Friday, November 22, 2013

What would we do without them?

Just a few weeks stand between us and our return to the states. This is a fact that we try not to dwell on these days, as it causes us a flurry of conflicting emotions. We are blessed to have many great things to look forward to upon stepping foot in GRR being greeted by family or friends, going home to celebrate Christmas, starting life back up again at Calvin, and (most importantly?) eating peanut butter to our heart’s content. However, the heartache caused by leaving behind our Peruvian families and friends, this city that has become our own, this enchanting country, and this once-in-a-lifetime experience is already beginning to taunt us.

I don’t think I am alone in saying that one of the biggest blessings throughout this experience has been the people. Based on some of my classmates’ posts, I am sure you have some sort of idea of how great our Calvin group is. We love each other, speak Spanish, worship together, struggle together, share adventures, try new things, and step out of our comfort zones together. You may have also read about the blessings that are our Peruvian host families. Each of us has had a distinct experience filled with mostly ups and a few downs, but hey, that’s what makes a family a family, right? Personally, my host family has added so much love, learning, and laughter to my semester and they occupy a very special part of my heart.

But finally, I would like to address a third category of people: our Peruvian friends. I am so proud to be a part of this Calvin group that has done an incredible job at opening up to relationships that cross cultural and language barriers. It is so easy to stick only to each other, as the very small non-Peruvian percentage of the university, but I can tell that a lot of us have definitely taken advantage of the opportunities to branch out. We have made friends through our conversation groups (students learning English with whom we have been paired to meet and converse in both English and Spanish), through the committee of students who welcomed us at the beginning of the semester by answering our questions and giving us tours, through classmates in our direct enroll classes, through flat out walking up to people playing ping pong in the lawn behind school, and through meeting all of their friends.

I’m not sure that many (or any) of these friendships were instantly comfortable or that we immediately thought we would grow to be bosom buddies. Just like any friendship, they take time and effort. So imagine trying to create a friendship in a brand new setting in a foreign country, and throw a different language on top of the mix, and there you have what we’ve been facing. I believe I can speak for many when I say that these relationships have definitely been worth the efforts on both sides (don’t forget the fact that the Peruvians have had to sacrifice and put up with our hesitant and broken Spanish and our unawareness of certain aspects of the culture).

Here is a tiny itty bitty glimpse of some things we have done together and ways we have been blessed in this area:

I spent a weekend with my friend Gabi in her hometown of Moquegua. I felt so welcomed by her family and friends there that I was sad to leave after just three days. She paints my nails, teaches me the salsa, and reminds me to wear sunscreen when I go away outdoors for a long time and to bring a “chompa” or jacket when I leave and won’t return before the sun sets. She has been such a blessing to me. I have learned so much from her, we have been by each other’s sides through many things, and I feel like I can tell her anything that's on my heart.

Hanna says, “One evening Anna, Hannah, and I went to Merengue's Pizza with our friend Joyce and her boyfriend. I'm guessing it was date night for them, but she completely accepted our invitation to do something that night regardless. They chose the restaurant, and we got to try fruit pizza with cheese and milk which was delicious, and also real hot chocolate. We had so much fun, and it was obvious they truly enjoyed our company (even the boyfriend, being with 4 girls).”

A group of Calvin and San Pablo friends spent a weekend in the coastal town of CamanĂ¡. They enjoyed many of the town’s anniversary festivities and a day on the beach.

Yocely and Irvin joined us on our excursion to Puno and Lago Titicaca and a number of Peruvian friends joined the group that went white water rafting.

Jamie’s conversation partner invited her to join a group of friends to go mini-golfing and told her to invite others. So she invited a friend from class and Hannah B, and Hannah invited her conversation parther. Jamie says, “I love how it seems that here you can meet friends of friends for the first time and everyone just gets along and has a blast.” Jamie and Hannah had to swallow a little pride when one of the others who had never played before beat them.

Emily H says that her close friend “Azucena is incredible. She is the epitome of an optimist and showed me true friendship from the start. She is always very patient with my Spanish and loyal even on an off day. We have had many wonderful conversation and adventures together. I feel innumerably blessed by her trust even through everything with her mum. I am glad I was able to be with her in the hospital on the day her mum passed away. She continues to be an inspiration in the way that she has handled this enormous loss. I love her so much!”

Megan describes that she is “still just so overwhelmed by the amount of love and care they have to give. What's really been interesting this whole semester is viewing the different ways people convey their love. The peruanos do it in such a beautiful way. I have so much to learn from them!” 

Throughout the past few months, some of our friends here have become very dear to us. Through difficult times they are by our sides and we by theirs, we have fun and make great memories together, we laugh and cry together, we teach each other more than a textbook could, we have deep conversations, and we have learned the best ways to make each other tick. Through opening my heart to Gabi and the others here, I experience the best and worst part of the study abroad experience. We have no idea how we will say goodbye to some of these people. It makes my heart hurt just thinking about it. But they have enriched not only our semester in Peru, but also our lives as a whole.

It’s a wonderful thing, traveling and having connections in other parts of the world. But it’s even more wonderful to be able to call those connections friends.

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