Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Students Explore Peru

By Eloise Ravell

The Andrews University department of Behavioral Sciences recently offered a study tour to Peru for students completing courses in cultural psychology and world religions.

Charles Teel, professor of religion and society at La Sierra University in Riverside, Calif., became interested in early Seventh-day Adventist missionaries Fernando and Ana Stahl, who were trained as nurses at the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Battle Creek, Mich. in the early 20th century. The Stahls founded schools, clinics, chapels and markets in Peru and empowered the Peruvians with the necessary skills to become independent from their oppressing leaders. Teel and Herbert Helm, professor of psychology at Andrews, led the trip this year, which followed the footsteps of the missionaries.

Peru, with its biological diversity, provided the students with the opportunity to experience various climates by traveling from the Pacific Ocean on the west coast, through the Andes Mountains and to the Amazon on the east side of the country.
“In just one week we traveled to four different cities in Peru, in which we were able to compare the culture of each city,” says Christina Wolfer, marketing major and a junior at Andrews. “It’s crazy because even though you are still in the same country, every city was distinctively different in how the people lived.”

The trip takes place every other year and is tied into what the students have learned in their classes. Students travel to Lima, Peru’s capital, and Cusco, along with Machu Picchu, the Amazon and Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in South America. This year, the 25 students rode horseback through the hills of Cusco and explored Inca ruins including Templo de la Luna, or Temple of the Moon, and Coricancha, Temple of the Sun. Also in Cusco, they saw the statue of Cristo Blanco, which overlooks the city.

“Because this isn't the first time the school has organized the Peru trip, we could go having confidence that our leaders knew what to expect and they would help us become aware of all the details that we would not otherwise know,” says Wolfer. “Also, because the leaders organized everything, it gave us a ‘go with the flow’ mentality, which took off the pressures of planning and helped create a better experience for us.”

At Lake Titicaca in Puno, the group saw the famous floating islands of the Uros people, who originally created the islands to prevent attacks from their Inca neighbors. In Lima, students explored cathedrals, including the Monastery of San Francisco, the Plaza Mayor and the Cathedral of Lima. They also took a bus tour around the city and visited the more upscale area of the city where El Parque del Amor, or the Park of Love, resides. In recent years, the group was able to visit the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) at its Lima location.

Students traveled to Belen, sometimes dubbed the “Venice of the Amazon” because of the houses along the river, and took a boat tour through the village, which, although the name implies otherwise, is very poor. The group stayed in a lodge in Iquitos and was able to interact and observe animals in the area such as monkeys, snakes and birds.

“For those who want to get up early enough, we often go out and do a morning look for birds and dolphins,” says Helm. “This year was just phenomenal. We saw a lot of pink dolphins. We saw three come up together at one point.”

Besides the opportunity to experience nature, the Amazon also provided a window of insight into a different world.
“In the Amazon we visited some villages and saw the way people lived, which was entirely different from anything I have ever experienced,” says Wolfer. “The people there live on barely anything, but are still the happiest people in the world. It showed me that I have so much to be appreciative of in my life and influenced me to want to make a difference to help those who have very little.”

The group not only had a learning experience on this study tour, but also was able to visit many of the highlights of the country in a single week.

“I tell the students,” says Helm, “‘You’re going to get everything but sleep!’” 

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