Saturday, December 7, 2013

A Walk down the Street

She sat perched on the stool with her legs stretched out in front of her, leaning back slightly. As I approached she turned her head, smiled, and lazily nodded. The women to whom she was speaking smiled widely as they recognized me and warmly called, "Hola Lucía!" I returned the greeting as I passed by them and soon found another greeting from the man who works at the store just next door. This time, however, it was just a grin and my name, "Luciiiiiiiiaaaaaa!" as though he had been waiting for me to walk by and was so joyful when I finally did. I will miss that. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Quotes and Silly Snippets

"Para que buscas?"
"What are you looking for?" 
<<holds up rear view mirror>> 

You're a little fat but very agile!
Estas gordita pero muy ágil.
-David, the Augustinians' driver about me. 

 ¡Esa chata sabe bailar!
That shorty can dance!
-Said about me. 

Si, has bajado el peso. Estabas gordita antes. 
Yeah, you've lost weight. You were a little fat before. 
-Said about me. 

¡Mira! La miss sabe bailar.
Look! The miss knows how to dance.
-My students about me. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

I Too Can't Wait to Be Held

I am about to blatantly plagiarize, but I sincerely think that the author won’t mind. The following is the last letter in a series of letters written by my mother. Each one was to be opened only on the day written on the front of its envelope. Today’s is one of my favorites so I would like to share it with you here:

Hi Lam,

            Today is Nana Michaelson’s Birthday and I pray to her to watch over you as your time comes to an end. We’ve just had Thanksgiving here and I thank God we’ve got through our time away from you and anticipate the hugs of next month.
            I didn’t do a card for December because I know you have so much to do and prepare for. Know that we love you and cannot wait for these next weeks to pass- I’m sorry I can’t help it- I’m so proud of you Lacie Ann and the young woman that is all you are and have done, but selfishly I can’t wait to hold you!
            Travel Safe!

Love always,

I put her words here because they describe my thoughts and feelings. Obviously, what comes next will be extremely difficult, but I too can’t wait to be held.

Love you too mom.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Succinct Story Steeped in Levity

This past Sunday, Britt went to visit her host family. While chatting with her host parents, Haynez and Rosa, she suddenly realized that a giant cow was standing in the family's small doorway. "Oh!" She exclaimed, "there's a cow in the doorway!" Unalarmed, Rosa and Haynez chuckled, "Why yes, yes their is," and continued on with the previous topic. Britt was obviously still distracted by the cow which, by this point, had decided not to come into the house but was grazing on the weeds in front of the family's home. Soon another cow, a bit smaller than the first, wandered up to the doorway, looked in as if sending saluations to the family, and joined its companion in weed consumption. There was no one accompanying these cows.

This is a completely normal occurrence.


In other news, I saw a pig on a leash the other day.

Peace, love, and farm animals:

Lacie Ann

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

They Woke Us With Coca Tea

So I went to Cusco...

The architecture in Cusco reminds me of Spain.

Looking out the window of where we ate lunch.

The city from up above, looking down.
I had an awesome time.
El Christo Blanco (White Christ) looking out over the city in a way that not-so-subtly reminds the visitor of the city's history of Spanish imperialism.

I even hiked one of the famous Inka Trails! Here are my journal entries:

Chantelle, Courtney, Britt and I. Note how cold we look- we were freezing!

It looks like a green screen behind us, but it's actually Saqsaywaman: Incan ruins that make even the most mature English speaker giggle as their name is pronounced like, "Sexy woman." Hehehehe.
Day 1 of the Inca Trail:

Rain dances on the tent’s canvas roof as the porters, cooks and guides chat in their own cabin. My back and shoulders are well aware that I have spent the day hiking through the Peruvian mountainside on my way to Machu Picchu. Our first day started early as we needed to first drop our bags off at our hostel and then make our way to the travel agency where we met the other hikers. The past weekend was spent with the Augustinian priests of Cusco and included some sightseeing of the city center. Back to the hike!

Coca leaves are supposed to help with elevation sickness- and they seemed to work!

Day 1!

We are led by two guides: Juan and Raul. Juan seems to be the main guide and is full of interesting historical and cultural information. The countryside is simply unbelievable and no picture could ever do it justice. Hiking alongside us are about 15 other people from all over the world. The good news is that they are all very nice and our conversations are very interesting. The food, so far, has been delicious and basically gourmet! I’m really impressed and enjoying myself and looking forward to the rest, although tomorrow is supposed to be entirely uphill… sounds great.
Casual Incan ruins along the trail...

Day 2!
Day 2 of the Inca Trail:

The rumors are most certainly true… day 2 of the Inca Trail is most certainly and almost entirely uphill. The guides told us that today’s hike would be in 3 parts: 1. the most challenging and completely uphill 2. Fairly challenging and yet still uphill 3. DOWNHILL. More challenging than all of this uphill work is the fact simultaneously dealing with the high altitude which makes oxygen intake and general breathing very difficult. Proving to be quite challenging, yet doable, the first part of today’s hike did not take our group very long. All of the porters and guides were surprised by how quickly we hiked. Almost more challenging than the first section (at a higher altitude), the second part was very difficult. Every few feet I found myself stopping to try and catch my breath, my pulse pounding in my forehead. To top it all off, a light rain fell down on us and made a hot, sweaty poncho a must. Robert Frost’s words, “and miles to go before I sleep…” echoed in my head as I make this part of the trek by myself. This hike is completely doable, but very difficult.

Super fun uphill section in the rain.

The last part, although downhill, was still a strong pull on my muscles but passed easier as I hiked with Britt and Courtney (a friend of Britt’s from college who currently lives in Chile but met us in Cusco). We are still having a great time with the other trekkers and really enjoying getting to know everyone better. It sounds like tomorrow will be another hard day, but I’m honestly loving this. Every time this just seemed like too much or too hard, I just smiled wider and trekked on.
Day 3!

Breathtaking views,
Day 3 of the Inca Trail:

Today was a long, slow day along the Inca Trail. Although mostly downhill, the trekking was fairly difficult as the stairs are very steep and slippery. I think that I fell twice which bumped my number of falls up to 4! Oops. Although very slow moving, today offered the best views so far along the trail. We found ourselves hiking through ancient Incan sites and alongside llamas. Awesome. I’m really going to miss all of the great people that we’ve met in our group, but look forward to our finally reaching Machu Picchu!
More casual ruins in the clouds.

Self timer shots are always fun.

All of the porters, cooks, trekkers, and guides.

Iconic llama shot.

With her finger on Machu Picchu mountain.

Agricultural steps.

That's right... I knit llama gloves... and I'm standin next to a llama.
Jumping in front of the Urbumba Valley (pretty sure I just butchered how to spell that... sorry)

Day 4 of the Inca Trail:                       (not recorded that day, but recollected after the fact)

At three o’clock in the morning, they woke us with Coca tea (as they did every morning) and encouraged us to move quickly. This was our final day of the trek and our chance to finally see Machu Picchu. After a delicious pancake breakfast, we hiked to the check point and got in a long line of trekkers waiting to begin the day. The goal was to get to the checkpoint early so that we might reach the Sun Gate at sunrise. Directly across the valley from Machu Picchu, the sun gate offers a fantastic view of the entire archeological site. When we first got there, thick clouds completely obscured the few, but Juan insisted that they would soon burn off and we would not be disappointed. For an entire hour, we waited with baited breath: joking, laughing, chatting, and soaking in the suspense. It was glorious! As the clouds slowly moved away and the grandeur that is Machu Picchu came into view, the hard days of hiking, the soreness in our muscles, and the exhaustion clouding our brains all became worth it. Hiking around Machu Picchu was a dream and it is unsurprising why this is one of the seven wonders of the modern world.

Patiently waiting in the clouds (note Raul and Juan in the background!)
What's that appearing?
Machu Picchu!
Hiking up!
Finally there!
Casually at Machu Picchu. Whatever.
As the trek ended on Thursday, we spent that next weekend enjoying Cusco and delightedly acting as tourists. We even hung out with Raul and Juan (our tour guides) as they invited us to a cookout and soccer game put on by all of the tourist companies in Cusco. Luckily, their team even won! It was difficult to say goodbye to this amazing city which honestly has so much to offer and such a welcoming feel.
Juan, our main guide.

Raul, the assistant guide.
With Padre Lizardo, the awesome head Augusinian in Cusco. Here we're visitng the Augustinian school during their field day.

Cusco is gorgeous. A Spanish monastery built over Incan stones.

There was no electricity at work (making it hard to teach computers), so my students came to my house, made ceviche, and we ate it. Educational?

Me, Urula, July, Veronica, Kelly, Cindy, Fabiola at a march to stop violence against women.

Kelly, Fabiola, Ursula, Cindy, Yesvy, Jean Pier, Hector, Rudy, and I
This past weekend, we travelled up into the mountains again to visit Pacaypampa where there some Augustinian priests live and work. It was neat to meet them and check out this adorable, quaint town. Sunday night we stayed up late celebrating Britt’s birthday (which was on Monday) by shooting off both confetti and fireworks!
In Pacaypampa

Typical Sierra food-- Up top: Songo, At left: Roscones, At right: Cheese

On our way home from Pacaypampa, we stopped in Morropon to visit Augustinian, Padre Wilder. Much to our surprise, our provincial Padre Fidel was there too!

Decorating for Britt's birthday. Bronco's colors.

Instead of cake, alfahores! A delicious Peruvian cookie sandwich.
Waiting to surprise Britt at midnight with confetti cannons.

Three weeks. That’s all that’s left. Excuse me while I go cry…

Love you!

Lighting off a firework to celebrate.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

When I "Grow Up" (If That Ever Really Happens)

Anabel and I at her confirmation. I was her sponsor!
 It's an actual physical sensation that moves through your veins. It is the result of a smile from a student enjoying my English lesson, an impromptu conversation with a random person on the street, or the pride of a young woman as she finally understands the computer lesson I've been struggling to teach her. What is this sensation that moves through my veins; makes me want to dance, sing, and shout; and forces me to walk down the street smiling to myself? It is pure, undiluted happiness. A sort of high that I only wish that I could recollect and dwell in when feeling down, this happiness has been gracing me lately with its sweet visits. My work is still challenging, but I am learning to love those difficulties and to find joy in them.

My family and I after the confirmation. Being her sponsor was both amazing and spirtually filling. To support her at such an important point of her life  meant a lot to me.

Rafa in the princess dress my mom brought her.
Hermana Marielena bringing Hermana Carmen her birthday cake. In the background are Chantelle's parents.

 A few weeks ago we had the delightful visit of one of our program's directors, Shannon. After a few days with her in Chulucanas, the four of us travelled to Iquitos. The largest city that cannot be reached by land, it is necessary to either drive or fly to this jungle surrounded, urban hub.


That's right. I just ate a fried worm.

Amazon fishing and touring boats.

Goofy picture of us and Shannon!

Iris, my parrot friend.
 Pirañas and pink dolphins are among the many attractions offered by the powerful Amazon river. Out first full day there we spent our time on a river boat ride where me made stops to see local animals including Paiche (a 4 foot long fish), alligator, parrots, sloths, monkeys (that were very loving and would not detach themselves from either Chantelle or Britt, allowing themselves to be carried like babies), and an anaconda (which we totally held!!!).

Hammock time!

Baby Monkey!

Baby turtle!

Blow gun practice.

Another stop of the  boat rode was the 2 visits to the villages of the Bora and the Jaguar. At both places the people, in their traditional dress, danced for us, invited us to dance, and then swarmed us trying to sell their handmade crafts. We all agreed that it was interesting to witness their cultures, but we found the whole thing awkward as it was almost commercialized.

Feeding baby manatees!

The next day, we visited Belen, a neighborhood famous for its floating homes and market. During the rainy season, Iquitos floods and if the homes do not float then people simply move to the second floor of their homes. Later that day we visited a manatee refuge where these endangered animals are nursed back into health and later released back into the Amazon. They are smaller than ocean manatees, but just as adorable! We were even allowed to feed and pet them. Next we visited the Iquitos zoo and rode paddle boats around its lake. All in all, our trip to Iquitos was a lot of fun and full of some amazing sights.
Padre Issac, my friend and patient!
Several weeks ago, we were visited once again by a medical campaign, this time composed of mostly surgeries. It was interesting to see many of the people that we first met in the June campaign and to see them in their healing process post-surgery. We also got  My first couple of days, I translated in the mornings for the podiatrist, Tim. It was fascinating to see his work (although admittedly a little gross!) and clear that he is very talented at what he does. In the afternoons I translated for Shannon, the physical therapist, a super fun ball of energy who clearly loves what she does. She would explain and demonstrate exercises and diagnoses to the patients with a vigor and explanation that would leave the patient wide-eyed. It was fun to try and reenact what she had done while simultaneously translating the information. The best part of all of this what that she worked along side Sister Janet, the Peruvian physical therapist who works at the CEO. Despite their language differences, both women have very similar personalities and it was hilarious to watch them successfully communicate.

Jesus and Carlos, the two nurses that worked with us in the PACU.
My other days of this two week campaign were spent in the Chulucanas hospital where the surgeries were performed. I mostly stayed translating in the Post Anasthesia Care Unit (PACU) for general surgery. Judy, Barbara, and Deb were the nurses that I worked with all week. All three are very talented and caring nurses as well as great women. Although my main job was translation, I spent much of my time chatting with patients and making them comfortable. I loved these personal interactions the most and it reconfirmed my ideas that I want to work with older people when I "grow up" (if that ever really happens). One of the days, I had the opportunity to translate in the operating room. While there was limited need for my language skills during the operations (most of the patients were asleep during the whole thing), it was fascinating to witness a real life surgery. Kelly and Larry, the surgeons, deftly repaired hernias and removed gall bladders in a way that can only be referred to as inspiring.

October 27th is a date that baffles, frightens, and excites me- and it's today. Today! I cannot believe how fast this year has flown by. As I walk through the streets of my adopted city, I study my surroundings and realize how comfortable I've become with them. I have become accustomed to Chulucanas, comfortable, and it's fun to remember how different this place is from Cape Cod. People keep asking me if I'm sad yet about having to leave so soon, especially my parents who nervously hope that I'm not thinking of permanently moving here. The truth is that I am both excited for future plans and reuniting with old friends and family, but very sad that it's almost December. Mixed and difficult emotions! All that I can do, I suppose is take my friend Italo's grandmother's advice: "Anda por el buen camino." "Walk the good path." Coincidentally almost the same advice my father has given me my whole life, "Take the easy way, not the hard way."

Les quiero hasta las estrellas...