MINI UPDATES (to make up for my long blogging absence)
Although everyone says that Christmas Day is the 25th, I almost don’t believe them. The celebration starts on the evening of the 24th and carries into the early morning hours of the 25th. Many families goes to mass in the evening, bringing their baby Jesus from their nativity scene. Baby Jesus has been covered in the nativity because he really shouldn’t be in the scene yet, but for the mass he lies uncovered on a table with dozens of other baby Jesus’s and waits for the priest to come bless him after the mass. He then disappears under a cover again until midnight. I think my family really sought to understand the last hours of Advent because after mass ended at 8:00pm – ¡¡8:00pm!! – we sat bored out of minds in various places around the house and waited until midnight. I figured the TV in the living room didn’t have cable because no one turned it on. I came to find out at about 11:30pm that they did indeed have cable, but like I said, I think they were just subconsciously seeking to understand the waiting period of Advent. At midnight we all wished each other a Feliz Navidad with kisses on the cheek and then ran famished to the dinner table. It was finally dinner time. I ate about four different kinds of pureé (mashed potato, mashed sweet potato, apple pureé, and pineapple pureé), a seaweed salad (or something that looks like it), and turkey. We toasted with about an eighth of a glass of sweet wine. Dessert was my beloved (not!) panetón with hot chocolate. Then came presents and chatting. But by 3 or 4:00am on Christmas Day the celebration was over and everyone was sleepily rubbing their eyes and starting to wonder whether they’re going to try to find a taxi to get home or just sleep on the living room floor under a blanket. My theory: I think those wee hours of the morning still belong to the day before.
I met my host mom’s sisters for the first time at our Christmas celebration, and all jokes aside, it was a difficult experience to finally meet her sister who had a severe stroke a year ago. She can’t walk, has difficulty moving her arms and hands, and only recently has been able to form a few garbled words. The hardest part is that she is very much there mentally. There has been some damage, but she understands everything going on around her. She is extremely frustrated with her physical limitations and verging on depression. She broke down in tears twice while I was there out of embarrassment and shame I think. It is beautiful, however, to see the way that the sisters have come together and sacrificed so much to take care of her. It has cost a lot emotionally for them though. Prayer would be very much appreciated.
CUZCO & MACCHU PICHU
Because of the fact that Christmas Day has shifted to the 24th of December here in Peru, Blake and I were able to head to Cuzco on the 25th. I got a few hours of sleep before I had to get back to my house to shower and pack really fast before heading to the airport for a 1:00pm flight. The 10 days I got to spend in Cuzco were just what I needed. It was absolutely wonderful to get to spend quality time with my YAV friends and meet some new friends as well. We spent a lot of time relaxing around Cuzco and trying out the different worldwide cuisines that I’ve missed even while enjoying my host mom’s cooking. My favorite was some deliciously spicy falafels. It was the rainy season, so it was relatively chilly and poured down rain most afternoons and some mornings as well. We spent a lot of time shopping for sweaters for Blake and long sleeve t-shirts for Spencer and hiking to the top of all the hills for me. The highlight of the trip, though, was the Salkantay trek that we did. We spent three days hiking up and over a 4,600-meter pass and then the fourth day enjoying Macchu Pichu through the fog. There were so many great moments but hopping from rock to rock to avoid probably a mile of thick mud, crossing a river on a little cart connected to a cable, having great conversations when there was room to walk two-by-two, and making it to the top of Macchu Pichu mountain stand out.
|Panorama of Cuzco.|
|Trying out the cuisine.|
|The whole group.|
|Picture with the llama!|
|Crosses at the top of the hill.|
|That's Salkantay Mountain in the background.|
|We made it the pass - 4,600 meters! (Our guide Abel is on the far left.)|
|Lunch site Day 2 of trek.|
|Crossing the river.|
|There were stairs like this all the way up Macchu Pichu Mountain.|
|Top of the mountain. It was too foggy to see the ruins except for a short 30 second glimpse!|
|It cleared up a bit in the afternoon. So impressive.|
Birthdays here are such a big deal! I was ready to pass the day with a few “Happy Birthdays” and maybe a special lunch, but it turned out that the festivities stretched for about a week and a half. People kept expecting me to have big plans and worried about me when I said that I was okay with just having a chill day. Here’s a glimpse of the activities… Friday before: Lunch out with my coworkers followed by singing (first Happy Bear-thday in English, then two or three Spanish versions) and apple pie and ice cream. Jan.12: Brought gifts by my host mom and brother at 8:00am. Delicious shrimp pasta lunch with host family and Jed and Jenny. The movie Frozen with my host mom. Over the next week: Birthday donuts with Emma. Delicious nut pasta with host family and Emma. Two homemade and beautifully decorated birthday cakes from Aunt Fabio. Cake (1of 2) and singing at Ada’s sister’s house. Birthday cake (2 of 2) shared with the office. Receive gift of German pretzels and coffee. Birthday cards in the mail.
Thank you everyone for making me feel so extremely loved and taken care of!
|The fam. (My host mom is on the far left.)|
|Blowing out the candle.|
|Cake 1 of 2.|
|Cake 2 of 2.|
UPDATE ON WORK
Since the end of the year I have not been working for CENCA anymore. With my YAV coordinator, Jenny, I decided for many reasons that it would be better to focus my time and efforts on my Fair Trade job. So since getting back from Cuzco I work full-time with Bridge of Hope.
The decision was a good one. My time has been well occupied over this last month with Bridge of Hope. Over the past couple of years there has been a lot of changes in leadership and because of that, there has not been good follow-up as far as updates go. We get emails all the time wondering if our organization still exists because the website hasn’t been updated at all since 2010. Because of that, we are working on getting up a whole new website in both English and Spanish. I am more or less the point person on that project. I visited all 8 artisan groups in Lima to work with them a little on design of a new “product line” for 2014 and to get new pictures and information to update their profiles on the website. I have been rewriting and translating the group profiles and meticulously posting and adding titles, captions, etc. for all of the products that we sell – that’s a lot of products! That project should be done pretty soon. I will post the link on my next (hopefully!) blog so you can check out all my hard work ;) The one thing the artisans always ask of us is to find them new clients so they can get more orders. Many of them depend on this work to provide for their families, so when there is a slow year, like this last one, they struggle to get by. We hope that with this new website we can attract some new customers.
Once the website is up you will get to see some of my pictures, but if you’re interested in getting a sneak preview of the group profiles, check out my drafts in the Google Doc.
Next week a group from the Hudson River Presbytery in New York, which supports Jed & Jenny’s ministry, is coming down to visit Peru and see first hand the work that the Joining Hands Network is doing. Jed is leading the visit, but I will be accompanying them the whole trip to help with translating and a few logistical things. We will be doing things like visiting a few of the members of the Joining Hand Networks, visiting an artisan group, traveling to La Oroya and Huancayo, and seeing a few sights around Lima. That’s from February 13th – 22nd.
On the same day that I’m finishing up with this visit, the 22nd, we are taking off for our second YAV retreat. (I can’t believe it’s here already!) We have a 16-hour bus ride to get to the far north of Peru to Mancora. We are staying in a house on the beach. I am so ready to spend some time soaking up some glorious rays with my lovely YAVs! We have to jet up to Ecuador to renew our visas, but other than that we are just relaxing on the beach and spending a lot of time in worship and reflection. We arrive back in Lima on March 1st.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
“Christianity is not first and foremost a concept. It is, above all, a fact.” – Gustavo Gutierrez, Theology of Liberation
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman, theologian