By John Huaman Fajardo, Peru
My name is John, I know it is a typical American name, but in fact I come from Peru, and in my country most people are named Juan. That particular day in the morning I was excited because I was about to meet a local family from Massachusetts for a hospitality visit. So, there I was waiting at the front door with Stella (a great teacher and friend from Greece) when I saw a car coming and parking next to the iconic ITD house (our current residence as participants in the Secondary Educators SUSI program). The first thing that I noticed about our host were his radiant smile and the welcoming greeting.
So, I say: “Hi, my name is John” – I could hear an answer that was like: “HOLA JUANITO MI NOMBRE ES JOHN”. I was surprised and happy at the same time because John could speak Spanish as well as several other languages. So, from now on I would be JUANITO. When we got into the car, he started to talk about the places that he had been and all the things that he had learned. He is really good at telling jokes, too. We passed by the hotel (the other place of residence for SUSI participants) to pick up Sibo (a kind teacher from Malawi), she hopped on and the crew was complete.
The small river next to the house
As our host John was driving to his house, he was telling us about Wendy, his wife, and that they had prepared something special for us. A short trip through the local area and a delicious meal for: today we were about to have traditional American burgers, he said. My attention was drawn to the immense beauty of the place where this kind family lived. John shared that their spot is kind of secret and there aren’t many cars passing by.
We stopped and met Wendy (John’s wife). She welcomed us warmly just like John had done. She immediately started to show us some of the objects that they had collected from their trips in different places around the world (I really think that they were amazing, like keeping a touchable memory from their experiences). Afterwards John invited us to see the back yard. As soon as he opened the back door, we could feel the presence of the wilderness nearby – the sounds and smells were there along with the amazing view of the stream which was passing near their backyard: a fairytale scenery come to life. I felt so alive, in Peru you have to go outside Lima if you want to see such genuine natural beauty.
Getting to know the local history
When it was time for lunch our polite host wanted to know our preferences for the hamburgers before he placed the burgers on the grill (the smell was so delicious that it could be felt from the living room). At the table Wendy passed us a plate with lentils, I explained that the preparation was as in Peru, but the only difference was that we eat it on Monday as a symbol of good luck and prosperity for the whole week. John joked that even though it was not Monday we were going to eat it anyway and so we did. The meal was tasty but it was the company and the attitude that made me feel at home, so I had second helpings.
John and Wendy live in Florence a town in the northwestern part of the city of Northampton, Hampshire County, Massachusetts. They introduced us to the history of this magnificent place in a very engaging manner. We went out of the house and we walked throughout the road, John was leading us but Wendy was just next to him, they were acting like a team. The first thing that we visited was the Mill River, it was so clean and made me think about the importance of protecting our environment. Coming across such breathtaking and pristine wilderness is really difficult in Lima downtown, even though we also have a river.
Then we headed to see the Sojourner Truth Memorial statue that is located in the small city park at the corner of Pine and Park Streets in Florence. John and Wendy took turns to talk about the story of that remarkable woman and the influence that she had in the town, and also why she should be remembered as a strong woman who wanted a change.
Bringing jazz to stage
Something that I had never imagined was to see a jazz band in a church. However, we were taken to a jazz gig as our last stop. I love music but I had not seen a live jazz performance, so I was thoroughly impressed with the music: so magical that I could feel it in my whole body, like the air and the beat of my heart. Every chord and note were perfect.
I just have a final word to close this wonderful day “THANKS “I really had a great time. Meeting this lovely couple was something that I will take to Peru and with me, always.
All opinions expressed by the program participants are their own and do not represent nor reflect official views from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, or of the Institute for Training and Development, Inc.