From Peru to Marietta

Five visitors from Lima, Peru have spent the past several days in the Pioneer City, courtesy of the Marietta Noon Rotary Club.

“It’s part of our International Group Study Exchange program. They came into town Friday and will be leaving for Athens (today) on a visit to some of the other 52 clubs in our Rotary district, which includes Columbus and areas of Southeast Ohio,” said club member David Vandenberg.

The Vandenbergs hosted two of the South American Rotarians-dentist Sheyla Grecco, and banking business administrator Carlos Ramirez.

Grecco, 27, said this isn’t her first trip to the U.S. as she has previously visited western states, including Nevada and Wyoming.

“Ohio is completely different. It’s a very beautiful state,” she said. “And the food here is very good.”

All five members of the Lima Rotarian team have been staying with local Rotary members while in Marietta.

“It’s a way for us to see what life is like from inside this country,” Grecco said.

Ramirez, 30, agreed, noting he has been to the U.S. several times in the past. Currently he’s a quality assurance controller with a bank in Lima, and took an interest in visiting some of the local banks in Marietta.

“There are a few differences, but generally speaking the banking systems here are much the same as in Peru,” he said.

Janet Vargas, 30, is another dentist who joined the Rotarian team on the Ohio tour, and this is her first trip to the U.S.

“It’s a huge country,” she said. “But we’re part of the Americas, too.”

Vargas has been hosted during her visit by Noon Rotary president-elect Kathy Schalitz.

“We are the same age, are both working women, and found we have a lot in common,” Vargas said.

The third dentist on the Peruvian team is Priscilla Cervantes, 31, who was hosted by local Rotarian and Marietta Family YMCA director Suzy Zumwalde.

Team leader Dolly Parra, 42, is a primary school teacher in Lima.

“I teach fifth grade, but also teach an international program to 11th graders in Peru,” she said, noting her travels to the U.S. and other countries help as she relates her experiences in the classroom.

Parra’s last visit to the U.S. was with another Rotarian group, but this time she’s a team leader.

“The leader provides a bond between the Rotary and the young professionals who are part of our team,” she said.

Parra was hosted by Noon Rotary president Sherry Maston who lives in St. Marys, W.Va.

“We’ve been able to spend a lot of time together in the last couple of days,” Maston said. “And I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Parra agreed.

“Living with an American family really opens your eyes to the culture,” she said. “When you spend time with a local family, you learn that we’re really not that different from one another.”

Parra said her native country isn’t the largest in South America, but it has a variety of cultures and climates, from the Pacific coastal areas to the high ranges of the Andes Mountains.

Marietta Noon Rotary team leader Davis Powers, who introduced the Peruvian team to Marietta, said he’s enjoyed the experience.

“But the best part is that they all stay with local families and learn we have more similarities than differences,” he said. “We may have different cultures and speak different languages, but we all really want to do the same things-to live good lives and to be productive.”

Powers said the group moves on to Athens today, and before they return to Peru later this month, the team will make a presentation about their visit to the annual Rotary District 6690 Conference.