Monday, April 30, 2007

A Beautiful Day for Paseo

Sunday was a wonderful day! We had a joint service with the 9-10 groups associated with the Mennonite church here in this region of Peru. There were about 500 people from all over: Santa Teresa, Colquemarca, Cotabambas and more. There were people that were from communities over 5 hours away and stayed the weekend. We met out on the ground that we are believing (in faith) that God will provide for the school. It's a little more out in the campo (country) than even San Jeronimo and it was such a beautiful walk and wonderful to be out of the city for a little bit! The land & buidings are currently owned by the Presbyterian mission but they are willing to sell it to us at the original price that they purchased it at (which is a huge blessing but still a challenge at $250,000).

Different churches and groups presented songs and dances in traditional outfits. Here you can tell where someone is from because of the way that their traditional outfit looks like. It was a wonderful morning of giving praise to the Lord for the work that He is doing all over. Our mission jefe (boss) was there to give a word of encouragement and faith. We officially installed three new pastors who were already working in that type of role in various places. In the Latin culture the recognized role is so important for people -- they want strong leaders in place. So, it was good to recognize these men! Some have been sent out as missionaries from different places (one couple went from a warmer climate to a place up up up in the mountains). There was also an invitation and about 25 people responded. Please pray that they will grow in their new faith!

The dances and songs really were such a treat to see! One woman from one of the far places wrote a song of praise in Quechua and 4 people danced. I also had the opportunity to experience some of the Andean dances first hand! I danced with the girls from San Jeronimo and it was so much fun. We danced with the typical costume, sandals made from tires (they will last me for 50,000 miles - well, a looooong time!) and even yarn braids. A lot of the Andean woman will add on to their braids with black yarn. Most of us had rather short hair so we were really ADDING ON those braids. My braids were brown to match my hair of course! Our dance went well even though our leg decorations (ribbons wrapped up our legs) fell down and one girl lost her braid in the end! Don't worry, a little boy named Diego ran out to get it in the end. Hee hee... I've seen lots of people lose things during dances: ribbons, veils, flags, and even shoes but never before a braid!!! What an experience!

After the service we had lunch on the grass (chicken, potatoes, yucca from Santa Teresa & salad) in the hot sun. After lunch was a time of playing futbol (soccer) and volleyball or just sitting around and chatting with the hermanos (brothers). There was such a feeling of unity! Hallelujah that God is building the church of Peru, that He is using the country folk and the city folk and that many are being reached with His message of hope!!! Hallelujah!!!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Guess what??!!! It's Friday!

One of the things that I do in class every day is "Calendar Time." I have a little song that I sing, we talk about what day it is and put up a velcro number on our ladybug shaped calendar. Sometimes in order to get the kids to repeat the day I go up to each one and say: "Guess what?! It's Friday (or whatever day)!!" I find that touching each child and saying words is an excuse for them to hear the word several times. I'm not sure if it's an effective method but it is fun and they get such a kick out of it (saying "a mi, prof!" until they get their turn).

I really do like Friday! I think it's because it's a day in which I don't have to think about my class for the next day! It's a time to rest and rejuvenate! aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.... It's not like I don't think about my classes all weekend long. In fact, so far Saturdays seem to be the day to plan for the next week. And next week is exam week so I need to start planning for my test. I've realized that tests are actually sort of scary for teachers too! We have to worry about whether the kids are actually learning anything or not. I think for me as an inexperienced teacher that it's especially scary because I don't necessarily know if my teaching methods are the best and etc. Thankfully, last month's exams went surprisingly well and the kids did alright with remembering.

I guess I should catch you all up on how teaching is going! Last week we were studying the letter "I" so we talked about insects, iguanas and ICE CREAM!! Some of the missionaries here have a plug-in ice cream maker so I decided to try to make ice cream in my classes. You had to put the container in the freezer for at least 24 hrs before and then add cream, milk and sugar in order to make the ice cream. I don't know what happened the first day but my ice cream didn't freeze and we just ended up with a chocolately sugary drink. The kids in the 4 yr old class were forgiving and obliged me with "que rico" remarks about the "ice cream." I tried to figure out what I did wrong and found out that it was better to mix the ingredients ahead of time before putting in the machine. So I turned the freezer at the school all the way up and put the container in to try it again for the next day. The second day it went much better and we actually had ice cream in the end (which is good because i think the kids in the 5 yr old class are less forgiving - funny what one year does). The only problem was that the day was cloudy and sooooooooo cold. After the ice cream, one little boy kept saying "tengo friiiiiiiiiiiioooooooooo" (I'm coooooooooold!).

This week has been the letter "O" (which is way easier for them because the Spanish "O" is closer). So, we talked about the color Orange, made owl puppets from importated lunch bags (they don't have them here) and otter tp roll crafts. We also learned some other colors and reviewed our shapes. I had a child who threw up, a child whose leg was peed on by another and several runny noses... yay! Today we had a birthday cake for Alex who loves cake (because he's more from the campo/country where cake is not a common occurence). He usually just has fruit for his snack time. You should see what some of these kids bring for snack!! One little boy always seems to have a 5 course meal and another brings things like lollipops or chocolate. Today during morning devotion time (we have it with all the grades together on Monday and Friday) it was the 4 yr. old class' turn to lead (each Fri. is a different grade). They had been working on it all week long but when it came down to it, only 3 of them wanted to really participate. One little boy, Reynaldo just sat on the stage looking angry while the drama (that he was supposed to be in) went on. He is only 3 and he is a child of extremes: joy when he's greeting you in the morning ("Hello Miss Carrie!" - he loves to say "Hello!") and anger when he doesn't get his way (he was angry yesterday because he didn't get a prize and he refused to pray before snacktime). Thankfully his moods don't last too long and he can quickly switch from one to the other. Ah, the life of a 3 and 4 yr. old!!!

I still have moments when I stop and say "I really don't know what I'm doing!!!" but for the most part I'm feeling like I'm falling into the rhythm of teaching these classes. I do hope that I'm teaching them what they need to know but at least it's kindergarten. Kindergarten has less pressure than the other grades because they still need a lot of play time and most of what you teach is just groundwork and something that will be repeated in the grades to come. phew! So, I guess I should be glad to have the kindergarteners than the older kids. Good thing God knows we He's doing even when I'm half confused!!!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Chile: Desert, Wildlife & Mountain Lakes

While we were in Chile we had the privilige of take a day tour up north to the highland area (called Antiplano). It was a gorgeous trip through the desert up to the Lauca National Park. We stopped several times along the way. The first stop was to view some ancient grafitti created in pre-Incan times with volcanic rock. We were quite a distance but you could still make out some of the figures on the dusty tan hills. There were figures of people, llamas & condors. Then we stopped at a little village to check out a small church and old cemetary.

The view along our drive was amazing! Of course we had to stop and take pictures at every overlook along the way! (In case you didn't figure it out yet, this post is going to be mostly pictures) We stopped at a "rest stop" to have a breakfast of bread & cheese with coca tea (for the altitude). We were going up and up and up!!

At one of our rest stops we were visited by some animals who were pets of the rest stop owners: an alpaca, a llama and a goat. They were really friendly and followed us around. The llama butted himself up against me (I think it was in a friendly manner) and the alpaca though also friendly was spitting (yes I kinda got spit on!). The goat made himself at home on our bus. He climbed up and proceeded to look around for a snack. I had to close somebody's backpack that held a tempting bag of chips. It was so funny!

After a couple hours of driving up, up, up we finally entered Lauca National Park and began to see a change in the terrain. There were more green things growning and much more water than the desert we had been traveling through. We also began to see many different types of interesting wildlife!



Finally we made it to Lake Chungara, the highest lake in the world (at 4510m or 14,000 some feet)!! It was gorgeous and surrounded by several large snow covered mountains and volcanoes. We were so close to the Bolivian border that at least one of the mountains was actually located in Bolivia. It was such a serene scene with vicuña grazing and flamingos (yes, there are high altitude flamingos!). Well, you can take a peak at my pics that don't even begin to capture the beauty of God's creation! What a wonderful day!

Tables that Creep in the Night

Part of our day trip to the Antiplano in Chile was a stop at the high altitude pueblito called Parinacota. Parinacota is a veeeerrrrrryyyy small town that only has six families. I think that the town still exists only because of the tourists who come through town and buy snacks, souvenirs and snap pictures. The town boasts a main square complete with gazebo and dumm... dummm...dummm: a foosball machine! Yes folks there's not much to do in the middle of a national park so you might as well play foosball!

Dawn and Sunny the monkey try their hands at Parinacota's foosball. Woohoo!

Another very important part of the town in a 17th century church in whitewashed adobe. There are several churches that look very similar on the outside to the Parinacota church. The unique part about the church is the inside where the walls are covered with paintings. Among the paintings is a depiction of the crucifixion which uses Spanish conquistadors as soldiers! Another unique feature of this church is a small wooden table that is tied to a rope near the front of the church. The story is that this table likes to roam around at night and whenever it stops in front of a house, someone from that house dies. Over the years they've had to replace that rope but there the table stays tied up so that it doesn't creep around the town at night.

Now you and I might laugh at that story but it is really sad if you think about it. These people call themselves Catholics and yet they live in fear of a table that might creep by their house at night. There is such a mixture of Andean religion and catholicism in South America that binds people up in fear. The God of all creation is bigger and greater than any possessed table! God did not call us to live in fear but to be free as His people. The sad thing is that the people don't know this God, the God whose love casts out all fear. They choose to live in fear because it's all they know... what their parents did, what their grandparents did and so on. They need to know the truth of who God is so that they can be set free from the false traditions and deadly trap of fear. My prayer for the people here is that they would know this freedom!

And finally a picture of the famous table! Don't worry it's tied up.

Woohoo, I want the waves!!!

Part of my paperwork processing involved a trip to Arica, Chile. Arica is a beach town in the northern part of Chile which is surrounded by desert. My trip to the Peruvian consul in Arica took about 20 minutes one morning and the rest of the time Dawn and I had free! It was such a relaxing and refreshing time. I don't think I realized that I was stressed until I actually got to stop and rest! I suppose I have had plenty to be stressed about: new culture, new language, new job, new surroundings. Teaching really is a non-stop sort of occupation and it was a bit stressful to get ready to be gone for 4 days from school. Dawn and I were up until 12 or 1 am on the night before we left trying to get things ready for our subs (who happened to be Ron & Regina Shultz - a missionary couple here. Ron actually already teaches the 1st grade English classes. Regina taught my 4 & 5 yr old classes and Ron took on Dawn's 2 & 3rd grade English classes.)

Arica was a lovely refreshment from the craziness of life here. There were lots of fun shops and restaurants within walking distance of our hostal. If you kept walking down the pathway you came to the main square and then to the beach. We were in Arica from Tuesday night through Saturday. On Friday we were able to go to the beach and I got to stick my feet into the Pacific Ocean for the first time!! It was a little too breezy to actually go swimming but it was so nice to just sit on the beach writing postcards and enjoying the sun. I loved watching a little boy who was just delighting in the waves with his mom. He was shouting "Quiero las olas!" (I want the waves) and running towards and away from them and screeching in joy whenever he got a wave. It made me think about my attitude in my relationship with the Lord. I want to delight in Him like that little boy with such abandonment. I don't want to be like the stuffy adults on their comfy beach chairs...but to run towards Him and embrace all that He has.

Woohoo! I want the waves!!!

Here's a church near the main square.

Fountain in the main plaza with the famous Arica "Morro" behind it

The Pacific Ocean!

Dawn & I enjoying the Arica beach (Dawn was bending her knees not in an effort to make me look taller but in order to avoid her head getting cut off in the shot like our failed previous attempts)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

It's Official

Yes, it's official....

I'm not a tourist anymore! I'm not just here to visit Machu Picchu, snap some pics and buy souvenirs. I'm not here for a couple weeks even on a short term mission trip. I'm here to stay and now I have a card that proves that I'm not leaving the country in less than three months. It feels a little strange to actually realize that but I'm glad. I'm glad to be here in Peru and glad that I'm not leaving soon.

My roommate and I took a whirlwind trip to Chile and Lima in order to get my card (which they call "carné extranjera"). Today we spent the morning in Lima in Immigrations getting my card. We got there about 9:00am and I got my fingerprints and photo taken at 9:30. We waited for about an hour and a half before I got my card and discovered that they had put someone else's signature on it!! Whoops... We waited another half-hour for the right card. It was a little stressful because our flight left for Cusco at 1:50 but we were able to go back to our hostal, get our stuff and make it to the airport with an overly friendly but inexpensive taxi driver. He was a little flirtatious too and after asking our ages wanted us to describe the ideal guy. THANKFULLY, I missed that question in Spanish and he was quiet after finding out that I didn't have a boyfriend. Sometimes my lack of Spanish leaves helpful gaps in conversations or things people say. hee hee... At least this driver was better than the driver we had going from the airport to the hostal.

Here's the crazy story about that driver! It was about 9:30 and we came out of the airport looking for a taxi. Everyone was so expensive inside the airport building and we went outside and found a guy who would take us for less. We started following him (quickly) through the airport parking lot, through the gate and outside where another guy pulled up with the taxi. I was a little annoyed that we had to walk so far and then the guard at the gate thought it was fishy and came up to talk to our driver who had very quickly put our bags in his trunk. I think you have to pay something to come inside the airport gates and this guy was doing something fishy. Well, the adventure continued when we told him the name of the nice-looking hostal that we had found online. He tried his hardest to deter us from going there, saying it was not safe and that it was a place for "parejas" (couples) and was near a discoteca and etc. He said he had a better place and since we didn't know in non-internet reality how our hostal was, we agreed to let him show us. He pulled up to a hole in the wall place right across from a casino with bright blue lights and blasted music!! Dawn went inside to check it out but it was smelly and small (besides the non-agreeable surroundings!). Ugh... Again we tried to get him to go to our original hostal but he stopped and showed us ANOTHER place which we didn't like. Finally, he took us to our hostal but first he went in, checked the price and tried to tell us it cost too much. Dawn checked and the price was fine. So, we finally got rid of the overly "helpful & concerned" driver and because he drove us all over the place we ended up paying him way more than we wanted.

Aren't taxi drivers just supposed to take you where you want to go?

By the way, our hostal was wonderful and we stayed there three days. They gave us free breakfast and it was located on a quiet street in downtown Lima with a park down the road. The internet can be pretty helpful most times. oh... and no strange "parejas" (couples)!

Phew.... I'm glad I'm home again and back to combi drivers and rides which although they may have their own adventures don't have their own agendas for their passengers.