Friday, November 29, 2013

Giving thanks...and thinking about goodbyes.

I think I'm speaking for all of us when I say that yesterday was the most unusual but memorable Thanksgiving day we've experienced yet. While our thoughts and hearts often turned home to the states, thinking of our loved ones, we were truly blessed to have a wonderful Thanksgiving here, with friends that have become like a second family.

The first odd thing about Thanksgiving here is that no one here realizes it IS Thanksgiving, and thus everyone goes about their work or school day as normal. We definitely were all feeling a bit sorry for ourselves as we sat in classes, thinking about our families gathered together at home.
But after classes, the fun began! We headed over to the San Pablo's culinary school's kitchen and dining area for the evening. In addition to our whole Calvin group, we invited several faculty from the San Pablo, as well as a group of Peruvian friends, making a group of about 40 for dinner. What a wonderful evening it was.
Let me assure you, however, it was not without hours of preparation! We had a chef help us with the turkeys and mashed potatoes, but the rest was left up to us students. I think each of us has a new appreciation for our moms and grandmas who have slaved away year after year for this special day. Check out the pics from the evening.

Decorating for the party...with Volcano Misti in the
background as always!

We students made a poster of our many
blessings for which we are so thankful!
Making Bonkets, definitely a hit with the Peruvians!

Some serious turkey-carving going on. 

We shared an explanation about Thanksgiving with 
the group, complete with hats for dramatic effect;)

Good food and good friends.

Pies and pastries, the result of much labor and love!

A really special time during the evening was when we all took a few minutes to split into small groups and share things for which we are thankful. Many mentioned thanks for what a blessing this semester has been, for our wonderful host families, and for friendships that will continue to last even past these four months. I think I speak for each one of the group in saying that this semester has blown us away in so many ways. We ultimately give thanks to the One from whom ALL blessings flow.

I remember when I signed up at the beginning of the semester for a date to write this blog, looking at the week of November 25th and thinking it was so far away, at the end of our time here.
And here we are, nearly at the end.
How does one begin to think about saying goodbye to a place that we've come to call home these past four months? We've learned so much, grown so much, become so attached to so many.

I was reflecting the other day on how much we have have learned and grown, in ways both small and big! Check out this list:

After four months we've FINALLY gotten used to not throwing toilet paper in the toilet!  And not to forget to take the toilet paper BEFORE going into the stalls.

We've learned how to take combis to school or other activities. (Ok, there may be a few exceptions to this one, like Carmen and Megan who got lost for 1.5 hours on a random combi...)

Now we don't think twice about kissing others on the cheek when we meet, greet, or leave. (Watch out -we're so used to it, we may accidentally pull one on you when we get back;) )

We've learned how to get good bargains in the market, not gypped like the typical tourist.

We've grown accustomed to absolutely stuffing ourselves at about 1 or 2 in the afternoon and then eating a light meal late at night.

We realize that we no longer stress about talking to people we meet about the city - we easily converse with them without thinking twice.

We've learned about ourselves, our struggles, our strengths.

We've grown to appreciate all of you back home even more because we've been separated.

We've learned about God, his amazing creativity, his love, his beauty.

We've learned about each other and become a close-knit group that wouldn't be the same without one single person.

We've learned to make friendships across cultural barriers. And how rich and sweet they have been.

Our Peruvian families have become just that - family. If we thought we loved them in the first month, we really love them now.

And now we leave?

By talking with many people in the group, it's safe to say that agree that our emotions have been all over the place lately. Excitement. Sadness. Panic. Uncertainty.
One moment, as we daydream about reunions with friends and family; we can't seem to wait any longer. Christmas time beckons us home.
But the next moment, as we think about the goodbyes that must happen, a tight feeling fills our chest. We think about leaving this culture that we've grown to love and be a part of, and in a panic we think, "But i'm not ready to say goodbye."

But then we also realize that in a sense, we'll never be ready to say goodbye. Because we'll always be leaving a part of our hearts here. We'll be leaving people, a culture, a country that we've grown to love. And because of this there will never be a time when it will be easy. That's just part of saying goodbye.
It's like the quote that says, "How lucky we are to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard."

We've got a week a half left in Arequipa. Amidst a week of finals and busyness, we hope to find time to slow down, enjoy relationships, soak it in, learn, reflect, and enjoy the precious moments.

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