How do you say goodbye to someone you really may never see again? How do you tell someone how much she meant to you in just a few short minutes? How do you cap off a year, a year, of life?
My last week in Lima I did what I could to answer those questions. I went to several despedidas – goodbye parties – that were thrown for me. These include lots of delicious food, dancing, some World Cup game watching, a couple of small gifts, and lots of mini speeches and story sharing. My whole extended host family gathered together to have a large lunch and watch the World Cup final. Daniela and Karín planned two surprises for me – a lunch out of award winning ceviche and a surprise party with many of the artisans from Lima.
In Peru I experienced goodbyes that wanted to create one last good memory. Yes, there was plenty of time spent reminiscing on the year, but more than that, there was time spent enjoying the comfort and joy that was achieved in the relationship. I liked that.
|The whole family gathered for my despedida (and the World Cup final)!|
For our final YAV retreat we went to a little beach town about 4 hours south of Lima called Paracas. There we reflected over this whole year and, in good Peruvian style, also spend lots of time just enjoying the relationships that had formed between us. We had long dinners and good conversations. We adventured to the Ballestas Islands where we saw penguins, sea lions, and flocks on flocks on flocks of birds. We went on a dune buggy ride and sand-boarded on the expansive sand dunes all around. We ate lots of seafood and celebrated the life that was found so far from home.
|The beautiful sandstone cliffs.|
|The crew after sandboarding.|
Blake, Mary Kate, Spencer, and I all took off the day after the retreat to do some final traveling around Peru. We wanted to see the place and community where Spencer had been all year so we headed to the jungle! We spent about half of the trip in or near Moyobamba and the other half in Iquitos. We traveled as simply as possible and enjoyed the freedom that came from not always have plans set in stone.
In Moyobamba we got to spend a lot of time with the people Spencer spent the year with: we had dinner with Jenny’s parents, we went to a Mistura food event that Spencer’s colleagues planned for his despedida, we participated in a march against bull fighting with his coworkers, we stayed for free in a beautiful home that houses students from extremely impoverished families while they attend college, we hiked the tallest hill around in the dark to see the sunrise, we swam in waterfalls and hitchhiked back to town, and we attended a concert where Spencer starred as violinist.
|Selfie in Chazuta.|
|Sunset at the top of el Morro de Calzada.|
|Waterfall #1. My skin hasn't seen sun in a while!|
We took a boat up the Huallaga River, which eventually turned into the Amazon River right before arriving in Iquitos. We had to laugh at the ridiculousness of the Peruvian time schedule as our boat left 31 hours late. We also got woken up at 5:45 in the morning telling us to hurry and gather our stuff because we were moving to another boat. Everybody on board moved boats and then we sat in port until about 9pm that evening. Other than that the trip went smoothly and we arrived earlier than we thought we would in Iquitos.
While in Iquitos we did a three-day jungle tour. The first day we took a boat for a few hours to get to the first campsite. Along the way we saw pink and gray dolphins and stopped to let monkeys climb aboard the boat! It was a beautiful sunny day – hot but pleasant with the breeze and shade provided by the boat. We ate absolutely delicious food the whole trip starting with a tamale and juanes on the boat. The only downside was the mosquitos! As soon as the sun went down they were oppressive. You couldn’t swing your arms without hitting several and they were biting straight through my jeans like they weren’t there. But we went out on the water that first night to go look for caimans (small alligators) and the mosquitos died down. The second and third days we were based out of a small indigenous village and did some hikes into the jungle. We found some creepy animals and learned all about medicinal uses of plants. We swung on a Tarzan vine and learned how to make thatch roofs. We concluded the adventure by swimming in the Amazon River itself and enjoying a relaxing boat ride back.
|Sunset over the Amazon River.|
|Holding a caiman (baby alligator)!|
QUICK REFLECTION ON THE YEAR AS A WHOLE
Currently I am sitting in the Lima airport waiting for my flight to leave this evening. It is a surreal feeling to be so close to coming back. It’s been so long that I am quite sure I will feel uncomfortable in the U.S. at least at first. I will throw my toilet paper in the trash and be blown away by the fact that there are such things as drinking fountains and free potable tap water.
I know that I do not have a full understanding yet of how I have transformed and changed during this year, but I know that I have done so in big ways. I am more comfortable in my own skin and more comfortable in quiet and silence. I have learned to rely on God as my true and only source of strength more than ever before. I have learned how to solve conflict in healthy ways. I have learned self-discipline. I have learned thankfulness and fearlessness. I have learned the power of accompaniment, a listening ear, and a willing hand. I have seen incredible generosity and humility. I have seen the power of family. I have seen
I just want to say thank you once again to each and every one of you for your incredible support this year. I cannot wait to see the actual skin on your faces and here the beautiful ring of your voices un-warbled by cyberspace. Whether you helped me financially, supported me in prayer, or simply read my blog here and there, I am indebted to you and blown away by the amount of love I have felt from afar. Gracias. Gracias. Y gracias.
Of the Father's love begotten
Ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega,
He the Source, the Ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see
Evermore and evermore.
Christ, to Thee, with God the Father,
And, O Holy Ghost, to Thee
Hymn and chant and high thanksgiving
And unending praises be,
Honor, glory, and dominion,
And eternal victory
Evermore and evermore.