tap to wet my toothbrush. Instead I used bottled water, but it was much more of a hassle.

This was the point that I felt marked my entrance into a culture that has always had to go to greater lengths to obtain drinking water than I ever had. No public drinking fountains--I must always remember to fill my water bottle before leaving my house. I have come to value my water bottle quite a lot.

One thing that first surprised me is the minimal amount of water Peruvians drink. Knowing the water situation where potable water is bought or has been boiled, I think this may be a primary reason. I wonder if U.S. residents had to buy water or boil tap water if the “water-bottle craze” would disappear. Would Nalgene bottles be history? Would alcohol become a more acceptable drink – for younger ages?

The other day I saw a tanker truck moving slowly along the road by the median. There were a couple of men standing at the back with a hose and I was surprised to see that they were watering the trees in the middle of the boulevard. That helped me realize just how much of a desert Lima is situated on. In Indiana, mature trees never need irrigation even during dry spells.

Seeing the tanker truck also made me think of water like oil – another valuable natural resource. What if the BBC article we read is correct that two droughts in consecutive years would exhaust Lima’s water reserves? That would make me feel very vulnerable if I lived here and planned to settle into a career or start a family.

The end of the BBC article says that there might be a time when water costs more than oil. This suggests it is just an economic issue, but this is a social-justice issue. What happens to people residing on the fringes of the city in shanty towns that can’t afford water? A body cannot survive long at all without water. It is the duty of those with a political and economic voice to look out for those that don’t and one way that they (we) can do that in Peru is developing plans for water transport, etc.

Isaiah addresses a critical concern about insufficient water and says that God will not forsake the Israelites. Other verses use water to symbolize God’s grace or the water Jesus offers that forever satisfies thirst. This is a clue to me that a privileged North American like me can still think of myself as a thirty soul in a dry land and God as the never ending stream who satisfies needs much greater than physical necessities. At the same time, God will not forsake those who are thirsty. We are God’s hands and feet – we’ve got a job to do in insuring water for Lima and other places.

Thu, 31 May 2007

Trip to the Highlands

Wow. What a trip! The weather was perfect. The photos just can't do the mountains justice. We were awed by the vistas, the people, and the culture. Wish y'all could have joined us.

Our first stop was Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. We enjoyed wonderful hospitality at our hostel and were impressed by the panorama of mountains that surrounded us.

We happened to arrive in time for a local festival in the main square--definitely not a planned-for-tourists event. We also got to visit a traditional Andean home with chortling guinea pigs and ancestral skulls adorning the family altar.

Saturday we were off to Machu Picchu, which is amazing. Everywhere else we have visited, the effects of Spanish colonization are apparent, but not at Machu Picchu.

Sunday, we did some more exploring of Inca ruins in the Sacred Valley and some shopping in the market at Pisac.

Monday, as a group we explored Cusco and visited the Cathedral, Qoricancha (Inca sun temple), Sacsayhuaman and Qenco archaeological sites before splitting up to do some exploring on our own.

We ended our trip with a farewell chicken dinner--a plentiful and typical Peruvian dish. We all made it safely home on Tuesday and ready to complete our last two weeks in the city prior to leaving for service. Time is just flying by.

Wed, 13 Jun 2007

Cementerio Presbitero Maestro

We had the opportunity to visit the first and oldest cemetery in Lima. There are some famous war heroes such as Miguel Grau, and famous literary figures such as Ricardo Palma buried there. Many former presidents' graves can also be found.

Arts Journal by Lindsay Y

Lindsay is pictured with her "real" brother Kyle's host sister. (Kyle came in last year's SST group to Peru). An excerpt from her arts journal:

Peru has rich art, literature, and music, each with an incredible history. We have visited museums, heard lectures on art and literature, and encountered dance and music.

Recently I was at a host family gathering with extended relatives. They played DVDs of various singers and dances. They showed me dances from the jungle and dances from the highlands. We listened to Reggaetn. It seemed like every region had their own style of dance and dress. Each was beautiful and different and all the family members knew them and could tell me all about each one. To me, it reflected the richness of the people of Peru.

...The Museum of Art divided its collection into regions like the Highlands, Lima, and the Jungle. Common things I saw were the importance of family, religion, and community. Mothers or fathers could be seen with children, crosses, and churches. Religious traditions were depicted, and a sense of community was evident in the paintings.

Villa El Salvador

One of our last field trips was a visit to a 36-year-old shantytown. VES is well organized and has accomplished amazing things in its brief history. Today it is home to around 350,000 and models self-determination by Peru's marginalized Andean majority.

Our trip included lunch at a community comedor, an overview of the structure and organization of VES, and a visit to the grave of a popular community leader, Maria Elena Moyano Delgado who was killed by Sendero Luminoso guerillas.

The town's libraries, community radio station and written bulletins communicate the belief that education can bring about self-advancement and change. We also drove through an industrial park created in 1987, bringing much needed local employment and exporting products around the globe.

Thu, 14 Jun 2007

Despedida con Familias Lima

We had a lovely party to celebrate the end of the study portion of SST. We had a short program with several public thank you speeches, a piano solo by Jesse L-E and several songs were sung by the group for the audience. We went with a Peruvian theme and decorated with red and white flowers and chili peppers. Mervi made us some excellent tamales. Mitch's host sister baked alfahoras for dessert. It was a bittersweet ending to our time in Lima. As you can see by all the happy faces in the photos, we had a great time. However, we all knew that our time together was almost over and we were going to soon have to say good-bye.

Final Days in Lima

Service orientation was held at Goshen Tambo on June 12th followed by an exam over the study portion of SST. Chicos heading to Cusco left on that same afternoon while all the others headed out the following day. By the time you are reading this, all students will be settled into their new locations and are adjusting to their new service homes.

Sat, 23 Jun 2007

Huaraz - Lindsay

We had a great trip to Huaraz and surrounding area. Huaraz is about 8 hours north of Lima by bus. Lindsay lives with the director of World Vision for that area so she and her family served as great ambassadors in helping us locate all of the students placed in this area.

Lindsay has been working at a comedor run by a church in the afternoons. A comedor is sort of like a soup kitchen in the US. After she finishes at the comedor, she works at an orphanage helping with homework and interacting with the kids.

Ticapampa - Rachel

Rachel is living in the beautiful setting of Ticapampa. This is a small village about an hour south of Huaraz by combi. She is working with World Vision as a community health care assistant. While her village is small, her house is full! She lives with a loving family of 10 people. The picture shows Rachel with her host dad and two sisters who were home while we happened to visit.

Tarica - Amanda

Tarica is a small village nestled in the mountains just north of Huaraz. Amanda is working for World Vision. She has been busy checking hemoglobin and dispensing medicine under the supervision of her community health care worker with whom she is pictured. Her family's home is at the hub of her extended family. She has been able to observe Quechua language and customs up close and personal. Amanda's new host family consists of mom and dad, Magali and Victor and her two sisters, Wendi who is 9, and Yomira who is 1 year old. They have already enjoyed hiking together and picking peas as a family on the weekend.

Mancos- Jason

Jason is working for World Vision. He will be teaching mathematics at different area schools Monday-Fridays in the afternoons. He is living in Mancos which is a small town north of Huaraz with incredible views of Huascaron, the highest peak in the Peruvian Andes. The whole trip we were seeing amazing mountain views from all the service location homes, but where Jason lives, it is breathtaking. He is taking advantage of this opportunity by rising every morning at sunrise to play an hour of badminton with his host dad and watching the sun come up over the mountains. When we visited, Jason had just successfully completed his laundry by hand as you can see in the picture. We always knew he was handy. He got extra credit for fixing Marg's toilet in Lima before leaving on service!

Caraz - Jon

Jon has been busy working with guinea pigs or cuy as they are called in Peru. His host father has a project working with cuy production with area farmers and Jon is doing some work on the database, as well as visiting area locations with his dad. Jon's family has been great and he has been learning a lot, even some Quechua words on his cuy visits. The only minor drawback is that Jon is a tall boy which is not typical for Peru. As you can see, he is a little alto for his bed, but Jon has a great attitude. He says, "I just sleep on the diagonal."

Caraz - Jesse

Jesse has been busy teaching English at a local school called 2 de Mayo. He has varying classes, but always teaches two groups a day. He lives with an older couple who have a balcony with a wonderful panoramic view of the mountains. Since Jesse and Jon both live in Caraz, Jesse has an opportunity to bond with cuy as well. Don't worry, he really won't eat them while they are still alive despite the photos. However, cuy picante is a regional dish that is quite popular so guinea pigs beware.

Wed, 27 Jun 2007

Chancay - Ben

We had a lovely visit with Ben and his new host family in Chancay. Ben has been working with his host father, Juan Carlos, on his farm for his service assignment. They have been busy weeding, fertilizing, irrigating and planting a field of potatoes. Chancay is about an hour or so north of Lima by bus and close to the coast.

Fri, 29 Jun 2007

San Juan de Lurigancho - Kelly

Kelly has settled into her new home in San Juan de Lurigancho which is a pueblo joven in the northwest part of Lima. She is working in a clinic under the supervision of Dr. Veronica who is teaching Kelly how to use the stethoscope and how to give injections. Kelly lives in an all female household with her mother, Amelia, and her sister Miryam. Pictures feature Kelly with Dr. Veronica, Kelly's service host family, Kelly in her bedroom, and Kelly and Miryam with motos. Motos function like taxis. It is a motorcycle with a sort of cart attached that are commonly used to transport people in neighborhoods. Kelly primarily uses motos as her form of transportation to her work at the clinic.

Sat, 7 Jul 2007

Cusco - Amanda

Amanda is doing well in her service placement. She is living in the beautiful bellybutton of the world - Cusco. Her service placement involves working in an office for World Vision and working in an after school tutoring program. She is pictured with her host mother, Kely. Also featured in the photos is the Plaza de Armes which is the central square for the city. Amanda spends time reading and knitting here. It has great mountain views, is in the shadow of a beautiful cathedral and filled with all sorts of interesting people including adorable pigeon chasing children.

Cusco - Tessa

Tessa also is enjoying living in Cusco. Her home is quite near the center of the city in the San Blas area so she is enjoying reading in the Plaza de Armes and living in the shadow of Sacsayhuaman. Photos feature Tessa with her mother and her sister. Also featured is the family dog. Her service placement is with World Vision and she has been traveling to remote villages with a community health educator. Often the homes that they visit do not have roads to them so she hikes along mountain paths to reach her destination. These visits have allowed her to meet some interesting Andean families and improve her Quechau vocabulary.

The following is an excerpt from one of Tessa's required journals on the topic of malnutrition.

My service placement is with World Vision in Huancero. It is an extremely poor area, but because I work at Pueblo De Dios, I am given great respect. At Pueblo de Dios, World Vision’s chapter in Huancaro, just outside of Cusco, there are two main programs/projects. The first is a nutritional program and general sanitation program. What I, and many others at the center do is take treks as far as the path, not street, goes and then we get out and walk in the mountains where we visit los campacinos or farm areas. Here is where the truly poor live.

Statistics I was given by World Vision said that a study from 1996-1998 stated that the poor in Peru have a daily kilocalor, intake of 240 kcal. That is the same as eating two 80 centavos Sublime bars! When these studies came out World Vision had to respond. Now, there are visits to farms and the workers of World Vision take heights, weights, and different information about the home and home life. This, along with classes for mothers who are pregnant, nursing, and/or have children 0-5 years old, teach the impact of balanced nutrition. In the highlands, diets consist mainly of potatoes, other root vegetables, and meat. This is a problem because many, many children are severely iron deficient. Iron is very important for proper growth of the body. The Quechua-speaking mothers often do not have proper teaching or understanding for how to provide well balanced meals to raise healthy children. From the National Institute of Statistics and Information, a study of family health completed in 2000 stated that the number of deaths of children younger than 5 per 1000 nationally is 60, but for Cusco is 108. That is just so many children dying because they do not have basic necessities like warmth and balanced nutrition. As I put into the computer the weights and heights along with ages, the computer sadly showed only 3 of the 46 children of proper weight. There is a huge problem of hunger and malnutrition in Cusco, and in Peru.

I encourage and implore President Alan Garcia in his acknowledgement of this problem. I hope he follows through with his publicly stated opinion that “children are abandoned.” When I walk from village to village asking mothers what and how much they feed their children, it breaks my heart to hear they eat once a day and that meal mostly consists of potatoes. When reading all the information I have been given the last few days, and then seeing with my own eyes the need, I can’t help but feel guilty for how richly blessed I am. The people in the highlands are the neediest I have seen, but still they greet me with smiles, handshakes and offering of the little food they have. I have learned the problem is not that there is not food, but the food that is grown is mostly for selling in mercados. I hope that through my service as I learn so much about the rural lifestyle and the Quechua ways of life, that I also may teach them the importance of a balanced diet and the simple but extremely important art of washing their hands.

Cusco - Dan

Dan lives with a Mennonite family in the district of San Jeronimo which is a short combi ride into Cusco. This location is peaceful with beautiful mountain views. In his front yard, he can find a variety of interesting vegetables growing, or be entertained by the caged cuy. He has been very busy in his service placement thanks to his technical computer skills. He has been reformatting and installing computer programs, and fixing / maintaining the print servers and network for World Vision. Dan's host parents were not home when we visited, but his grandmother and close family friend were eager to be photographed with Dan, their new family member.

Katairay- Mitch

Mitch is getting a great physical workout at a greenhouse in the farming community of Katairay which is about an hour by bus from Cusco. This huge (14,000 sq meters) greenhouse is a project of a mission. The idea is for the community to help grow food for use at the mission primary school and for sale. By working in the greenhouse, parents will have free tuition for their children to attend the school. The evidence of Mitch's work can be readily seen in the greenhouse where he has done weeding and acted as human tiller with his picka (tool pictured in the photo). The school is building an additional space to add more space for higher grade levels so Mitch has also been fortunate enough to learn a lot about making adobe bricks and has decided to do his final project on the adobe construction process. Mitch has about a 15 minute beautiful walk with mountain ranges all around him from his home where he lives with grandparents, but has interaction with his host family more on the weekends. He lives on the second story of a building that is also used to dry corn. His host mother made us a lovely dinner during our visit of fresh cheese, rice and a fried egg/flour type of fritter that was delicious.

The following is an excerpt from a journal entry Mitch recently submitted.

A Day in the Life of My 12-Year-Old Brother

Everyday I interact with my twelve year old brother and I am enchanted with his responsibilities and at the same time with his simple want to just be a boy.

5:00 a.m. - My brother rises from his bed and enters the 30 degree climate of the Andean morning. First responsibility of the day: find and chop fire wood for the stove in the kitchen at his home and start the fire. Next, he unties the three bulls standing in the courtyard and drives them approximately 2 km to feed for the day. He returns home and stokes the fire adding more wood and dry cow chips for fuel. He dresses for school and leaves on his bicycle for Grandpa and Grandma’s house. On the way, (1 km ride) he picks up a liter of milk and 5 pancitos.

About this time, I start thinking about waking up. The longer one stays in bed the less cold air one has to encounter.

At 7:00 a.m., my brother arrives at my grandparents’ house which is where I sleep and starts a fire to boil the milk. By this time, I have dressed and have arrived in the kitchen. My brother serves me the milk and insists that I eat a few pieces of pancito. After feeling somewhat content with my stomach, I say my goodbyes and head to work while my brother leaves for school.

By 2 p.m. he returns home helping with preparation for supper. At any spare moment, marbles leave his pocket and enter the dirt playing field of his front courtyard. There are no PlayStations or Xboxes here - just marbles. Between helping my mother with supper and playing marbles, the afternoon is spent. He travels to the field where the bulls were tied up for the day and leads them home.

Andean people start early with hard work. They don’t wait until the age of 18 to decide to get a job. With no complaining, my brother carries out his duties. This is not something I could say about most 12 year-olds from the US.

Katairay - Hannah and Katie

Hannah and Katie are living together in an apartment at the mission in Katairay. They especially enjoy their hot shower. Actually, so does Mitch as the girls share their privilege with him since there is no shower at his home. They are masters of the hot water process as they are featured demonstrating in the fourth photo. They are enjoying their work at the primary school where Katie is working as a teaching assistant in first grade and Hannah is working as a teaching assistant with five year olds. They co-teach a computer class in the late afternoons. They are learning a lot about education in Peru and are getting to know some adorable children. They usually travel by combi into Cusco on the weekend so they can check their e-mail as their is no internet cafe in their village. We decided to wait for the next combi as seen in the photo as we didn't really feel like squeezing in what seemed like a pretty full vehicle to us. Katie has become an astute observer of how many people can fit into a combi and reported once finding 29 people in what we would call a 15 passenger van.

Cusco - Analisa

Working in an after school tutoring program for children who live in a shantytown on the outskirts of Cusco in San Sebestain have confirmed Analisa's calling to be an elementary school teacher. She is the teacher for about 30 kids of all age ranges from 3-12, and even a few pets. We were so impressed with her management style and rapport with all the children. The program directors for the program are her host parents. She is pictured with her mother, Rosa and baby sister, Andrea. Missing from the photo is her host dad, Mario, and sister, Brenda. The family just built a new house that is several stories tall. Analisa is enjoying her rooftop views as she does her laundry. Textiles, fibers and weaving in Peru have been a strong interest of Analisa's since the beginning of the term. Cusco has been a great location for her to do research on this topic. She is going to be our baby alpaca aficionado.

Cusco - Jenna

Jenna has been working at the Aldeas Infantiles facility in Cusco. This organization provides child care for kids living in poverty. Jenna spends her days nurturing and feeding precious 3 year olds. While her work is emotionally demanding, she is finding working with young children quite rewarding. Jenna lives with Mama Lourdes whose own children are all grown and no longer live in the house. Fortunately some of Jenna's host adult siblings have been visiting during her stay so she has had some interesting interactions with her host extended family.

Sat, 14 Jul 2007

Huancayo - Cadie, Janna, Jenna, Yovana

Due to the politically charged environment in Huancayo, the schools and comedors to which the students had been assigned as service locations have been closed almost since their arrival. The girls have kept busy doing a variety of other things, but during our visit to Huancayo, we decided, in consultation with Goshen College, it was best to have the girls return with us to Lima. The day after our arrival, a strike was held and the city pretty much was closed down except for the protests. All of us stayed together for the duration of the strike at Cadie's host family's home. It was sort of like a slumber party. (Cadie and Jenna built a fire in the fireplace. We popped popcorn. The students watched a DVD while the SST leaders went to bed.) Even though there was no public transportation available during the strike, we were still able to visit all of the host families by foot. The students were even able to make a modified version of no bake cookies for Janna's family during our host family visit. While it was difficult for the students and families to say their good-byes early, it seemed like it was better to be safe than sorry so we all took the first bus available back to Lima together. The girls will live with former host city families beginning July 15 and will be working on various projects during their remaining time until all the other students join them back in Lima for retreat.

Sat, 21 Jul 2007

Chimbote - Lauren

Lauren spends twice a week at a maternity hospital run by a group of nuns. Working in labor and delivery is her main job, but when there are no soon to be mommies waiting, she works with the newborns, bathing, changing and feeding them. The hospital has two rooms which functions as an orphanage. She's giving a little special attention to two orphaned premature babies (She is pictured with Juanita) who are absolutely precious. Mondays, Lauren does height and weight measurements for area children trying to identify kids who are malnourished or developmentally delayed. Wednesdays, she often does home visits with the parish social workers or pitches in wherever she sees something that needs to be done. Fridays, she spends in the orphanage.

Her family raises some cuyes in the backyard so she has been having fun with having some animals around. She also loves playing with her 3 year-old host niece, Susan. Lauren has been helping Susan learn how not to squeeze the guinea pigs when you hold them. We heard Susan had been responsible for some accidental cuy fatalities prior to our visit. There is much laughter in her host home as evidenced when we did the home service visit.

Chimbote - Jesse and Ryan

Jesse and Ryan have both been very busy during their service placement doing a variety of different kinds of tasks. Twice a week, they visit 2 different boys with health concerns, a 14 year old with osteomyelitis and a 17 year old with tuberculosis. They bring fruit, reading materials and provide some general diversion to the day to these housebound patients.

They also teach English twice a week and do a fair bit of tutoring. During the service visit, we observed a great rendition of Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes to practice vocabulary. Jesse also wrote an original tune with numbers as lyrics which was obviously helpful as students were quite skilled at singing it. The lesson topic for the day was transportation and animals on the farm. Old MacDonald had a Farm was helpful in reinforcing the new vocabulary from this lesson.

Every Friday, they spend making friends with and helping to feed the adorable orphans living at the hospital connected to the parish. Mondays, they provide respite care for children with disabilities. They also fill in doing random jobs helping out in any way they can. Both chicos have been enjoying attending mass at the parish on Sundays. Jesse can be found at the organ after mass leading singalongs.

The following is a journal Jesse wrote while on service that gives greater insight into the work of the parish in this community.

Thinking today about grief this evening...Father Jack showed the gringo a list of the sick people in the nearby community who have immediate and serious medical needs. The list was filled with illness like TB, AIDS and cancer of various types; the age of the sick ranged from 2 to 50. Father Jack was pacing, agitated, as he described the various challenges that the families were facing, and several times I was wondering if he was going to burst another blood vessel, as he has, before. He was feeling, as I was, completely weighed down by the tragedy that is embedded in Chimbote.

I work with three of the patients on the list - Freddy (14), Ernesto (17) and Jose Luis (20), who has a bone disorder, TB, and cancer, respectively. Work with is an overstatement. What I do is show up at the their houses, make awkward conversation, bring them books and food and ask if there is anything they need. So far, they’ve never given an answer like “a new skeleton” but it is an unspoken truth that I don’t do much to help, only stand in their dark rooms, wondering what I can possibly say. Most likely, by the time I finish next year of college, at least one of them will be dead. “Is there anything you need?” It’s a kind gesture of courtesy on their part that they never say, “I need everything you always had, you stupid gringo.”

Yesterday, Ernesto’s little sister discovered that she also has TB. She is two years old. Last year, Ernesto’s older brother, age 19, died of TB, leaving behind a wife and baby. The mother of this household is beside herself with grief, asking Father Jack if she would have to bury all of her children. Outliving one’s own children – I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around this level of grief. Even trying makes me feel sick to the stomach.

I think about a speech I read of Father Jack’s, where someone asked him if he was happy. He replied that, no, he wasn’t happy with all the poverty and cruelty that surrounded him. Hardly a fairy tale answer obviously the thing many idealists want to hear is that this life of service is so rewarding and joyful etc etc…but what happens what the life of service is so tragic that you can barely stand it, when it threatens to swallow you whole?

I’m not at that place, not by a long shot. Even as I write about suffering, my little cousins are making faces in the window, and their laughter is so contagious that I can’t help but smile. Still, I wonder what sort of gifts are needed for those that immerse themselves in this for years and years. I’ve only been here for a little more than 3 weeks. Do they see their lives as a sacrifice, losing their own happiness, innocence and comfort in the hope that those around them may have things somewhat better? Or do they find something that lets them continue to laugh at 8 year olds making faces in the window?

Sun, 22 Jul 2007

Returning to Lima

A vocabulary word that I am not soon to forget is huelga (strike). There have been a variety of groups (teachers, agricultural workers, miners)throughout Peru who are demonstrating their concerns to the government through protest strikes. When a strike occurs, business as usual just doesn't exist. One of the main concerns for us during a strike is the lack of transportation and road blocks in/out of the location. We have been closely monitoring the news, and have been in contact with locals, as well as the students in each area to make sure that everyone is safe. As we approached the time for traveling back to the city, we became even more vigilant in our search for accurate information to determine the best time for travel back into Lima.

The 4 Huancayo chicas (Jenna B, Janna, Yovana and Cadie) returned with us and are safely living in Lima now. The Huaraz group (Jon, Jesse Y, Lindsay, Jason, Rachel and Amanda W)are traveling today (Sunday 7/22) and are expected to arrive around 4pm. Tuesday (7/24) the Cucso crowd, (Mitch, Katie, Hannah, Amanda B, Tessa, Analisa, Dan, Jenna P)will fly into the city around 9am. 20+ hour bus trips just didn't seem prudent in light of our transportation concerns. Chimbote (Jesse L-E, Lauren and Ryan) and Kelly and Ben just north of the city are in locations that currently are not in the area of the protests. They will all return to the city on Thursday or Friday.

While many students have been very sad about leaving their service families and placement unexpectedly, we are confident that they will be happy to rejoin their city host families who are anxious for their arrival. The Lima families have been so wonderful in reopening their hearts and homes to welcome the chicos back to the city early. While the strikes have caused a little stress as we've needed to do some schedule adjustments, we have felt very supported by Goshen College and our local Peruvian contacts. We are completely confident that the city transition will be smooth.

Tue, 31 Jul 2007


Everyone safely returned to Lima from their various service placements and spent some time reuniting with their city host families. However, they soon had to say good-bye again as we headed for retreat.

We spent two sunny days in Chosica, just outside of Lima, presenting our final projects, catching each other up on what happened in the second half of the term, and reflecting back over the memories of our SST journey. It was a good time to all be back together and play a little, think a little and begin to let it sink in that we were really almost done.

All good things must come to an end and while everyone will always feel connected to Peru, they said their good-byes, packed their bags, and boarded the airplane to return home. Sueann and I left them at the airport last night, minus the 8 students who are heading for the jungle on their own today.

Sueann and I will spend the day saying good-bye and packing and will leave for the airport this evening. It is bittersweet for us as well. As Celia explained to the group as she said good-bye, Peruvians see this experience as a beginning, not an ending. We may be saying good-bye for now, but the relationship doesn't end just because we board the plane. Thanks to all of you who have followed our blog. We've appreciated your prayers and support for our journey.

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