Thursday, January 31, 2013

Hence the Big Booms

BOOM! That's what I woke up to last night. A little later, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM! It's actually a miracle that I feel asleep in the first place. Today is the 77th anniversary of the creation of Morropon, the district where Chulucanas is located. To celebrate the occasion, the city held a mini party in the plaza complete with food, music, speeches, and fireworks (hence the big booms). They set up these huge speakers in the plaza and I swear that you could feel the bass in our room! That's really the only exciting thing that's happened since I last wrote. Once again, I'll let you know when I find something more interesting to talk about!

Love you!

PS, Here's a picture of Chalon, the dog that lives here! Not sure how he could have possibly found this comfortable though.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sleeping, eating some more

Hello friends. You have not heard from me the past couple of days because there has been nothing much to report. We have spent our days eating, visiting people and places, sleeping, eating some more, playing card games, sweating, and eating some more. For me, one of the highlights of this period was our visit to the CEO Batania. A community center run and established by the Sisters of Mercy, the CEO offers classes to women of the community using a model of empowerment and skill set training. I will teach a basis computers class there. On both of my alternative Spring break trips to New York City we volunteered at a Mercy center and I fell in love with the program and how it is run. I'm so excited to start working there and to learn more about the Mercy Sisters.

Hannah and Shannon left to go back to the United States today. It was strange to see them go and to realize that now we are officially on our own! So much excitement- even if it is slow moving!

Love, love, love you!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mangoes, Limes and Gossip

Buenos Dias! As today is Sunday, we went to morning mass at 9:00 am in the cathedral. Although Bishop Dan said the mass, I was immediately overwhelmed by how little I understood. Just as it did in Spain, the words became jumbled and unintelligible by bouncing off the cathedral walls. However, during the transubstantiation he spoke so slowly and with such intention that I not only understood, but was quite moved. These feelings were further enhanced when, during the sign of peace, a huge group of people- aged 5 to 95- swarmed the altar to give Bishop Dan a hug. He gives me hope in a church hierarchy that had hitherto been so distant and seemingly uninterested. For a while now I have been yearning to know more of my faith and assumed that this meant a "book smart theology," rather than a "street smart theology." I believe that this year will not only bring me to new relationships with the people here, but through them a deeper understanding of what it means to be and act as a Christian.

Hannah provided the three of us with a "scavenger hunt" around the city to help us get to know it a little better. On our way out the door we asked one of the seminarians, Juan, for directions and he kindly offered to essentially give us a tour of the city. Later we made our way to Pat and Ed's happy hour. There we met a fiery Marist nun from New Zealand (and she was proud of it!). Happy hour was followed by a meet and greet at each of the host families' homes. It is quite obvious that they have various economic situations which was a great eye opener.

Chulucanas is known for three things: mangoes, which are incredible and way better than anything in the U. S.; limes; and gossip. We've heard from many that the last can prove to be very dangerous! Also, it is incredibly hot here. The heat has not bothered me so much except that so far it has made me incredibly tired.

I'm constantly thinking of you and hope that you're well! Love you!

PS There's another really nice dog that lives at the obispado. For an American dog he would be normal sized but he is huge for a Peruvian dog. He looks like a black lab mix and his name is Shalone. When the doorbell rings he barks so ferociously but greets you, tail wagging and exposing his belly for you to rub. We're obviously best friends.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Cheek-to-cheek Kisses

¡Bienevidos a Chulucanas! Finally, we have arrived! Yesterday was another slow day in Lima (again, we were so spoiled there) so we decided to go to Barranco, another district of Lima. Like Miraflores and the center of Lima, it is a bit touristy but with a small village feel. Almost as though you are not in one of the world's largest cities, and there is architecturally a very Spanish and colonial feel. Cobblestone streets and bright colors adorn beautiful beachside views, and we even drank milkshakes de fresa (more like strawberry smoothies) in an adorable little cafe. That night we attended mass in the chapel at the hospitality house with this family that was staying there so that they could see there son receive his first habits as a seminarian. The mass, although a little difficult to understand in Spanish, was really beautiful and intimate. As it was just us, the family, and two of the priests; they would all sing the songs a cappella- a very humbling experience. That night we went for a walk with Joel, Albert,  Cesar, and Martin (the last two are the two younger sons of the family) to the beach. It was fun talking to them and learning more words and phrases that are considered "hiergas," or "slang."

Early this morning we had a heartfelt goodbye with Joel, who promised to "friend us" on Facebook, and made our way to the airport. There we met up with Shannon and Hannah, two of the AV directors. Together we all took a plane to Piura, a city about an hour away from Chulucanas, and from there were driven to the Obispado (Bishop's house) in Chulucanas where we are right now. Immediately we were served a late lunch and were introduced to Bishop Dan who is essentially the reason that we are here. Bishop Dan was ordained as an Augustinian priest but during his forty-five years in Peru he was made a bishop (by which he was forced to renounce his Augustinian vows). Ed and Pat came in a little later. Originally a priest and a nun working as missionaries in Peru, they met and married and now return to Peru for 2 or 3 months out of the year to volunteer and live with the people (Ed and Bishop Dan are best buddies from their early priest days). Chantelle put it best when she described them as "firecrackers." I'm sure more stories of the two of them are soon to come especially as they already invited us to "English Speaking Happy Hour" at their house! Our free time after lunch was spent playing cribbage (that's right, cribbage) and relaxing. After dinner (which just like lunch was amazingly delicious) we met Inez who is in charge of coordinating our home stay families. This next week is most likely to be filled with a number of handshakes, cheek-to-cheek kisses, and names. Hopefully we get them all right! As we are living in the Obispado we will have internet and a lot of down time this week. Which us luck as we deal with language and heat.

Love you all MUCHISIMO... that's a wicked lot.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Stupid Gringa!

Realtors live by the phrase, "location, location, location," just as Augustinians live by, "community, community, community." I know that I've emphasized this before, but I'm only just starting to understand what that's like. Britt said it best when she said, "We're a good bunch, I like us." We have a lot of fun together laughing and enjoying one another's company.

Today we went to the beach which is just a short walk away from our house. Joel warned us not to swim in the ocean as the current was very strong- which we thought was ridiculous as we've all lived in beach communities. However, we should have taken him more seriously as I essentially saw my life flash before my eyes. Wading into the water a little, I was unprepared for one monster wave that started to carry me out and knocked me down (and my top off!). Stupid gringa! After it happened Britt and Chantelle could not stop laughing at my face and the whole situation: it was pretty funny.

Later, we were lying out on our towels when a ginormous (that's a real word- right?) wave came all the way up the beach and drenched us, all of our stuff, and fried Britt's iPhone. Oops. Thankfully it is an old one that she was using and the phone currently sits in a bag of rice.

Tonight we went to El Parque del Agua. Both Chantelle and I visited the park last time we each came to Lima and wanted Britt to see it too. There are multiple fountains and light shows including a tunnel made of water!

One funny story that I forgot to mention yesterday: Alberto let us back in the house when we returned home from Miraflores and he asked us how are day was, etc. Then he asked which of us was kind of messy- Britt. Because her room was so messy, he and Joel thought that someone had broken in and torn the place apart. Lucky for us, she's just messy!

Oops, that was supposed to be shorter, love you soooo much!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

From Bacon to Bad Words

Howdy! Today began very early. In fact, we had to use the Spanish verb "madrugar," (to wake up early) to describe it. Our appointment to receive our visas and temporary ID cards was was at 8 am all the way across town and we didn't want to be late. Sometimes, an experience is so culturally different from what I am used to that I get lost in those differences and the rapid fire Spanish: that's what it was like to get our visas. Luckily, Joel and Mauricio (a man who works at a local tourism office) helped us with everything and explained what we needed to do. However, it was clear that it was a confusing process even for them.  Let's just say that it was like the DMV on roids. One of the highlights of the 5 and a half hour process, most of which was spent sitting and waiting, was when the amazed woman behind the counter asked Britt how tall she was. Peruvians are generally short and at 5 ft 6 in tall Britt is a giant.

After we finally finished, Joel brought us to Miraflores to do some more sightseeing. Miraflores is the touristy section of town, complete with McDonalds and Starbucks. Sadly, it's clear that a lot of money has been pumped into this one area to increase tourism while other parts of Lima are extremely impoverished and clearly receive little to no funds from the government. Our 5.5 hour stint at the pseudo DMV left us feeling very hungry and we went for lunch as soon as we arrived in Miraflores. We shared fried yucca, ceviche, and arroz con pollo (rice with chicken)- and it was pretty good! After lunch, we walked through the different parks of Miraflores- including El Parque del Amor- and we did a little window shopping.  Later, we took a taxi home and had a late dinner (at 9:30 at night!) with Joel and Alberto (another man who lives and works at the house. Apparently they both started the process to become Augustinians, but they changed their minds about the priesthood and now work for them. Last night and tonight we had a great time laughing with them and chatting about the Peruvian culture and vocabulary. This included everything from bacon to bad words. Don't ask!

All in all, we are having a great time in Lima, but look forward to our time in Chulucanas when we won't be so spoiled as we are now! Jokes about our Spanish abilities flow freely, our dinner conversations last over two hours, and it is a near death experience each time we get into a car or attempt to cross the street. 

Thank you for all of your thoughts, prayers and well wishes... They seem to be working so far.

Love you!

Us at the Newark Airport... AMURICA!
At el parque del amor!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

I open my mouth and Spanish falls out.

Estamos aqui! We arrived at the Lima airport last night around 10:45. It seemed like every single time there was an opportunity to be stopped going through security, I was stopped. For a moment, I thought that the immigration officer looking at my passport and temporary visa would not let me into the country. I guess I just look suspicious. After we made it through the whole rigamarole of immigration and finding our bags- of which none were lost- we found the man who was supposed to bring us to the Augustinian house of hospitality. Joel (truth be told, I'm not sure how to spell his name but it is pronounced "yo-el") was delighted to discover that we spoke Spanish. I am constantly amused by the look of shock and delight that Peruvians have when I open my mouth and Spanish falls out. During our 50 minute ride to Churillo (where the house is) Joel explained certain things about the city and told us some interesting information.

This morning we went to a tourism office to start the process for getting our official visas, but as it did not take long Joel offered to drop us off in the center of Lima to do some sightseeing. We had fun roaming around, walking into churches and shops, and taking naps in parks and plazas. Lunch was "chifa," the Peruvian version of Chinese food. The three of us agreed that it was good but rather plain and we accidentally ordered WAY too much of it. After that we walked by an ice cream shop that sold "pizco sour" ice cream and we HAD to split a cone. Pizco sour is a typical Peruvian beverage that vaguely reminds me of a margarita. Let's just say the ice cream was kind of an "acquired taste."

Right now we are back at the house relaxing and chatting with friends. I'll do my best to keep you updated when I'm not exhausted from traveling, speaking Spanish, or roaming around a mega city all day!

Love, love, love, love you!

PS There are 2 adorable dogs that live her! A Jack Russel Terrier named Innocente and an Irish Setter mix named Ron. I decided that they love me.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Wait is Almost Over

Today is the last day of the AV international orientation. We have spent the weekend in Ocean City, New Jersey where the Augustinian Friars have a vacation home. Most of our time has been spent building community and understanding logistics. We met and spoke with several alumni of the program who gave us tips and information about what to expect and how to behave culturally appropriate. Besides Chantelle and Britt (my community members) we are here with Caitlyn, Brian, and Jimmy (the South Africa volunteers) and Pat, Shannon, and Hannah (the program directors. All of us leave tomorrow and while we are sad to leave the others, we couldn't be more excited!

Here's a picture of all the volunteers. I'm between Chantelle and Britt:

Love you!!!!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

For that I am so grateful

I feel like I'm on the cusp with my Christianity. I'm geographically on a moving bus headed to Philadelphia, and I've been reading Shane Clairborne's The Irresistible Revolution so mentally my imagination has gone into overdrive. I've only read to the second chapter but I already love the book and feel as though I have learned something. One thing is for sure: it is the ideal book to read as I begin this new adventure. Each of my service opportunities and Spring break trips have been experiences of spiritual growth, but they have been short. Clairborne speaks of the difference between being a Christian and acting as one. My hope is that I will be able to take this year and make it my model for life. How can I learn to live as a whole, intentional, and fully aware individual? Perhaps I'll begin by simply focusing.

The final glimpse of my parents was strange and difficult to absorb. My mother's face was pressed against the glass of the bus station wall while my father stood behind her, attempting to remain collected. I'm so lucky to have parents that I get along with. Parents who put up with my occasional lack of common sense, of spacial awareness, of my tendency to take my frustrations out on them. They love me so much, and for that I am so grateful.

Ok, enough rambling. Love you!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Goodbyes: as of late there have been so many for me. A farewell of this sort is an odd thing as more often it takes the form of "see you later." When I left Spain, there were limited "adioses," but a number of "hasta luegos." The Spanish do not like to say goodbye and stick to "see you later," but I knew that it would not be the case for some of those people. I will not see them later. As I contemplate my departure (tomorrow!) and say "goodbye" to friends and family (you never feel so popular as when you go away for a year, let me tell you!) I have noticed a strange sensation within me. In the moment as I hug or wave goodbye and joke, "have a good year!" I feel strangely apathetic. I know that I will miss these people- that I already miss these people, but a year apart from them is almost too grand to contemplate.  This mixed with the reality that our farewells are in fact "hasta luegos," is enough to remove the sting.

As sadly as I leave my strong and supportive communities at home, I eagerly anticipate the formation and development of new communities. I hope that my home communities understand how much I appreciate all that they have done for and with me and that I carry all of those important lessons and experiences on my travels.

People say goodbye differently when you are leaving them to go to Peru for a year. When I left for college, albeit only 1.5 hours from home and 20 minutes from the nearest aunty, I received farewells steeped in the knowledge of what I was to encounter. People know what to expect from Easton, Massachusetts but most can barely pronounce Chulucanas, Peru. That grand year (or just about 11 months if we're going to be technical here) will fly by. My hair will be long again before we even know it.

Love you!