Thursday, June 28, 2007

Crowded Places & Squishy Spaces

Last weekend I had two experiences that would have been the stuff of a claustrophobic nightmare! The first was a trip to the fireworks last Friday in Plaza de Armas. I went with a few of the PROMESA teachers to the VERY packed square. Before the fireworks there was a concert going on that had drawn out more than the usual amount of firework gazers. These fireworks were to celebrate Cusco Day. I'm not sure if they were connected to Inti Raymi* which was celebrated on Sunday. Anyway, we couldn't get anywhere near to the stage and it was quite a chore to make it around the square. Jessica and Alisha wanted cotton candy (dulce algodon) but it was like we were swimming in an ocean of human bodies. The actual firework display was pretty good and was set to music. I'm sure I've seen better 4th of July displays (like Sam's famous Magnet Works display...hee hee) but the best part was the reaction of the crowd. I don't know if we had kids behind us but there were tons of enthusiastic "oohs and ahhhs" all around. It was great!!!

What was not great was getting out of the plaza!! Everyone seemed to have the same idea about getting out quickly in order to get public transportation because again the human sea ensued. It was worse because people were pressing in from all around and you had to keep walking because people behind you were pushing you along. It was so scary! The whole time I was praying: "Lord, please don't let anyone get trampled!" I couldn't imagine having a child in that place. I could just picture how horrible that amount of people would be in the case of an emergency. Augh... it was horrible and then we were out and safe. Yay God!

My other claustrophobic situation was made worse by the addition of 3 dozen eggs. I was coming home from church in San Jeronimo and I got on the "city tour" bus (we call it that because it goes all over the city). Someone had given eggs as part of their offering and they were being sold to raise money for the church. So I was taking home 3 dozen eggs. I made the wrong choice to sit in the back of the bus. Well, the bus seats were all filled up and by the time we got to Magisterio (where I live), the aisle was blocked up with people standing. It was a busy day for public transportation because many people were heading out for the Inti Raymi* festivities. Well, I had to push my way through all those people on the moving bus with my three dozen eggs in order to finally get off. It was quite a feat and thankfully I didn't lose any eggs! phew! I also had my bible and two packages of coffee shoved into my purse (thankfully it fit). There are sometimes when a taxi really is the best option!!! :0)

*A note about Inti Raymi
Inti Raymi is the ancient Incan festival during winter to invoke the sun to shine more and warm everything up. It seriously is a very pagan festival based on Sun worship! Still, it is a point of contention amongst the evangelicals here. Can they participate in it and just simply view it as a cultural thing? Many also have the added problem of having to pay fees if they don't participate in city holidays by marching or whatever. Many of the university students are forced to march regardless of whether they want to or not. An evangelical here has to be pretty convinced in their convictions in order to trust God to provide the fees that they'll have to pay for not participating in a holiday. North Americans don't have that added pressure. They can be wishy-washy about the so-called pagan holidays and it doesn't cost them anything either way. Pastor Ruben was calling the people of the church to stand up and to refuse to be a part of the festivities. That's not an easy request! May God give the evangelical person here in Cusco the courage to do what is right and to trust that God will take care of them financially!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Sweeping the Lawn & Washing Away the Old Life

When you think about Father's Day you don't usually imagine a trip out to the country for a baptism. This past Father's Day, the San Jeronimo church decided to celebrate a special day - not just for fathers but to honor our heavenly Father, to give thanks for all His blessings and to have some baptisms. We went out to a place a little outside of San Jeronimo called Pata Pata.

When we arrived at the field a sore sight met our eyes. There was trash all over the grass!! I don't know what the people who had been there before thought would happen with their trash. It was disgusting and disappointing!! Never fear!! We were determined to clean up the space and many branches became makeshift brooms. I had to join in with all the sweeping so I went and found a euclyptis branch. I don't know how well my broom worked but with many of us all sweeping the field at once we made a pretty good dent in the trash on the field. It was a frustrating thing to have to clean up someone else's mess but it felt good to be doing something like that. Besides, it's not every day that you get to sweep a field of trash with a branch! (could I help but enjoy myself?)

We had a service out on our swept field. Dawn and some of the other gals of the worship team played guitar and sang. We all sat in a circle in the sun and shade. You could have your choice and with the chillier weather that we've been having, I was loving the warmth of the sun. Pastor Ruben talked about honoring God with our tithes and offerings and I was struck by how the passage in Malachi talks of how God will pour out blessings in abundance. What a beautiful promise!! At the end of the service a blanket was laid out in the middle of our circle and many people came and laid offerings of money and products. My favorite was a lady who came an poured out corn from the blanket that she had been carrying. It was so beautiful to see!

After the service we all took a walk to the stream for the baptism. They tried to find the deepest spot and set to work creating a little pool with some tarps. It was a little hard to find that deep of a spot in the middle of dry season but they made it work! We all sat around on rocks and Pastor Ruben and David baptized about ten people with a gorgeous mountainous vista behind us. The mother of one of my students (Gersón) was baptized along with her mother and two of her brothers. One of her brothers is a paraplyegic and it was so neat to see him lowered into to water for baptism. Little Gersón was a little worried about his mom and when she came out the water he asked: "Mom, are you okay?"

After the baptism we came back to the lawn that was already filled with lots of other people (not with the church) playing volleyball, soccer, grilling and eating. We all sat down and ate our lunches. Dawn and I brought the typical North American lunch: sandwiches, fruit and fresh raw veggies. I'm sure the Peruvians wondered _what_ kind of lunch we were having but they sure loved our Ranch dressing. Many of them brought big meals of potatoes and chicken and etc. I don't know how they do it but kudos to them for the effort. Dawn and I slaved reaaaaaaalllyyy long on our lunch after all!!! hee hee....

Anyway, it was a beautiful day to celebrate the Lord's goodness, to honor him with our gifts and to perform an act of public acknowledgement of faith in a frigid mountain stream!!!

Into the Lion's Mouth

This is just a quick post in order to show a picture of the post office. Okay, so the post office is not that exciting but the out going mail box is. Just think, if you ever get a letter from me, you'll know that it's passed through the lion's mouth!! hee hee...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Good 'ole Pachacutec

A couple Saturdays ago I was able to visit another touristy landmark here in Cusco. Jessica and I went to visit the Pachacutec Memorial not too far from downtown. It's a monument to honor one of the great Incas (Incas were the kings...the common people were the Quechua. Funny how there are still Quechua around but no Incas), King Pachacutec. He did a lot of good for the city of Cusco: he created water systems and streets and worked for a better education system. Besides, he was the king who during his reign decided that it might be smart to worship something bigger than the sun or moon. It's too bad that his idea didn't spread!

This monument is a series of steps with different stories all leading up to the top were there is a copper statue of the king. Each floor has little windows looking out and big posters that talk about each of the Incas (I think there were something like 14-15 of them). The posters were in English and Spanish but sometimes the Spanish was translated rather badly. The funniest example of that was this one:
The guy was not bringing back his grandmother as you may surmise but the MUMMY of his father. Thankfully, the spanish was there to give us a real idea of what happened! hee hee... "Bring back, bring back, oh bring back my mommy to me, to me!!!"

Another funny moment of the day was the random llama on the lawn of the monument. Well, you may think that llamas and Cusco and not too far removed but honestly you don't see llamas too often. The only people that have llamas are people in typical costume trying to get money for photos. Besides were were downtown right in the middle of a busy intersection. Sure there was lovely green grass surrounding the monument that would tempt any typical llama. Maybe someone in costume had left their llama to rest while they went off to find lunch. Who knows? Here's some pics of our llama on the lawn:
I love this pic because it shows a taxi, a combi and a llama!!! Which one do you want to take a ride on?

The llama was none too happy about the approaching human and stood up to make good his escape. Good thing the human went away and left it alone!

Here's some views of Cusco from the top of the monument:

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Delightful "D" Week

I know that this week is quickly coming to a close but I wanted to take a moment to share about last week. Last week's kindergarten classes were sponsored by the letter Dd! I think you'll enjoy pretending that you are 4 or 5 yrs old again and joining me on a trip back through this delightful "D" week.

Monday: Decorating Dd with Dots!
On Monday I introduced the letter Dd by giving each child a picture of something that started with D and the word. With the 5 yr old class I wrote the word up on the board and the child who matched up the word on their paper with what was on the board got a sticker. They also got to come up, circle the vowels in their word on the board and stick their piece of paper in the "D box." After introducing all the D words, we decorated the letter Dd with marker dots and pasted them on construction paper.

As I was sitting up there by the whiteboard introducing D words, I realized something: I really was enjoying myself! I was enjoying seeing the kids learn something new. I was enjoying teaching! Okay, that may not seem like anything big but since teaching was not my passion in life before Peru and since I was just choosing to serve by teaching it really was big. My prayer has been to not just do my best at my job but to have joy in the midst of serving. Thank you Jesus for the way you are answering my prayer! It's not like my kids are perfect angels and I guess that's what makes the joy so much more important. It's not a joy that's based on my kids but on the giver of joy!

Tuesday: Who let the Dogs out?
Tuesday was Dd is for Dog day! We searched for dogs in our books and colored and created dog headbands. The four yr olds didn't want to wear their dog headbands too long! Most of them just put them in their bookbags. The five year old class on the other hand really got into wearing their headbands (I had one on of course). At one point all of them were howling and I couldn't help but think about a song that was popular a couple of years ago! I just wish I had my camera to capture the moment.

Wednesday: Little Drummer Boy
On Wednesday our theme was D is for Drum! We listened to a drum song and created our own drums from the bottom half of huge water bottles. Dawn and I have been buying bottled water because even though we have a filter on our sink, it doesn't take out the floaties and the funny taste in the water. The kids decorated a paper that had a design and the word DRUM on it. Then we glued those on the bottle bottoms and added wax paper and a rubber band. Give the child two popsicle sticks and they will drum the poor sad drum to death. Well, I think my project turned out well despite the fact that I had to repair countless wax papers and rubber bands. Maybe something a little more secure than a rubber band next time. :0)

Thursday: I know what to say when the Ducks come!
On Thursday we learned about the word DUCK! We didn't play duck, duck, goose but we'll do that in "G" week when we learn goose. We colored and created a duck paper craft that had a moveable mouth. Quack!!

Friday: Dancing Kings/Queens
Friday was one of my favorite themes. We talked about the word Dance!!! Each child had a picture of different types of Dance from around the world which we all stuck on the board. Then we played Freeze Dance! I had created a cd with all different types of songs that had the word Dance in them. It's amazing how many I found! The kids had tons of fun and we also got to learn to say: "I'm Tired!" During our recess I also got a work out when some of the kids decided that I needed to play the game. So as they yelled out "Freeze!" and "Dance!" I danced like a maniac. Hey, just yet another way for them to learn a new word. hee hee..

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Importance of the the Little Things

The beauteous Sacred Valley

Despite robbing and sickness I was able to go on a tour to the Sacred Valley with Jessica and Alisha. The Sacred Valley is not far from Cusco and is so-called because of the Sacred River that flows through it. It's a fertile valley with a milder climate and a history of its own. Our visit to the Sacred Valley started out in Pisac where we took a hike up the ruins of a Sun and Moon temple. I may have enjoyed the hike more but I was already feeling slightly feverish and out of shape. The view was gorgeous and it was such a beautiful day. The ruins were just remains of impressive Incan creation. Considering that the sun and moon were worshipped there, I was glad that they were now ruins and not what they once were.

Pictures from Pisac:

Our next stop was in Urubamba where we encountered even more impressive Incan rocks. The ruins in Urubamba were of an unfinished temple and were some of the last Incan works before the Spanish conquest. My favorite things that I encountered in this place were the face of the Incan creator God, Wiracoccha carved on the side of the mountain and the metaphor of the little rocks.

Here's a pic of the face on the mountain:
Isn't it great how they built on top of his head to make it look like a crown?

Why little things matter!
One of the last building projects of the Incas involved really big carved rocks and little skinny rocks that were pushed in between them! Why did they build like this? Well, when an earthquake came all the pressure would be on the little rocks and not on the big ones. If the big ones were just stuck together, the earthquake would shake them and as they bounced against each other they would split and break apart.

As soon as I heard this I knew that there had to be a great spiritual lesson! I'm sure there might be a better explanation but I think these rocks are a great example of our walk with the Lord. We tend to think about mountain top experiences (ie BIG rocks) as being the important part of our relationship but really it's the everyday time in His presence. The every day "small" conversation and the every day time in His word that sustains us. If we don't have this day to day "small" stuff our spiritual life will crack and break when the trials and earthquakes come.

So, the little rocks are important! Thus were the thoughts forming in my brain as I stared at those impressive ancient Incan carved rocks. Here are some pics of those rocks and the ruins at Urubamba:

Our last stop on the tour was the town of Chincero where we saw a demonstration on how wool is dyed and turned into yarn. It was great to see how they cleaned the wool with a natural root and then dyed the wool with various natural products like plants or fruits or roots. We also visited a old church in that town which was a typical combination of hand painted simple frescos, Cusqueña style paintings and objects that were hideously overdecorated with gold and other decoration. Whenever I go into a church like that I almost feel overwhelmed with the excess of things crammed into the space.

Despite my slight fever, I had a great day exploring the Sacred Valley!

Here are pics from Chincero:

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Things that happen when you are distracted.

Last week I was riding in the combi with the two new gals in town (they are Alisha & Jessica who are here for two months during the Shultz family's furlough). We were coming back from getting tickets for a tour of the Sacred Valley and Cusco. The Shultz's were going to be leaving the next day for the States and I was trying to send off cards and letters with them. I still had some US stamps that I was trying to use up.

I had taken my wallet out of my purse to get out the money that I needed for the combi ride and I was busy writing my card. Suddenly I realized that my purse weighed less than it should and that my wallet was missing. I looked all over on my seat and under my seat. I asked the people around me if they saw it. I even asked one man if he had it. But it was too late; my robber had already gotten off the combi and I was without my wallet.

There was more money than I normally carry but what worried me most were the bank card, the credit card and my residency carnet (which I don't usually carry with me... I was just hoping to get a discount on the tour with it). Thankfully it was relatively easy to cancel my cards and have new ones sent out via DHL and UPS. For the residency carnet, I had to go to the police station and get a denuncia (report). My housekeeper took me to the tourist police who started helping me until they realized that I was actually a resident of Peru. Then they tried to send me downstairs to the other office but the people in the other office were busy and grumpy. So, up I went back up to the tourist police who finalized my report and were much friendlier. Besides the report, I had to send a letter and money to Lima in order to get a duplicate of my carnet. I hope that's all that I'll have to do.

It really was a frustrating thing to just have my wallet snatched out of my purse but I guess it happens to a lot of people. I really was distracted so I'm sure that and being a North American made me a perfect target. Apparently a lot of people get robbed on combis anyway. I'm just glad that I wasn't mugged! I certainly learned that I need to be more careful.