Monthly Archives: June 2011

Naming the End

“Re-entry”
“Debriefing”
“Processing”
“Coming back to reality”
“Going home”
“Leaving”
“The end”

It doesn’t matter what you call the weeks following a short-term missions trip; they’re never easy.  Assigning a title usually reserved for CIA agents or astronauts doesn’t ease the pain caused by heartstrings tugging across continents.  Using counseling terms like “process,” “journey,” and “story,” does nothing to explain why there are entire stores filled with useless crap when children are starving where you came from.

The absolute chaos of customs and abrupt rudeness of fellow Americans is not offset by cutesy titles.  Telling me I’m “going home,” will only aggravate me, telling me I’m “leaving,” will only bring me to tears yet again.  Don’t you dare call it “the end.”  I refuse to admit that anything is over.

No matter the name, the weeks following a mission trip are always filled with a tangled web of emotions.  I’m happy to be back with my real family, but I ache for Pucallpa and my family there.  My bed is comfortable- too comfortable.  I’m still tired from the 44 straight hours I was awake on the flight home.  Tears spring to my eyes at the strangest moments- the Spanish aisle at the grocery store, cutting up fruit, drinking from a water bottle.  I know I need to finish my journal, but I can only bring myself to write a few sentences at a time.  If I finish, that means it’s over… and it can’t be over.

People ask how my trip was, but most only want “wonderful,” or “incredible.”  Sometimes, “lifechanging,” will provoke a follow-up question, a 5-minute chat at the most.  Praise the Lord for those few wonderful people who truly care.  For my aunt, who sat through over 300 pictures and their accompanying stories- and still asked questions.  For Jared, who has promised hours of listening and viewing pictures and asking questions.  For my dad, who sat through over 700 photos and puts up with Mom’s and my strange re-entry moods.

In the midst of this tangle of post-trip emotion is a to-do list a mile long.  Sunday marks the day I leave for my internship at Crossroads Farm.  There’s laundry to be washed, folded, and put away.  I have suitcases to unpack, DVDs to burn for the team, pictures to order, people to visit, and things to buy.  Yet, I can’t bring myself to move.  Emotionally, I can’t unpack my bags from Peru yet.  I can’t put away those clothes, can’t pack for the next thing… because I haven’t begun to let go of the last thing yet.

Advertisements

Home?

“You’re going home soon,” they say, or “I can’t wait until you’re home!”

What is this home they speak of? Home is where I’ve been for the last month. Home is where I sweat profusely, then take an ice cold shower. Home is where Pedro and I converse in our carefully-calculated mix of Spanish and English. Home serves rice with every meal.

When I’m at home, I get from Point A to Point B in the back of a motorcar, feeling the breeze in my hair and the grit of sand in my teeth. My feet turn an unnatural shade of brown at home. Home is where I take afternoon naps in the hammock.

At home, I speak another language. I sing, loudly, in front of people. I’m almost always touching or being touched- an arm around shoulders, a hand on a knee, head leaned together. Greetings and goodbyes without a hug and kiss are considered rude at home.

These descriptions of pristine paved roads, airconditioned houses, and department stores have become foreign to my brain.  At home, we stay in if it rains.  Our airconditioning consists of waking up at 4 am, just to feel that one cold moment.  We buy our meat in the meat store, our toilet paper in the toilet paper store, and our fruit at the fruit store.

“You’ll be home soon!” they say, but they’re wrong.  I am home.

Zapotillo

(copied from my now very dusty journal)

I’m sitting in Zapotillo writing by candlelight.  Over my head is a thatched roof, handwoven by one of the villagers.  Above that is the most brilliant sky of stars I’ve ever seen.  The Big Dipper is upside down here.  Pastor Daniel and Rafael just gave me some fish because “it’s missionary food,” and I’m a future missionary.  I peed in a hole earlier- without complaining.

I gave a talk about purity and at least two girls accepted Christ.  I spent the majority of the afternoon barefoot and hauled water up from a well, hand over hand, inch-by-inch.  I ate a fresh cherimoya for dinner.  While sitting on a crudely hewn wooden bench, table somewhere near my neck.

By the time they lit the fogata (bonfire), our team was at the end of ourselves.  We were tired, sick, hungry, and dirty.  Several people were arguing about petty things.  We considered skipping the drama, but decided it was important.  We performed in the tiny church, nearly flawlessly.  Tears poured down our faces as four young people came forward to be saved for the first time.  When we had reached the end of ourselves, God began to work.

 

Chills in the Jungle

Today we visited a new village, named Leonce Prado.  Our visit was the first time the church had given any kind of Biblical message there at all, and for many of the kids, was the first time they had heard the story of Jesus.  It was also the first time I have gotten chills while standing in the middle of a 90 degree jungle.  Here are some snapshots of what made goosebumps raise up on my arms.

Standing in the village square, surrounded by schoolchildren in small wooden chairs.  We’re singing “My God is So Big, So Strong, and So Mighty” in Spanish as the sun beats down on our backs.

Prayer time.  Pastor Daniel prays in Spanish and I catch a word here and there.  Suddenly I hear Craig whisper “Holy cow,” and I peek through my closed eyelids.  At least 30 kids have their hands in the air.  My brain works quickly, realizing that these kids are accepting Christ for the first time.  Tears fill my eyes as goosebumps cover my sweaty arms.

We’re in the peque-peque on our way home.  Craig pulls out his guitar and we begin singing praise songs.  Those who speak Spanish sing in Spanish, and those who don’t-sing in English.  Our praises mingle into beautiful song, rising up over Lago Yarinacocha.  Some people are clapping, some are crying, and everyone is smiling the most genuine smiles you’ll ever see.  

As I lived through each of those moments, one of the thoughts on my mind was how truly blessed I am.  There I stood, in the jungles of Ucayali, Peru, surrounded by old friends and new friends.  I sang from that deepest place in my heart, that place that is only accessible here in Pucallpa.  I smiled until my cheeks hurt, danced the Hokey Pokey until I was dripping with sweat, and I was truly happy.  I was home.

Tomorrow!

Sorry I’ve been neglecting this blog.  Honestly, there’s not a lot to say.  I’m just living the Peruvian life.  We wake up around 6:30 or 7, eat breakfast, then go off to do whatever that day consists of- I’ve gone to several schools to help teach English, and worked with Hermana Zaida to get things ready for the team.  We’re all back around 2 or 2:30, when we eat lunch.  Then it’s just lazy time for a few hours, time to blog or chitchat or sleep.  We usually do something in the evenings- go out, watch a movie, clean something, fold laundry- before dinner.

Today I slept until 10 (it was raining, so I couldn’t go to the class I was supposed to go to).  I went shopping with Zaida and Debora, and felt awful by the time I got back here-headache, stomachache, dizzy, way too hot despite the cold rain.  I slept until 3:30, then we ate lunch, and we’ve all been relaxing until then, and preparing for tomorrow!

TOMORROW! TOMORROW! TOMORROW! TOMORROW!

Ahem.

Me? Excited? No…..

TOMORROW!

*clears throat*

Anyway. The team is coming tomorrow morning! I can’t wait to see them all, to hug them at the airport, to introduce the new people to all of my family here, to be able to speak English in this house, and to finally see my mommy again!

A Portrait of a Typical Night in our House

It’s 5:30 and the sun is setting while Mama Rosy and Karen work on dinner.  I walk upstairs to go to the bathroom and Mama Rosy says “hijita, quieres ayudarme lavar la carne?” (little daughter, want to help me wash the meat?).  Convinced my translation skills are lagging again, I ask her to show me.  Sure enough, she begins to wash the meat in the sink. Okay.

Pedro comes upstairs to find me and gets roped into blending the marinade for tomorrow’s lunch.  I’m washing the meat and listening to Pedro periodically sing “I wanna rock!” when I feel something splash on my leg.  Looking over, I see that Pedro has forgotten to put the lid on the blender.  He cracks up and I duck my head to hide my laughter as Mama Rosy tells him “This is not a joke! This is not funny!” (While trying to hide her own laughter.)  Pedro wipes off my leg, the floor, and the wall, and dinner preparation continues.

We finish our tasks and Pedro and I go out on the porch to bring in the dry clothes.  As with most daily activities, this demands a brief language lesson.  He tells me the Spanish verbs for “to take down” and “to fold,” then repeats “teik dowhn? teik… take down?” “fohd? folth? fold?” as we fold the sheets and towels.

Because all our work is done, Pedro and I sit down to watch music videos on youtube and talk about music.  Karen comes over, listens for a while, declares “I no like,” and walks away.  I journal during the many slow-internet-induced breaks in the songs.

Finally Mama Rosy calls us to dinner (by now it’s about 7:30).  It’s a good thing I like rice, chicken, and plantains, I think, as we eat a meal comprised of those three things for the 6th night in a row.  We watch the Peruvian version of American Idol while we eat- complete with scantily clad dancers and awful singers.  After dinner, I Skype with my parents, drink some chocolate milk, watch some more music videos with Pedro, and read a few blogs.  Around 9:30, everyone starts getting ready for bed, and after yelling “buenos noches!” and kisses goodnight on everyone’s cheeks, we’re in our separate rooms by 10.

Life in Pucallpa

  • It is never not loud.  This morning when I woke up the noises I heard included a chainsaw, hammering, 4 dogs, a chicken, cars, motorcycles, car horns, an airplane (we’re directly in the path of takeoff), and the neighbors’ conversation.
  • It is dusty.  There are no glass windowpanes, just screens.  There are also only 2 paved roads in the entire city.  You do the math.
  • Ants. Everywhere. On my computer, in my book, on the fridge.  They’re tiny little “ormigitas,” and they don’t bite, so they’re just annoying.
  • All the same TV shows are on Disney channel, but dubbed over in Spanish.  Ruth and I just finished watching Phineas and Ferb, and now we’re watching the Fairly Odd Parents.
  • We eat rice a lot.  As in, I have only had 2 meals without it since I got here.
  • Everyone is very giving.  They all are eager to help however they can.  The lady across the street has made me a chocolate cake and American bread.  The man who does the yardwork washed my sandals after we waded through the mud to pick up the bread from the lady across the street.  Mama Rosy is currently SEWING the lace on my cami, which was ripped before I even came here.
  • The culture as a whole is laid back.  You can be up to 2 hours late to an event before it’s considered rude… and before you even need to call!  One morning I’ll ask “que hicimos hoy?” (What are we doing today?) and by the time breakfast is over, all of those plans may have been cancelled, changed, or postponed.  There’s not a lot of planning ahead.
  • People often answer in a very roundabout way in order to avoid saying no.  For instance, the first day I was here, we went to the orphanage to meet with the director.  She had had an emergency and was not there, so Zaida said we would go the next morning.  When I got up the next morning, Mama Rosy told me that Zaida had called and told her it wouldn’t work out for us to go that day, and maybe we’d reschedule for next week, maybe.  Monica told me later that this is a normal way for Peruvians to avoid saying “no, we don’t really have any work for you to do and besides we already have 2 English volunteers here.”
  • The traffic is INSANE.  Motocarros, motorcycles, taxis, and the occasional SUV fight for space on the roads.  Some of the roads are one way but none are marked as such.  Recently (since I was here last year) the government installed traffic lights, which have helped immensely, but it’s still the craziest traffic I’ve ever seen.
  • Whatever Mama Rosy is cooking right now smells DELICIOUS.

Some Photos of Pucallpa

 

Loving the Pucallpa Life

I’m falling into the laid-back “routine” of life in Pucallpa.  Yesterday I got up just after the others had left for school (Except Rosy, she had the day off.) and ate breakfast.  Then, Rosy and I walked the 3 or so blocks to their church, where we helped cook lunch for “los viejitos” (the elderly people of the church.)  About halfway through the cooking process, I realized I was understanding at least 95% of what was being said… and they weren’t talking to me (which they do slowly), they were talking to each other!

Rosy and I cooked lunch when we got back (read: I shredded carrots and set the table while she cooked), then we watched a Spanish soap opera together while we waited for “los chicos.”  We all ate together, then had another lazy afternoon of naps, Spanish TV, internet, and music.  Around 3:45 (just as I had decided to go to sleep), Mama Rosy knocked on my door and said “Vamos al centro” (Let’s go to the centro, the central shopping area in Pucallpa.)

We took a motocarro into Pucallpa, where we got ice cream.  We bought some things for the house in what I think was a grocery/drugstore.  All the things are on tall shelves behind counters, and to buy something, you have to ask a worker to get it down.  Que interesante!

Last night was a great time with my host siblings, all piled on one bed talking and laughing and singing.  I just love music- they know the words to almost every English song!

This morning I was able to sleep in for a while, then Skype with a friend for about an hour, which was a wonderful English break!  We cleaned at the church, and then ate there with some other families.  (Including Aurora, my new favorite person in Peru.  She lives in the Wycliffe compound across the street, and knows how to cook all kinds of American food.  Last night she made me the best chocolate cake I’ve ever eaten and is apparently bringing American bread tonight!)

We were enjoying another lazy afternoon at home when it started to rain- and I do mean RAIN.  My words can’t begin to describe the sound of the tropical deluge on the metal roof of the house, the feeling of tiny drops of icy water coming in through the window and soaking my arms, or the smell of the air as the rain mixes with the smoke.  The lights have flickered a few times.  I’m telling you, I have NEVER, EVER seen it rain this hard anywhere other than Peru.  Pedro said it had been two or three weeks since they last had rain.

First Days in Pucallpa

When I got to Pucallpa yesterday, I had a greeting party in the airport.  Mama Rosy, Pastor Daniel, Zaida, Victor, and Job were all waiting for me.  I was greeted with big hugs and kisses on the cheek, then we went to the house.  It was probably hot, but I didn’t really notice at all.

Job came to the house and I talked with him for a couple hours, mostly in Spanish.  He helped me with my Spanish and I helped him with some English.  Pati was here too, with her baby Fabiano, so I talked with her some and held him too.  I slept for about an hour after Job left.  When I woke up, Karen was here, and Pedro and Ruth came soon.  I ate my first meal in Peru and was content.

Last night I unpacked my stuff, talked to Karen and Pati, and Skyped my parents.  Mama Rosy was making dinner when the power went out.  We found candles and sat down to eat.  It came back on for a few minutes, then went out again.  By this time it was almost 8:30, so we went to bed!  I slept without moving until 6:45 this morning.  I woke up cold this morning! What a strange feeling to have in Pucallpa.  The weather has been very mild so far.

I had the house to myself for about an hour this morning.  I showered and got ready for the day, then Monica and Zaida came to pick me up.  I was supposed to have a meeting at the orphanage, but the director was gone somewhere.  However, I did get to see Patricia, the girl my mom and I have talked to every year we’ve gone to the orphanage.  She turns 18 the day before our team is going to visit the orphanage this year, and won’t get to see us (the orphanage is only for kids up to age 18, after that, they’re required to leave.)

Zaida and I went to the school for a little bit, then to the central market in Pucallpa, then to the office where she works.  I got to talk to my friend Carlos from CEMY for a while, I helped him with his English homework and he helped me pronounce my Spanish “r.” 🙂

This afternoon I helped Rosy make lunch, then when everyone got home from school we all ate, then we just hung out all afternoon, talking, writing, doing homework, etc.  Tonight we went into Pucallpa, to the Municipal Library, for their “Jueves en Cine” (Cinema Thursday).  They showed a documentary about oil and the jungles.  It was all in Spanish, of course, so I understood MAYBE 1/4 of it.  BUT, the library had air conditioning, which is nearly unheard of in Pucallpa!

After the movie we walked around the square and Papa Jacinto showed me the statues and described the history of Pucallpa to me.  I had lots of fun just messing around with my host brother and sisters, taking crazy pictures and joking with them.  We had supper at a polleria then brought motocarros home.  Now I’m going to go to bed-we’re trying the orphanage visit again in the morning.

Buenos noches!