Thursday, November 12, 2009

This is where I hang my hat

I had always dreamed of living in a loft apartment. Okay, so I was picturing more of a cozy apartment above a bookstore or bakery on a busy street downtown rather than a good-sized house about a hardware store on a sandy sidestreet, but that is the way dreams often go. I am getting used to a bathroom without a toliet seat and showering with a widowmaker. Nuevo Chimbote is a quaint little town on the coast of Peru. Chimbote is known by many Peruvians because of the perfume from its fishing industry. I live here with a family of fairly new believers (they will complete 3 years in May). Gina works as a teacher and helps with the hardware store. They started the hardware store recently when Miguel gave up working in the fishing industry. I also have two sisters, Gina Elvira (18) and Angie (13). Together we like to walk in the Plaza, shop for groceries in the market, and cook. Nevertheless, I am absolutely falling for this place. Now, about those 40 hours...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Back to Lima

The trip back started with a hearty breakfast of bread and hot tea (albeit, it was delicious and I loved it!). We headed out at 8 a.m., leaving our luggage and 2 team members to come later on donkeys and a horse. I now can say that I know what it is like to walk through a rain cloud: beautiful, but cold. In spite of the cold, we were enjoying the company of one another and chatting as we went along, joking that the people from the mountain have a different definition of shortcut than we hold. We followed them up and around mountains (I'll admit I was wondering why we did not just take the path). We made it to where we were to take the van at about 3 in the afternoon and unloaded the donkeys (which had made it there much earlier even though they left later). We talked of hot food and wondered why we had failed to bring snacks this time. When some of our guides pulled out a bag of popped corn I jumped for joy and accepted their offer. The rain came back again and we decided that our best option would be to form a circle and huddle together for warmth. I wondered if the rain meant that the van would not be able to make it on the roads (a premonition that later proved quite accurate). Soon the whole group had joined our huddle. After some time it became evident that the van was not coming and we should look for some better shelter from the wind and rain. We talked of making a cave out of a boulder and our luggage (which sounded exciting to me). As we headed off in search of a bolder, Josué came down the road saying that the van was coming, but we had to walk a little further to meet it. After another hour of walking we spotted a bus coming down the road on the mountain ahead of us. Praise the Lord we were saved! We piled and and gave our guides our flashlights and some sweatshirts. Sarai gave Junior her boots (his sandled feet were sure to be frozen). The ride to Huacrachuco was spent singing praise to our Savior.

Upon arrival we were met by a man from the Christian Alliance Church. Apparently, we were in charge of the service at their church and they were waiting for us. They allowed us to change (we searched our suitcases for dry did not end up being what we would normally wear to church, but desperate times...) and gave us some hot tea, promising hot soup after the service. The service was another interesting experience, but I can't say that I understood a whole lot of what was happening. Later we quickly ate our soup and headed back to the hostal (for our $2 a bed stay). We set our alarm for 2:30 a.m. so that we could catch the 3 a.m. bus and crammed ourselves into the 4 bed we had reserved for 9 girls (I'm not sure why the guys had 4 beds for 5 guys, but I guess they just need more space...I'll just say poor Caleb). I was out as soon as the heavy, warm blankets were on me, and I don't think I moved until the alarm went off far too soon.

The bus filled up quickly and people even sat or stood in the aisles. Liz and I offered to hold the children of a young mother who was standing near us. She gratefully allowed us, and we cherished the time we were able to hold these precious little ones. They got off the bus in less than two hours, and Liz and I went to sleep. The next morning came bright and clear. Another breakfast of bread and juice and then back on the bus. We made it back to Chimbote by 6 p.m., but decided to wait for the 11:30 bus because downtown Lima is dangerous in the middle of the night. We had a delicious meal at the bus station and wandered around until 11. The bus was wonderful (okay, so the movie wasn't all that great, so I didn't watch it, but other than that...). The next morning I woke up just as we were reaching the outskirts of Lima. Becky met us at the bus station and graciously did not say anything about how badly we smelled (you try doing all of that without a shower!). It was good to be home.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The wedding

After life began to settle, we turned our attention back to the wedding (in addition to the kid's clubs we were working on). Josué and Sarela were to be married on Thursday (tomorrow!). We decorated the church using a poncho (which we cut up), toliet paper, ribbon, pvc, candles and balloons. It looked nice (I will admit that I was surprised) and the cake traveled really well. The actually wedding was definitely another cultural experience. We all participated in some way (a little weird for me since I had only met them two days before the wedding). The lady in front of me had a little chick and the mother of the bride didn't arrive until the wedding was over. Maybe that was not that unusually for this town as one person told me it was the first church wedding they had ever had (and she had shown up at the civil wedding).

After the wedding, everyone was invited to the house for a meal. As we were finishing, someone started a rumor that people were at the church waiting for the service. We weren't planning another service for that night but headed down to the church anyway. After about thirty minutes, Pastor Henri decided we had enough people for a service, and we begin. Pastor Henri brought the message. Then we headed home to try the cake that had survived the 3 day journey. It was worth the wait.

Missing (and the subsequent search)

We were welcomed with a hot cup of tea, the most delicious bread in the world, and some fried potatoes. We talked of going straight to bed as we tried our best to eat this tasty meal until Pastor Henri interrupted us with a distressing problem: my roommate and the group with her had not yet made it to the town where we thought they were going to stay. Josué had gone to look for them, but it was already quite dark and dangerous to be wandering around a mountain. Options started coming quickly, but there really wasn't anything for us to do as we did not know the terrain. We couldn't even call home because the cellphone tower was out. Josué went to find them and tell them to stay at Estancía and we were sent to bed.

We were led up a rickety, homemade ladder to the second floor of a mud and straw house. First, they led me to my room at the end of the hall with one bed made. When Pastor Jim asked where his room was, they pointed to the unmade bed in the same room. He explained that that wouldn't work for us, so the took me across the hall. However, as I looked into this room, I saw Timoteo's head peep over the covers and decided I would continue my search. After a few more rooms, it was decided that I would sleep downstairs with Elizabeth. I quickly updated the other girls from the team what was happening with Rochelle and our plan for the next day. Upon crawling into bed, I realized that the bed was about a foot and a half shorter than I was expecting and my sweatshirt was still wet from our hike, but the two ibuprophens had already started to attack my killer headache and aching muscles, and I was ready to sleep.

At about 3:30 a.m. our room was completely awake. Alicia, Elizabeth, Sarai, and I talked for almost an hour. We heard the pigs from the next room trying to get into our room, but thankfully the door was latched tightly. I drifted back to sleep until the sun came up.

Morning also brought more tidings of our missing friends. We learned that Rochelle and Javier never did make it to the town and, as of six o'clock, they were still missing. People from the surrounding villages were searching. Pastor Jim went to the one phone in the entire town to call Lima so that Becky could call the States. Then he went with Josué and a few men to the other town to wait for the lost ones. We were sent to the schools to tell all the children about the kid's clubs we wanted to have. The director let us talked to every classroom, and most of the students wanted to come. As we were walking, Pastor Henri and Alicia (Javier's wife) came running up with the news that our friends had been found and we could meet them on the other side of town.

It was a relief to see them. They had a rough night in the dark with a cold rain. I am sure they will never forget this trip!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The endless hike

11:30 Our combi that was to arrive at 9 finally shows up. We load up and start heading up the mountains as it starts to rain. After about an hour the driver tells us that he cannot go any further on the soggy roads and we must walk to meet up with the donkeys which were to carry our things (suitcases, material for classes, decorations and cake for the wedding). Fortunately, Josue Tinto (the national missionary) was with us and started us in the right direction. We started off cross country. The stronger men ran ahead only to return and help those weaker carry their things. It was a glorious moment when we saw the donkeys at about 3. We continued our hike across the country. This time following a donkey. As time wore on, our group segregated and spread out. The rain came and brought a fresh chill with it. Sometime close to five thirty, we saw a small town. My hope was quickly dashed when I learned that this was a town called Estancía. I think all of the town came out to watch us walk through (the town only consisted of about two streets). We continued through muddy, red trails that started to go down the mountain. At about seven we decided it was too dangerous to walk in the dark and waited for the lights that we saw descending from the mountain. They were from our group. The men left us with their light and we continued on our way. Pastor Jim nearly fell off the mountain with the cake, but we safely arrived a little after eight ready to go to bed...

More to come...then maybe I can start on Cuzco.