Monday, February 24, 2014

Good Times...and Rock Slides

We successfully and safely made it back to Lima from Huanuco! 

The one person directing traffic...
Being that the events are most recent in my mind, today's rock slides are becoming the biggest part of the weekend. It is rainy season and rock slides are common, so it was not completely out of the realm of things we were going to encounter on our trip. However, it was a new experience. The first rock slide we encountered only delayed us for a few minutes. The rocks were still falling - yikes! I'm not sure what the situation was, but the semi-trucks couldn't pass so we had to go around them. Then, we get to the front and a group of guys yelled when it was safe to go, but to go quickly. So we did and prayed that rocks wouldn't fall on us. Obstacle #1 down! 

Where's the road?!

Then, we come upon another stop and we wait a bit to see what's happening, then we move up a little bit, then we wait a little more, then we get directed over to a side path, at which point I was thinking it was a way to go around. Well, no. It was just a way to squish more cars together. We got stuck there for about 2 hours. It was a hot mess of mud and rocks, and like the first one, they were still falling. There were a handful of tractors and lots of workers on hand trying to clear it up. Everyone was getting out of their car to watch. Lots of waiting. In the end, we had to get 2 very long lines of traffic into 1 lane and deal with on-coming traffic. We left the house at 5am. We arrived at Obstacle #2 at 6am and finally got moving around 8am. What was supposed to be an 8-10 hr trip, depending on stops, became an 11.5 hour long ordeal. It's gonna take me a few days to recover. Haha. 

However, don't misconstrue the primacy of the rock slide  for things not going well in Huanuco, because they did! We got together last Tuesday to figure out what ministry we were going to bring and we had this great plan. Then we showed up, and the plan quickly started falling by the way-side. I was a bit worried that all of the things we planned were going to get the boot. I felt they were important things, but everyone kept putting things off, later and later. Overall, everything came together and worked out. I never did the class with kids that I planned, but oh well, maybe when we go back I can do it. Everything else we had planned, we did though. I felt like we had some good discussions and people had a few takeaways from the weekend. We'll see if anything gets taken to heart or not. Only time will tell. I know it's been nearly 8 months that I've been working on Peru-mode, but I still like lists and plans. I just have to keep reminding myself that it will all work out like this weekend. It was really a very enjoyable and productive time. 

At any rate, I had fun being back at Huancachupa (I never left the house) and seeing the family. 

Something like Picante de Pollo...nom!
I definitely appreciate Carolina's awesome cooking!

 I only have a couple of bug bites. 

It was nice to spend time with Eynor again, though he mostly just wanted to play Plants v. Zombies on my phone. He did let me take turns with him playing Minion Rush. 

Tingo Maria!
Yimi had another break from work and finished an art project - he painted one of the photos we had from our trip to Tingo Maria. 

We also got to play with the dogs, which is now down to a count of 3 - Oso, Loki, and Mojada. 
They promptly got my clothes all wet and muddy when we arrived as they very excitedly started jumping up at us, but it was good to see them healthy again! 

Mojada and Loki

And in initiation to Huancachupa fashion, we went on a hike to introduce Marlene to the hill. 

Marlene and Eynor taking a break at the top of the hill.

We are all set to head back mid-April to spend one more month with the Huanuco congregation. :D 

~nos vemos~

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Beach Church Success!!

I haven't figured out why, but some of the people here are the freak out types. If they aren't in control of something, they freak out. Because of that, beach day has been a source of contention for the last few weeks. 

At one of our leadership meetings, Marlene volunteered Melissa and I to organize Beach Day. Give something to us to plan, just us. We were excited at the prospect because everything we have helped with but not been in charge of has been second guessed - oh that won't work, but it's too late to change, so we'll just go with it. (Btw, those things have ended up being a hit, not to toot my own horn, but they were.) We figured that if we could be in charge, things will be easier on us. 

Well, one the one hand it was. We just talked to people a couple of times to help organize things and get the details sorted out. Actually, it was super easy. People are so willing to help and they have the experience of been there done that, so they can voice their concerns and we moved forward. 

Then there are the freak out people who can't let go. We had people freaking out about not having posters done, that were in fact done. People freaking out about games not being planned and that we didn't have all of the supplies we needed to play the games, but those too were all coordinated and ready to go. Then we had people freaking out that we were incorporating things that didn't have anything to do with the theme because they didn't involve fish. Tranquilo (calm) and Fe (faith) became my go-to words. 

So, with that sort of stressful background to planning this day at the beach, I was surprised and thrilled how fun it was! (Again, not to toot my own horn, but it was a success!) 

The theme we chose was ¡Vamos a Pescar! (That was as close to Go Fish! we could get in Spanish.) A few weeks before in the lectionary the theme was Follow Jesus and it used the scripture from Matthew 4 about Jesus calling the fisherman to go and fish for men. We wanted to expand on that and talk about how to go about fishing for men. We focused on Luke 5:4-6 and the imagery of the nets.  

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.

For the church part, we started with some peppy songs and got people moving. Then Jhonny welcomed everyone and introduced the theme. Betzabe and Eder were in charge of music and selected great songs to reinforce the theme. Marlene did a scripture reading. Mirtha gave a short sermon. Melissa and I incorporated a net activity. Wilfredo wrapped the service up with a benediction. It moved quickly and smoothly. The part I fear the most about church in public is that people will get self-conscious and not want to participate or won't participate as fully, but there was definitely participation and the awesome presence of God moving through and in everyone. It was beautiful. 

¡Vamos a Pescar!
After the service, Gladys and Karen took over games! It was kind of interesting how they planned the games because they were all quick games, but we only played them once each. It was fine and it kept us moving, which was necessary as the sand got hotter and hotter. In the end, they even incorporated a game with fish! 

With that, Melissa and my responsibilities ended. Everyone enjoyed some lunch and then hit the water! 

I have to admit, I was a little bit wrong about the ocean here. I kept saying that it is the same as in California, I mean, it is the Pacific Ocean still. And while not incredibly different, it still was more different than I expected. The difference is probably just unique to the shore structure, but I am not sure, I'm not a scientist. Anyway, the waves here are fierce! You have 2 options. Wade in to your knees and just hang out there for the water to come in and out. The other option is to go play in the waves, where you need to be alert and know how to jump or swim under a wave. It was just huge wave after huge wave. It was a blast, but I definitely got a good thrashing around in the water. I swallowed a whole lot of salt water too. I saw a news report saying that this particular region has very dangerous beaches, now I know why! Plus, lots of people here don't know how to swim. Makes things interesting. 

The other major difference is the number of beach umbrellas. In the US, we work on being as tan as possible and there may be 1 umbrella for a family, especially if they have kids. Here, everyone has an umbrella and everyone is under it. Good for them. I have just never seen so many umbrellas at the beach before! 

From talking to people and recapping with Melissa, we have decided that everything went smoothly and everyone had an enjoyable time. People just need to not freak out so much as it would save us all from a lot of unnecessary stress. I needed 2 whole days to recover from them. But to be sure, I had a blast at the beach! :) 

Now, on to the next thing! We head back to Huanuco (just for the weekend) this Friday. We have some classes to plan and coordinate, so better get to it. I look forward to seeing the people there again! 

~nos vemos~ 

Monday, February 10, 2014

The MIGHTY Jungle

When Timon and Pumba sing about Simba in the jungle, they aren't kidding when they say "the mighty jungle." It is hard to believe all of the things I saw, all the stories I heard, and all the things I didn't see and hear in the 5 days in the jungle! 

From Feb. 3 to 7, we stayed on a small island in the middle of the Amazon River called Libertad. We flew in to Iquitos, where we were promptly met by our guides from the Libertad Jungle Lodge. And so the journey began... 

I am going to break this blog into sections, rather than a play by play of the week.. 


As per typical, small-talk, lets start with the weather. It's the jungle. Humidity and rain are to be expected. However, because it is winter right now, it was only in the 80/90s rather than the 100/110s. It only rained during 2 of the nights, but man did it rain! It probably started sprinkling around 8 and continued into the wee hours of the morning. There was usually a breeze too, or we were on a moving boat creating a breeze, which kept things comfortable. 

Jungle Creatures

Just chatting with my sloth. She is very polite and looks
you in the eye, regardless of which way her body is facing.
The jungle is full of an incredible array of animals and insects. Scary and quite dangerous, at times, but still awesome. Within the first hour of arriving in Libertad we were introduced to the three-fingered sloth. I didn't realize how sharp their claws would be or that they can turn their heads so far around. Other creatures I got to hold were a pink-toed tarantula, a piranha, a baby alligator, and a capuchin monkey (which really came and just sat in my lap). In addition to these guys, we saw pink and grey dolphins, an anaconda, viper snake, iguanas, banana spider, Goliath tarantula, leaf frog, colorful grasshoppers and spiders, bullet ants, normal ants, white termites, and tons and tons of mosquitos. At a nature reserve (on our way to the airport), I also got to touch some manatees. The capuchin eating its banana in my lap was my favorite! The ridiculous number of mosquitos (and bites) was the worst part. 


Piranhas are served.

I love food. I love trying new foods. I love traveling to try new foods. :) Every single meal we had was accompanied by fresh jungle fruit juice. We drank cocona, camu camu, maracuya, and more. All delicious and if you have the chance to try them, do it. The main meat there is catfish, which I wasn't expecting. There are various types, the most popular is called doncella. I had it fried in 2 different ways, both delicious. We also ate the piranhas that we caught when we went fishing. Not delicious, but not bad. All of the food was great, but I hadn't had those ones before.  

Jungle Medicine

Not to drink, but the Amazon River is full of water.
The tribes that live in the jungle have a resident shaman and sometimes even a witch. I guess you go to the shaman for healing and the witch for more negative desires. At any rate, they know all about the crazy plants you can find in the jungle and what their purposes are. Victor, our tour guide, taught us about a few that we passed. There is a bark of one tree that has this red moisture that looks like blood, called Dragon's Blood, that is used for clotting. Another bark is steeped in tea and is used to get rid of the cold/flu. As it turns out when you put it in the crook of your elbow and hold it there, it burns, so I can only imagine what it does to your insides to heal you. Also, Victor showed us a tree that you can get water from if you are lost in the jungle and are dehydrated. Water, the medicine of all medicines.


Headed to Libertad!

Being winter and the water levels are on the rise, the main mode of transportation in Libertad is by boat. You could see the line on the trees where the water will rise up to, which seemed like a good 10 feet higher than it currently is. We passed by this house that is the marker for where the water normally stops during the summer, but is currently about 25-30 ft deep. To get from Iquitos to Libertad, we drove for 2 hours, then boated for 2 hrs. Thankfully, the boat had a motor, so we didn't have to switch off rowing. Haha. In the city of Belen, there are floating houses, so they probably boat year round. 


We had cabins to sleep in at Libertad. We had running water in the shower, toilet, and sink, but not heated. There was electricity supplied by a generator between 6-9pm. Our beds has mosquito nets on them, which are amazing. I never want to sleep in a place with mosquitoes without one again. The people there came in and made our beds everyday and also put down petroleum on the wood floors. The petroleum either keeps the ants from eating the wood or straight up kills them, so then they can't eat the wood. I could be wrong though. The dining room was right across the walkway from our room. There was also a hammock room, by far the best place to be to relax. I love me some hammock time. 

Jungle Stories

My climbing feat!
The jungle is an incredibly interesting place. Having grown up in the jungle and doing tours for a decade, Victor had an abundance of crazy stories to share with us. For instance, he told us about his encounter with not one, but 2 jaguars. Also, he went on a tour with a snake-lover that wore perfume that attracted snakes. (That makes my skin crawl just thinking about it.) Then there are the legends that dolphins are demons and if a man touches a sloth while his wife is pregnant, their child will have the face of a sloth. By far the most outrageous and interesting is the mystery of the demon of the jungle that has one leg longer than the other. Victor told us that a year ago, his grandma went out with his grandpa to check on their crops in the jungle and they got separated. She continued on in search of him, and at one point the road forked 4 ways. The way she picked ended her up along the river, where she found someone fishing. The fisherman asked her to help fish some more then they would both go look for her husband. The grandma thought she was there for maybe 3 hours, but lo and behold, she had been lost in the jungle for 15 days! Apparently, the jungle demon creates these visions in your mind that confuse you. It also has a whistle pattern, that if you repeat it, you will die. *woogie woogie* 

I had an incredible time in the jungle. It is so interesting how different of a place it is and how different the people think. A completely different way of life from any I have experienced before, for sure. I could write for days about the things we experienced, but I will stop at this. Let me know what questions you have. 

Victor, Erica, Melissa, Dave, and Me .. departing from Libertad.

~nos vemos~

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Celebration of Puno Culture

A couple weeks ago, Betzabe invited us to go see some dances and a parade in Lima that celebrated Puno culture and tradition. It didn't sound terribly exciting as I have been to a couple other such events in the past, but it had potential. Betzabe and her family go every year. Her dad Maximo is from Puno and his mom was named after the Virgin Candelaria, so it is a particularly special occasion for him. 

Unfortunately, things with church were a bit crazy this week and Melissa and I kept wavering on going or not. Melissa ended up having an interview and to submit job apps, etc. I kind of felt bad that I said I would go and then wanted to back out at the last second, so I stayed up until 3:30am and finished my dang sermon so I could go. 
Tikus Costume
And I'm glad I did! 

The hestitation and lack of interest were ridiculous. This was one of the best parades I have ever been to. 

We left the house around 10 am to catch a combi to Lima. I thought it was much farther away than it actually was, which was a pleasant surprise. Now I know! 

Zampona Player
First thing, we passed by all of the groups starting to come in and get prepared for the parade. People were lining up the costumes, adding feathers and other adornments to masks, and practicing their dance moves. We headed over to the cathedral where the mass to start this special day was. We wandered in to the service for a moment. It was the most full I have seen a cathedral, not that I frequent them, but they had a good showing. Outside, the zampona groups were organizing. It was incredible to listen to them. It was probably my favorite part of the day. 

After that, Betzabe took my around to all of the groups so I could get a picture with people in their awesome and sometimes bizarre costumes. So fun! Not really any time to learn what all the names of the dances or costumes were, but they were just beautiful. So many colors - bright oranges and blues and greens and reds. So many weird masks - monkey bears, devils, donkeys, pointy noses, blonde beards. Everyone was very nice about letting me take a picture with them and they all knew the right poses and props to incorporate. Good times. 

Mr. Donkey Mask Man
We headed back over to the cathedral to wait for the mass to end. I put my camera away to put on sunblock. Less than 5 minutes later I was looking for my camera and it was gone. :( So much for all those awesome pictures we took. 

Have no fear! I still had my phone. So we set out to start retaking as many pictures as we could. Only the donkey guy gave me a hard time for taking another picture, but when I told him my camera got stolen he felt a little sorry and obliged to take another pic. 

Around 12pm we headed over to watch the parade. It was great to be right in front and not have to stand on my tip toes and peer over people's heads to see. The only downside was that they really didn't mix the types of groups in the parade. We basically watched the same dance and heard the same song for 3 hours. However, it was still amazing. The costumes were great. The masks were great. Each group had a personality and they all seemed very happy even though they had probably been waiting a long time to get going. Also, it was pretty warm and everyone was sweating bullets. This, however, did not deter any of the guys from jumping higher and enjoying their dance routine. Talk about some big smiles and genuine enjoyment and pride. 

Unfortunately, we had to get going so that we could get to church on time, since I was preaching and all. I didn't get to see the Tikus dance. Betzabe said it was her favorite. It was some sort of battle-style dance. Their costumes were really cool. Feather plumes on some of their hats and lots of bright patchwork style clothes. Maybe we will get to see that and more when we make it down to Puno. :) 

Tikus - Line Leaders

Time to plan another trip! 

~nos vemos~