"Being together is like catching a sunbeam; each new memory we make reflects light hinting there is more to see and know."

March 29, 2015

WEEK 6 ~ “Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.”

It’s hard to believe tomorrow will mark the 6th week anniversary of our arrival in Peru.  Even though we have basically been doing the same thing for the past 6 weeks, time is passing quickly as we settle into a routine.  We continue to walk to work each day, the five minute route, and to walk home.  I counted the other day and counted from my office cubicle to the front door of our apartment and it was exactly 600 steps.  I suppose if I lengthen my stride a little the number will be less.  Maybe that is true in most things we do.  As we lengthen our stride, the days become shorter, the work becomes more understandable, our purpose for being where we are at a given time becomes clearer and the distance between us and God is shortened.  This week we did lengthen our strides in a number of ways

Yesterday we decided to do something very different.  Up till then we had only ridden the bus one time.  We decided that we wanted to take a bus and go east as far as we could or wanted to.  We ended up catching a bus to Cieneguilla, a very nice little resort town (to the Peruvians in Lima) that sits in a little valley with a river running through it.  There is some tubing down the river, horseback riding, swimming, volleyball and football, and, of course, lots of eating.

The bus ride was another adventure.  We knew that the smaller buses (like 1½ size of a large van) were usually very packed with people.  We thought Saturday would be different…. We were wrong. We waited across the street from our apartment, waited and waited and waited for a bus to take us east.  (There are no bus schedules.) The first one that came by we flagged down and then crowded into a bus already packed, and I mean packed like sardines and then some.  If you have an issue with invasion of personal space, then the buses that travel to the little pueblos outside the big cities are not for you.  But we were prepared and we got on and shoved and pushed and wiggled our way into a place we could barely stand in by ourselves, let alone with three others, 1 square foot,  holding onto a bar running the length of the bus and smiling along with everyone else. Diane mentioned she felt like everyone was looking at us, probably because we were white and looked like tourists, me in my baseball cap and Di with a sun visor.

 It was an exhilarating thrill ride for about 30 minutes.  Let me give you a verbal picture of the system itself.  There is one driver and one attendant that stands at the one door.  I call him a “herdsman” because that’s what he does, he herds people on and off the bus.  As soon as the bus stops, if there are any to exit they will, all the time while the herdsman yelling "adelante, adelante!! Baja Baja Baja!!"  Then he yells for the people getting on to do the same and for the others to push their way back even if there is no place to go.  At that point we just lean all the same way.  It’s an amazing experience.

The trip to Cieneguilla was about 45 minutes.  It would have been shorter but as we were descending down into the valley, we came up behind a truck filled with tons of bricks.  He was geared down to the lowest gear and riding the brakes and only going about 1 mile an hour, no kidding.  The road is very crooked and treacherous there so the driver wisely did not pass ….. Until he could see at least 30 feet in front.  I always close my eyes and pray when that happens.  We finally passed the truck and made our way down into the little green valley.

It was such a refreshing experience to be out of Lima in a place that actually had some green plants and trees and a river.  We ended up at a restaurant and resort called “Mesa de Piedra” or table of rock.  It was a day of diversion for many families who were there on a weekend getaway.  There were soccer games (like five on five on a half field, and volleyball teams.  People had come from all over, especially Lima, for the day.

We just sat and watched the activities for a while and then decided to go see the ruins that are close by. We walked down the street and asked several how to get to the ruins of Huancan.  We walked up a little path and then up a road to where the ruins were.  When we got there the gate was closed but a woman (Ana) who works for the Peruvian Tourist and Culture department was at the gate.  We learned they were preparing for a celebration of family heritage of the two societies that had been there since 1000, the Ichma and then the Inca.  She literally gave us a personal tour because I told her we would be in Bolivia the day of the multi-country celebration..  She took us up and we walked around the amazing site, seeing the holes where the tombs where and the fresas of the calendar system the Incas used.  It was really an amazing thing to see and to be high enough to look from a place above down on the ruins and then down into the valley of Cieneguilla.

Just a little fun trivia about the above pictures:  the bottom left with the two holes. It was the custom to bury their family members right there in their home; their dead lived with them. In the middle picture, the circles represent the months of the year. In the right picture second from the bottom, can you pick out the city plaza? Well, maybe if it was a bigger picture.

We then went back to the Mesa de Piedra Resort and had lunch.  Our waitress was a little LDS young single adult, Cecilia. I decided to order something different, Guinea Pig.  Not again!  Tasty but no meat. I’ve never had to dig through so many little bones and flesh.  This was not a fat guinea pig and was cooked with its little legs poking out.  Well, it was tasty, the two small bites I was able to pick out. .  I had a slice of what I thought was a red pepper.  It must have been a jalapeƱo because I ate it and it kept getting hotter and hotter until my tongue and lips were burning.  It finally cooled down.

We saw Peruvian dancers and a Peruvian band and ate on a table made with a slab of rock.  What a day!

We caught a bus  back to La Molina, this time with room to sit down.  Our experience coming home was watching from the back of the bus the people being packed in one at a time.  There was never a time the driver passed up a stop because the bus was too full, amazing.  We also saw that many of the people on the bus lived in the little shacks built on up the barren hillside without a tree or bush in site.  In fact the only trees we saw along the way were a few at the bus stop.  Even though the countryside around Cieneguilla was stark, barren, hot, dusty and barren, the people are kind, gentle, courteous and just thankful for what they have.  What a lesson we can and should all learn from them.

March 22, 2015

WEEK 5 ~ Our Mission Memories

We have grown accustomed to the noise of the nearby street. It starts very early in the morning about 5:00 with car horns and buses. With the construction next to us, the traffic has been diverted from four lanes to two. That has slowed the traffic way down and it is separated from us by a row of trees and bushes. The construction is moving along, however, and the road that passes our apartment will open again soon, thus more dirt and noise.

In the early morning hours, we hear a bike horn similar to a child’s bike horn a few times a week. They are notifying the neighborhood they are there to sell bread on their cart, beep beep beep beep.

Several times a day we hear what the Americans call the national anthem, car alarms! They go on for quite some time as a status symbol. Some of the cars are so sensitive, all we do is walk by and it sets them off. We are getting more adventurous taking the bus instead of a taxi. It is a lot cheaper and we are learning which bus goes where even though there are no route maps available online or otherwise. If we choose the time of day carefully, we can even find a seat. We tell the driver “la esquina” (the corner) or “baja aqui” (stop here) when we want to get off. If we do too much shopping, we have to get a taxi home which is only about $2 for every five miles.

Friday my computer was down so I went home and did the weekly cleaning. I cleaned the window sills, under the couch and under the beds, vacuumed, dusted, swept and mopped until everything was clean again. Then I went out and bought flowers just for the house and they are beautiful.. We did see a few drops of rain this week. A few drops (I really mean a few drops) fell on the sidewalk and a woman walking in front of me down the sidewalk whipped her umbrella out. I kid you not. I think she was just hoping. I did take a picture, quite humorous. And you don't see women in their traditional dress very often but this picture was taken by the church office building as she was selling vegetables to anyone who passed by.

A few weeks ago, the Relief Society announced they were looking for dancers to perform at the Relief Society birthday celebration. That sounded like fun so I talked Julene Kendell into joining me for the performance. Just think, I told her, when would you ever again get to learn a Peruvian dance and dress in costume to dance? She is older than I but she was a good sport and accepted the opportunity (challenge). We practiced   Wednesday and Friday, 5:00-7:00 for two weeks, then performed last night. Our practices were very hot. The dance is from the highlands of Cusco, and part of the dance included going down on one knee, standing up, turning around and going down on our knee again, four times! Well, we’re too old for that so only the younger girls did that while we stole away and took off our heavy wool skirts to reveal our denim jeans underneath. 

We ran back out with our “sombrero” cowboy hat just as the music was changing and ended with a country line dance to some real country western music. The audience loved it! We were glad we participated. Julene admitted she had a wonderful experience and would have never volunteered if I didn’t encourage her. We became close to the Peruvian sisters we danced with; a great memory.

Doing anything here in Peru is twice as much work as back home. Laundry takes twice as long because the washing machine is so tiny, have to get a taxi to go to the store for milk, dishes are washed by hand, and cooking is quite an adventure. We’re really pleased when something turns out good. I made my own chili in the crockpot and it was delicious. Last Sunday, I cooked ribs in the crockpot and, boy ‘o boy, they were better than anything downtown! I can't find powdered bitter baking chocolate anywhere, you know, like Hersey's. I have a birthday coming up so maybe someone could send me some so I can make my own birthday cake! :) A small package can be sent to the Area Office: 

Oficina de Area Sudamerica Noroeste
Hermana Cheney
Calle El Grifo, #151
Urb. Campo Verde
La Molina, Lima 12, Peru

March 16, 2015

WEEK 4 ~ Lines Lines Lines

Monday  "Interpol and Teeth"
We had an experience that every missionary couple has the opportunity to have at the “INTERPOL” (headquarters for the Peruvian Nation Policed) where we applied for our visas.  The morning began at 7 am with our driver, Fernando, picking us up and taking us downtown close to the American Embassy to have our pictures taken for our visas.  We spent a good 45 minutes there waiting for the pictures to be “completed” even though they were on the computer.  We then were driven to INTERPOL where we waited in line to take a number to wait in line to have our teeth checked (yes, I kid you not) Each person went into a very small room one at a time with three women  One woman was the “tooth inspector".  We were told to lie flat on our back on an old (probably discarded) dentist chair and then open our mouth wide while the tooth inspector looked at each one of our teeth all the while we held our mouth open as wide as possible.  She then told the other two women all about our teeth, which ones had fillings, and crowns, bridges, root canals and probably even cavities.  I'm surprised she didn't tell us we needed to floss more.  The other two woman recorded what the tooth inspector said on a piece of paper written in pen or pencil.  That is how they identify a non Peruvian if by chance they die while in the country.  It’s by your teeth, no photos just a written report by the visual exam of the tooth inspector.  I'm sure there is an explanation for whey they do it this way.  Maybe they just like to see our dentures.  We then waited in line …… again to have our passports checked and then given permission to have our finger prints taken.  After that….. well we were done.  It was quite the experience.  Another day in the life of a missionary.  We will hopefully receive our visas in several weeks.  I hope my teeth are still in good shape by then. 

Thursday  "Night at the Theater"
We attended a special Peruvian dance performance at the new Grand National Theater. It is really a beautiful facility for concerts and special events. The dancing was fabulous and the costumes were so brilliant in color and detail. Some of the costumes were Las Vegas style. We couldn’t take pictures so I took pictures of the program to share. J It was absolutely grand choreography and dance steps requiring strength and endurance.

"Premera Capacitacion"  
We participated in our first AAA training on Saturday. Even though we could not be seen through our Skype connection, we could see the brethren in Venezuela and hear them and them us.  At first it was a little difficult. And, I’m sure, somewhat frustrating for them when I didn’t even know what they were asking me or that they were even asking a question.  They wanted to receive some counsel from me.  Finally I asked them to speak much slower.  which they did very slow, like a recording 3X slower than normal.  It was pretty funny.  So I asked them to speed up a little, then a little faster and then we got it just right and I could understand.  I told them that they would need to be patient with a 62 year old man who had lost millions of brain cells the moment he turned 60.  They really laughed and slapped their legs.  It broke the ice and I stumbled through.  I was grateful the Spirit took over and we were able to communicate a little better.  I was able to give them some simple counsel that I’m sure they already knew but it was good for me to say it.  We were with them for an hour and Diane shared her testimony …….. in Spanish.  I was so surprised.  I was ready to translate for her but she had written her testimony and read and said it to them.  It was simple and she struggled with some of the wording but those dear men understood what she said and I felt the Spirit touch them.

 "Un Gran Paseo"
Yesterday (Saturday) us and three other couples (the Acosta’s, Kendell’s, and Clark’s)  went on little paseo down to the ocean to a mall (Larco Mar) to the Inca Market and Kennedy Park, Dinner and then we topped the evening off by going to the “Water Park”.  We Began the day by sharing taxis and driving to the beach and mall, which is built into the side of the hill overlooking the beach. Diane was able to get two blouses that she was looking for.  

We (the Kendells and us) walked from the beach 14-16 blocks to the Inca Market where we looked more closely at the many wonderful Peruvian made crafts and blankets etc.  On the way we went past Kenndy Park, a main gathering place in that district (Mira Flores) for tourist and where to catch a tour bus of Lima.  Right next to the park was an old Catholic Cathedral, well known  for their care and protection of feral cats.  Needless to say their were cats all over the place, sleeping, lounging and strolling around the church and park.  It was amazing.

We finally met up with our group at the Inca Market.  Diane bought a few things there and then on the way to dinner, Sister Kendell noticed a specialty store with a lot of kitchen items.  Diane has been looking  and looking for a crock pot and was told by all that there was no such an item in Peru.  However,  Julene Kendell and Diane decided to look in the store anyway.  And there on a shelf surrounded by a zillion rice cookers were two crock pots.  Diane was ecstatic.  So we bought the smaller one.  That was quite the process just being able to purchase it.  I first had to get a ticket for the item. I then had to go to another part of the store stand in line to pay for it (taking about 20 minutes) and then  after paying, I had to go to another part of the store, stand in line again for another 15 minutes.  That’s how they do it here and I guess they think it’s an efficient method.  You can’t just go in a store, buy something, pay for it and walk out.  I guess it might be that they don’t have items stocked on the shelves and have to retrieve it from the back storeroom.

After that, I chose to carry it even though Diane offered.  I slung it over my back and held on to the bag “handles” and carried it like a back pack the rest of the day and into the evening. We Walked and walked from that store back to Kennedy Park and the Church and to a restaurant close by.  By the time we arrived my feet and knees were killing me and my load of the crock pot lightened.  I took my shoes off and enjoyed dinner.  After dinner we went out and got two taxis and then over to the water park where we finished the evening. What an incredible place.  It is a very large park with grass and old trees and large and different water fountains all over the park. We walked and walked and were amazed at the beautiful and different fountains.  One had a lazer light show every 45 minutes.  We were able to stand at the fence and watch the show of different colored lazer beams and movie projections using the mist from the dancing fountains as their screen.  It was just amazing,.  We ended our evening there and got a taxi and came home just exhausted but very satisfied with spending such a wonderful P-day with such great friends. 

March 8, 2015

WEEK 3 ~ Fruit for the Body and Spirit

We were at Jocky Plaza at Saga Fallabella’s, a store similar to Penney’s. It is four floors so Joe was on one floor buying a couple of shirts and I had gone up one level to look for his socks. I was in the process of choosing when a woman employee came up to me and started talking to me . . . in Spanish. She had noticed my name tag and was asking questions and explaining something to me but I couldn’t keep up. I started to get pretty frustrated because she just kept talking like I could understand. I was so relieved when Joe showed up and took over the conversation.

She had been sick, looking for answers and was looking for a church to go to. Her name is Milagra and Joe gave her a pass-along card and invited her to church. We don’t know where she lives but we hope she will look up a church or call the mission home number on the card. It was a miracle Joe showed up to talk to her when he did because there was a long line downstairs to pay for his shirts but, while he was standing in line, an employee came up to him and told him she would help him at another register. It only took a few minutes what would have been 10-15! The Lord takes care of the small details in our life, especially when we are on his errand! Again, our taxi driver going home was very interested, as well, and Joe gave him a pass-along card. We just pray we say the right things so the Spirit can testify to them.

The work in the office is going well. I am learning more and more every day. I have access to some pretty amazing and confidential sites on the church website. My eyes have really been opened. I study Spanish about an hour every day at my desk, as well as answer emails. They come in Spanish, I translate, ask my mentor how she would respond, and then write a reply in Spanish. I do a lot of expense approval which doesn’t need any Spanish at all, and I created quite a complicated Excel form. I had to learn how to use Excel because it's been so long and I couldn’t remember anything. The days go by fast.

It is summer here so there are lots of fruits available and they are so good.  In the picture, can you name the different fruits shown? The bananas go bad here really quick, probably because they are so fresh, so I made some awesome banana pancakes and banana muffins last week. Yesterday, our outing for the day was to walk to the fruit store. We bought one of every kind of fruit so we could try them all since we had not seen many of them. That was weird! The little red (plums) were all seed but tasted good what little meat there was. The mango and papaya were great.  The prickly pear was a total disappointment because it was so full of seeds. I guess the people strain it to get the pulp to use in recipes. I have no idea. And then the biggest laugh for us was the passion fruit, the pretty peach-colored fruit the size of a baseball with a hard outer layer. I cut it in half and scooped out the seeds that were really slimy. All that was left was a thin layer of gristle and the hard shell. We just through it out and found out later that it was passion fruit and the slimy substance around the seeds is the heart of the fruit that they make juice from. That was the first thing I scooped out into the sink!

Last Wednesday we were at Jocky Plaza, the big mall downtown. We bought a sofa table to put against the wall, and I actually found a silk fichus tree that was priced reasonable. The table was delivered, but Joe was a good sport to carry the 5’ tree all over that huge mall, in and out of stores, for the next hour or so. Then we bought two area rugs I had to carry and then catch a taxi home! The apartment is feeling like home. I've included some updated pictures.

The security at our apartment is really good. There is a gate that cars have to go through that is opened by a guard who sits at the gate. Then there is another gate to our six apartments that we have a key to. Even our door has a double bolt. The security at the church office building is very tight, as well. It takes us about 5 minutes to walk to the office and then we go through a security check point that is a little house we pass through to get to the inside property. It is opened from the inside when they see who we are. We enter the building through the big double doors but to get past the reception area we need our key card to open the inside door to the offices. The food here is pretty expensive and there’s not much in the way of familiar items. We learned about the lunch room downstairs in our building so we’ve been going there. You can by a pretty extensive hot meal for S/. 7 (7 soles) which is about $2.25. I still take a few things from home for lunch but Joe has been buying lunch there and then we eat a very light dinner, a salad or sandwich. We go out to dinner about three times a week because it is so good and not very expensive. Joe had prime rib tonight with potatoes and it was only about $13. My dinner was $10. When we buy food at the grocery store, we can hardly get out with less than $50 for a few staple items.

Monday we had a Family Home Evening group for all the senior missionaries, about 32 in all. It was held at the temple cafeteria so we learned we can eat there after work and before a session. We had a barbeque and everyone brought a potluck to share so there was plenty of food. We even played games!! We did the hula hoop, suck the marshmallow to another cup relay, and stack and collapse cups. We have met some wonderful friends here which mix up our work, home and play.

Oh, we found a nice place to walk/jog just a few blocks from our house. It is a green belt down the middle of a very busy thoroughfare at 7:00 in the morning. It’s almost park-like with a big fountain and sculptures made in the grass with cement and bricks, etc. like a turtle, snake, ant, ladybug, butterfly and alligator. Can you see the animals? Along the path are groups of workout equipment which is a nice alternative. It’s about a mile long path so it’s a good little run down and back a few times with cars and buses passing by. 

Last night we attended a baptism that turned out to be quite a sweet deal. While we were out in the morning, I wanted to get some fresh flowers for our apartment. They have beautiful flowers for little expense. While I was looking at the different arrangements, I just got a strong impression to get flowers for the baptism and to give them to the Jessica whose two good looking sons were being baptized, one 21 and one 16. The floral store only had arrangements in red and yellow so I asked if she would make up the same arrangement in white with a little pink. She said she would and since it is right around the corner from our home, Joe picked it up an hour later. It was beautiful and only cost S/.70 ($23) with white lilies, white roses and white starbursts.

The baptism was 5:00pm at our building. We walked over with the Acosta's but when we got there, we learned from a Brother who came to the church especially to notify anyone who was there that it was moved to another building about 15 minutes away as part of a stake baptism. Bless him for taking time to come by! We hustled to find a cab and the first one that came along knew exactly where the LDS building was! Wow. After winding through many neighborhoods around and about, we got to the ward house 15 minutes late but they hadn’t started yet. I had time to meet with Sister Jessica and her family to tell her the flowers were especially for her and then we placed them in front on the podium. I felt so happy I had listened to the spirit because the chapel was full with 9 baptisms and the flowers added such a beautiful touch. We were a little worried that certainly there would be no passing taxi in that neighborhood to take us home but a good brother from our ward who works at the American Embassy was there with his big Honda Pilot. His family was not with him so he had room to take us and the Acosta's
home. That was a pretty special experience to be with so many missionaries and new converts and see the work moving forward!

There is apparently only one sister in Relief Society who plays the piano. She is a senior missionary and will be going home in July. Today she was filling in with the Primary so someone had heard that I played. They asked me to fill in . . . right now. Oh my goodness. I played a little prelude and said a sincere prayer. Our song was Dad's favorite, How Great Thou Art, and I played it almost flawless and wasn't even nervous. It was a tender mercy and answer to prayer. Maybe I can be of some service to play. There is a piano at the office so I will try to practice a few times a week. One observation I had today was that all the young boys wear suits, whether or not they are passing the Sacrament. During the Sacrament, they look so good! We live in a very nice and affluent part of Lima so I'm sure it's not like this on the other side of the city.

March 2, 2015

WEEK 2 ~ Taxi Rides, rain, and small earthquake

Our week was a very busy one, still learning much, well at least we have a handle on the phone system in the office..... kind of.  We are finding that each day is so full and busy with learning our assignments and trying to understand the Spanish around us.  We work in a section with 8 others around us.  All of them are Peruvian residents and none of them speak English.  They are so wonderful to work with and with a few English words that they know, hand signals and spanglish we get by.

The picture in the middle is L to R: Jorge, Francisco, Joe, Miguel, Mario and Nelly, the audit department. We work on the second floor.

One of the days last week was a very exciting one.  The wall behind our desk is banked with windows running the entire length of the room.  It overlooks the Peru MTC.  As we were working someone exclaimed excitedly to look out the window.  All got up and rushed to see what it was.  It was a miracle ...... it was raining .... a few drops literally but all were excited to see. Kind of like seeing snow in San Diego.  It averages about 2 inches of rain per year so any rain is a rare occurrence.  It was certainly a highlight of that day.

The other night after going to bed, I had just stood up from prayer when Diane came into the room and asked  "did you feel that?!"  I had not but she, being from California knew that we had experienced a small earthquake.  We found out the next day it was a 4.5 quake.  That night, before I went to bed I put some shoes and pants and shirt I could grab quickly just in case.

Finally, the taxi rides.  This has been our only mode of transportation so far.  Taxis are not expensive but we have to plan our trips so we aren't taking them everywhere and all the time.  Most run on natural gas which is about the same as regular gas in price but much cleaner and more economical.  We have met some very interesting and intelligent men as we have traveled.  Last Friday we took a taxi to and from the shopping mall. I learned I needed to have pass along cards with me as both were very interested in learning about the Church. One had just separated from his wife of 15 years and was very sad about his situation.  He wanted to know what our teachings were about the family.  I told him that God wanted families to exist beyond this life.  That is what we teach.  It was that simple and he was visibly touched.  He asked if he could come to church with us. We waited for him today but he didn't show up.  I know his name and he has my phone number.  

We are finding that we are making good friends with the taxi drivers and now they are looking for us as we go to a spot to catch one. We have met two Roy's, Jorge, John Wayne, Ulysses, and a slew of others.  We love the people.  For the most part they are warm, friendly, and very helpful.  We are becoming more accustomed to this beautiful country, both the physical and spiritual look of it.  This is our 2nd week report.