Fall 2007 SST Unit in Peru

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

Mon, 27 Aug 2007

Ready for students' arrival!

We, Duane, Karen and daughters, Kate (15) and Emily (11), have now been in Peru for seven weeks. We're learning to know Lima and have especially enjoyed living near the ocean!

The earthquake on August 15, which we felt in our 2nd floor apartment, was a sobering experience. We have been in touch with people involved in the relief and clean-up efforts, and are looking for possible ways we can be of assistance in the future months.

Along with Celia, our Peru Country Coordinator, we've been busy laying the groundwork for the Fall semester. This past week, we met with 16 wonderful host families. We are all eagerly awaiting the students' arrival on August 30!

In the photos: Duane and Karen on the Goshen Tambo balcony; Kate, Emily and Celia at a Chifa (Peruvian Chinese) restaurant; the ocean at Miraflores.

Thu, 30 Aug 2007

Students embark on a long day of travel and three months of life in Peru

At the early hour of 4:30 a.m. today, the 16 SSTers gathered in the south end of the Union Building with their friends and family to say goodbye and depart via bus for Chicago where they will begin their flight travel to Peru. Campus Pastor Bob Yoder led the group in a prayer for both safety and learning during the coming three months. And then there were lots of hugs and waves goodbye.

Fri, 31 Aug 2007

16 Arrive Safely in Lima

Continental Flight 1037 arrived about 15 minutes early from Newark, touching down in Lima at 9:30 tonight, with 16 GC students on board. In less than an hour, everyone was through customs and had luggage in hand.

We boarded a bus for a 45-minute ride from the airport to Home Peru, a hostel with a tradition of welcoming GC students on their first night. Along the way everyone was given bottled water, and had a chance to sample Inca Kola, the No. 1 soft drink in Peru and some other snacks with el sabor, or taste, of Peru.

Before we exited the bus, Karen and Celia offered a prayer, in English and in Spanish, with thanks for safe travel and the opportunities to come. Orientation starts tomorrow morning, with a walk down Avenida Arequipa to Goshen Tambo, our unit house and meeting place.

Sat, 1 Sep 2007

An intense day of orientation

Duane and Emily went to meet our 16 students at Home Peru around 9 am. Everyone walked down busy Avenida Arequipa for the first visit to Goshen Tambo.

We started out with a time of worship, and discovered that the acoustics in Goshen Tambo will allow us to make beautiful music together. The last group bequeathed us their worship candle, so we made use of that, and the ongoing theme of encouraging Open Hands for Peru, during a hand anointing service.

Oswaldo, Celia's husband and one of our Spanish teachers, spoke to us about Culture Shock. He also offered us many practical words of wisdom for adapting to our new lives in Peru, including live demonstrations of how different people would meet and greet one another.

For lunch, we divided into 4 groups that each went to a different "menucito" restaurant. There we were able to use our castellano, visit, and sample delicious Peruvian food - each enjoying a large meal for under $3.00. Some new tastes today: Sopa de pollo, Palta rella, Arroz con pollo, Lomo saltado, Mazamorra morada, emolientes...

Those who were interested also had a chance to make purchases in a local grocery and change some dollars into nuevo soles.

During the afternoon, we went through the entire syllabus and orientation handbook, and by 4:30 everyone was ready for a nap! However, we soon had to walk back up Arequipa to Home Peru, nervous but excited, to meet our families...

Sun, 2 Sep 2007

We meet our families...at last!

With many warm abrazos, we greeted the mamas, papas, hermanos y hermanas who will be hosting us for the next six weeks.

Students with their families, from left to right, starting in the top left corner, are:

Adrienne and her parents Alejandro and Teresa, Carolyn and her parents Carlos and Patty, and siblings Daniel Esteban and Josue, Daniel and his mother, Elvira and her 18 year old grandson.

In the next row are: David and his mother Erika, Edgar and his mother, Malena, and siblings, Abrahan, Noemi and Isaac, plus Hally and her mother, Isabel.

In the row that follows are: Kate and her mother, Rosario, Matt and his father, Victor, and Rachel and her mother, Ena, along with siblings, Omar and Cecilia.

In row four are: Nathan and his mother, Betty, Sara and her parents, Carlos and Norma, along with her sister, and Will with his father, Percy.

In row five are: Whitney and her parents, Pedro and Julia, and sibling, Fiorella, Seth and his parents, Donald and Maritza, and sibling, and Nelson and his brothers, Gilmar and Alexei.

And last but not least, Asher and his mother, Blanca.

Peru Through the Eyes of a Journalist

Monte and Sandra Hayes graciously welcomed us to their home on Saturday morning for a tutorial on Peru and a sampling of delicious Peruvian chocolate cake and apple tart.

Monte, the Associated Press’s longtime bureau chief for Peru and Ecuador has been in Peru for more than 20 years and has had direct experience with most of the country's recent news-making events. Originally from Northern Indiana, Monte is a graduate of the IU School of Journalism.

During our time together, he talked about politics and recent presidents, including the return to office of Alan Garcia; a growing national economy (“the most prosperous time in my 20 years here”); the challenges in spreading wealth and development in the interior; discrimination, and the most recent earthquake (he said that as he and Sandra fled the house, they saw the car hopping up and down in the driveway).

Near the end of our visit, Adrienne asked a question made to order for a storyteller: what was the scariest experience you've had as a journalist?

Monte described two small charter planes full of reporters, bound for the scene of an earthquake; one plane turned back, as the mountainous jungle region proved too treacherous; Monte’s plane kept going and entered a cloudbank; at one point, he said, the clouds broke enough for him to see the plane skirting the side of a mountain, only a baseball toss away.

The Hayes' dog, Smokey, entertained the students during breaks and occasionally interrupted Monte as he spoke.

Sat, 8 Sep 2007

A Week of (Hilltop and Other) Vistas

Today marks the end of our first full week - and a full week it was. On Monday morning, students began language classes at a seminary affiliated with the Alianza Evangelical Christian church, our academic home in Lima. By late morning, we were aboard a bus bound for downtown Lima.

We drove up a steep hill that overlooks Lima and beyond, winding our way through narrow streets (having to stop on occasion to let three-wheeled mototaxis go by); past shantytowns that have grown into established, but still poor, neighborhoods, to reach the summit.

By the time we got to the top, visibility was only a few feet, so thick was the cloud covering. Through the mist, though, we could see the stunning Cruz de San Cristobal, the cross on the hill that shines like a beacon on a clear night. Without a view, we took time out for hopscotch and a group photo.

Down below, at the Plaza de Armas, the city’s grandest public square, we could see just fine as the military guard in front of the presidential palace changed hands, with high steps and a band in full regalia. Students recognized one of the songs from Simon and Garfunkel, and learned that the song, “El Condor Pasa” (The Flight of the Condor), was written by a Peruvian, Daniel Alomia Robles.

For lunch, we dined in style at the historic Gran Hotel Bolivar, overlooking another famous square, Plaza San Martin. The hotel was built in 1924 in preparation for the centennial celebrations of the Battle of Ayacucho, when Peru gained its independence from Spain. Famous for its Pisco Sours, we toasted instead with the daily refresco. One of many famous past guests of the hotel was Ernest Hemingway.

Our day ended with a walk along the Pacific Ocean, where paragliders drifted overhead.

A Week of Vistas - II

In the middle of Lima, surrounded by apartment buildings, is Huaca Pucllana, an adobe pyramidal structure dating back to 400 A.D. Over the years, this important archeological site has been used at various time as a cemetery, a dump, and a bicycle track. Restoration began just 26 years ago and continues today. Living examples of native plants and animals are also located on the site.

On Wednesday, we enjoyed a meal and afternoon together at Goshen Tambo, the first of our weekly opportunities for worship, reflection and catching up (English flowed freely).

We brought back a favorite professor, Rafael Len, who lectured twice, essentially covering the country’s history, from the Incas in the 1200s to the modern nation state, in a PowerPoint tour de force (daydream and you might miss a century!).

Back to central Lima, we visited El Convento de Santo Domingo, one of Lima’s most historic churches, with beautiful artwork and courtyards. A few of us sat in a chair that Pope John Paul II once sat in! We also saw the tomb of Santa Rosa of Lima, the Saint who was being honored with a holiday on the day we arrived in Lima.

Enjoying the gift of sunshine along the way, we walked to Palacio Torre Tagle for a tour of this opulent colonial home now turned into government offices for foreign affairs. We saw a room where heads of state gather to sign important treaties, and peeked out onto the street traffic from a carved wooden balcony (Moorish influence, in case you were wondering), one of the most beautiful in Lima.

No rest for the weary. Today after language classes, we set off for the Museo Nacional de Antropologa, Arqueologa y Histora del Per (notice that you’re reading in Spanish, just fine), with an impressive collection. Another opportunity to find lunch in local menucitos along the town square gave us time to catch our breath before the afternoon lecture.

As we would say in the States, TGIF.

Thu, 13 Sep 2007

Food, Fortaleza and Fun

This week has been another full one with language classes, lectures and field trips. Over the weekend, many students went exploring around Lima with friends, and some had outings planned with their host families - including a soccer game featuring the national team (in a warm-up for the World Cup qualifying rounds, Peru tied Colombia late in the game).

In between, everyone tried to find time to fit in their reading assignments, journal entries and language study. Leo, one of our language teachers (shown in the photos), gave her first test this week.

By Goshen Tambo on Wednesday, we were all ready for some down time! Students stayed around the apartment into late afternoon, visiting, resting, reading, playing Rook, and eating chocolate chip cookies that Kate and Emily baked for them...a North American treat after a lunch of Aji Gallina and Ceviche!

Our field trips this week included---

Cenfotur. This is a professional school of tourism, where Celia teaches English. It is located in a section of Lima called Barranco, in a beautiful setting overlooking the ocean. We were invited to visit several classes and share conversation with our Peruvian peers, in both English and Castellano. Our visit started with a delicious lunch served in their cafeteria and ended with a tour of the school.

Instead of watching a cooking demonstration this year, a student ‘food exchange’ was proposed. Following our very large meal of arroz con pollo, Cenfotur students brought in typical Peruvian dishes for us to try.

We were told to bring something simple that we might eat for lunch in the States. So even though we would rather have shared something more exotic, peanut butter sandwiches and BLT's were on the menu for sampling - a starting point for our conversations.

Fri, 14 Sep 2007

Food, Fortaleza and Fun, Part II

Fortaleza del Real Felipe. On Tuesday, we headed to Callao, the largest and most important port in Peru. Callao was founded in 1537, just two years after Lima, and soon became the main port for Spanish commerce in the Pacific. According to Wikipedia, during Spanish rule virtually all goods produced in Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina were carried over the Andes by mule to Callao, to be shipped to Panama, carried overland, and then transported on to Spain via Cuba.

We enjoyed a picnic lunch before heading inside for our visit...Emily came along for the day as group photographer.

Fortaleza del Real Felipe is a stone-wall fort, in the shape of a pentagon, that was designed by architect Luis Gaudin and finished by the Viceroy Amat in 1773. It was built to repel attacks from pirates and privateers.

Of interest as we study Peru's history, the fort played an important part in the country's battle for independence.

Inside is the 'Museo del Ejercito' - or Military Museum. The first part of the tour featured guns, swords and canons -- and then things got interesting. After most of the group had filed into a narrow, serpentine dungeon, someone turned off the lights.

Our guide told stories of enemies of the Spanish crown being fed bread and water, and then of the battle for independence when Peruvian patriots managed to cut off the food supply to Spanish loyalists who were stuck inside the fort (we won't tell you exactly what the Spaniards were reduced to eating, but think whiskers and long tails).

For at least some in the group, it was a relief to leave the confines of the cells and climb up the tower, with splendid views of the Callao harbor, where many ships dock for commerce.

Mon, 17 Sep 2007

"There's no doubt I'm a gringa . . . "

Adrienne shares a journal entry:

As I leave my apartment each morning and navigate through my hourlong route to class, there is no doubt that I am gringa. The looks I receive are never leering, only knowing. They all know, and I know too.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the phrase gringa, it is a slightly abrasive term for white woman. With my long reddish hair, unfalteringly pale skin, and my grand stature, there is no way that I could fit in. Yet every day I think to myself that when I speak my well-rehearsed phrase, they will feel regret for thinking I’m a gringa. They’ll believe I’ve lived in Peru all my life, just the descendant of a pasty Spaniard and his immigrant wife.

Yes, I know it is a grand fantasy, but I can’t help but allow it to play out in my head! Each day I attempt new strategies for fitting in, only to discover more ways I stick out! My most recent discovery caused my own host sister to double over with laughter, and days later she is still giggling about it.

When I was in sixth grade, I had surgery on my foot. During that surgery, the doctor put a titanium screw in my foot to hold the bone. It used to give me problems at cheap metal detectors because it would set them off. I hadn’t experienced that for quite some time so I almost forgot about it.

Well, just my luck that every single supermarket in the greater Lima area happens to have metal detectors at the door. Every time I enter or exit the store I set it off. I’ve had to learn how to explain in Spanish that I have a screw in my foot. That really wasn’t a phrase I thought to learn ahead of time.

So now instead of attempting to fit in, I brace myself every time I’m going to a store, knowing that I will be the gringa that sets off the alarm and then stutters out a strange explanation. I guess the experience has forced me to create a sort of metaphorical proverb for my Peruvian experience: No matter how good my Spanish becomes, it won’t remove the screw from my foot.

I’m a gringa . . .

Tue, 18 Sep 2007

Painting in Pamplona

As the bus climbs the hillside at the southeastern edge of Lima, gravel replaces asphalt, and sandy dirt replaces gravel. This is Pueblo Joven Pamplona, a shantytown high above Lima, where jobs and water are scarce (for jobs, the people who live here must walk to a bus stop, and then take a long ride into the city; for water, they have to wait for a water truck to make its rounds up the hill).

Every week, Milagros, a former host parent and longtime friend of the SST program, and other volunteers from the Alianza Evangelical Church open the doors to a children's community center here, where they share crafts, snacks and stories from the Gospel.

Half of our group joined Hermana Milagros (Sister Milagros, as the children call her) last Saturday, beginning to paint the center both inside and out. We also got out paper for coloring, bubbles for blowing, tops for spinning, rope for jumping. The water we brought along went quickly -- into the hands of the children who helped with the painting.

We decided to let the children help, even though that meant a few drips and uneven lines of spring green paint here and there on the walls (and quite a few drips and uneven lines on shoes and pants and shirts, come to think of it).

But from a few feet back, half the place looked great; we'll be back to finish the job with a fresh crew this coming Saturday.

Fri, 21 Sep 2007

The Gringo's Guide to Peruvian Driving

Matt shares a journal entry:

1. Driving, like everything else in Peru, is heavily relational. Personal interactions, rather than strict rules, are the forces that rule the road. Driving is a constant negotiation, a process of bargaining much like that that takes place at the market. The difference is, the negotiation takes place with horns and fenders rather than voices. And instead of a potato or a chicken, it is schedules and lives that are at stake.

2. Far from an optional accessory, the horn is vital to the functioning of the car, much like tires or a windshield. Despite its tonal limitations, the versatility of the horn in expressing emotions parallels that of the human voice. It can be used to deliver a friendly warning when approaching a cross-street as well as an angry blast to prod on a sluggish Kombi. In all cases, more horn is better than less. The horn: don't drive without it!

3. Executing a turn is more of an art than a science. It is often helpful to be in the outside lane when turning, although it's not absolutely necessary, especially if you have a good horn (see No. 2). Turn signals are also a nice touch, although a hand out the window works just as well. Remember: "to everything, turn, turn, turn!"

4. Lane divisions, like most road markings, are more suggestions than rules -- helpful at times, annoying at others. For example, at intersections where cars are turning (see No. 3) it is perfectly normal to have more cars across the width of the road than lanes. As a general rule, if you can fit, go!

5. Don't worry about speed limits; no one else does.

6. Drive it into the ground, and let the environment take care of itself. After all, Lima could stand to be a little warmer!

7. Pedestrians and speed bumps pop up without warning. Be alert!

Sat, 22 Sep 2007


Whitney shares a poem inspired by a visit to the San Francisco monastery and church, known for its catacombs, the site of an estimated 70,000 burials; library with antique texts; and baroque architecture.

From the chapel where decisions are made,
from a long room, hallucinogen periwinkle,
from the soap-slick rocks of the courtyard walk
we descend

From imported cedar drawers holding the moneyed dead,
from Peter Paul Reubens,
martyrs rising from the walls,
we descend, and
our heights testify that we don't belong here, tallest trespasser bowing in the tunnel;
but because we can pay and because we, the
are alive,
we pass the blue and yellow tiles
from Spain

Grey light diffuses down from the floor of the sanctuary.
Looking up from below, "imagine the smell"
bones stacked under bones,
layers of lime, the dirt ground pocked with the feet
of dominicans,
then franciscans

The most recent burial a year ago,
young monks play soccer in the yard
and dance salsa in homogeneous pairs
on the second floor
We trace the eggwhite plaster
walls, the cracks between bricks
sucked dry in this desert

"This way," whispers our guide
as we count the bones of the dead.

Sun, 30 Sep 2007

Marinera and a Dash of Festejo, Topped With Merengue

Over the course of a couple of hours in a social hall at the seminary where we have Spanish classes and lectures, 16 SSTers made an impressive case for extending one of the college's core values: global citizens as elegant dancers. They were good.

Our dance instructors, Andrea and Pedro, started off by demonstrating the nuances of the Marinera Limea, the national dance of Peru, said to be “dedicated to courtship and love.” We took the academic approach, settling for coordinated footsteps and waves of the handkerchief.

Soon we were trying the Huaylash, a heel-tapping Andean dance that could be exported as an aerobic alternative to frisbee on the lawn by the Kratz-Miller-Yoder dorms. Moving on to the Festejo, a dance born among slaves who labored in Peruvian plantation fields in the 18th century, there was plenty of happiness and joy in the room, as the dance called for, and often impressive coordination.

Not all of the dances were traditional. We closed with some salsa and merengue numbers. Merengue, which means whipped egg whites and sugar, is lively music with roots in a different SST location, a former one, the Dominican Republic. With that, we stopped. The eggbeaters were tired.

Mon, 1 Oct 2007

Exploring Afro-Peruvian Roots in a Fractured Land

We headed to “el Sur” on Saturday, to visit the small coastal city of Chincha, about two and a half hours south of Lima.

Chincha was closer to the epicenter of the earthquake than Lima. The rubble and cracked facades and tents lining the streets bear visible testimony to the force of the quake in a way that the Richter scale never could.

In Grocio Prado, a section of Chincha, the pews from the Catholic church are neatly arranged in central plaza, as the church remains closed for major repairs. We filled the dining area of a restaurant-in-a-home that also fronted on the plaza. The menu included chicharrones, (pan-fried chunks of pork with yuca), arroz con pato (rice with duck), and a specialty of the region, Carapulcra Chinchana (dried potatoes in a peanuty sauce over pasta).

Our hostess turned on the TV – to wrestling, straight from the U.S.A. (someone in our group quickly switched the channel to soccer). Dessert was around the corner, at outdoor tables selling a sweet called tejas, for which the region is famous. They are chocolates wrapped in foil and pretty papers, filled with soft caramel and pecans, coconut, or other delights, 3 for 2 soles, or 1 sol each - if you wanted to support someone whose home was demolished in the earthquake.

At the Casa-Hacienda San Jose, located in fertile fields outside of the city, we toured a tired (and earthquake-damaged) national monument where the Salazar and other prominent families once produced sugar and honey on the backs of African slaves.

At its peak in the late 1700's, the plantation held more than 1000 slaves. With candles, we ventured into an underground stone tunnel network that was used to move slaves from ships to the plantation, and from one hacienda to another; we saw a room with leg and hand irons where slaves who tried to run away were punished. Though slavery was abolished in 1854, our guide told us that many slaves continued to work on the plantation into the 1900's for food and a place to stay.

Following our tour, we enjoyed some play time on the grounds which, prior to the earthquake, were available to overnight guests at the La Casa-Hacienda hotel, run by the current plantation owners. Asparagus, cotton and citrus fruits are still harvested in the surrounding fields.

Members of the extended Ballumbrosio family were waiting for us at a hostel in the nearby township of El Carmen, known as the heart of Afro-Peruvian music and art. The children and grandchildren of Amador Ballumbrosio, a folk violinist and tap dancer who gained an international following in the 1970's, performed with dance, percussion and zapateo (tap dancing).

During one song they invited all of us to dance along with them, and after the show a number of students tried out some of their instruments: the cajon (a box that is sat upon and drummed with the hands), the cincero (a large bell), and the bongo and tumba (two types of drums).

Wed, 3 Oct 2007

Fin De Semana

Kate shares a journal entry:

Saturday begins.
Driving down by the ocean
A young girl probably 18
Face down in the dirt
Medics and police surrounding her.
Maybe she is drunk and sleeping.
No. My mother turns to face me.
"She jumped from the cliffs above."
She turns back around
We drive on.

Children with dirty faces
Playing happily with the foreigners
Intelligent. Artistic minds
Dulled by lack of resources
Starving for attention
But also really starving
For the crackers and water in our bags.
We share what little we have brought.
Feel good about ourselves
It's time to go.
We drive on.

In the kombi
A child boards selling chocolates
Only 50 centimos
It's 10 o'clock at night
She is 7.
I look away awkwardly
Shaking my head, no thank you.
50 centimos are burning in my pocket.
I'll need them another day
We drive on.

Wednesday Afternoon.
How are things going everyone?
Lectures are too long and boring.
Cold showers.
Rice and potatoes at every meal.
We have learned nothing from our Fin De Semana.
We drive on.

Communication Without Words

Nathan shares a journal entry:

Being the music fan that I am, I have been constantly listening and looking for new sounds since I came to Peru. What I didn't realize was the way that music would bridge the language barrier for me, with my family and with strangers. These are a few of my more memorable experiences.

Snapshot No. 1: In a kombi

Usually there is music playing -- blaring -- in the public transportation here in Lima. Anyone who gets on the kombi is captive to the driver's musical choices, but it's one of the places where I've felt like I fit in the most. I don't have to speak, and probably couldn't over the music even if I wanted to. Sometimes people hum or whistle along with the salsa beat and prevalent brass section. I don't know what the performers are singing, but for the ride everyone is experiencing the same thing. It's unifying, and one of the most genuine snapshots of Peru that I experience.

Snapshot No. 2: The Jazz Zone Club

My family took me here one Tuesday night to see and hear the jazz of Misajel, my brother's favorite saxophonist. We sat crowded around a small table talking until the music started. For the next two hours, little talking needed to be done. Amazement over a great lick was expressed by a smile and a nod. A dropped jaw meant that the drummer just played that fill with one hand. There was an excitement around that table, and I was drawn in. I was truly just another member of the family.

Snapshot No. 3: Along the Street (Or in a Menu or Kombi)

More than once, I have been around children playing music for spare change. At first it was a novelty, at times a bother, but usually just background sound. One Friday night a young girl got on the kombi I was riding on and began to sing and play, "Te levante las manos . . . " The fact that a girl of no more than 12 years would spend her Friday night on kombis for spare change suddenly hit me. She had a nice voice, so I gave her 30 centimos and waited for that warm, charitable feeling. It never came, probably because I had 7 soles in my pocket, and another 50 in my wallet. Her song was a call out, an illustration of the inequality Lima offers, and a stark reminder that even an American with good intentions can't do anything about it.

Fri, 12 Oct 2007

A Visit to Villa el Salvador

The Peru Reader, one of our textbooks this semester, includes this introduction to Villa El Salvador:

"Until 1971, Villa El Salvador was empty desert south of Lima. By 1990, African-Peruvians from Lima's decaying center, and first- and second-generation migrants from the Amazon and Andean interiors, had converted it into a bustling municipality of more than 300,000, recognized internationally as the best organized of Lima's shantytowns."

What we saw on our recent visit confirmed the organizational powers of this town within a city: a community co-op kitchen where residents cook or help in other ways in return for a discounted lunch (one sol, or about 33 cents); central plazas for sports and recreation, a mandatory asset for every neighborhood; and a commercial sector known for its furniture and leather goods.

On a hillside, we visited the grave memorial for Maria Elena Moyano, an original settler and vice mayor of Villa El Salvador. She was murdered by the Shining Path after she criticized their terror tactics.

Our guides said the municipality emerged as a product of liberation theology and socialism. Challenges lie ahead. Many young people, they said, are more interested in the trappings of U.S. pop culture than in community organizing. Nike overpowers Maria Elena Moyano.

Sat, 13 Oct 2007

A Guide to Some Really Nice Peruvians

Carolyn shares a journal entry written in the week leading up to the end of the study term in Lima and the departure for service assignments around the country:

What would we do without them? Nice Peruvians are everywhere, explaining what exactly arroz chaufa really is. They save us from falling into traffic on Avenida Angamos and help with phone card purchases. Dozens of nice Peruvians will patiently repeat even the most simple sentences ten times until an incomprehensible amalgam of vowels punctuated with an occasional consonant resolves itself into the polite request, "Dos soles cincuenta, por favor."

A list of some of my favorite Peruvians follows:

1. My host mother: Patty is careful to assure all my new Peruvian acquaintances that her North American hija really does "sabe hablar castellano," even though it might not seem like it. She's spent so many evenings with me sharing her memories. I know all the particulars of how she met my host father, and she's told me about the harrowing night that she spent in a jungle hotel with banana-eating rats. We've watched the "Princess Diaries" (I and II) together, while the hombres were banished to the living room to play with matchbox cars. During my first weeks in Lima, she made sure that I always left the house with good directions and her cell phone number, just in case I got lost . . .

2. The cobradores: It would be completely impossible for me to navigate Lima without them. Cobradores, the conductors of public transportation in Peru, don't just collect your fare. They can also save you from getting permanently lost in some obscure part of the city. When, in yet another directional miscalculation, I ended up several miles outside of Lima in neighboring La Molina, a kindly cobrador returned the sol that I had paid him. He laughed at my mistake, but he gave me directions to Miraflores, which was my intended, if sadly distant, destination.

3. My little brothers, Daniel and Esteban: They have taught me all I will ever need to know about "Transformers," a popular Peruvian cartoon show involving large mechanic monsters that wreak havoc in human cities. I am thankful that the boys include me in their hours-long Lego games. And I'm confident that when 3-year-old Esteban shouts, "Que vaya, que vaya!" at my back as I rush out the door in the morning, he really means to wish me well ("Que te vaya bien") and is not actually telling me to go away. Or at least that's what I'm hoping . . .

4. Total strangers: I am often surprised by their interest and kindness. Grandmotherly limeas on the bus offer to hold my backpack for me if I have to stand up in the aisle. Devout Catholics on their way to evening Mass take time to point me in the right direction. Passersby stooped to help pick up scattered coins when I was foolish enough to try to pay for a packet of crackers with a ten soles bill and received a cumbersome handful of diez centimos in change.

5. My host father: Always willing to share his faith, Carlos has told me that he finds Hebrews 13:2 to be applicable to his family's experience with students from Goshen. I am touched by his hospitality, and by his meticulous translation of that verse into English.

I've been fortunate in the people that I've met so far this country and in the welcome that I've received as a stranger here. It will be difficult to leave Lima.

The Trail Begins in Cusco

We gathered on the grass around our guide, Elvis, near a building known as the Hut of the Caretaker of the Funerary Rock. From where we sat, we enjoyed a most complete view of the Inca complex down below, Machu Picchu in all its carved-stone glory. Elvis asked us what we thought. Searching for words, we offered: "Amazing." "Inspiring." "More beautiful than any place I've ever been."

But it was hard to put into words what we saw, or what we thought, at that moment, sitting about 8,000 feet high in the Andes. We did take a lot of photos, some of which are shared here. The visit to Machu Picchu came at the end of a four-day sweep through Cusco and the Urubamba Valley, including stops in Pisac and Ollantaytambo.

Here is a brief account of our trip:

In Cusco, our stay included a tour to the cathedral on the main square, a rich repository of colonial art; a visit with a paco, an Andean healer and spiritual leader, who demonstrated a traditional blessing ceremony, burning a wrapped offering that consisted of sugar, corn, cookies, seashells and more; a walk through Sacsayhuaman, Inca battlement ruins above the city that include finely polished mammoth stones fit precisely in place; and an introduction to Coricancha, a former Inca temple that became a base for the church of Santo Domingo after the conquest.

Dropping down to the Urubamba Valley, known as the Sacred Valley of the Incas, we stopped in Pisac, a village beside the river. We had lunch that included pumpkin stew or beef stew at Dona Glorinda's (several of us enjoyed a balcony view of the craft market). On a hilltop beside the town lies an Inca citadel (we took a challenging 90-minute walk on a narrow path that rings the ruins).

The next stop was Ollantaytambo, where an Inca fortress commands the high ground, atop an imposing series of steep terraces (the Incas successfully rained arrows, spears and boulders down on the conquistadors).

The town features the narrowest of cobblestone streets and a busy main plaza. One wonders how the town will be able to make room for the growing number of tourist buses. Many arrive to see the ruins here, but also to board the train to Machu Picchu, which is what we did. Our train ride came between two nights at a lovely hostel just off the plaza (fresh pineapple juice and pancakes for breakfast).

Sun, 14 Oct 2007

Sitting (and Playing Hacky Sack) on Top of the World

During our train ride to Machu Picchu, we sat four to a table, enjoying a lunch made up of goodies from the market and shops of Ollantaytambo.

Two hours later, we were in Aguas Calientes, boarding buses to take the zig-zag climb up to what is arguably the best of the New Seven Wonders of the World (we make no claim to impartiality).

The day was nearly perfect, with the clouds swirling around peaks in the distance, but never blocking the sun. Elvis guided us from place to place, including the Temple of the Three Windows; the Temple of the Sun; a carved stone pillar used to predict the solstices; a combination of carved and natural rocks that form the shape of a condor.

Throughout, Elvis told us stories of the Incas, reminding us that we were standing on contested historical ground (for example, he said, Hiram Bingham, long regarded as the discoverer of Machu Picchu, was led to the site by an Andean boy, who received a handful of soles for his efforts; Bingham got the gold).

Several students added a light touch to the glorious day, making a bid to become the first visitors ever to play Rook, kick a hacky sack and toss a frisbee during their stay. The powers that be at the college can decide whether this is worth investigating with Guinness world record authorities. We'll leave you with the photographic evidence.

Fri, 19 Oct 2007

Pre-Service Catch-Up

Students headed off for their service assignments last weekend and Lima, with its millions of people, seems emptier without them. This coming weekend, we will begin our service visits with a trip to Huancayo, about 7 hours east of Lima by bus, where Carolyn and Seth are living.

Before we go, we wanted to post some entries from the past few weeks that got left behind in the shuffle.

The Pamplona Children

We did indeed return to Pamplona, the shantytown we visited in mid-September. Everyone who didn't go the first week made the trip up the hill, with Milagros and other volunteers, to finish painting and to play with the children.

What we all remember most are the children.

Carolyn speaks for many of us through an excerpt from her journal:

"...what really impressed me in Pamplona was the incredible determination of the children there.

In particular, I think of Juliana who, abandoned by her parents, lives by herself on the streets. But she has a strong will - or instinct - to survive, grasping all the plastilina she can get her hands on, wheedling more crackers with her cute four-year-old smile, and holding on tight to whatever person seems to be closest at hand.

I admire the strength of will of the Pamplona children, knowing it is born from a poverty that I will never experience..."

Sat, 27 Oct 2007

Our Despedida: A Thank you to Those Who Have Nurtured Us For Six Weeks

The Friday before we left for Cusco and our service assignments, we planned a farewell party, or despedida, for our teachers and host families to recognize them for all they have done for us these short, intense weeks in Lima.

During the afternoon, we decorated the seminario chapel, made poster cards, rehearsed, and ran around town picking up food and flowers.

In the evening, we returned with our families to celebrate together. We started off with a slide show as everyone gathered. Speeches were made to acknowledge Leo and Oswaldo, our language teachers, Celia, our country coordinator, the people who have helped us at the seminario, and most importantly, our host families.

David and Nathan played a few numbers on guitar and saxaphone, followed by several hymns from an octet. Finally we all joined together to sing '606', now a favorite of our host families as well.

Cakes, along with bocaditos (bite-sized savory pastries), guacamole and soda, were served, and we had plenty of time to eat, visit and take photos before the evening was over. There was even a little dancing to show off the new salsa numbers we learned earlier in the month.

It's hard to say good-bye, but we look forward to seeing everyone on our return from service in 6 weeks!

Service visit #1: Two Students and a Wedding

Our first service destination was to the city of Huancayo, southeast of Lima about 7 hours by bus, in the Rio Mantaro Valley of the Andes.

We timed our visit to see Carey and Seth, so that we could also attend a joyous event: the wedding of Per Anderas and Mara Torres, who each in their own way have made possible the success of two community kitchens in the city.

Both Carey and Seth are working at these kitchens, or comedores, just as other Goshen students have done in summers past. The kitchens are an outgrowth of Swedish church missions in Huancayo, and the wedding festivities reflected that cultural mingling (with many stories shared in Spanish and in Swedish, for example).

At one of the comedores, in the Chilca neighborhood, we found Carey one morning helping to make humitas dulces (a sweet corn mash wrapped in husks) for the noon meal. The comedor was pulling out the stops that day, treating their usual diners (dozens of schoolchildren) and special guests (visitors from Sweden, in town for the wedding) to pachamanca,, an Andean dish reserved for religious festivities and social celebrations. A Quechua word, pachamanca breaks down as pacha (earth) and manca (cooking pot), suggesting homage to the Incan earth goddess.

It’s an elaborate production, which begins with heating a mound of volcanic stones in a fire, creating an earthen cooking pot. When hot, some of the stones are removed, and layers of food are added. We saw potatoes added first, with hot stones placed on top; slabs of seasoned pork went on next, followed by more stones. Then they added fava beans and the humitas dulces. At the end, the mound of food and stones were sealed by plastic sheets and left to cook for an hour or more. Normally, this is all cooked underground, but for the comedor, their above-ground version seemed to work well.

Unfortunately for us, we had to leave before the food was served, traveling across the city, first by paved road and then by a bumpy dirt road, to reach the second comedor, in the El Tambo section of town.

We walked in on Seth, who was setting up chairs for the noon meal. Soon after, he took his place at a table by the door, ready to record the incoming children, each of whom is assigned a number.

The gracious cooks offered us lunch as well, steaming bowls of rice and beans cooked in a mild chile sauce.

While we were in town, we met both Seth’s and Carey’s families. Seth is staying with a church pastor, Javier, and Carey with another pastor, Domitilio, and their extended families.

We also celebrated Seth’s birthday, delivering a card from his mother that bested anything Hallmark has ever produced, and singing “Cumpleaos feliz.” He even shared a generous slice of chocolate cake. As elsewhere in Peru, they take food seriously in Huancayo. Before we left, Carey mentioned that one of her goals is to learn to make the region’s most famous dish, papas a la huancana, yellow potatoes covered in a chili-cheese sauce and topped with egg and black olives.

Sun, 28 Oct 2007

Service visit #2: Cusco to Kataniray

About an hour after arriving in Cusco, we sat down to a noon meal with Edgar's host parents, Luis and Angelica. We can provide first-hand assurance that he is being well fed. The sopa de quinoa, a soup that traces its lineage back to the Incas, was rich in taste and nutrients, bolstered by spinach, and was followed by chicken, rice and potatoes. The wool table runner was one of many signs in the house of the family artistry that takes place downstairs, where the looms are kept.

Soon after lunch, we hiked to the top of a hill overlooking the city, arrayed in red-tile roofs that slope upward from the core. Edgar lives just a five-minute walk along cobblestone streets from the Plaza de Armas, the central park, where he sometimes stops to read (the two books for required reading during service are the novel, Lost City Radio, and a collection of short stories, Fire From the Andes ).

We caught a kombi to World Vision, where Edgar is helping to take inventory of incoming mail. Sponsors in the United States and elsewhere send letters and gifts (e.g., stickers, photos and clothing) to children in Peru, whom they have financially "adopted" through World Vision. The packages must be inventoried, letters translated and so forth. With several World Vision employees on vacation, one of Edgar's supervisors described his arrival as "a gift from on high."

The trip from Cusco to Kataniray, where Daniel, Rachel and Will are living, requires three parts. First is the bus ride or a shared cab ride to Izcuchaca, which can take 45 minutes. Then follows a half-hour kombi ride that includes a dusty detour past farm fields and adobe homes. At the end, there is a walk down a dirt lane to Fundacion Almeria, a nonprofit organization that runs a primary school and greenhouse complex.

All three students were busy teaching when we arrived: Rachel (3 year olds), Daniel (4 year olds) and Will (6 year olds). In Daniel's room, the assignment that day combined numbers and handwriting ("escritura del numero 8"). At one point a dog walked into Rachel's classroom, where the children were caught up in puzzles. Without skipping a beat, she snapped her fingers and shooed the dog away ("at least it wasn't a pig," she said). When we left the school to take a tour of the greenhouses next door, Will had to pull himself away from the children who had latched onto his arms (Rachel and Daniel said this is a daily challenge).

The second part of their assignment involves strenuous labor in the greenhouses. The three workmates have tied up tomato and bean plants; weeded plots; and planted garbanzo seeds. Once a day they have to let down plastic "window" coverings.

Along with several other workers who stay in dorms at the greenhouse, they know that night comes early. Without electricity, they play Rook by candlelight (to keep a promise, we'll provide only the scores of the running competition, and not say who is winning or losing: 15,585 points, 14,565 points, 12,865 points).

From their home here, they can glimpse snow-covered Andean peaks. While they haven't walked through snow, in their two weeks here, they have hiked the hills nearby.

Tue, 30 Oct 2007

Service visit #3: A Two-Man Crew in Chincha

Nelson and Asher are covered in dust most every day, as are so many laborers in Chincha. The earthquake that struck the coastal area of Peru in August leveled and fractured many of the homes here, including one that they are helping to demolish so that it can be rebuilt.

Nelson and Asher are the first Goshen College students to do their service assignments in this small city of 120,000, and perhaps the first whose primary task on some days is steering a wheelbarrow. "Basically, our main gig is moving rubble," as Nelson put it.

Their host father, Edwin, a medical doctor, took us on a tour of the devastation in Chincha one afternoon. We drove by scores of homes marked with a bright red X, indicating that they were unsafe for occupancy; we saw the jail where a wall had collapsed during the earthquake, allowing prisoners to walk free (they were subsequently recaptured); we passed clusters of tents in streets and parks where displaced families are consigned to get along as best as they can.

Our point of contact in the city is the Alianza Cristiana y Misionera Church of Chincha, where Nelson and Asher and their host family attend services. The $1200 that Goshen College raised during Celebrate Service Day is being donated to the church for its rebuilding mission in the city.

At the invitation of church members, the two-man construction crew added a pedagogical touch to their service assignment, leading English classes at the church for up to 15 students, mainly adults.

They are making friends at home (some horseplay with water pistols got things off to a good start with their younger host siblings) and around the city (in the evening you can sometimes find them circling the main plaza, where sociable Chinchans go to see and be seen).

Chincha (Seen Through the Window of a Tour Bus)

From a journal entry by Edgar, who wrote a poem after the SST group visited Chincha during the study portion of the semester:

"The poem reflects what I saw through a distant window, another world, from the inside of a tour bus."


great buildings
and walls
pushed over
by a giant hand

dusty ruins
crumbled bricks
and makeshift houses
line the streets

the leftovers
of what did not
or could not

those left standing
the survivors
all marked

red circles
in the center
an X . . .
a dot

or "safe!"
they cry
those brands

less obvious
another branding
invisible scars
mark the people

of loved ones
of lives

yet they continue
and rebuilding
life goes on

and another day
passes by
here in the streets
of Chincha

Wed, 7 Nov 2007

Service Visit #4: Chicas in Chulucanas

In Piura, you can drive an hour west to reach the sand and the surf of the Pacific Ocean, in places like Colan Beach -- of which a tourist brochure says that from the balconies of wooden houses on pylons here, "…you can watch the best sunsets on the Peruvian coast." But this past Saturday, we had an appointment to keep an hour east of Piura.

The town is called Chulucanas, a place known for its fruit farms (chacras) and its pottery. We arrived by bus in the center of town where mototaxis were waiting, along with the hot sun. In Lima, with the Peruvian spring well underway, it still often feels good to wear a jacket under an overcast sky. But up north along the coast, the weather is described as arid and hot, with hardly any rain all year.

With so much sun, people walk slowly during the midday -- or they take mototaxis. Our family of four squeezed onto a seat built for two and rode about a mile to the home where Whitney is living. We were introduced to her host parents, Miguel and Jesu, and then she and Sara took us to visit the place where they have been working the past 3 weeks, RBC, or Rehabilitacion Basada en la Comunidad.

RBC, founded just eight years ago, provides care primarily for children who have physical or learning disabilities, although the breadth of their mission stretches beyond this to meet other needs. One might find an older adult doing therapy to recover speech patterns after a stroke, for example.

Both Sara and Whitney have been helping at RBC five days a week, documenting the work of staff members with photographs and providing direct care for some of the children. One brochure for RBC quotes Proverbs 31:8: “Abre tu boca por el mudo, En el juicio de todos los hijos de muerte.” or "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute." (NIV)

The local evangelical church, Casa de Oracion, is an important partner in RBC's mission and most staff are members and regular participants in meetings and services held throughout the week. Whitney and Sara took us by the church building, a center for much of their social activity these past weeks.

Lunch was at a menu restaurant along one of the town’s main streets, (peaceful by Lima standards), where we shared a meal of chicken and goat with rice and beans.

Later in the afternoon, over glasses of yellow Triple Kola, we visited with Whitneys family, while her host father, Miguel, used a special stone to polish some of the beautiful vases that he makes for shipment to galleries in Lima and cities abroad.

We next visited Saras home, a short walk away past a small park. Her host father was off at work in a chacra, a short bike ride from their home, where he has been picking mangos. Host sister Cecelia, who is a school teacher, graciously welcomed us and took time to share family photos and tell us about some of the special features of this part of the country. Her abuela also agreed to join us as we took pictures.

Thu, 8 Nov 2007

How Can I Feel Grateful?

A Journal Entry from Whitney

"How can I feel grateful when I see so many poor, tired, and often apathetic people? My first response is 'How can I give them food, a house, an education, and a job?' "

Henri Nouwen

Before I came to Peru I read another book by Henri Nouwen (the title of which I do not recall) which, by an account of his work in the L'Arche community of developmentally disabled individuals, attempts to restructure our conception of leadership. In Gracias! it's clear that Nouwen's struggles, and mine, are the same.

I came to Peru with a somewhat skeptical view of the "service" portion of our time here. In the short time of six weeks in one place, it seems as if the families of Peru are offering us a greater service than we could ever offer them. . . welcoming strangers into the beauty that is their daily life . . . expanding our vision of the world. . . challenging us to refer to home as NORTH America, not America . . . not ignoring our southern neighbors. . . challenging us to love differently.

Even trying to think this way before I came, I've had a really hard time, and the quote above spoke to my ignorance when I read it. As a North American, a fortunate one, I struggle thinking about the imbalance which my existence supports, including the expense of my education (even considering I'll be paying loans until I die), and even an imbalance within the States.

As Nouwen's honesty imparts, a reaction I've been having to try and tame is to find a way to share material goods. Still, if I emptied my college savings into the pockets of a Pamplona family . . . if my friends and I had a garage sale . . . sold all of our worldly crap, donated it to the victims of Chincha and Ica . . . it would do nothing to aid racism. It would not unite Peru or stop terrorism; it would not touch, in the least, corruption in government. It would not make the rest of the U.S.A. acknowledge global need.

Being here has, in a way, reminded me that I cannot stop children from being hungry, stop AIDS from spreading, stop the war on "terrorism," cure cancer, prevent domestic violence, find life on Mars or get "No Child Left Behind" left behind.

I don't mean to suggest that ever there was a time during which these things were, or felt, within my power. In the midst of feeling so frustrated, in the midst of accepting that I am, in essence, a tourist and that my strongest contributions, perhaps my only ones here, are relational, there's a freedom to do what's more important: listen and learn. Maybe as a North American, that is more important. . . to create relationships that say you are dear and beautiful to me, even if our countries don't always get along or agree.

Service Visit #5: Where the Light Shines in Chimbote

The procession for the "Seor de los Milagros" (Lord of Miracles) in Chimbote began with a handful of worshipers, among them two newcomers in town, Adrienne and Nathan. As they walked the dusty streets of Chimbote, amid singing and strumming of guitars, the numbers grew. A girl joined the line and held hands with Nathan and with Adrienne, who was also cradling a puppy named Rocky that she had recently rescued from the street.

During their service time in Chimbote, Nathan and Adrienne are helping to develop several centers for young men who are recovering from addictions and trying to distance themselves from gangs; they are also assisting with a support group for women, including wives of these former addicts and gang members. Some of these women and men joined the procession as it wound through the city.

Eventually they all funneled into a large Catholic Church for Mass (with Rocky fast asleep). Afterward, the line was long for coffee and bread. Adrienne was touched when a nun came up to her and offered to get her a cup of coffee (given her connections, the nun was back in a flash). “The procession was one of the times when I felt most accepted in the community,” Adrienne said. Nathan added: “We weren’t an attraction. We were just there.”

The unemployed easily outnumber the employed in Chimbote, a coastal city where fish-processing plants are often shut down, a legacy of over fishing in years past. Still, a holy light is always on at the parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, where Father Jack and Sister Peggy have been caring for the poor and welcoming strangers for more than 20 years. A visitor here for only the second time, is made to feel like an old friend; Nathan and Adrienne seem like family members.

When asked to describe the church, Adrienne said, “It’s the savior of the community.” Nathan added, “Padre Juan is the Mother Teresa of Chimbote.” Actually, one could say that Chimbote has two Mother Teresas. In the book Twice a Missionary: The Life and Times of Sister Peggy Byrne, a visitor to the church is quoted as saying, “One person I know referred to Sister Peggy as Mother Teresa of Chimbote, and when you think about it, she’s right.”

During a recent visit, we met Adrienne’s host family, including Ita, her grandmother; daughter Anna; son Walter; daughter Lucy and her family. Nathan’s family included his host parents, Rosa and Santos (who was bedridden, recovering from a recent surgery); and their children, Fabiola and Julio; Idis and Manual; and Samantha.

We also took a tour of the four satellite centers being developed for the recovering addicts and others. The centers include recreation (a foosball table here, a ping pong table there) and work opportunities (mattresses are being manufactured at one site).

Adrienne and Nathan are working up a theatrical production with the women’s support group. As a kind of musical warm-up exercise, Adrienne taught them “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” (with this phonetic guide: “ro ro ro yor bot/jentli dahn da strim/merili merili merili merili/ layf es bat e drim”). See Adrienne or Nathan for tickets.

Tue, 20 Nov 2007

Service Visit #6: Children of the Cordilleras

The dirt road to Haly’s house is a challenge for walkers and drivers alike, carved up by runoff gulleys and roughed up with rocks. And it’s all uphill. But once you turn off the road, and follow a path a hundred yards or so, you reach a glorious bed-and-breakfast called La Casita de mi Abuela, with a view that makes you want to keep on walking.

Only a few kilometers away looms Huascarn, which is, at 6,768 meters, or 22,204 feet, Peru’s highest mountain. Huascarn is part of one spine of the Andes called Cordillera Blanca, which, as the name suggests, is snow-covered. Across the valley runs a second spine, Cordillera Negra, which is stunning in its own snowless way.

Just to put the mountainous presence in perspective, the Cordillera Blanca offers more than 50 peaks topping 5,700 meters, or 18,700 feet, whereas only three mountains exceed that height in all of North America (the lone U.S. contribution is Denali in Alaska).

Haly lives here, in this lovely spot, with her host parents, Walter and Naomi, and her brother Christian. An older brother is away at university. Her bedroom has a balcony that overlooks colorful gardens, tended by her host father, and fruit trees that belong to their neighbors. Her appointed spot for washing clothes, though out of doors with cold water, has the most amazing view of any laundry we know.

At times, she helps out in the hostel kitchen and visits with guests, as she did when we were there. Primarily, her work is with World Vision in the town of Yungay, a short ride away on the shared vans known as combis. One of her early assignments involved going into mountain towns to coordinate some artwork. Through World Vision, many children in these communities have patrons, or financial sponsors, in Switzerland or elsewhere abroad. One way the organization shares information with the patrons is to ask the children to draw pictures, which are sent to the patrons in time for Christmas.

Haly shared two observations: 1) "The kids always drew mountains. Everybody knows that reality." 2) "One time, during a break, I walked over to two girls who were eating fruit to see if they wanted to play frisbee. The one girl washed some of the fruit they were eating and offered me a piece. I said, "No, no," aware that many of these families have next to nothing. I was so struck by their generosity."

In a surprise offering, Haly's father, Walter, who is a certified mountain guide, volunteered to take all of us on a visit to the Lagunas Llanganuco (Haly was the assistant guide, since she had earlier taken the trip with Kate, Matt and David). After driving for about an hour up the mountain on a rough dirt road, you reach two lakes nestled beneath Huascarn and Huandoy, one of which is startlingly turquoise. As we hiked, we were introduced to quenoal trees, which provide shelter for 75% of the birdlife in the area. Their bark, like tissue paper, keeps them from freezing.

From Haly's hostel, with 4 soles in your pocket and 45 minutes at your disposal, you can make it to Kate's home in the bustling town of Huaraz. Unfortunately, her host parents, Joel and Violeta, were unexpectedly called out of town, so we missed their company. But we did get to meet her sister, Dahaira, and her uncle, Tio Emilio. They live along a very busy market street, where you can pick up freshly roasted pork with the head in full view (we never asked the price), and then walk a few feet and buy mangos (two for 1 sol, or about 33 cents).

Kate's service schedule is regular, and demanding. She works at Casa Hogar, an orphanage for children ranging in age from toddler to 18. Beginning at 3 p.m. when school lets out, Tia Kate, as she is known, is there to help with homework, play games and in general try to keep things under control (ironically, one of the biggest challenges is keeping Ghandi in line; he's a 4-year-old with great reserves of energy). She regularly helps two 4-year-olds and two 7-year-olds with their homework.

In an effort to learn to know one of the older girls, Kate helped her do dishes several nights in a row, just for a chance to talk. On the day we visited, Kate sat at the table to help serve oranges, with every child wanting them cut into four sections. As was clear when we arrived and when we left, as well as when we took photographs, sometimes the children just wanted two things from Kate: attention and hugs.

Service Visit #6: Los Hermanos Cuy

Around town, they might be called the Cuy Brothers. Matt and David have quickly made themselves valuable contributors to a cuy business known as Zoothecnocampo.

Just a few minutes into our visit, we watched David lean into a cage to deftly corral the champion of the cuyes, otherwise known as El Campeon, a hefty meal by any measure. Many North Americans squirm at the prospect of eating cuy, but the animals that we know as guinea pigs provide a lean protein-rich meal, and an important source of income.

The business run by David's host parents, Fredy and Rosana, works with several agencies to empower local cuy farmers. One effort is to unite farmers in a collective, which increases their bargaining power. Another step is to develop business plans for each farmer, including an inventory of cuy in hand and projections of eventual "herd size" based in part on hoped-for income.

Toward that end, Matt and David have been conducting interviews at the homes of farmers in the region. The information they gather is entered into a database designed by an earlier Goshen College contributor, Marcos. During one visit, David and Matt needed the help of a translator since the family only spoke Quechua, the preferred indigenous language, and sometimes the preferred language, in the highlands ("Hello," for example, would be "Napaykullayki").

Cuys were running across the floor. "We were not sure that we were getting through," Matt said. "We were just about to leave when the translator said that she wanted to feed us something." David added, "We didn't understand fully what was being said, but she was frying chicharrones (chunks of pork) for us as a form of gratitude." Matt said, "Even though we couldn't really communicate, it was cool to sit down together to share a meal."

Besides his host parents, David's family includes a brother, Fredy; a sister, Sarah; and a grandmother (whose landscapes add color to several of the family’s rooms). The family also has about 170 cuyes, two cats and two dogs.

Just a few blocks away, Matt lives with his host mother Gloria, a retired teacher. Matt and David are working against the clock in trying to finish a video overview of the business for an upcoming conference. As a sign of confidence in their language skills, Fredy Sr. has asked Matt and David to serve as the narrators. (The SST language instructors should consider giving them extra credit for being able to gracefully deliver "zoothecnocampo" on tape)!

Thu, 22 Nov 2007

Personality: Lost in Translation

Matt shares a journal entry from his service location in Caraz:

I'm secretly glad that no one in either of my host families speaks English. If they did, I'm afraid that they would be faced with a most confusing situation. Switching to my language, they would discover that I am not the person they thought I was, that I have been -- to use Marie Arana's words -- "faking it." The situation would be made worse if they ever decided to visit me in the United States. Doing so, they would probably meet a complete stranger with only a familiar face.

It's not so much that I have tried to become someone else as that the Spanish language has necessitated it. Often when I am speaking with family members or coworkers, I don't have the patience or the vocabulary to express what I really mean. Instead, I end up saying the closest thing that I know, an easy substitute or convenient approximation. After a while, though, the sum of all these near misses is a person whom I scarcely recognize. Perhaps if I squint, it could be me; the general shape is there, but the details are all slightly off.

Details aside, I've at times had to bend the truth itself for reasons of culture or communication. This often happens when I am forced to define myself in terms of opposites: like or dislike, want or don't want. Often, though, the truth lies somewhere in between, in a place where my Spanish ability and fact don't quite meet. So instead I am forced to choose, or lie outright if the situation requires it. In the case of food, for example, I "like" everything that I am served.

More than just preferences, though, I think there is a fundamental aspect of my personality that -- despite my efforts -- fails to translate. Some people are nice, or funny, or clever. Each of these characteristics has its Spanish equivalent, but none accurately describes me. I am -- above all else -- sarcastic. In Spanish, though, I have yet to find a way to express this dry wit that doesn't come across as rude or insulting. Sarcasm, it would seem, does not translate well, at least not for people with my limited language ability.

This discovery has left me feeling somewhat out of my element. Sarcasm is such an important part of my personality and the way that I perceive myself that, without it, I feel like I can't really be me. Instead I'm left trying to be nice, which I do poorly, or funny, which I'm not, or, in the worst cases, boring and uncommunicative. I only hope that those Peruvians with whom I relate can see past this drab exterior to a truer, more colorful me.

Thu, 29 Nov 2007

The Dog Who Looked Both Ways, and the Cat Who Ate Both Avocados

Haly shares a journal entry written during her service stay in Mancos:

I should be used to seeing things that would be out of place in North America, but some things continue to surprise me. Upon arriving in Peru, I was unprepared for all of the dogs that I would see roaming the streets, but I have since become fairly accustomed to their wandering. I also should have realized that these dogs are more aware of traffic (both moving cars and animals) than in North America.

But the first time I saw a dog look both ways before crossing the street, I laughed outloud. The dog stood, patiently waiting, at the side of the road, tilted his head to one side, then the other, and then, when hearing or seeing or sensing that no traffic was coming, calmly crossed the street.

Not only do dogs look both ways before they cross the street, but the dogs and cats who are house pets here behave very differently from my own cat and dog in Canada. There have been many instances when I have been so surprised with their behavior that all I could do was laugh to avoid staring, mouth gaping open in surprise.

One night, I walked into my bathroom and found the family dog sitting on top of my bath towel, asleep on the floor. My towel had been hanging up, so he must have pulled it down and then settled down to sleep. It was 2:30 in the morning and after yelling at the dog to scram, all I could do was shake my head in disbelief and laugh.

I found myself doing the same thing one morning during breakfast. As I enjoyed my bread, cheese and jam, I had let the cat into the kitchen too. This isn't abnormal. She will jump through the window if we don't let her in, so I figured I was just speeding up the inevitable. When I got up to get more water, I heard a noise and turned back to the table to see my bread gone from the plate. As I looked around, I found it, in the mouth of the cat, under the table. I don't think my cat in Canada particularly likes bread, but even if he did, I can't imagine him jumping on the table to steal it off my plate.

What makes this entry all the more amusing is that while I was writing this, I had another run-in with the cat. I was setting the table and happened to notice an overturned basket of avocados that I had just seen my host brother set down 20 minutes earlier. Upon investigation, I found a few partly eaten avocados and two pits, which were nearly spotless. I showed my brother, Christian, and he explained how sometimes the cat will come in and eat the avocados if they aren't properly covered. Cats eating avocados? Only on SST.

Shrinking to Avoid the Catch

Seth shares a journal entry inspired by a wedding that he attended during his service time in Huancayo:

"Seth, get out there -- you are single," they said.

I looked around and saw that the groom was motioning me to the center of the floor to join the other single men at the reception.

"Oh, look, there is a blond man in the bunch," I hear the announcer say. All I could do was stand there and smile. I already looked different from everyone else, as well as being a whole head taller than every other person in the room. I didn't need attention brought to me, but that is what had just happened.

"Ok, Kim are you ready to go? . . . a la una, a las dos, a las . . . tres."

When he says tres, Kim, the groom, throws the flower, or at least he acts like he throws it. Some of the men moved a little.

"Oh the blond one didn't move . . . what's your name blond man?" the announcer says.

"Set . . . his name is Set," the man next to me yells out.

"Sed . . . like I'm thirsty for water?"

"Yeah more or less," I respond.

"Well Kim, ready for real this time? a la una, a las dos, a las . . . tres!"

This time Kim really throws it and no one catches it. All I knew is I didn't want it. The next time he throws it again no one catches it. The third time I see it leave his hand and watch the flower fly toward me. Oh no, what happens if it hits me? Then I will have to catch it. Luckily it landed closer to the man on my left.

"O.K., guys, someone is going to catch this next one because we are going to prepare for it. Everyone does 10 frog jumps," the announcer says.

Everyone did it. Except for me. I didn't know what happening.

The next time Kim throws it everyone is ready and finally someone catches it. It is caught by a man in the front who has to go on stage and meet the single woman who caught the bouquet. They answer questions and then have to walk around the room together. All I can say is I'm glad it wasn't me.

Fri, 30 Nov 2007

Looking Back at Goshen Tambo Time

Before posting our final entry, we thought we would share a few photos from our group time at Goshen Tambo these past months. Below, borrowed from the blog of leaders for Peru SST Summer 2006 (Bev and Dale), is a reminder of why we call the Goshen apartment, “Goshen Tambo.”

Tambo. The Quechua word Tambo is from the time of the Incas. A "chasquitambo" in Quechua was a resting station for the Incan runners who ran messages and other items across the empire. The runner, or chasqui, would come to these resting places, or Tambos, every 15 - 20 k. along the Incan highways and byways and switch runners with the fresh one waiting to resume the journey with the message or whatever they were carrying.

Wednesday gatherings have been like a Tambo in that they provide a resting place and refuge from the intensity of SST. Goshen Tambo included lunch and worship, planned each week by a different group of students, along with time for group discussion, reflection – and plenty of rest and relaxation! And, the occasional birthday celebration.

Lunches were generally prepared by Mervi, who helped introduce us to many traditional Peruvian foods, including ceviche and Aji de Gallina. Our final Wednesday before service included students’ choice of tacos and taco salad, along with several other familiar potluck salads from the U.S.

Wide hallways in this big old Miraflores apartment have also allowed for storage of belongings, and space to pack and repack suitcases these last days before returning to the States.

Retreat: Time to Say Thanks, Report and Reconnect

If we had a fancy electronic transportation grid in our SST office (we don't), it would have looked this way on the final weekend for our fall group in Peru:

On Friday night, two lights would have gone on in Cusco and started to move west to Lima (Rachel and Daniel traveling by overnight bus); and two lights would have lit up in Piura and started south (Whitney and Sara, also on overnight bus).

Most of the lights on the grid went on Saturday morning: two in Chincha (Nelson and Asher); two in Huancayo (Carey and Seth); four in Huaraz (Matt, David, Haly and Kate); two in Chimbote (Nate and Adrienne); and two still in Cusco (Edgar and Will). Around noon on Saturday, there were a whole lot of lights bearing down on Lima, and many host families were waiting to greet a special student for one last evening together.

The next morning, students made their way to Goshen Tambo, where we joined hands to celebrate Thanksgiving, complete with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, applesauce, jello salad and rolls. We ran out of time, and appetite, so we had to grab the pies to take with us as we boarded a bus for our retreat in Chosica.

Chosica is just enough of a climb into the mountains east of Lima that the sun shines there most every day. For two days, we enjoyed the facilities, which included a pool, hammocks, grass, trees and a volleyball court (until the ball went over a wall).

After six weeks apart, the chance to simply be together was most welcome. We worshipped and sang hymns. We ate pie and cake and sang "Happy Birthday" to Seth and Sara, the 2 closest birthdays. A work of art was created as a group legacy for a bare wall at Goshen Tambo. And, as promised, the students each had a chance to step forward to present their special projects.

Many of the topics were connected by the letter c:

Economic advantages of cuy vs. beef, a play script written for women in Chimbote, a cookbook, cars, poetry inspired by Chulucanas, recovering from the earthquake in Chincha.

After a long day of presentations, we had a last supper together, worship with plenty of singing, interviews with Duane and Karen, and free time to visit, play games and tend to bug bites.

Preparing to Leave Lima

Our final day in Lima was like a favorite period back in high school: free time. Some students went shopping for last-minute gifts: an Inca Kola shirt, a cuy shirt, a vase, baby clothes. Some ventured to a favorite bakery near the Seminario where we had Spanish classes (for the record, this required a bus ride of about 40 minutes each way; it was a very good bakery).

Showing signs of missing home, some watched episodes of "The Office," in English and without subtitles. A few headed to Burger King. We pulled together another traditional U.S. meal for supper: leftovers from Thanksgiving with waldorf salad.

Then came the first set of family farewells, as students said goodbye to Karen, Kate and Emily at Goshen Tambo. A bus took us back to Callao (where we had once visited a fort and tried out a dungeon), this time to fly away home from the Jorge Chavez International Airport. Just before the group entered the door to pay the airport tax and pass through security, Duane and and Celia said their goodbyes.

And now it's quiet, awfully quiet, in an apartment in the Miraflores section of Lima. There's a note here that someone left on the office whiteboard, addressed to Kate and Emily: "You guys are amazing. Thank you so much for all your encouragement and friendship these past three months. I am so glad that we got the chances we did to hang out. I'm going to miss you." As the plane flew from Lima, we couldn't have said it any better to 16 special people with whom we had the privilege of sharing the fall semester.

Que Dios les bendiga. Don’t forget to write!

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