Tuesday, October 1, 2013

From Surviving to Thriving... and Everything in Between

There we were, occupying our usual strategic position, with our faces up against the glass of the majestic… empanada case. Oh the cafetería, what a magnificent place! It is full of wonderful smells, encapsulating tastes, and life-threatening numbers of calories. And, oh, how we love it:) Hawaiana, Italiana, Rocoto relleno, Triple, Lomo Saltado, Queso: these are just a few of our favorite empanadas. Somehow, inexplicably, there is a group of gringos (nickname for a white person from an English-speaking country) and Peruvian friends waiting in line at the Cafetería for empanadas after every History 308 class. Maybe we are sucked into the Cafetería after class because we have to walk past its open doors in order to leave the university, but more likely, it is because we are mentally and physically exhausted after we leave history class. We all just need that sweet, warm empanada-pick-me-up to revive our dejected spirits. Sometimes, on really tough days, a churro will follow. And if your name is Joe, a whole bag of granola would probably follow that. 
Back to History class, the probable cause of this deliciously terrible health risk. Hispanic World History 308. As those of us who take this class all know, 308 is both a blessing and a nightmare. Yes, we are all intrigued to be learning about how Huns crossed the Rhine River, upsetting all of Europe and eventually causing the “Visigodos” to inhabit Spain. It is actually very interesting to understand how God and His-Story shaped the Spanish language and formed cultures, including the Peruvian culture. All of this novel information has helped us understand the people here and the way they live. It is exciting, for example, to understand the history of how this language we are speaking came to be the way it is today. (I, for one, was just as excited to discover that “Germany” isn’t G-e-r-m-a-n-y in Spanish. It’s “Alemania”! Maybe I just need to get out more…). However, we are somewhat less enthralled with the fact that our notebooks are filling up with maps and arrows and words that we can’t even pretend to fully understand. Professor Lizárraga whips from one side of the whiteboard to the other, drawing enormous maps and scribbling key words in the remaining spaces. He does it all at the speed of light as well. While he is writing furiously… “Ejercito Romano – > Acero, La cúpula, el aquaducto…”, we turn to each other with dumfounded looks.
“Qué significa ‘Acero’ (what does acero mean)”?! one student whispers.
“No sé (I don’t know)”, one of us answers dejectedly, “Pero yo quiero saber por qué estamos hablando de Roma otra vez! Pensaba que estábamos hablando del Peru. (But I want to know why we are talking about Rome again! I thought we were discussing Peru.)” Then the professor turns around and we sit quietly, every cell in our bodies straining to hear and comprehend what he is saying. Finally, after countless questions and explanations and even jokes have been exchanged, the period is over, something Laurel or Emily S. has to remind Professor Lizárraga of just about every class period. Thank you ladies! Either he doesn’t pay much attention to the time, or he just really enjoys our company. Obviously, I’m going to bet on the latter :)
One of the best parts of 308: the view:)

Now that class is over, we try to forget momentarily that the following day we need to take a quiz in which we must recall a timeline of 103,488,009 dates (almost). We wipe the cold sweat off our foreheads and head down the stairs to collect our well-deserved empanadas in the cafetería.  This is where I was one day when I noticed Megan walking up to join the empanada party. She was grinning as she walked; no, she was beaming.
“What happened?” I asked her. “Why are you smiling like that?”
“I am just happy; I love my life here!” she exclaimed.
“Yup,” I had to answer, “I know exactly how you feel.”
That pretty much sums up our day-to-day lives in Peru right now. We are blessed and happy. However, we still have a few discrepancies and frustrations. I’ll let the rest of the crew explain…

Confessions from behind the scenes
              Hanna Silvey tbt: papaya sometimes makes me gag.

Carmen Bilbao The amount of carbohydrates I'm taking in daily over here... Not good.

Carmen Bilbao I can't stop eating empanadas - especially Triples. I had one after 340 this morning and another this afternoon before theology...


Megan Rozeveld My digestive system is a joke.

Hanna Silvey bombed a couple quizzes, just for kicks.

Carmen Bilbao I wear shorts around the house... Idk what my family thinks about that, if that's alright... But mi abuelita commented on how I must be so cold and rubbed my thigh, and I haven't shaved since we got here... (Since we never wear shorts/dresses I don't see the point.)

Anna Drechsel i have accepted the fact that my digestive system will not be normal...until December.

Anna Drechsel the thoughts, 'I am going to die' cross my mind just about anytime i take a taxi.

Megan Rozeveld I just want to throw my toilet paper in the toilet...and sometimes I do.

Bethany Fennema I'm totally gonna get hit by a car. It's gonna happen. I'm convinced.

Hanna Silvey NEVER enough water. ALWAYS too many cookies.


Carmen Bilbao I want Qdoba and Spoonlickers. I almost cried the other day because I have to wait another 14 weeks.

Hanna Silvey I miss the other 85% of my wardrobe...

Emily Harrell My family hates it when I don’t wear shoes/socks. So when I'm alone in the house, I run/frolic/dance around in bare feet singing.

Bethany Fennema Ruth (Peruvian family member) goes to the bathroom in the dark with the door opened. So occasionally I walk in on her. She also never flushes. Sorry if that's TMI, I just felt the need to share. hahahahaha.

Hanna Silvey I’m so pumped that we're missing out on the dreary, cold, slushy pre-beautiful snow month or two!

Carmen Bilbao I’m pumped that I no longer get winded climbing the stairs at UCSP. I feel like we're going to get back to Michigan feeling like superheroes!
            Until our red blood cell count goes back down...


Joe VanderWeide I try to see how close I can get to cars when crossing without getting my feet run over.

Joe VanderWeide Fitness has really become a joke to me. Whenever I get bored playing solitaire (which I do for a solid 8 hours every day) I look at my arms and gut I've developed for a good hearty chuckle/chortle.

Lori Dykstra Not a day goes by that I don't trip on the stupid cement blocks that we might otherwise call "sidewalks" on my walk to class.

Hanna Silvey I like playing pinball every morning on my walk to class maneuvering and passing the Peruvians.
               Hannah Kwekel I want bacon!!!!!!!!!

Jamie Cheeney Sometimes I smile and say "hola" to harmless little kids and other girls. This probably makes me seem like a creeper but I just hate having to look serious or stare at the ground ALL the time.

Hannah Kwekel I spend nearly every second of my taxi rides wondering if I should break the awkward silence or not. And then I do. Usually with something stupid about the how busy the roads are or how nice the day is. And then the awkward silence thickens.

Emily Strikwerda I often wonder if people who have shirts with English on them know what they actually say…

Lindsey Ryskamp Mi mama is always late; when she says "en punto" it still means 15 minutes late.... I know it's part of the culture so I really don't make it an issue, but deep down it drives me absolutely crazyyyy.

Lindsey Ryskamp Also, the fotocopiadora (photocopy) system is wacked... and apparently copyrights don't exist in peru???

Emily Strikwerda My family probably thinks I'm a pig... I eat SO much.

Micah Warners One night I was hungry so I literally ate thirteen granola bars at once...

               Michael Jadrich I went to a clinic and they even charged me for the gloves that the doctor used.

Hanna Silvey the mosquitos look like little gnats. It's like they went into stealth mode or something. I can't stop itching.

Megan Rozeveld I almost passed out at the gym today: drink water kids. (altitude!)

Hannah Damsteegt I actually feel like a giant sometimes haha.

Megan Rozeveld Sometimes my digestive system feels so bad I actually want to leave my body.

Joe VanderWeide I speak en english a veces (sometimes).

Megan Rozeveld I ate an entire box of crackers a few nights ago.

Micah Warners My cycle is always messed up.

Hannah Kwekel I ate a box of cereal by myself... in two days.

Anna Drechsel My mosquito bites are so big they literally feel like tumors...that itch like crazy.

Bethany Fennema Sometimes I can't distinguish between healthy skin and bug bites because I have so many of them.

Lindsey Ryskamp I really just want a chocolate chip cookie right now.

Lori Dykstra The other day I was typing in english and had to use spell check for the word "traditional" because, for the life of me, the only way I could think to spell it was "tradicional" which resulted in a squiggly red underline every time.
Hannah Kwekel Walk. Just. A little. Bit. FASTER. (Peruvians walk astoundingly slow)

Clearly, we have our frustrations. More seriously though, yes, there are times when we struggle, when we just barely survive the daily pressures. There are times when issues in the States, a world away, bring us to tears. Sometimes, we are stressed out by the workload that comes with our Spanish classes. Even the Spanish language or culture itself confuses and discourages us. Other times, spending days in bed, in the clinic, or over the toilet eats away at our energy physically, mentally, and even spiritually. Every one of us has had times in which we felt depressed and helpless, times when we just wanted to be home where everything in our lives is much more easy to understand.
Yet, in all of this, we truly are blessed. We aren’t just surviving the days anymore; we are thriving. Even in our struggles. We thrive in our relationships with each other, with our wonderful Peruvian families and friends, with professors, and even with strangers that we encounter when we wander through the city. We thrive in this beautiful language that has begun to feel almost natural as it rolls off our tongues, and in the lively culture and open hospitality that defines Arequipa. Most importantly, we thrive in the everyday challenges, the chances to change and grow in Arequipa. Every day we are presented with opportunities to observe and learn new things, and all at a level I have never before experienced in my life.
Author David I. Smith phrased this idea beautifully in his book, Learning from the Stranger, “If we find ourselves among the privileged, members of a dominant language and culture, used to thinking of ourselves as the center and "foreigners" as oddities at the margins, then Jesus' call to "go and do likewise" has a different ring. Is undertones whisper: humble yourself. Realize your own need of mercy. Realize that God does not choose to live tamely within the circles of belonging that you draw. Learn from those who are of other cultures; God may be at work in them in ways that you desperately need.”
I have discovered so many ways in which I desperately need to “Learn from the Stranger” here in Peru. I think we have all discovered this in some way or another. God has thrown these opportunities in front of us at the most surprising moments.
A beautiful hall in the cathedral Companía
One of these moments occurred during mass in a Catholic cathedral, of all places. Joycita, a Peruvian friend, had brought me to the cathedral to observe the mass with her. As I sat beneath the intricately decorated cathedral ceiling, I noticed long lines of people, whole families, gathering in the side aisles. They were waiting silently to confess their sins to the priests. I knew this catholic practice but had never seen it. I was equally intrigued and humbled. How many of us take the time every week to actively humble ourselves before God and confess specific sins before Him as these Peruvians were doing? Do we actively concentrate on His mercy to forgive and His power to restore our souls every day? I am not always so dedicated, not like these Peruvian Catholics. This was a crucial lesson that I needed to learn in that cathedral.
There are many moments like these for us, moments in which we learn something from the Peruvians that we might not have otherwise learned back at home. Every day, among the craziness, the frustrations, and the triumphs, we are presented with these opportunities to grow mentally and spiritually. We are oh so very blessed by our gracious God! He is “directing our paths” in astonishing ways. Thank you, Lord, for teaching us and for showing us how to thrive here in Peru!

P.S.  If you don’t recognize us when we return because we are “gorditos” (chubby), blame Hispanic World History Class.
~Hannah Marie Kwekel
First empanadas, then churros!!!

The Day-to-day
As you can all probably tell by now, we have already had a ton of adventures and excursions here in Peru and each new day always brings about cultural, fun, and eye-opening experiences for every one of us. But let’s not forget that despite it all, we still are Calvin students and yes, that means we actually have to – dare I say it – study! All 22 of us are now officially students at the Universidad Católica San Pablo, one of the three main Catholic universities in the city of Arequipa, and we even have new student ID cards to prove it!
Just to assure you all that we are still managing to focus on our academics here, please allow me to describe a typical day at the university. All of us have our own separate schedules with a variety of different classes, but we are all able to meet once a week in our Peruvian Culture class on Monday mornings, which is taught by Professor Bierling (or Profe, as she is also dearly called by her students). We also take Calvin-specific classes, such as Linguistics and Hispanic World, to fulfill the requirements for our Spanish majors and minors. But perhaps the most challenging, yet rewarding academic experience is the opportunity to direct-enroll in the classes offered here in the UCSP with other Peruvian students! Some of the classes we’re taking include: Theology, Music Appreciation, Art, Analysis of Peruvian Reality, and a whole lot more. These classes are also taught entirely in Spanish and even though the language may create some challenges for us, we actually have a lot less homework than in our Calvin classes and sometimes even no homework for the week! All of the professors are eager to help us if we need it and the direct-enroll classes are a great way to meet other Peruvians and make new friends at the university.
A number of us have classes both in the mornings and during the afternoons and/or nights most of the days of the week. Most of us usually have a couple of hours or so in between to return back home to eat lunch with our families, grab a bite together outside with friends, or stay at the university to socialize and study.
Aside from our classes, we also have many opportunities at the “U” to hang out with each other and our Peruvian friends and to meet new ones.
•Conversation groups: Each one of us is paired up with a UCSP student who is taking English classes at the university. We meet once a week (and sometimes more!) to practice our English and Spanish speaking skills with each other, 30 minutes in each language. These meetings are very relaxed and a great way to socialize while helping each other with our language skills. We can meet at the university, over coffee, or even go out together in a large group to the cine (movie theater).
Our conversation partners have become our good friends!
 Talleres (workshops): We have the opportunity to register for a workshop offered here at the U, which meet regularly at least once a week. Again, this is a wonderful way to interact with the Peruvian students and form lasting friendships, especially over common interests. Some of the workshops we Calvin students are in include volleyball, basketball, Taekwondo, guitar, volunteering, and many more!
Taller de Vole (Volleyball), team "Gringo-Power"

Beautiful smiles:)
•Trabajo voluntario (volunteer work): Many of us also volunteer in a variety of different places and organizations in the city, from schools to hospital clinics to nursing homes.

Some of work with these special children at "La Casa de Unamonos", a school for special needs children.
Anna spent some time working with Operación Sonrisa
•The U also sponsors many cultural events, often free of charge, for the students that we definitely take advantage of. For example, there are many musical concerts here and just this past Monday, we had our afternoon classes canceled to enjoy the Día del Estudiante (Day of the Student) at the campus where there were prizes, music, dancing, a talent competition, and much more!
~ Christine Lim

Día del Estudiante (Day of the student) at UCSP!!
Anticucho (Cow hearts) at the Día del Estudiante

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