August marks 8 months since we moved here to Arequipa, and we are slowly but surely getting our bearings around here. It continues to surprise me how different everything here is from Colombia (and of course from Mississippi!), but we are readjusting and resettling, even through another little bout of unexpected culture shock.
And despite the readjustments, I have been delighted by how much I am falling in love with this city. Every time we discover a new part of town, a new way things are done, or spend time with new people, I find myself thinking how excited I am to be settling here long-term. I had never laid eyes on Peru before we moved here, and now I can’t imagine leaving it. I am so thankful that the Lord has continually answered my prayers that he would give me a love and a passion for wherever he calls us. We still have a long way to go to really understand this place and its people (not to mention the language!) but I am enjoying the learning process in the meantime.
And since I haven’t done a great job of chronicling our adventures in Peru thus far, here’s a quick little run-down to get myself up to date:
Even though the process of really getting to know a city takes a long time, we have really enjoyed seeing new parts of Arequipa and learning more about this place we call home. We are constantly on the hunt for parks, markets, restaurants, neighborhoods and other interesting spots that we haven’t seen before. We are trying to figure out how people spend their free time, where we can go to meet new people, and fun places to take friends when they visit. But more than just seeing the cool parts of town, we want to learn more about “the real Arequipa” according to the Arequipeños who live here. Really learning this city requires a whole new level of intentionality and dedication to engaging the people, listening, and observing. Of course, 8 months is only a drop in the bucket, and we have a LONG way to go!
Our family has hit a lot of big milestones over the past several months, one right after another. We celebrated the boys first day of school back in March (the school system has a different calendar here). My parents visited Peru for the first time later that month. In May we celebrated my 30th birthday. In June the twins turned 4, Nate’s mom visited for a fun week, and then we headed back to Mississippi & Chattanooga for a couple of crazy weeks. In July we celebrated Nate’s 30th birthday, our 1-year anniversary of Luís joining our family, and Luís’ 5th birthday. And this month, Nate and I will celebrate our 10-year wedding anniversary, and next month we celebrate our 2-year missioniversary (or whatever you might call it)… We have had one exciting thing after another to celebrate!
GETTING INVOLVED & MAKING FRIENDS
Since we arrived here in Arequipa, we have been praying that the Lord would open some doors for us to get involved in the community and make some friends. We have been so thankful for the ways that He is answering that prayer, and life has certainly been getting pleasantly full! Between a couple of small ministries we’ve been able to get involved in, the small church we’re a part of, and continuing to meet people around the city, we are beginning to develop some relationships. We are slowly but surely building a community here, and it’s a beautiful thing to see it developing. Nate has grown close with several guys that he plays music with regularly, but it has proved to be harder for me to find opportunities to get to know other women. (This was the opposite in Bogotá, where finding female friends for me was much easier than guy friends for Nate… we have had a role reversal here!) I had asked several people to pray consistently with me that the Lord would provide me with a few solid friendships with Peruvian women who would help me learn the culture, practice spanish, and begin to feel more at home in general. I’ve gotten to know several ladies recently who have been so patient and kind, and I am so looking forward to seeing where the Lord leads our burgeoning friendship.
As I mentioned, the boys started school back in March. It’s not an actual school, necessarily, but a “jardin” for children from 0 to 5 years. It’s more like a preschool. Trying to navigate preschool in a foreign country and language has been interesting to say the least. Many parts of it have been a struggle, to be honest, and we are in the process of re-evaluating our plans for the next year. But the boys have enjoyed it overall, and the process has helped me understand a bit more about the culture of young families here. As the boys get a bit bigger and we move from preschool-age to kindergarten-age, we’re figuring out what is going to be the best fit educationally.
The boys aren’t the only ones in school, though. Nate jumped back into classes several mornings a week with a private tutor at the language school here in town. His professor is excellent, and between classes, homework, and the amount of spanish he gets in day-to-day life around here, he is certainly getting his fair share of practice! I’m not in school at the moment, but I’m working through several spanish grammar text books on my own, and I’m trying to get in good conversation practice when I can. Hopefully I’ll be able to do a couple of short intensive classes at the language school later in the year.
Last month, we hit the big milestone of one year home with Luís. I look back over the past year and the ways we as a family have grown and changed and adjusted, and I am amazed. That morning I sat around the breakfast table with the boys and told them the story of the day we met Luís. I was shocked that none of them remembered a bit of it, not even Luís. The twins have vague memories of a few things before he joined our family, but not many; they had just turned 3 at that point, after all. None of them really remember life before each other, and I love that. In the past few months, there was a subtle shift from the transition phase to something that more closely resembles normal. There’s a little less chaos, a little less drama, a little less anxiety, and instead our days have a lot more trust, affection, and playfulness. We are still working consistently with Luís to make up for some developmental delays in a few areas, particularly in communication and expression, but he is doing really well. He has recently started speech therapy in spanish 3 days a week, and I am hoping that it will give him a big boost in his communication skills.
Overall, the feeling of finally feeling “settled” here in Arequipa and starting to feel “settled” a bit more into our family has all flowed together in a weird and nice way. I don’t know any other way to describe it than that….things are just starting to settle.
Of course, that’s just a broad-strokes view of life around here… the excitement happens in the details! Well, the excitement and the chaos and the boring parts and the busyness and the mundane, and everything else. The details can be messy. Messy, but always interesting. Maybe if I’m lucky, some of those details will start turning into blog posts (: