Nature was our focus during week five. Dr. Frank Cervantes showed us the plants that Peruvians from the highlands and rain forests use to prepare herbal medicines. He also explained how the Peruvian health system operates. Alicia, who since 2007 has assisted SST directors by cleaning Goshen Tambo in preparation for our weekly gatherings, demonstrated her first-hand knowledge of how plants are used to cure a variety of ailments. She prepared a delicious tea from Hierba Luisa and five other herbs, and told us how she and her brothers migrated from the highlands near Huancayo to the edge of Lima during their teen years in search of work.Eliana and Ricardo Mauriola led a workshop showing how seeds from the rainforest can be used to make custom-designed bracelets and necklaces. We visited Villa Real National University to meet Jorge Lescano, an expert on Peru’s national parks and natural reserves. Jenny, a social worker, brought along a resident of the rain forest to assist with her presentation on how mining and oil development are changing the landscape and affecting the health and well being of the indigenous peoples who live there.
The director of the seminary where we hold our language classes and lectures, Reverend Timoteo Kim, invited us to spend an afternoon worshiping, eating and playing with his students. We had fun singing together, sharing a meal and then mixing it up on the soccer field and volleyball court. The next day we visited Villa El Salvador, a recent settlement on the outskirts of Lima based on egalitarian ideals whose people suffered greatly during the 1980s and early 90s due to the activities of Shining Path terrorists. We walked through a new neighborhood at the edge of the city where recent migrants sort through piles of garbage trucked in from central Lima in search of building materials and other usable items. Later we ate in a soup kitchen in a more established section of town and then divided into groups of 2 or 3 to visit the homes of families who attend a local church.
The week ended with a despedida, or going away party, a chance for the students to say “thank you” to their host families and language instructors for all they have done for us. The group sang several hymns and recited a poem. Speeches were made. The families were entertained by a male quartet, a skit, an original ballad celebrating life in Lima, a ballet performance and other acts. And then came the grand finale, a twenty-student performance of a traditional Peruvian dance called La Marinera Ayacuchana.
As the fifth week drew to a close, our thoughts turned to the next week’s visit to Cusco. Photos of a wonderful trip coming soon…