Friday, April 1, 2011: Left Charlotte around 2 PM (Eastern) and arrived in Lima around 11:50 PM (Central). At this time of the year, when the US has sprung forward, Peru is with the Central time zone. When the US falls back this autumn, Peru will have the same time as the Eastern time zone. It’s practically straight south from Charlotte!

Mae Wunderink (SIM-USA) and Mary Pinkston (SIM-Canada) met me at the airport. As I walked from la aduana (customs) into the sea of faces, I didn’t know where to look, but I finally saw two smiling faces waving their arms at me. They had been smart enough to exchange pictures with me via email so that we wouldn’t miss one another. It was nice to put voices with the faces I’d only seen on email.

The international airport in Lima is about 40-45 minutes from Surco where the SIM offices and guesthouse are. It takes an hour or more in daytime traffic. We took a taxi from the airport and the taxi driver quickly introduced me to the craziness that Peruvians call driving. They stop for el semáforo, the stoplight, but little else! There are speed limits, but no one knows what they are. Furthermore, lanes don’t matter and it’s perfectly acceptable to make a left turn from the right-most lane, even if you must cross in front of two other lanes to do it. They have an interesting way of driving both offensively and defensively all at the same time. Horns are used generously, but more in a way to let the other driver know of your presence, but not to incite anger. We made it safely to Surco. There wasn’t much to do this late on a Friday night except go straight to the SIM guesthouse for a brief tour and go nearly straight to bed. I did log into email to let family know I had arrived safely.

SIM Guesthouse and Office

SIM Guesthouse (1st and 2nd floors) and Office (3rd floor)

Saturday, April 2, 2011: Mae was thoughtful enough to bring me juice, milk, a mango, a croissant, and strawberry jam to the guesthouse so that I wouldn’t starve for breakfast on my first day in Peru. The previous guests had left a box of some corn flake-like cereal called Shape. It was edible, but Mae’s breakfast was much better! I was able to sleep in and recover from my travels and then Mae arrived around 11 AM to take me out shopping. We went to Vivanda, one of the grocery stores located a couple of blocks from the guesthouse. I bought some mangos, a box of Quaker Oat Squares Cereal, a kit to make alfajores (a traditional Peruvian cookie) for my office in Charlotte, and some grapes. All the fruit and vegetables there must be soaked in a disinfectant solution and then rinsed on filtered water before it’s safe to eat. It’s worth the effort, though, because the fruit is amazing!

After our trip to the grocery store, a couple of ferreterias (hardward stores), and a couple of farmacias (you can probably get that one), we walked to Mae’s house for lunch with her family. She and her husband, Don, have 4 boys, one of which is in college in the States. They have lived in Costa Rica, Honduras, and the DR, and have been with SIM about 2.5 years, I believe. They are a wonderful family and I really enjoyed spending the afternoon with them. After the boys left to go to an event at church, Mae walked me back to the guesthouse and I rested for the evening.

Sunday, April 3, 2011: On Sunday I went with Karen Carlson (SIM-USA) to the Missionary Alliance Church in Miraflores. Karen has been in Peru for over 30 year (close to 35, I think) and has a wealth of information about living in Peru. It was nice to spend a day with her. The church was great and I actually knew all the songs except one in English. Since I had the words in Spanish before me and I knew the tunes, it was pretty easy to sing along in Spanish. I was able to glean enough from the pastor to know what his main points were. It helped that the main points were posted via PowerPoint on the screen. I can comprehend a little more of what I read than of what I hear.

After church Karen took me to a restaurant in the Larcomar shopping center ( for pollo a la brasa (literally, chicken over coals) and chicha morada to drink at Pardo’s Chicken. Chicha morada is a drink made from a purple corn. The corn is cooked somehow and then there’s also pineapple juice, cloves, and some other spices added. It’s quite sweet too. I liked it. We got a table overlooking the ocean and this restaurant and I cleaned my plate. I ate all my papas fritas (French fries), pollo, and ensalada (salad). It was really yummy. This shopping center also has a Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, TGI Friday’s, Tony Romas, and more. It hardly feels like you’ve left the US.

After lunch we went to the Inka Market where I could look for some souvenirs. I was a little surprised that the Peruvians were less into bargaining than other places I’ve been before. In Africa and even in Cuba I expected to offer half of their starting price and end up in between. In Peru they dropped the price very quickly and then wouldn’t budge. It was less than satisfying to buy when I felt like I didn’t bargain well! The prices weren’t terrible, but not as good as I’d hoped. Peru is known for their alpaca wool products. They have lots of blankets, sweaters, and chullos (the wool caps with long strings that hang from each ear). The t-shirts have cuy (guinea pigs), chullos, and a Peruvian hairless dog on them, so that’s apparently what they think tourists associate with Peru! There were lots of items with the famous Machu Pichu on them too.

Monday, April 4, 2011: I was fortunate to be able to spend Monday with Sung-Il and Sung-Sook Kim (SIM-Korea). They took me to a clinic that they operate which offers low-cost medical care to those who need it. They are not doctors, but they help organize the operation of the ministry. After seeing the clinic we went for Korean food for lunch. I had never tried Korean food and I found it quite ironic that I tried it for the first time in Peru! It was really good. The little Asian grocery store beside the restaurant is owned by someone they know from a nearby church. I never thought I’d be lost in a conversation in Korean in Peru.

My Korean Lunch in Peru

My Korean Lunch in Peru

After lunch I was able to see the office where the Kims help produce VBS materials for churches in Spanish-speaking countries. Sung-Sook also took me to another grocery store that was larger than the one I visited with Mae. It’s amazing how many products are available there. Certainly some of the American products are quite expensive, but they aren’t hard to find. We also visited a market with stalls containing fruit, vegetables, nuts, and many other items. After that we went to a post offices and then to see a seminary.

In the evening I went with Mary Pinkston and Anne Doerffel (SIM-Germany; was just in Lima to get her Peruvian driver’s license) to an English event. Mary led about 7-8 Peruvians in reading Genesis 12 and discussing the scripture. During the reading she helped them understand any words that they didn’t already know and then they discussed what it meant. They were all very eager to improve their English language skills and it was a great way to expose them to the word of God.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011: I got to spend Tuesday with Mary (the Canadian who picked me up at the airport on Friday). She took me via a bus to the Miraflores area so that we could visit the language school that she attends there. We got there a little early and walked through Parque Kennedy (named for the US president). Along the streets that border Parque Kennedy are a McDonald’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, and a Payless Shoe Store. I had previously heard that I would not be able to buy shoes greater than women’s size 8 in Peru, but Mary and I checked Payless and I’m saved!

Payless ShoeSource in Miraflores

Payless ShoeSource in Miraflores

The language school that we talked with is quite nice. They are very flexible in terms of the number of hours and days that I come per week. I will need to go to Lima team meetings on Thursdays, so I couldn’t take classes that morning. If there are other students at my level, I may be placed with others, but it’s also possible that I could be in a class by myself. They are willing to assess where the holes in my knowledge are and work specifically to fill those too, which is great. I will probably attend this language school, but a little more research may need to happen!

After the school visit, Mary and I walked through the Inka Market at bit more and then met Chris Conti and Cynthia Sundman for a lunch of pollo a la brasa and papas fritas. It was just as good as the first time I had it! It was nice to have some time to eat with the single ladies and hear their thoughts on living in Peru. Cynthia actually lives in Arequipa, but she was passing through Lima.

When lunch was finished, Mary and I took a combie (a mini-bus) to Jockey Plaza – a large mall in Lima. We wandered through the large Ace Hardware to see what sorts of items were available. It felt like being in a Home Depot in the states – I’ve never seen and Ace Hardware this large! We also had a coffee at Starbucks. I got a vanilla latte (my usual), but I could tell a slight difference in the milk. Thankfully I like the taste of the milk there, so it was good. We then went to Plaza Vea (I think that’s what it was called), which is a bit like a Super Target or Super Wal-Mart. They had small kitchen appliances, towels, bedding, and food too! I bought a few additional items for breakfast times and then we headed back to the guesthouse.

That night I went to another English event. This time the group was discussing politics and then praying for the elections that were to take place that Sunday. I learned a lot about their election process and they learned a lot of new English words associated with elections. They got into groups and talked (in English) about the issues they felt were important for the candidates to address. At the end of the time each group had to nominate one person to get up and give a campaign speech to the group. They did really well! I know I couldn’t do the same in Spanish!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011: On Wednesday Anne and I left the guesthouse at about 9:30 AM to get to the airport for our noon flights to Arequipa. We were on different flights because she has residency status, but our flight times were close enough that we were able to go together. Traffic was quite terrible and it took us a really long time to get to the airport. I didn’t have a watch with me, but I knew Anne was a touch concerned because she asked the cab driver how much longer it was to the airport at some point along the way. Thankfully things moved very quickly once we got to the airport. There was no holdup when we checked in and went through security. We even had a few minutes to spare before boarding our flights.

When I arrived in Arequipa I had to wait a few minutes before Dorothee and Siegfried Rueter (SIM-Germany) arrived to pick up Anne and I. They took us to their home because Anne lives nearby and I was to stay with them for the two nights in Arequipa. There is a guest apartment, but a missionary couple from Abancay is staying there until their baby arrives (since Abancay is a bit too rural for delivery).

The Reuters fed me a late lunch and then Dorothee and I walked into the historic center of Arequipa. It is quite beautiful in the Plaza de Aramas. Arequipa sits at over 7500 ft above sea level, but thankfully I didn’t feel the altitude too much. We walked around the city a bit and I saw that there’s even a Starbucks in Arequipa (a city of about 1 million people).

The cathedral that stands on La Plaza de Armas

The cathedral that stands on La Plaza de Armas

Thursday, April 7, 2011: Dorothee’s first question to me on Thursday morning was, “Did you feel the shake last night?” Since the answer is no, I guess I can sleep through a mild earthquake. Peru is on a major fault line and shakes rather often. Some are more violent than others, obviously. The streets there have circles painted on them with a large S in the middle. I don’t know what the S stands for (seguro, maybe?), but it’s a circle of safety. You’re supposed to stand in those circles during an earthquake.

After breakfast Dorothee and I took the combie to visit a Baptist language school in another part of Arequipa. The school reminded me a lot of the retirement home I’ve helped build in Cuba. The conversation all took place in Spanish, but it seemed like this school was more focused on the conversational aspects of the language. They taught some grammar first, but later lessons were not nearly as focused on the technical aspects of the language. We also visited another language school that most of the SIM missionaries use. They are a bit more rigid in terms of the timing of the lessons and when a new course begins. I may try to do a little study at this school at some point in my first year so that I may spend some time in Arequipa, but I will do most of my study in Lima.

On the way back from the language school Dorothee stopped at a market and we picked up some items. She was kind enough to buy a selection of fruit for me to try including two species of mango, tuna (a cactus fruit) and a granadilla. I really enjoyed trying these out on the remainder of my stay!

A fruit stand in the market near Dorothee's house

A fruit stand in the market near Dorothees house

Thursday afternoon I was able to go and have lunch with the George family (SIM-USA). Allen George is the director of SIM-Peru and he and his wife, Amy, have four children. They served me a really tasty lasagna with broccoli salad and bread that was like Panera’s asiago cheese bread. For dessert we had cheesecake and mango. Awesome! The George kids are quite fun. They gave me a tour of their home and kept me entertained during my visit.

Friday, April 8, 2011: Dorothee helped start a ministry in Arequipa that she calls the Dorcus Ministry. They provide baby clothing, bassinets, and cribs for pregnant mothers. The items are all loaned to the mothers for a time: bassinets until the baby is big enough for a crib, and then the crib until the baby is 1 year old. The clothes are obviously on loan until the babies grow out of them! Sometimes the moms give the Dorcus ministry additional clothes to use when they return the borrowed ones. Additionally, the mothers all meet together periodically for Bible study.

The day I arrived in Arequipa Dorothee had 10 new mothers who came for help that morning! As a result, we (Dorothee, Amy George, and myself) needed to visit several of the mothers to get back the cribs since their babies were over 1 year old. The cribs could be loaned to mothers with bassinets and the bassinets to the new moms and so forth. It was neat to finally see a more realistic picture of how many Peruvians live. I was able to go inside two of the homes to help disassemble the cribs. I was quite impressed with how much the Reuter’s vehicle could hold!

At one of the homes we were invited in to meet the woman’s husband who was weaving chullos from alpaca wool. The chullos are woven in one long piece with small spaces to later cut them apart. Once they are cut apart, they are fashioned into the hat and the side pieces and pom pom at the top are added. It was really neat to see that since I’d seen so many chullos at the markets!

The making of chullos

The making of chullos

Dorothee fed me a quick lunch and then took me back to the airport in Arequipa. Thankfully it has only a couple of gates and is not large because we did not allow an hour before my flight time! I got through security and all about the time the flight was supposed to be leaving, but it hadn’t began boarding. I’d heard that Peruvian Airlines was notoriously late.

Peruvian Airlines

Peruvian Airlines

The flight back was quick and Karen met me at the airport. She took me to the Jesus Maria area of Lima where she lives and we went to her office. Later when I was back at the guesthouse, I stopped by Mae’s for some leftovers and then Mary and I went for some gellato. Another packed day!

Saturday, April 9, 2011: The Blackbell family (SIM-Australia) picked me and all my stuff up at the guesthouse on Saturday morning in their minivan. They live in the Miraflores area of Lima and took me to their house for lunch prepared on the Barbie. We had grilled chicken and sausage, cole slaw (very similar to what I would make!), bread, salad, and chicha morada to drink. A really lovely lunch! The three Blackbell children were quite entertaining and I rather enjoyed their accents too.

Lunch on the barbie with chicha morada

Lunch on the barbie with chicha morada

After lunch we walked to Larcomar for ice cream and coffee. Since it was around 4 PM, the ocean fog was quite thick. It had been there Sunday when Karen and I were at the coast, but it was much thicker on Saturday. Peru juts out of the western coast of South America. The Humbodlt current that comes up from Antarctica runs into Peru and the cold water pools there. All the moisture from the air condenses as the air cools over the cold water. Consequently, Lima is covered by this fog during winter for nearly 6 months of the year! They say it gets quite dreary, especially if you are really close to the coast. Since Lima is a desert, though, it never rains! What a different climate!

A foggy view of Larcomar

A foggy view of Larcomar

The Blackbells took me to Karen’s place that evening and after dinner Karen accompanied me to the airport. My flight was technically on Sunday, but it’s hard to call it Sunday when it was 12:40 AM!

It was a packed visit to Peru. I was so thankful to be able to meet my future colleagues, visit the places that I will live and study, and see Peru with my own eyes. The many visits to stores and markets really helped me better understand what I will need to pack when I move there. I feel almost spoiled to be moving to a country where most of the items I am used to are readily available. I can’t wait to learn Spanish better and be able to begin my work there!