Monthly Archives: July 2012

In Two Places at Once

I’m sitting in the kitchen of our cabin at Piatt Lake, blogging and reflecting on the incredible messages I’ve heard at Hiawatha since I got here Monday.

I’m walking through the plaza in Pucallpa with my host family. We’re all touching somehow – an arm looped through another arm, a hand on a shoulder, an elbow balancing on another shoulder. Intertwined, laughing, nearly falling, perfect. 

I’m running into my mom’s arms in Detroit, bursting into tears because I haven’t seen her in 5 weeks and I haven’t slept in 36 hours and my suitcase didn’t make it to the airport when I did.

I’m walking down the streets of Yarina, unknowingly about to attend a surprise party in my honor. As I round the corner by the church, the youth group runs out to greet me with hugs and kisses. We set off on a walk, arm-in-arm in one giant line, blasting music from a boom-box and laughing.

I’m walking through Wal-Mart slowly, reminding myself to say “thank you,” and “excuse me,” instead of “gracias,” and “permiso por favor.” I’m looking around in wonder at this store that is larger than some of the villages I visited in Peru, at this excess of THINGS, shivering in the air conditioning and wondering why in the world we need so much STUFF.

I’m sitting on the floor of Carlos and Carolina’s house, at the second leg of my surprise party. We’re all in a circle, passing shoes around while the group sings “guerrero a guerrero con la tiki-tiki-ta.” At one point everyone points at me and laughs, and I realize that I’m out… though I still have no idea what the point of the game was.

I’m perched at a picnic table on the beach, surrounded by cousins and aunts and uncles. There’s a 3-year-old on my lap, a cup of coffee in my left hand, and I’m taking a picture of the Piatt Lake sunset with the camera in my right hand. Doug and Marilyn are here, and the conversation turns to Peru.

I’m standing in the front of the classroom, dry erase marker in hand. I push play on my computer and my English students beginning singing “Give Me Jesus.” I write the chorus on the board, swat a few bugs, then sit down on a wooden stool and close my eyes, just listening.

I’m at the evening service at Hiawatha. Surrounded by staff and campers, I’m singing of God’s unfailing love; His eternal faithfulness. A tear slips down my cheek as I realize how far (literally and figuratively) I’ve come in the last week.

I’m at the airport in Pucallpa, sitting on a bench, talking to Monica and Pedro in sheer denial. My flight comes in an hour, but I’m refusing to believe it, refusing to accept the fact that I’m leaving. We’re just at the airport for fun, I tell myself. We’ll watch the plane take off, get back in the motokar, and go home.

I’m sitting on the floor of the rec hall at camp, telling my best friend all about my trip… in Spanish. He asks me to slow down a few times and I smile, proud even though I know pride is wrong, excited that I speak Spanish now. We’re looking at pictures, watching videos, sharing inside jokes, and my heart is pulling to another place.

I’m at my last prayer meeting at CEMY. The church members have called me to the front and formed a circle around me. Pastor Daniel begins to pray for me, and they join in one by one, until everyone is praying for me out loud, at the same time. Spanish rushes over me as I catch bits and pieces of the things they’re asking God for on my behalf. Tears rush out of my eyes and sobs begin to shake my shoulders while the realization that I’m expected to LEAVE these people begins to set in.

I’m arriving at camp, I’m walking around. Everyone hugs me, asks how the trip was. “Wonderful,” I begin, and take a breath to start the next sentence, or two, or ten. But they’ve already accepted that as my full answer, they’re already nodding, telling me something about their summers. I remember, then. I remember how it is to come back.

I’m still at the airport in Pucallpa. We’ve moved inside now, and I can no longer deny. I have my passport and boarding pass in my hand, and the flight attendant is standing by the door to security, patiently waiting. I throw my arms around these people I have come to love, one at a time, for a few precious last seconds. I have a goodbye party of about 14, and we are all crying. I embrace them one at a time, leaving them with an “I love you,” and a shoulder soaked with tears. My brother Pedro is last, and I cling to him hard, unleashing a small ocean onto his special graduation shirt for school.

I’m learning to be thankful for those who want to know. For my mom, who has listened to every story and still wants more. For Doug and Marilyn, who understand and were there this year and are as desperate for debriefing as I am. For my dad, who patiently looks at “just one more picture” – about 200 times. For Craig, for Emily, for Molly, for Madison, for Alyssa and hours on the phone and over Skype. I’m at camp, but my heart is still aching for Peru.

I’m letting go of Pedro, blowing final kisses, walking through the doors to security. I’m apologizing through sobs; the flight attendant is telling me not to worry, it’s no problem. I’m walking across the tarmac to my plane, turning around over and over to look at the upstairs window where they’re all standing, waving, crying, blowing kisses. I’m walking up the steps to the plane, turning around one last time. I’m sitting down, thankful for my window seat, wishing the window was on the other side. I’m clutching my nearly empty pack of Kleenex, staring out the window at my Pucallpa.

I’m sitting on the sand next to a blazing fire. My friend-first-cousin-second, 4 years my junior but my confidante and partner in crime nonetheless, has her head on my shoulder and my arm is around her neck. If nothing else, Peru erased my space bubble and turned my love language to physical touch. We’re singing, a song that begs God to take total control of everything. The stars overhead are blinding in their brilliance.

I’m buckling my seatbelt, trying desperately to keep from sobbing loudly. A man and his son are sitting down next to me, doing  a valiant job of pretending there isn’t a crazy gringa bawling her eyes out. The plane is moving, moving, faster and faster. It completes the runway and turns around for another loop, gaining speed. I’m looking out the window toward the airport as we approach. My view is blurry because of my tears, but I make out a group still standing in the upstairs window, still waving, still blowing kisses. The plane is taking off, and I’m picking out buildings from above, recognizing the streets that take me home, to church, to Monica’s, to town. 

I’m finding out that my planes are delayed, that I’ll be sitting in New Jersey for 5 hours after sitting in Lima for 12. I’m ordering airport food, running on auto-pilot, buying a blanket because the air conditioning is already making me sick. I’m reading Reader’s Digest in Spanish, forgetting to speak English, trying to sleep. I keep crying at stupid little things. I just want to go home already.

I’m opening the cards that were pressed into my hand at the airport. I’m reading and crying and crying and crying. The man and his son are still doing a wonderful job of pretending there’s nothing wrong with me, handing me my airplane beverage and sandwich without meeting my eyes. I’m not knowing when I’ll see my Peruvian family again, not knowing if I can bear not knowing. I’m crying, still crying. 

I’m eating Mexican food, unpacking, repacking, eating ALL the cheese. I’m talking 6 million words per minute to Mom, pausing to take a breath and gulp down some more Diet Coke with extra ice. I’m sitting on my living room floor, but my mind is thousands of miles away.

I’m laying in my hammock. I’m eating rice. I’m going to prayer meeting. I’m speaking Spanish. I’m listening to music with Pedro. I’m teaching Ruth how to make cookies. I’m watching Yo Soy! and Combate while journaling. I’m riding in a motokar. I’m walking down dusty roads. I’m taking a cold shower. I’m hanging clothes outside. I’m walking down the road to buy bread. I’m eating a stuffed potato from a cart. I’m talking to Monica. I’m hugging Nathaniel. I’m taking pictures with Fabiano. I’m smiling, I’m laughing, I’m crying, I’m dancing, I’m happy. I’m home.

I’m sitting on the footbridge. I’m eating camp food. I’m going to morning and evening services. I’m speaking English, except when they ask me to speak Spanish. I’m looking at pictures with Craig. I’m talking with Emily about the differences and similarities between Peru and Guatemala. I’m watching the staff do skits and singing praise and worship. I’m driving  a four-wheeler. I’m walking down dusty roads. I’m taking a hot shower. Mom is hanging clothes outside. I’m pulling bread out of the cupboard. I’m eating microwave popcorn. I’m talking to Marilyn. I’m hugging Madison. I’ve only taken 4 pictures. I’m smiling, I’m laughing, I’m crying, I’m singing, I’m happy. I’m home.

I Should Update

It’s been nearly two weeks since my last post; longer since my last update email. I should apologize, should make up excuses, should use flowery words to explain where I’ve been. I should talk about my progress in the language, my English classes, my host sister’s quinceñeara.

I know that I should do all of these things, but I’m not going to.

You see, today is Tuesday. Today is Tuesday, and I leave on Friday. Just in typing those words, unbidden tears sprang up behind my eyelids and my chest tightened… for about the fifth time today. Because today is Tuesday, and I leave on Friday. And Seinfeld taught me that I can’t count today and I can’t count Friday, so that means that I only have two more days.

Two more days in the beautiful city I have called home for the past five weeks. Two more days of squeezing every last drop out of every last moment. I could sit here and tell you all about my trip, but I can do that when I get home. I could sit here and upload pictures, but then what would I do during my 10 hours in the Lima airport?

No, instead, I’ll help Mama Rosy make lunch, then go visit my friend Jack, then go downtown one last time with Monica to buy a few things. I’ll have more sister talks with Pedro, invite a couple other friends over for lunch tomorrow, and do Ruth’s makeup for her again. I’ll go to one last prayer meeting at my dear CEMY church, hug my brothers and sisters in the Lord one more time. I’ll reluctantly put my things in my suitcase, begrudgingly print off my boarding pass. I’ll use my 6-year-old level Spanish to pen goodbye letters, attempting to put to paper how much these people have changed my life yet again.

I should update, but I won’t. Instead, I’m going to cram as many memories as possible into my heart, so that I can carry them home with me, so that they can carry me through “hasta el proximo vez.”

Until the next time.

Regarding this Past Week

  • I’ve spent the last week with Doug, Marilyn, and Rob.
  • None of them speak Spanish.
  • I “speak Spanish.”
  • None of them are Peruvian.
  • I’m “Peruvian.”
  • For the first time ever, I was the guide. I hailed motocars, gave directions, bartered with shop owners, ordered at restaurants, and carried the keys to the house.
  • One day I somehow found myself baking chocolate chip cookies for a meeting of Peruvian church leaders.
  • Going to the orphanage is one of the hardest things I’ve done on this trip.
  • I love speaking Spanish.
  • Translating is absolutely and entirely tiring. It’s the same kind of “brain tired” that I got after a debate tournament.
  • This morning, Zaida gave me a Peru pin. She said, “you need one of these, because you’re Peruvian now.”
  • Later, as I tearfully watched Doug, Marilyn, and Rob’s airplane take off, she said, “now you know what it truly feels like to be one of us – you have to watch them leave.”
  • Also this morning, Zaida told me, “now you can have a new ministry: as a translator.”
  • Approximately 45 minutes later, she tried to convince me to come on a 5-day river trip. As a translator. Until the NIGHT before I go back to the states.
  • Her bargaining chip was the fact that a pastor’s son, who is around my age, is coming from the States to do evangelism in the village and needs a translator. This was followed by a long discussion about how she thinks that I should marry someone who wants to be a missionary. Like this boy.
  • Needless to say, I’m not going on the village trip. I don’t really “camp”. Or translate, for that matter…..
  • There are 17 high schoolers from Lima in our house right now. Papa and Pedro took pity on me and are taking me out for Chinese food.
  • God bless Papa and Pedro.

Who Could Have Dreamed?

Written July 7.

Yesterday, Marilyn gave a talk to the women of CEMY about trusting God wholly to take you places you could have never dreamed. Today, as I sat in the peque-peque and trailed my fingers through the water of Lake Yarinacocha, I reflected on the significance of one of her main quotes in my own life: “Who could have dreamed?”

When I take time to sit and examine this last year, I realize that God has far surpassed my wildest dreams. I mean, I got accepted to Moody Bible Institute. I made the best friends I’ve ever known, got my first C, and learned to ride public transit. God gave me a job just as I was running out of money. Halfway through second semester, I let go of the “plan” I’ve had for myself since I was 8 years old. Who could have dreamed?

And then there’s this trip to Peru. Who could have dreamed that I would be able to return to this place I love so much?  Who could have dreamed that, after five years, I would see Americo Saavedra again… and he describe the opportunity for an internship in Quito, Ecuador, that exactly fit my needs for Moody? Who could have dreamed that I would learn enough Spanish to act as the translator and guide for Doug, Marilyn, and Rob? Who could have dreamed that, as a result of communication, I would make friends – real friends, friends who could tell me their stories and listen to mine?

Who could have dreamed that I would hail a motocar, rattle off an address in Spanish, and talk the guy down a couple soles from his original price? Who could have dreamed that I would treat my host siblings to ice cream, buy food to make lunch at the house, or answer the phone in Spanish when I’m home alone? Who could have dreamed that I would have lines in a drama, dance to children’s songs, or sing my heart out while standing barefoot in a jungle village?

As the sounds of a guitar brought my thoughts back to the present, to the peque-peque that was filling with praise songs, God whispered across the water.

“I could have dreamed,” He said, “I could have, and I did. And just you wait until you see what I dream of next.”

Two Weeks Down

I’ve got the house to myself right now and I’m working on my lesson plan for tonight. I had one written, but like so many things here in Pucallpa, it’s changing at the last minute.

I can hardly believe I’ve been here for over two weeks. Doug, Marilyn, and Pastor Rob are flying in tomorrow morning and my main focus will shift as I join their evangelistic team. Much like summer vacation, on the first day it felt like I would be here forever and had all the time in the world… but these first weeks have absolutely flown by.

Tonight I’ll teach my English class again. I have a wonderful group of around 10 students. The group is mostly comprised of adults, but I also have three very enthusiastic kids (6-8 years old). Everyone is excited to learn, diligent, and good-natured. We’re focusing on basic conversational vocabulary (“Hello, how are you?” “Fine, thanks, and you?”) as well as learning the song “Give me Jesus,” which I’m hoping to have my class sing in church the Sunday before I leave. We’ll see how that goes.

Yesterday was church, and I was able to attend a service with communion – a first for me in Peru! It’s hard to explain how powerful it was to share the body and blood of Christ with His church on another continent. It was a poignant reminder that He died for “every tribe, every tongue, and every nation.”

On Saturday night I went to the young adults’ meeting at CEMY (my church here) as usual. However, rather than having a normal meeting, we ended up going to a quinceañara for a girl from a nearby town! It was definitely a full cultural immersion, which is what I’m here for. There was lots of singing, dancing, and speaking. I sat with friends from the grupo de jovenes (youth group) from CEMY, who explained the purpose behind each part of the party. (except for the part where clowns on stilts came in and threw balloons at everyone. Or the part where an elderly pastor attempted to lead the crowd in praise songs while the birthday girl was dancing with each of the boys at the part. NO ONE was able to explain those things.)

Other highlights of this past week:

  • making lunch (tacos and guacamole) for my host family. This normally wouldn’t be that great of an accomplishment, but here in Peru, it involved going to 4 different stores, walking through a very frightening meat market, seasoning the meat without pre-packaged spices, lighting the gas stove with a match (and doing it again when I accidentally turned it off… three times…), and figuring out measurements in the metric system.
  • going to Nathaniel’s (Monica’s son) third birthday party last night… complete with a snake cake, hugs from one of my favorite Peruvian kids, and lots of catching up in English with Monica. (Monica is from the US, but lives here as a permanent missionary. I’ve been so blessed by being able to hang out with her family while I’ve been here)
  • teaching Pedro how to make grilled cheese one night around 10 pm… then getting up in the morning and finding out that he had insisted on making them for everyone in his family for breakfast.
  • correctly answering a question (in Spanish!) in the New Testament class my host family attends at CEMY, and realizing that I really did learn a LOT of new things in NT class at Moody last year.
  • sitting at the table with Papa Jacinto, Pedro, and Pedro’s friend Maicol; listening to Papa explain the basics of the Gospel as Maicol listened with a growing smile.
  • lessons in Pucallpeño slang from my host siblings.