Thursday, April 5, 2012

Back down from the mountaintop

We made it home! 
 We were so blessed on our trip, but so happy to come home to our little girl! 
 While we were gone, Cayden stayed with Bryan's parents for 4 days and my parents for 4 days.
Things that have changed since we left:
- She doesn't fall over all the time anymore while walking (even in shoes!)
- She hardly eats any baby food anymore
- She can clearly say "uh......oh" (really slow, with a big break between words)
- She sleeps through the night consistently
- Gives open-mouth kisses
and last, but certainly not least:
- SHE THROWS FITS
The latter on that list is the apparent drawback of leaving your child with her beloved grandparents for 8 days. They will never admit it, but I'm pretty sure she's become s.p.o.i.l.e.d.
In an effort to nip the fits in the bud, Cayden learned how to sit in the corner yesterday. I told her she couldn't go outside when I let Macie in, and she just started screaming and crying! Unbelievable. So I sat her in the corner and went to sit on the couch. She abruptly got up and ran to me (still screaming). We did this about 5 times until she either got too tired, or learned it wasn't worth it.  Once she stopped crying, I picked her up and held her. Haven't had to do it again...yet. 
 This morning, Bryan, Cayden and I went out to the Firehouse restaurant for my free birthday meal. We don't go to many restaurants anymore these days with Cayden, but she did alright. It was fun to eat together. OK, now on to the really interesting stuff....PERU!
 I'm not sure why sometimes pics import into here, and they look blurry, but oh well. This is our group shot the morning before we left Huamantanga on Saturday. The weather was usually only thins nice in the morning, and by 2:00 it was always foggy and usually rainy.
Seihwa and I took some pics for the Blazers, since we were the only ones who 
remembered to bring their gear.  
 The mountains were amazing in the mornings. You feel like you are on top of the world at 13,000 feet.
 The drive from downtown Lima takes about 4 hours. The crazy part is, we really aren't THAT far away from Lima, it's just sheer mountains that we have to climb, as evidenced by the road you can see switchbacking behind the guys in the pic below.
 There are stone walls that serve as fences all over these mountains, because none of this land is wasted. There are cows, donkeys, sheep and pigs to be fed, and we often had to stop and let some pass as we drove up the mountain. One time, a cow even crashed into the side of our van, denting it, because he was so scared and tried to climb up the mountain next to us!
 This is an example of the road conditions. There is a waterfall on the road. And even though it is hard to tell, the road is right on the edge of a drop off. No worries.
 Across the canyon, we spotted this little town, perched on top of a neighboring peak. 
There are fruit stands all over the place!
 On the drive out of Lima, and into the mountains, we drove through many small villages.
 Lima is a coast town, where there are too many people for the amount of space they have. With a population nearing 10 million in Lima and it's surrounding communities, there are over 3,000 people per square mile. As you get further and further from the westernized downtown Lima, the scenery becomes more and more dilapidated.
Looking across the city, you see thousands of colorful shacks climbing the mountains, literally stacked on top of each other because of the lack of real estate.
 It  is breathtaking. 
Downtown Lima is basically right by the beach, and because the people with the money want more beach real estate, they are making more beach. Every day, a steady stream of dump trucks picks up loads of dirt and rocks from the mountainside quarries and drives them 2 hours through Lima and dumps them into the ocean. And it's working. We drove on a road built on this dirt, and there are parks and concrete soccer fields built on these millions of tons of mountain dirt. The ocean ecosystem is most likely destroyed because of it, but it is working for the people, I guess.

Ok switching gears.... 
 I think Peruvians would laugh at our huge bananas. Because theirs are so tiny and cute. I wish we had these at home because they would be the perfect size for Cayden to eat!
 When we got to our hotel up the mountain in Huamantanga, we all were a little afraid of the bugs that might be in our blankets, so we shook them out. That's what Seihwa and Jenny are doing in the above pic. The hotel is nice for the city, but not too clean, compared to what we are used to expecting in hotels. The twins never even cracked the sheets, they just put on 3 sweatshirts every night and slept without blankets! A little crazy if you ask me! I purchased a mummy bag, which I slept in, and then put the blankets over that. I also brought a blow up mattress...just the cheapo kind that you can also float down a river on! I was glad I brought it though, because those beds were like sleeping on the ground!
Below is our view from the hotel the first morning! Amazing, right?
 This is my friend Noami and her 10 month old, Jamil. Every day, she would wait out in the plaza for her boyfriend to drive up from Lima (he is a taxi driver). Whenever he would arrive, he would grab Jamil and play with him. They were a nice family. At the end of the week, I  was able to give them some baby clothes for Jamil. The clothes had been donated by some of the college students at CKC.
 This was a typical scene...misty rain, donkeys, grandmas and kids. 
 Ryan thought this was a llama, before I told him otherwise. He was pretty much afraid of all the dirty animals, but was brave enough for me to take his picture next to this one.
 Speaking of donkeys, we played charades while teaching English to these high school students, and I made Doug (our team leader - 2nd from the left in the front row) be a ferocious donkey in charades. The snarling and kicking and down-on-all-fours really got the charades moving! We also gave all the students donated sunglasses to protect their eyes because we were so close to the sun.
 We also taught in the Huamantanga elementary school for the first time ever! We taught three different classes and did crafts, and told Bible stories while teaching. Praise God!
 These were some 1st graders.
 This is one of our translators, Raul. The group actually broke up into two smaller groups for the majority of the day, and Raul came with me, Doug, Ryan and Miguel while the rest of the group and our driver went to Quipan (a neighboring town) to work. Raul was such a nice little man....he told us that in the past people have called him Zacchaeus or Mr. Miyagi. He's probably pushing 5 feet tall, but he's such a nice man, and funny too, as you can see in the pic, where he is modeling our sack puppet!
 Every night, we had an evening social where people could come and hang out, listen to music, drink hot chocolate, tea and coffee, and eat cookies. We had 20-50 people (including lots of kids) come every night, and our goal was to create friendships that would last longer than our trip. I even got to share Christ with two ladies who came to the 2nd night. Below Ryan and I with some of the high school girls. These girls really had a thing for Ryan, but I got in on the photo too!
 Here is Daryl singing songs with Raul (the  cook) and Raul (the translator).
 These are two of the little girls we saw a lot of during the week.
 These were three of the preschool teachers I got to know.
 A random group shot
 We watched some boys playing soccer...look at those mountains!
 Mikey was watching his brother play soccer.
 Then, they finally let us play (me and Miguel - a pastor from Canta)
 We met these two brothers (Antony and Eric) on Friday, our last day. 
They live behind the hotel with their family. They were a  lot of fun.
 Eric had a slight problem keeping his pants hiked up.
 Eric and Junior had fun taking photos with our cameras. 

On friday, a group of us just hung out in the plaza, playing soccer and volleyball with the kids.
Our final dinner of the trip was by candlelight (because that's all they had) at Raul's house.
Also on our final night, the town leaders had opened up the huge Catholic church (which is the centerpiece of the town, connected to the plaza) because it was the beginning of passion week, and the town was celebrating. We got to go into the church and see the beautiful (but very theologically flawed) paintings on the ceiling, and setup of idols/saints along the walls. It was all VERY creepy....especially the Jesus in a box (Snow White style).
 
Later that night, we heard a mariachi-type band playing music at like 11:00pm when we were getting ready for bed.  Bryan and I went out to the plaza to see what was going on, and we were surprised to see a parade of people coming out of the huge Catholic church at the head of the plaza. The band was playing this sad, funeral music, and the clump of people were all gathered around this small platform, which was being carried on the shoulders of 4 men (like pallbearers). The platform had this doll of Mary on it, all dressed up and surrounded by candles. The people carried the Mary effigy all through town, walking slower than I thought was humanly possible.
 We went back to the hotel to get the rest of our group, so they could witness this sad, cultural event. It was so sad because they don't even know who the real God is. Multiple times, they would stop to pray, and sing, and it was SUPER creepy. My skin was crawling, and I was wearing layers of clothes, so I know it wasn't THAT cold. 

We waited for an hour as they swayed through town, and eventually circled back to the church. When they walked by the second time, we got a closer look, and recognized a handful of people we knew in the procession. There were children holding candles. Children we had played with, colored with, kicked soccer balls with. There was Maritsa, the 18-year-old Seihwa had played volleyball with all day, and who had been to most of our socials, sang our songs....she was now the flag bearer in this demonic procession. There was the school director we'd been talking to all week.

 It was rough seeing that reality, but it was so important for us to see it. 

We experienced a glimpse into the traditions these people are steeped in from birth, 
strengthening our drive to shine Christ's love on their dark world. 

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