It has now been a year since we arrived in Peru! WOW! It seems like a good time to reflect on all we’ve seen and done.
We touched down in the Peruvian capital of Lima on June 1st, heading 'home' to the city of Arequipa a week later. We were welcomed in many ways, with the first being the snow-capped mountains, standing out clearly during our dusk arrival. What a beautiful backdrop to the city!
The volcano ‘El Misti’ at the centre, and on each side, a large volcanic mountain range covered with snow. Even now I feel happy to catch glimpses of them as I push a child on a swing, catch a bus to language school or have a moment where I can see all three peaks/ranges at once.
The second welcome was from the SIM team at the airport: as we struggled to gather our bags from the conveyor belt and smooth the children’s frayed nerves, I heard faint voices calling my name and turned to see people waving from the doorway.
Could they be waving at or calling me, I wondered? As we got closer, it was indeed for our benefit, as the SIM Arequipa team proceeded to hug and welcome us ‘home’. This memory still brings a tear to my eye.
The welcome continued, as we have been thoroughly orientated by our mentors, helped with everyday decisions and encouraged through cultural blunders and language difficulties. We now meet with our team every week for Bible study, prayer and fellowship. Praise God for our team!
Our third welcome came in the form of the language school. The teachers are friendly and celebrate all student birthdays with a cake (from a shop that makes delicious cakes).
Departing students are required to give a speech, after which the directors provide empanadas (pastry with meat or cheese) and pray for their future ministry.
Our language teachers have given us lots of homework, showed much patience with repeated mistakes and pulled many a face when we say things wrong. They also give us cultural advice and love to hear about our culture and traditions, which is great therapy when you are dealing with so many new things!
Christine with her language tutor Juan Carlos
I have to give my farewell speech at the institute in the next week or so. I still make a lot of errors and have a limited vocabulary, but can use the subjunctive (hardest part of Spanish grammar) from time to time, so am making progress. I recently completed the “Perspectives on Missions” course in Spanish, which greatly expanded my vocabulary. I will continue with informal language study.
The language institute was also helpful in providing friends for us in our first 6 months here in Arequipa. We initially tried to keep up with a British couple in our class, but to no avail. We also have a lot of German friends from the institute with kids of similar ages to ours, and it was great to see how the kids really connected despite the language barriers. The sad thing was that they were all bound for different parts of Peru, but we visited them recently and got to have some fun times together.
We have since moved away from making friends in the institute, to making local friends. We love our pastor and his wife (Efraín and Dorcas), whom we often mention in our blogs. Efraín has been a great mentor to David and an eye-opener to life in Peru. The sweet man even lets us know when we are breaking cultural rules, such as last Sunday when I forgot to kiss him hello, so he pointed to his cheek, leaned in and said “kiss!” How embarrassing! But we love his honesty and know he does not take offense.
We have also had a couple of play-dates with a mum from church and her daughters, which has been great for our kids and enabled me to make new friends, too. Another friend often visits me at home with her sister or boyfriend and recently announced her engagement, so we are now looking forward to our first Peruvian wedding.
There are also regular events at the preschool, so we hope to soon invite a few of the preschoolers over to play, which is something Annabelle keeps requesting.
Amelia and Annabelle at an event at preschool
I also enjoy chatting with Mums (and sometimes Dads) while watching our kids at gymnastics class. I did the same thing when the girls did ballet last year, as it is 2 hrs a week Spanish practice I could not otherwise 'fit in' while looking after the children. Please pray for opportunities to share about God's grace in this setting, and that my Spanish will improve so I am up to the task! David is also blessed with several outlets for friendship, including web developers and students, who often visit our home.
This year has brought a lot of change for us: we found the language homework commitments and required memorisation extremely difficult. Sometimes homework went undone and verb conjugations require continual practice.
Having both of us doing Spanish classes made it hard to balance the children's needs with our own. David often wanted to get out and have peace to complete his homework, but so did I. David felt a bit constrained in the classroom, preferring language learning while out and about, so switched to this approach after we completed all the grammar. Another adjustment is that David has to do a lot more traveling and often must attend events on public holidays and weekends, which I find hard at times. Please pray for me and the children as we adjust to this challenge. Another adjustment is missing friends, play-dates and playgroups from home. Sometimes I feel lonely or down, but God is gracious and I am learning to use these moments to work on the most important relationship of all.
We have come a long way in just a year’s time. Having arrived with 9 suitcases, travellers’ Spanish and 3 cranky children, we are now settled in our own home (with ample provisions), an intermediate level of Spanish and kids who seem less cranky, know quite a lot of Spanish and even play in Spanish at home.
We have settled into life here in Arequipa and see the promise of many rich friendships in the years to come. Having reached this first milestone, we will now get more involved in student ministry, the reason we are here. Thank you God for your provisions for us this year, and thank you everyone at home for your support and prayers.