Wednesday, July 12 – Lima to San Bartolo:
After nearly ten hours of flying and then driving on a bus to a retreat house in Lima, Peru we collapsed on our beds and slept completely through the night. Then, when I awoke my immersion into Peru began with a cold shower. I have never showered so fast.
We then had a nice breakfast of eggs, bread and coffee before setting out to mass at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church.The mass, which was in English, turned out to be surprisingly the most eventful mass I have ever partaken in. Each part of the mass was strangely out of place and somewhere before communion a drunk man with long, wild black hair came stumbling in singing and raising a water bottle filled with a dark substance like he was giving a toast.
Since the congregation was responsible for singing during parts when the priest was not talking I thought it was somebody in the back adding their own soundtrack to the mass. I turned around only to find that man with his eyes rolling into the back of his head coming forward toward the alter. He was promptly escorted back out of the church to return wherever he came from.After mass we took lots of pictures and were given a tour of the church along with many relics of St.
Rose including her tibia (Yes, the bone in her leg. Weird, I know.), a crown of nails she forced into her scalp under her veil and many statues and pictures of her looking sleepy eyed or just generally ticked off. She didn’t seem like the happiest saint alive but I guess if I forced nails into my head in order to suffer as Christ did I wouldn’t be all smiles either.
Once that tour concluded we rode a bus to the cathedral of St. Martin de Pores and given a similar tour featuring a glass box filled with human skulls, paintings of Inca’s being taken over by a man named Fernando and an archbishop’s expensive collection of gold and silver.Later on we went across the street from the cathedral into the city square to take group photos – a favor granted to us by the local police as nobody else was allowed to enter the square. Apparently a president who had collapsed Peru’s economy a few years back was reelected over a dictator and they were anticipating a riot.
A dictator versus an economic killer: I think both sounded really worthy of a presidential term.We had lunch at an all you can eat ‘chifa’ buffet where I was almost left behind at. I was in the bathroom and the bus was pulling away and only after a count off was I discovered absent. I even told them I was going to use the bathroom.
Thanks, guys.Our next stop was a Mercado where we exchanged our dollars for ‘soles’ (33 American cents equals’ one Peruvian sole) and haggled with desperate merchants who got excited from your eyes just drifting over their products. I purchased a Peruvian soccer jersey, a Peruvian flag and a keychain for myself before buying gifts for my family back in Colorado.After the Mercado it was a mad rush back to the retreat house to briskly grab our luggage and drive to San Bartolo. It was a relatively shorter drive than I anticipated although when we arrived at our house in San Bartolo it was dark but only 7 o’clock.
Our house is fairly large with no backyard but open space in the middle – kind of like a courtyard – making the house have a motel feel with a general meeting place for dinner and free time. There are two dogs here, one a mutt with overly large nipples that hang like utters and one Shih Tzu who is only half as friendly as and much uglier than Ernie. I am missing Ernie already.
We unpacked our things in our rooms and got acquainted with the ‘housemother’ Sicillia. We were served a large dinner and cake in celebration of Kasia Sullivan’s seventeenth birthday! Today has really been a first class day. I had a lot of fun with Cassy but I am looking forward to know other people in the group and exploring the town of San Bartolo.Today’s ranking: 5/5 stars
Thursday, July 13 – San Bartolo:
The shower this morning was not quite as cold as the day before but figuring out the heating system was more trouble than it is worth. You see, the water for the showers here in San Bartolo is heated by an electric shower head which requires being turned on in two separate places inside and outside the shower. Also, because of the small tank of water available on top of this house (they fill their water tanks up like gas in a car on a weekly basis) we were asked to conserve by only running the water when we were rinsing. Last night Cassy discovered for the group that it is necessary for you to turn off the electricity immediately after turning off the water, even if it is only for a short amount of time. After a blood curdling scream and a visible flash of light from one of the girls’ rooms, Cassy ran out of the bathroom followed by a cloud of smoke. Upon further investigation they found the shower head on fire, after exploding above Cassy. I laughed.Today we went down to the pastoral center we were to be working at all week and had a tour of the facilities before spending a few hours in a kindergarten school down the dirt road. The kindergarten Peruvians were adorable. They chased us and were always try to hold our hands or ride on our backs.
I tried some Spanish with the help of a cheat sheet kindly provided by Sue but the kindergarteners didn’t seem to care about the language barrier. They just wanted to be loved on and played with and the experience made me realize how generous young ones are with their love, even the ones who are poor and have close to nothing and make school projects out of napkins. Their playground is a field of dirt but all they cared about was if we were looking at them, tickling them or swinging them around. I think everybody has the desperate desire to love and be loved and noticed. The best part of the day was when I was helping a little girl named Nadia with her school project and she sat on my lap and grabbed at the cross on my necklace and asked, ‘Jesus?”Si! Tu amor es Jesus?’ I asked.’Si,’ she replied before grabbing at my digital camera and begging to have her photo taken. It was a very touching experience to have her recognize that we shared the same faith.After lunch we had our programming with the kids at the center.Today’s ranking: 4/5 stars
Friday, July 14 – San Bartolo:
Today was the hardest day for me so far. Our job today was to paint the walls and ceilings of rooms at the center before the fiesta the kids were having in celebration of the end of their semester that afternoon, which meant no programming today. The paint rollers for the ceiling were a nightmare for me. They would drip down all over me and after about an hour of painting I was covered in droplets of pain – in my hair, clothes face, arms and legs – more so than anybody else. It wasn’t that I minded being covered in paint it was just frustrating me because everybody kept barking commands at me to ‘help’ me paint better which just frustrated me even more. To top it off when I threw in the towel on painting the ceiling I realized I had tracked paint from the bottom of my shoes all around the facility. Things improved when I was handed a brush to paint a vertical wall.I also have been feeling a little homesick today, which is strange because I never get homesick. I snuck into an office in the center to try and call home but I couldn’t figure out the Peruvian phones. I guess that was a blessing because I later learned it was $3.50 a minute for an international call.
The meals here are also a struggle to eat. I am so sick of corn! I came here in hopes of enchiladas, tacos and quesadillas but so far I haven’t seen any signs of tomatoes, tortillas or queso. I miss Kraft singles and 2% milk from my fridge, my cell phone and most of all: my family. I am just in a bad mood today.Cassy has been amazing, as usual and I am so thankful for her being on this trip. My struggle with the language is still present but I felt like I was getting better. I made a little girl smile when I told her that her name was ‘muy bonita’.I particularly enjoyed a reading for the bible I saw today during our prayer time. It talked about God being the fruitfulness provider in our life. I recognize that a lot of my blessings come from Him. Maybe I just need some sleep in order to more properly utilize my skills and help provide fruitfulness to the children of San Bartolo.Today’s ranking: 2/5 stars
Saturday, July 15 – San Bartolo:
We resumed our normal programming plans today which consist of activities we’ve planned out for the kids in things like sports, arts and crafts, board games and music. I had been in charge of playing board games with the kids on Thursday but the board games turned out to be less of a success than I had thought. I couldn’t explain the rules to games like Mancala in Spanish and they ended up just stealing all the marble and running away. So I set up the board games and promptly abandoned them to help David teach ‘futbol Americano’ to a much more interested group of kids. I also successfully communicated with two young boys named Tommy and Franz who asked if any of the other American girls were my ‘novia’. I didn’t know what a ‘novia’ was until Tommy pointed to one of the girls and then pretended like he was kissing somebody. They were also really interested in the pictures on my camera and when they saw pictures of Chris Nixon playing soccer on the lawn in from of our retreat home in Lima they asked if that was Colorado. I felt bad that I hadn’t thought bringing something to show them what Colorado was like. That would have been a good idea.
We had free time this afternoon so we walked to Santa Maria beach to enjoy the good weather. It’s always cloudy here in Peru during the winter season (a mild winter of 70 degrees a day) but this afternoon we actually saw the sun. The ocean was so blue and beautiful and I felt like such a little kid as we all ran out into the water. The waves were huge and the water was freezing but we had too much fun running and laughing and swimming. Cassy and I had a good time swimming on top of the largest ones right before they broke and riding that until it tossed us forward into the wave’s path so we would be pummeled by the huge wave crashing into the previously receding wave before being forced to the sandy bottom and drug towards the shore. It was a rough beating and a little frightening but we laughed and kept doing it over and over.After the ocean we showered and went to hear kids at the center perform music on their instruments and then had mass in Spanish, which I understood completely…not.Today’s ranking: 5/5 stars
Sunday, July 16 – San Bartolo:
Sunday has been a rest and relaxation day to honor the Sabbath, something South American (unlike its other continental counterparts) take very seriously. I think I have heartburn but I’ve never had it before so this is what I think it would feel like, kind of like I have to belch or throw up but having nothing in my throat. It’s not uncomfortable or painful, it’s just odd. I hope it doesn’t progress into something worse. I accidentally brushed my teeth with the tap water today so that may or may not have something to do with it.We went to pray a rosary on top of a hill on the coast and then explored the rocks along the coastline. One rock had an air vent type thing that would force air and water through like a spout every time a wave crashed against it. I got an amazing video of Tayler getting a face full of sea water. It was awesome.After lunch we had free time which Patrick, Paige and I spent at the beach. It was clear skies again this afternoon.
Another volunteer here at the house who has been here for a month said these two days are the first clear days he’s ever seen here in San Bartolo. I am so much in love with the beach – you don’t even understand. Living in Colorado has made me appreciate the beach so much more here but being here in Peru has made me appreciate our American way of life as well as people back at home. I miss the fridge and our lawns because there is no grass here in San Bartolo. They can’t sustain any greenery here because of the salt in the earth so everything is dirt. Living in a community 24/7 has made me appreciate the time I get to be alone and I miss my family – yes, amazing but true. Right now, Mom and Dad, I want nothing more than to talk to you. I miss you guys so much! I never thought of myself as attached to you as I’ve felt lately but I miss the sound of your voices.
I’ve also learned there is a lot of joy in serving others and even if we aren’t lugging around brick building churches down here we are helping these people by building relationships and doing chores around the center that would otherwise remain neglected. Even if we make a kid smile we have accomplished our mission. Our impact on these children may have fruitfulness we will never see but if because of the kindness we’ve shown them inspires them to be kind to others then we truly are showing these kids Christ’s love for us and His eternal desire for us to love one another.Today’s ranking: 5/5 stars
Monday, July 17 – San Bartolo:
Lauren and I had a good conversation last night about some things while we were walking back from the bonfire we had on the beach and it really made me realize I appreciate friends like her and the deep conversations we can have with each other. I am not sure why I wrote that – it’s just what I’ve been thinking.There is this rooster that always crows early in the morning and I just wish somebody would take a gun and shoot it. I don’t feel like I’ve gotten much sleep. I sleep well, just not enough.Today was our final full day in San Bartolo. We did some chores around the center and varnished various items in the facility. We propped them up against a wall that borders the facility and that’s where I discovered the security system for the center: broken bottles cemented into the tops of the walls with the jagged edges sticking out. That’s also when I discovered the asylum on the other side of the wall when a girl popped up out of nowhere and started screaming ‘MARIA!’ and tried to come over the wall but the bottles prevented her. It scared me so bad, but I felt really bad for the poor girl. I guess there wasn’t much supervision at the asylum so here she was shouting for Mary on top of a stool trying to get over a wall covered in broken bottles.We had our final programming time with the kids today and I did flag football with David again.
Sadly there weren’t quite as many kids as usual. We were just starting to get them to master offense and defense…The struggle today was being torn between wanting to go home and wanting to stay longer. I miss the comforts of home but there is something about this town that just really appeals to me. It’s dirty and dusty and poor, but it’s so beautiful at the same time. It’s right next to the ocean, and has various hills overlooking the town, and I love the currency here. I can buy a Coke here for one sole, which is 33 cents at home.I don’t really have much to say today.Today’s ranking: 3/5 stars
Tuesday, July 18 – San Bartolo to Chincha:
Today was a sad day. We said goodbye to San Bartolo and all the amazing children we met. Today also concludes the missionary part of the trip. What lies ahead is some sight seeing; sand boarding, dune buggies, visiting a Catholic school in Chincha and a hacienda with underground catacombs.We went and visited some Inca ruins today and took pictures there. There were a lot of Peruvian school busses there and the people at the ruins were giving us a lot of attention. Instead of photographing the ruins they were photographing us! It was like us Americans were the main attraction. Some girl even came up to Lauren and told her she looked like Shakira. Shakira isn’t even American! After the ruins we set out to a farm area where we had an Incan dinner which was cooked underground on top of hot coals and road horses and played with the farm animals. I spent some good alone time with animals while everybody was taking seconds for dinner. It was nice to be alone with all these beautiful horses and I felt very much at peace with all of them.I think God might be teaching me that it’s okay to be alone sometimes.
By setting time away from the group for myself I was able to enjoy his creations. When I am around others I tend to focus on other things but being alone really opened my eyes to all the beauty around me.During the commute to Chincha it was hard to see some places that were much poorer than San Bartolo. I saw houses with no roads leading up to them, and no electricity lines connecting to them. I saw people burning their trash at the side of the road. It was hard to see this extreme poverty right along a busy highway.This whole trip has made me appreciate everything I have at home. There are people on this earth who have nothing and yet we find the smallest things to complain about at home. Being in a foreign country makes you realize how much you appreciate life at home. You appreciate the smallest things; having a hot shower, a variable meal, privacy, driving, trees with leaves on them, paved roads, toilets you can flush toilet paper down, tap water you can drink… the list could go on forever. But you come back home with a valuable lesson. You don’t need all these things to be happy. You can survive without the comforts of America. There is joy in service and sacrifice. You just have to be willing to seek it out and embrace it.
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