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Recently, several Berkey college student attendees returned from their Study Service Term. Richard and Judy Weaver, who serve as site directors in Peru, offer some reflections as they receive their final group of students.

Learning alongside students in Peru

We’re spending about a year (July 2013 to August 2014) in Peru, leading groups of Goshen College students who come here to complete their semester of international study.* We’ve hosted two groups, and our final group arrived in Lima on April 30. They are now settled in with host families all over the city and have begun Spanish classes and daily lectures and workshops. This our busiest time, while the students are in Lima. We spend days overseeing the program and evenings working side by side in a tiny office in our Lima apartment. Richard mostly handles the administrative details and Judy mostly handles the academics, but we both do a little of everything. We have discovered that we can work closely together and will miss that collaboration when we return.

One of the biggest challenges is just getting around this immense city of 8 million people. Going anywhere involves joining the throng on the streets and dodging crazy drivers at street crossings. We jump onto tightly-packed buses, vans and moto-taxis or hail taxi drivers and negotiate the price. To give you an idea of the scale of the traffic, there are an estimated 330,000 taxis in Lima compared with about 90,000 in New York City, which has a similar population. When it’s time to visit other cities, we’ll travel in planes, trains, overnight buses, colectivos (shared taxis) and we’ll even cross a raging river in a gondola that swings from a cable.

Richard is an avid reader of several Lima newspapers and has enjoyed following the insanity that is Peruvian politics. Corrupt politicians don’t fade away here; they just keep running for office and influencing politics, even from prison. We have both loved this opportunity to improve our Spanish. Peruvian cuisine is wonderful, with fresh fruits and vegetables available year round. On weekends we sometimes manage a stroll along the Malecón, a series of lovely parks running along the cliffs that overlook the Pacific Ocean. Our apartment complex is only four blocks from the ocean.

The best part of the job is working with Goshen students. We have been greatly enriched by sharing this experience of intercultural learning with these wonderful young people. We’ll definitely miss spending so much time with students when our year is over. Still, we are starting to turn our thoughts toward home and reuniting with family and friends. Hard to believe we will see you all at Berkey Avenue in a few short months! Please keep Richard in your prayers; his position at the college was eliminated, although he has been offered another position.

~ Judy Weaver and Richard R. Aguirre

*For those unfamiliar with GC’s Study Service Term (SST), the program in Peru requires students to study language and culture for six weeks in the capital city of Lima, and then go to various locations around the country for another six weeks in a service assignment such as working in a clinic, orphanage or school.