Series #6.

A major DOWN in the

Ups, Downs, and All Arounds of Living in Peru

is

BALANCE.

A week ago, we had some visitors here at our campus and we shared breakfast with them. They asked a lot of really difficult questions, but the one that was hardest for me to answer was, “How do you balance family and ministry?’ I looked him right in the eye and said,

“I don’t know. I don’t think I do.”

Balance in ministry is hard for basically everyone, I think. I’m a pastor’s daughter and I saw my dad have a very hard time balancing family life and church ministry. Looking back over the past 30-odd years, I’m 100% positive my dad knows now that he didn’t balance it all that well. He’s worked hard on changing that in the last few years and we’ve all been grateful for that (my mom especially).

So, maybe I can say I don’t have the best example of balance in family and ministry. But, I don’t think I can blame it all on my father. Truth be told, there’s no one to blame it on – it just is what it is.

In this post, I can’t talk for all of Peru; I can only talk about where I am specifically. Here, the missionaries that have been around the longest have just automatically taken their kids with them to everything they do. Their kids are an integral part of their lives and their ministry and, really, there is no separation between family life and ministry. In some ways – this is genius. The kids here have grown up knowing what ministry is and they know that even children can have a role in ministry. They know what serving the Lord is and they have grown up with a love for the Lord and an appreciation for what their parents do. I went to a Bible school that was full of missionary kids and many of them had grown up in boarding schools and weren’t very familiar with what their parents did and hadn’t been involved in their parents’ ministries – and many of them were not walking with the Lord. So, I think in many ways the kids being involved in ministry here is a wonderful idea.

BUT…

  • What do you do when your kids are little and need you 24/7?
  • What do you do when your ministry is from 9-5 and you have no sitter for half of that and yet you need to get a ton of work done?
  • What do you do when you need to travel, but your kids are little and need a schedule?
  • What do you do when you have a weekend event and no babysitter, but you’re expected to be up front and active the entire 48 hours?

These are just some of the questions I ask myself on a regular basis. I, personally, find it almost impossible to balance my life with my daughter and my life in the school. If I’m in the school, I can’t give all my attention to my daughter and I have to focus on teaching. If I’m at home, then obviously I’m not teaching at all and giving all my attention to my child and no attention (except lesson planning, etc) on the school. If we have an afternoon where our sitter is gone, then we have to figure out how to handle it – either I don’t work and take care of the baby or Brian doesn’t work and takes care of the baby. Last week, if Elena hadn’t been sick, I would’ve missed three days of school because of my sitter being gone. That’s a chunk of time! But, I can’t expect my husband to just stay home, either, because he has his own responsibilities (and more of them than I have).

So… how do you balance??

I still have no idea. 

I’m saying “no” more often and I’m being honest with the parents I teach for, telling them that I’m at my limit and can’t add anymore students or be expected to do anymore work until I get full-time help. But it still doesn’t fix the problem of all the responsibilities that I have while I wait for full-time help.

Yes, family should be involved in what you do. I know there are varying views behind this, but I, personally, don’t think kids should be sent off to boarding schools – I think they should be with their parents and see what they do and be a part of their lives. But, I also believe there comes a point where priorities change and how you do ministry also changes.

I think we’re at that point and some days, that frustrates me. I want to be a missionary – I want to do ministry! I would like to do what I do better than I’m doing it now. But then… I want more kids. I can’t just wait to have children because I’m a missionary right now. I think that’s totally against God’s plan for anyone. I don’t want to be hindered by my children, but I think it also means that some things must change.

My earnest prayer right now is for someone to come help full-time. Here’s my list of needs:

  • Someone who views the school as a ministry, not a job. 
  • Someone who is committed to working with the kids and investing in them. 
  • Someone who speaks Spanish and English. The Spanish can be minimal, but they should have a general knowledge of Spanish. 
  • Someone who can commit to a school year (at least) at a time – April to November. 
Do you know someone who you think might be interested? Do you know someone who might know someone?? Let me know! 

So, how do you balance, wherever you are, in whatever you do?

Series #5.

If you follow my blog at all, you know that one of the things I love is food. I love to cook, I love to try new food, I love to try new recipes – love it all. So, no surprise, an UP to living in Peru is —

FOOD.

Here’s a run-down on just a few of the national dishes of Peru and some food that we have come to know and love in the last three years.

Meet “Aji de Gallina”:

“Aji” is a pepper native to Peru. The first thing you need to know about Peruvian food is that it is not spicy. So, even though it includes quite a bit of the aji pepper (hence the yellow color), it is not a spicy food. “Gallina” means “hen.” It may not win points for looks, but it sure tastes amazing. It is: boiled, shredded chicken, a very specific kind of bread (or sometimes quinoa), aji peppers, garlic, milk, and chicken stock. It is a very thick, borderline pasty in texture, sauce, but very flavorful. It is always served alongside rice on a bed of lettuce garnished with black olives and boiled eggs – just like the picture. Yummy.

Now, meet the national coastal dish of Peru: Cebiche (or “ceviche” depending on where you’re at) –

To be brutally honest, this is not my favorite dish. But, I am not a fish person. I can eat a little of it, but not a whole plate. It is basically raw fish “cooked” in lemon. They say “cooked” because the raw fish is extremely fresh and then marinated in a lemon juice mixture long enough for it to kill anything bad in the fish and infuse it with a strong lemony flavor. They also cook this with aji and garlic and onion and I’m not sure what else – and it’s normally served with corn and sweet potato. It is renowned throughout the world – and for good reason. If I was a big fish eater, I’m sure I would love it more.

Moving on to beef, we have: Lomo Saltado

“Lomo” is beef and “saltado” basically means “salty.” If something is “saltado” it normally means it has lots of soy sauce on it. Now, this dish I could eat all the time. I LOVE it. A really well-done “lomo saltado” is amazing. You can even get empanadas stuffed with lomo saltado (I’ll get to those in a sec). It is strips of beef, red onion, tomato, and red pepper sauteed in soy sauce over an open flame. As one of my friends showed me, really good chefs will flip the beef over the open flame to get that flavor on the meat. It’s served with French fries and rice.

For pastry, we have: empanadas.

These could be likened to Michigan’s “pasties” or “Hot Pockets.” They are dough filled with a meat mixture and sauce. You can get a huge variety of them with all different types of dough. My favorites are at this one restaurant we found that’s more like a bakery. Their empanadas have a flaky dough, slightly dusted with flour. The filling can be either hamburger or chicken, sauteed with onions, peppers, mushrooms, garlic, tomato sauce, and boiled eggs. You can also get cheese stuffed empanadas – just fresh cheese (normally goat cheeses – very creamy, very good, but almost too rich!). One of my favorites: spinach artichoke stuffed empanadas. They taste like spinach artichoke dip wrapped in pastry dough. I have to admit, when we go to our local market, I beg for a meat empanada. It’s my guilty pleasure.

Next on the list is another dish made with lots of aji: causa.

Can you tell this one was homemade and not a professional picture? 🙂 I helped make this one last year. Our husbands had been out working in the jungle all day and we wanted to make them a yummy supper so we spent the afternoon (literally) making this causa! In order to make it, we boiled potatoes whole with skin on until tender, then peeled them by hand and put them in a giant bowl to be mashed, also by hand. I literally mean – by hand. You get your hands in there and smoosh! To the potatoes, you add a bunch of aji sauce, mayonnaise, lemon, and salt. You get it as smooth as possibly, then lay out half of it on a pan lined with aluminum foil. On top of it goes shredded, boiled chicken, and cooked, diced veggies like carrots and peas, mixed with mayonnaise, salt, pepper, and more lemon. Then, once you lay that layer out, you cover the top with the rest of the smooth potato mixture. It’s served cold, normally with rice and – you guessed it – a boiled egg on top.

Another potato dish I could eat all the time and think is just genius is: papa rellena.

“Papa” means “potato” and “rellena” means “filled.” In case you haven’t figured it out by now, Peruvians love potatoes and boiled eggs. This is no exception. It’s the same general meat filling that you find in empanadas, with the addition of raisins. Then, you cook the potatoes the same way as you do for causa, and divide it into balls. You roll each ball out almost like pie dough, and put some filling in the center, then wrap the potato around the filling. Then – this is the best, most ingenious part – all of it gets deep-fried. Oh yeah. Serve with rice and aji sauce and life is good.

Peru is not known for dessert, but there are three I wanted to share with you.

The first is the most famous: arroz con leche.

Literally translated, this is “rice with milk.” You probably know it as “rice pudding.” “Rice with milk” is more accurate, though, because that is literally how it is cooked. Peruvian rice pudding is rich, creamy, and made with three different types of milk (regular, evaporated, and condensed), cooked with cinnamon sticks and topped with extra cinnamon and raisins. Best rice pudding on earth. I promise you.

Another popular dessert is a cookie – the alfajor.

“Alfajor” is pronounced “alpha – whore”. So many jokes. So little time. Now that you think I’m not spiritual, I’ll move on. These are little cookies filled with a cream called “manjar blanco” which is condensed milk cooked and stirred for hours and hours until it turns into a caramel. We call it “Peruvian peanut butter” because it’s used in many ways how Americans use peanut butter. It’s rich and yummy and just… yummy. Sorry. Couldn’t think of another adjective! 🙂 They’re just that good. They’re covered in powdered sugar and occasionally the cookie itself has a little bit of “anis” in it (tastes like licorice).

The last dessert I want to introduce you to is a cake – tres leches.

Just like the name implies, this is cake made from “three milks.” Actually, technically, there’s four milks, but we’ll just let that go. Anyway – the cake itself is made with milk in it and then you make a mixture of evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream, poke holes in the top, and pour it over the cake. It’s served cold. It’s so rich and incredibly amazing.

So there ya go! I hope this has helped you expand your horizons and think of good food not just being in Italy, France, and Brazil (or wherever you happen to think good food comes from). A definite UP in the

Ups, Downs, and All Arounds of Living in Peru.

Series #4.

We went through cultural training before moving to Peru and one of the things that I struggled with the most was talking about

TIME.

Before moving to Peru, I revolved around:

  • a pocket calendar
  • a planner
  • a wall calendar
  • sticky notes for my to do list
  • calendar on my computer
  • reminders on my phone
  • wrist watch
  • wall clock in every important room in the house
  • alarm clock
  • cell phone clock

I moved to Peru armed with a new wrist watch, a desk calendar, a wall calendar, a day planner, and a pocket calendar. Within a week, my watch broke; within a month I forgot I owned a wall calendar; within a few months, the pocket calendar was mostly for birthday reminders.

At first I thought the breaking of my watch was the worst thing that could ever happen to me. Looking back, I think it was one of the best. I was no longer dependent on it. I was FREE! =) It was… liberating.

Most of the time when we have visitors, they think that Peruvians view time like this:

This, however, is not true. I repeat: this is not true. Now, repeat after me: NOT TRUE.

This is where our cultural training came in very handy. I don’t remember all the technical terms for stuff, but basically, there are different ways to view time. Americans/Europeans view time as the rule – very strict, must be obeyed, almost “slave to the clock.” Things are very punctual – it’s something pounded into you since you’re a child. My dad is an extremely punctual person – always has been. If we were five minutes early, he considered us late. He’s a pastor, so we got to church at least a solid hour before anything started – any later and we were “rushing” and “super late.” The mentality rubbed off on my brother and by high school, he was every bit as punctual as my father. I, however, just didn’t get that gene.

My husband’s family leans much more to the South American/African side of the spectrum. Life in South Dakota is much more laid back and particularly in his family, plans are met with the attitude of these guys:

Remember these guys – from Disney’s “The Jungle Book”? Their conversation consisted of, “Whatcha wanna do?” “I dunno. Whatcha wanna do?” “I dunno. Whatcha wanna do?”

I kid you not – we have had this conversation with Brian’s family… every Sunday afternoon, every special day (eg – Mother’s Day)… Decisions are made after hours of discussion and debating and distractions and more debating and then a giant compromise and then we’re off and gone for hours longer than was “planned.”

Brian hasn’t worn a watch in years. Living without a day planner, a schedule, a time frame – was way easier on him than on me. Even though I am not Miss Punctual, what I am is Mrs. Planner. I like to know what’s happening and when and how and where. Without that, I feel L.O.S.T.

But, like I was saying – time here is important. But, it is viewed differently.

Time = Relationships.

Here, a relationship will always take precedence over being on time. Are you having a conversation that will make you late for church? So be it. Are you talking with the mechanic after he’s done his work and you need to get home? So be it. Is the pastor late for the service? Then it’ll start late. Did something come up and you’ll be late getting to an appointment? Okay. Time is all about relationships. 

There are certain things that run on time, though. Our Bible school, for instance, is on time. Stores open on time. Certain appointments are on time. There is a lee-way, almost like a grace period, where you are not considered “late” – about 15 minutes, depending on the occasion. So, for example, the first service at our church Sunday morning starts about 15 minutes late sometimes, but the second service starts on time. People, however, will show up any time during the service – including during the announcements… which are at the end.

Then, some things we just know will be late: doctor’s appointments, weddings, anything in government. You just automatically know – this is going to run late – and you deal with it.

But, I think it’s more the lack of planning that gets me. I can deal with it being late – because really, if everybody is late, then it’s not really late; the schedule was wrong. But, when plans are finalized, when things change last minute, when you’re not informed, when you’re just supposed to know what’s going on without being told – THAT gets to me. I like to know and I live in a country where no one knows!

So, how do I handle it?
  1. Don’t ask too many unanswerable questions. If I know they’re not going to know the answer yet, I don’t even bother asking the question.
  2. Don’t get too involved in things that are unplanned. If I can avoid it, I don’t get too involved because I know the lack of planning and the not knowing will just give me unneeded stress.
  3. Do as much planning as is acceptable and possible on my own. If I can get a jump-start on planning and get things done on my own, I will. And then I feel like I at least got things rolling (kind of like, I’d rather take the detour even though it’s longer because I don’t like just sitting in traffic not going anywhere).
  4. Take a deep breath — and just let it go. Relax. Vent to my husband and my mom and then… let it go. If it’s not planned and I’m not the one responsible for it not being planned, then it ultimately does not affect me too much and it’ll be okay.

The hard part now is keeping the balance between the two cultures when we travel back and forth. We need to go with the flow here, but we need to be on time and well-planned THERE. That is hard when you don’t do it for two years at a time! Balance. I think that’ll be my next “Down” so watch for it!

For now… I’ll end my thoughts on Peruvian time… just another “Down” in the

Ups, Downs, and All Arounds of Living in Peru.

Series, Post #3.

When I was thinking this week of an “Up” to write about along the lines of

The Ups, Downs, and All Arounds of Living in Peru,

the one thing that kept coming back to me was: people. Specifically: my little people. The cute ones I teach every day. 🙂

This picture was taken just this September, a couple weeks ago. My husband was in charge of “Spring Day” where they all planted flowers to celebrate spring and brighten up the campus. I was sick that day and home in bed. Brian snapped this picture of the three girls I teach. They were planting a flower for me. They picked out the pretties one, cleaned out the pot, planted it carefully, and have been watering it and taking care of it outside our classroom ever since. They were so proud of themselves and could not WAIT for me to see the flower they had picked out specifically for me. Melted my heart.

Back in 2009, I took this picture, also on spring day:

and this one:

A definite “up” has been getting to know these kids. In many ways, I’ve come to feel like they’re mine. I rejoice in their achievements, I cry when they fail, I cheer them on and snap pictures at every event they participate in, I stay up late making sure the next day for them is going to go well, I pray for them. They’re special, unique, and loveable. 🙂 Some of the cultural differences between them and children in the States include:

  • When talking about poverty and how they can help others, it’s always met with the response, “Last week, at the market, I saw a man with no legs who was asking for money. I asked my mom and she gave me two soles to give to him, so I did.” Or, “There was kid begging for money in Lima the other day so I gave him all the money I had in my pocket.” Or, “This year, I want to give away all the toys I don’t play with anymore to someone who doesn’t have any. I don’t need them.”
  • When I told them about raising chicks from eggs in 3rd grade, it was met with, “Did you eat them for Christmas? I think we should do that – raise chicks and then eat them for Christmas dinner!”
  • When talking about weather, one has never even heard thunder and neither have ever experienced snow. The other day, one asked me, “Lisa, I wish it would snow. Why doesn’t it snow here?” I had to explain that it doesn’t get cold enough here and when they asked me how cold it needed to be snow, I’m pretty sure they thought I was lying.
  • When teaching about time zones, daylight savings time, and the sun coming up and going down at different times during the year, they are completely lost. We live in a country where the time zone never changes, we don’t do daylight savings, and the sun rises and sets basically all year round around 6 – AM and PM. Yet another thing I think they think I’m lying about.
  • When I define spelling words, I use Spanish, hand motions, horrible stick pictures, and occasional pantomimes around the room.
  • When explaining a Magic School Bus book on where we get our water, I had to tell them, “And this… and this… and this.. and this… does not apply to us. We still can’t drink our water.” I had to do the same when they learned about pasteurized, canned, and processed food – no food is purchased in cans here (unless you have some money), most food these girls eat is not processed, and pasteurization I’m CONVINCED is different.
  • When telling them they have it easy – school starts at 9 and is over before 1 OR starts at 2 and is done by 5, they (again) don’t believe me. To them, this is A LOT of school. In Peru, you go to school either in the morning, the afternoon, or the evening – never all day, hardly any homework at night, and reading books? What books? They can’t fathom a school day that begins before 8 and ends after 3 PLUS homework.
This list could go on.
I’ve learned a lot from these kids, though. They have been raised to love the Lord and they understand what it means to serve the Lord. They are close knit to their families, but they love others and accept them into their families, too. They have grown up calling everyone “Tia” and “Tio” and “Primo” (aunt, uncle, cousin), enough so that they ask me sometimes, “Are they my real aunt or a fake one?” because they’re no longer sure.
My little ones are reading through a book that talks about different people groups in the world still without Scripture. You want to have your heart melt, listen in on these little girls pray, in English, for God to “please, please send a missionary and a Bible to these people!” I told them last week, “Maybe someday YOU will be that missionary” and their eyes got really big and they said…. “OR – maybe YOU can go instead!”
Not the point.
This is their artwork from the week. They read “Put Me in the Zoo” and had to draw an animal with funny colors and a talent. The top one: “Big Head” the T-Rex who dances with a top hat. The bottom: “Michaella Jackson” [she wanted Michael Jackson, but drew a tu-tu and decided it should be female instead so I helped her change it] who dances like Michael Jackson. Does that not just make your day?
And to melt your heart — Moses in the basket. Note the sad clouds, the sad faces on the mom and sister, and the teddy bear waiting in the basket so Moses wouldn’t be lonely.
I leave you with one final “Up” picture. This one, for me, spells “J-O-Y” — Elena with the girls and Eva (her sitter) blowing bubbles together in the school.
Just another day in the life with

Ups, Downs, and All Arounds of Living in Peru!

Series, Post #2.

When I think of the

Ups, Downs, and All Arounds of Life in Peru

one of my first thoughts is

INSECTS.

Even just writing the word makes me shudder. When I visited Peru in 2001, I was a (somewhat) brave high school girl. I was terrified of spiders (always have been, always will be), but during that trip, I didn’t see ONE. The only thing we saw were these:

I call these “Crickets of Unusual Size“, or COUS’s (if you don’t get the reference, think “Princess Bride”). It was hard to get a good picture, but honestly, these things are ginormous. Way larger than your average cricket. They eat through clothes, fly, and pop when you squish them. I do my best to never squish them. I sweep them outside. That is not so easy to do with things like this, though:

Literally my worst nightmare come to life. This is a wolf spider and this freakish creature carries its babies on its back. I kid you not. We had never heard of or seen such a thing and people did not believe us when we told them we killed a giant spider and babies scattered everywhere. It’s like something out of a horror movie. Uck. Getting creeped out just typing this. They normally show up in the evenings during the summer, scampering across our living room floor. Brian now covers them in spider spray (my go-to since I don’t own a vacuum cleaner anywhere to suck them up!) before stomping on anything. And then we sweep. And sometimes mop. So. Gross.

When we moved into our house, the bushes literally leaned against the side of our house. They were very tall.

This is Brian standing where our house is now. The bushes for the place where our house stands were burned down, but everything around it was left for a few more months. We had such an influx of insects I actually didn’t like coming home. One Saturday, I was home alone for the morning and decided to do some laundry and clean up the kitchen. I had my laundry hanging up in the spare room. Every rack had a spider hanging from it. I finally gave up and came into our bedroom to gather clothes to wash. I picked up a stack of clothes that had been on the floor for less than 24 hours. Out of habit, I shook them. I heard a *thunk* and looked down to see a giant spider running across my floor! I screamed, threw the clothes down, and stayed downstairs until Brian got home to kill it. I went downstairs to wash dishes having given up on the laundry for the morning. As I was cleaning up the kitchen, I noticed my counter looked funny. I got down on eye level and literally – the entire counter was moving. There were so many ants, it looked like my counter was going to walk away! I traced the line up the wall and out the front wall – there were 3 lines of ants marching across my house. I took my sandal off, slid it across the counter to kill them all, washed my counter thoroughly, sprayed the ants crawling up my house, and sat down on my couch and cried.

Somehow, over the last few years, I’ve gotten a handle on dealing with insects. I was told, “Oh, you’ll get used to the spiders and they won’t bother you after awhile.” They still bother me. I think they always will. But, I can handle myself (a little) better now. Brian has gotten used to hearing me yell for him to come kill something before I shower or while I’m cleaning the house. My students know how much I hate spiders and my 9th grader gladly kills whatever happens to be crawling across the floor, dangling from the ceiling, or hiding on my desk on any given day.

Another day, in the springtime, I was sitting in my school building and we literally watched all these tiny, baby spiders rappelling from the roof. Something hatched. I don’t have any idea how many we killed that day! Another day, also in spring, we were cleaning my school and found 3 black widows (different sides of the school – they’re territorial) and something like 27 other spiders of various sizes. ugh. Our campus now normally fumigates every spring; the spiders just got to be too many.

Currently, our issue is FLIES. A few flies is one thing – a fly swatter and a sticky fly strip and you’re good ta go. These are not a “few flies.” This is ridiculous. It’s like Moses’ plague. I walked into the kitchen yesterday and about 50 flew up from the counter into my face. Elena’s babysitter has been spraying to kill them, then thoroughly washing everything on my countertops, twice a day now. Ridiculous! This happens about twice a year – spring and summer. Nasty. By January, we’ll have 3 fly strips hanging downstairs, 2 upstairs, our fly swatter, and Brian will spray every night before bedtime. No wonder God used them as a plague on Egypt! Very useful. I wonder if the Japanese ever thought to put people in closed rooms filled with flies as a torture device? I’m sure it would be quite effective.

Now, I just have to ask: If spiders are “so useful”, why are we infested with flies?! I had three spiders in my shower for almost a week and I never once saw them eating any flies. Useless I tell you!

These are the main pests we deal with right here. In the jungle, there’s tarantulas, poisonous spiders, poisonous frogs, and a host of snakes. We do have rattlesnakes here… two crawled into my classroom one week. We also have scorpions, but right where we are, we rarely see them (we’ve been here three years and we have never seen one). Oh – and our ants bite. That’s fun.

Pests. Definitely a “down” of living in Peru! 🙂 Next time, I’ll cover an “up”!

Series.

Inspired by a friend who’s doing a series, I thought I would do some sort of a series/topic for some blog posts. I wanted to write about something fun, but something that covered a big variety of topics. After a lot of thought, I decided I would do a series on….

The Ups, Downs, and All Arounds of Life in Peru.

I’m going to give myself the goal of writing at least twice a week for the next month. That means about 8 posts specifically along the lines of Life in Peru, unless I get inspired (and have the time) to write more. I’ll try to keep them short, sweet, fun, and to the point with as many pictures as I can conjure up! I hope you will join me for this series… and I hope you enjoy it! If you think of something you’d like to know about life in Peru, missionary life in Peru, or anything in between, leave a comment and I’ll be sure to fit it in! 

To start off, I thought I’d tell you a little about the geography of Peru and where exactly we’re at here in the country.

Size-wise, Peru is a little smaller than the state of Alaska. Almost 30,000,000 people live in Peru. 7 million of them live in Lima – where we live.

Lima is the capital and largest city of Peru. It is the 26th largest city in the world with 7,443,000 people. We live in a district outside of the city called Pachacamac. Our village, Picapiedra, is small enough that it doesn’t show up on maps. It takes us 45 minutes to get to the outskirts of Lima, an area called La Molina. We basically live in the country. It’s a whole other world out here than in Lima proper.

Our village, Picapiedra

We live 20 minutes from the Pacific Ocean, so we have an almost constant cool breeze (wind!) year-round. Our summers are wonderful – sunny, warm, mid 80’s to upper 90’s, but cool at night. Our winters are a different story. Picture Ireland/Oregon – very foggy, dreary, drizzly rain, and H.U.M.I.D.! We are in the rain shadow of the Andes Mountains, which means we basically live in a desert. There are never any thunderstorms and it rarely rains. Our days get warm, but our nights are always chilly. Dust is… rampant. Green grass exists in winter when there’s more drizzle, but in the summer, everything is pretty brown.

We are surrounded by “hills.” In my mind, even though I grew up in the Green Mountains of Vermont, these are mountains. They’re quite large! But, all our friends say they’re just hills – especially in comparison to the Andes. And they’re right. We’ve been in the foothills of the Andes and… yes, they’re right. The Andes are much larger!

Us in Cajamarca, in the foothills of the Andes, 2009

We live in a poor area of Lima. Parts of Lima are incredibly wealthy and then the further out you go, the more poor it gets. People move to Lima from the mountains and the jungle because they think they can get good jobs, make something for their family, etc. But, they come to Lima and find they can’t afford housing, there are not enough jobs, and things are harder than they expected. They end up living in little shacks on government land.

Peru is a diverse country. The first year we were here, we traveled to the jungle, the Andes Mountains, the desert, and the Pacific Ocean – all without leaving Peru. With all the different geography comes different people. The jungle, mountain, and Lima people all have different accents, different cultures, and different food. Traveling around Peru is very much like traveling to whole different countries. Diverse, Diverse, Diverse!

Us in the jungle city of Iquitos, 2009

We’ve been here since March 2009. We had our first baby here in Peru last year. Three years has taught us a lot, but nowhere near enough! During this series, I’ll talk about the things we’ve learned, things we’ve struggled with, things we love, and things that are hard. I hope you enjoy this next month of the…

Ups, Downs, and All Arounds of Living in Peru!

Overwhelmed.

 1 The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
The skies display his craftsmanship.
2 Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make him known.
3 They speak without a sound or word;
their voice is never heard.[a]
4 Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,
and their words to all the world. -Psalm 19:1-4

I’m currently teaching my 4th grader about our vast universe in her science class. It is fascinating! I don’t know if it ever gets old to hear these facts about our universe:

  • Our moon is 240,000 miles from Earth.
  • It would take us 4 years traveling at the speed of light to visit one of the closest stars in our Galaxy.
  • To reach the edge of our Galaxy, at the speed of light, it would take us 120,000 years.
  • The sun is 93,000,000 miles from Earth.
  • Any closer to the sun and we would burn up. Any further away from the sun and we would freeze.
  • The Earth rotates once on its axis every 24 hours. The sun rotates once on its axis every 25 days.
  • The sun circles the Milky Way Galaxy once every 250,000,000 years even though it travels at 43,000mph.
  • The diameter of the sun is 865,000 miles – that’s 190 times greater than the diameter of Earth.
  • Astronomers calculate that there are more than 30,000,000,000 stars in our Galaxy. We only see 3000-5000 stars on a really clear night.
  • Astronomers also estimate that there is an infinite number of Galaxies beyond our Galaxy.
[One of the things I realized as I was teaching was that, as a Creationist, we believe the Earth is fairly young. Which means that the sun has yet to travel across our Galaxy once and, Lord willing, the Lord will return before it ever circles our Galaxy even one time! Isn’t that just incredible to think about?!]

“16For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”-Colossians 1:16-17, KJV [emphasis mine]

And to think…

~God named all the trillions of stars… and He knows my name.

~God created the infinite number of Galaxies… and yet He formed me in my mother’s womb.

~God holds the entire universe in His hand… and He carved my name into His palm.

~God placed the stars in the sky… and He carries my tears in a bottle and keeps every prayer I pray. 

~God stepped through the far outreaches of the galaxies… and became a baby.

~God Himself lived among His creation… and allowed His creation to nail His Son to a cross. 

“3When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;  4What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? 5For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.” -Psalm 8:3-5, KJV [emphasis mine]

“6 But in my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears13 The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded… 16 He reached down from heaven and rescued me;…19 He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me…” -Psalm 18:6, 13, 16a, 19 [emphasis mine]

Be overwhelmed. Feel loved.

Sweet Potato Soup.

I haven’t done a recipe in awhile, so I thought I would tell you what I made for supper tonight. It’s spring here in Peru, but the last couple of days have actually felt like fall in the States! In celebration of fall hitting our friends in the northern hemisphere, and in remembrance of this cherished season that I miss dearly, I thought I would make something with sweet potatoes. A brief internet search landed me on the idea of a soup. A few weeks ago, a lady from our village gave us some sweet potatoes as a gift. They actually look like this:

Purple! And super, oober sticky. I had never seen purple peel on a potato before… have you? My other sweet potatoes were the typical orange:

Since I’ve never used purple sweet potatoes before, I wasn’t sure if the flavor would mix with the orange. But, they smelled the same, so I went ahead with my dinner plan. Here’s how it went down:

  • Peeled and sliced 4 medium-sized sweet potatoes (2 orange, 2 purple) and 2 carrots. Diced up one small red onion (abnormally small for Peruvian onions!) and 4 cloves of garlic
  • Sauteed the onions and garlic in oil in a large pot, then added the potatoes and carrots and sauteed them for a couple of minutes with some salt
  • Covered the potatoes, carrots, onions, and garlic with water. Once bubbling, I added one cube of chicken bouillon. I figured two would be over-powering, but one would probably add a little bit of flavor (one cube is good for 2 cups of water and I had about 5 in the pot). 
  • Boiled the veggies until fork tender, then transferred just about all of it (in batches) to my blender, then put it all back in my pot. 
  • Now, personally, I thought it tasted fine like that. But, then again, I like the flavor of root veggies! I scooped out some of the plain soup for Elena and she loooved it. For Brian and I, I added: about a 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg, 1/2 tsp cayenne (gets hotter the longer it sits in the heat of the soup so watch out!), and pepper to taste. I poured in about half a cup of evaporated milk and stirred it through and let it simmer for a few minutes. 
It was SO. GOOD. Unfortunately, my dear husband thought it was too sweet and could only eat half a bowl. He’s not a huge fan of sweet potatoes… or anything vegetarian… so I wasn’t overly surprised. However, it’s truly his own fault – he told me Sunday, “You know, I think you should do more vegetarian meals. You and Elena like vegetables, it would save us money, and I don’t really mind them like I used to.” HA. So he says.
On the plus side – more for me! 🙂 Give it shot. It IS sweet, but it’s sweet potatoes… not sure what else to expect. I’m sure you could put in fewer sweet potatoes and a couple white potatoes to cut the sweetness. It could use some more cayenne – the heat goes well with the sweetness. Other than that, I think it’s a keeper!

Shadows.

Music is an integral part of my life (and Brian’s). We put all the CDs we owned on an external harddrive before coming here and it took up about half of it. We love music. We are constantly finding new music and music is almost always on in our house. I found a song on a new album that has become my anthem lately. I could listen to it over and over and over, much to Brian’s chagrin. He reminded me the other day in the car as we listened to it for the third time that trip, “You’re gonna play it too much and then I’ll hate it!” He’s probably right.

We are going through some stuff right now where we feel like God is so quiet towards us. I wonder sometimes if He’s even listening anymore. He’s so quiet. We cry and pour out our hearts and pound heaven’s door for answers and yet… nothing. Silence. God promised wisdom to those who asked for it. God promised He’d answer if we call. And yet – He’s not answering. He’s not giving wisdom. He’s just.. so quiet. I need Him to do something! I need Him to answer! A word! Something! We need direction!

And then two things happened. The first was this song that I’m going to post. The second was a study by Beth Moore. This is the second time I’ve done her “Esther” study, but the first time that I’m doing it with friends (last time I did it alone). I feel like I’m living parts of Esther. Not everything, but parts of it. Especially the part where she waited. She waited for three days before approaching the king and then she waited for a second feast before presenting her request. Beth brought out the points that sometimes when we wait, God is working the hardest. The longer we wait, the harder God is working. We need to wait on HIM, not on the THING. If we wait on HIM, our strength will be renewed. If we wait on the THING, we’ll lose hope and strength. I need to wait on HIM, even if that means He’s silent for another year. I know deep down He’s there; I know He hasn’t left me. Something big must be going on because He’s sure taking His sweet time getting back to us with answers that are crucial to our lives!

And then this song. I stumbled across it while listening through a new Passion album we got. I stopped it and relistened and then just cried as the words hit home. I can’t make it through this song without crying and being overcome with emotion these days. We are in a giant shadow right now — but “We will not fear! For we are resting in the shadow of the cross.” This is one of those songs during one of those times in life when every time I hear it, I want to raise my hands to heaven and just rejoice in His faithfulness. He’s not gone; He’s hiding me.

The song is done by “Passion” and the rap in the middle is done by our favorite rapper, Lecrae. Look him up; he’s awesome. His lyrics are amazing and his testimony is phenomenal. Here’s the video; below you’ll find the lyrics. Enjoy. Happy Sunday!

Verse 1
Life is full of light and shadow
O the joy and O the sorrow
O the sorrow

Pre-Chorus
And yet will He bring
Dark to light
And yet will He bring
Day from night

Chorus
When shadows fall on us
We will not fear
We will remember

When darkness falls on us
We will not fear
We will remember

When all seems lost
When we’re thrown and we’re tossed
We’ll remember the cost
We’re resting in the
Shadow of the cross

With every breath I take, every heart beat
Sunrise and the moon lights in the dark street
Every glance, every dance, every note of a song
All a gift undeserved that I shouldn’t have known
Every moment I lie, Every moment I covet
I’m deserving to die, I’m earning your judgment
I, without the cross there’s only condemnation
If Jesus wasn’t executed there’s no celebration
So in times that are good, in times that are bad
For any time I’ve had it all I will be glad
And I will boast in the cross, I boast in His name
I will boast in the sunshine, boast in His reign (rain)
What’s my life if it’s not praising You
Another dollar in my bank account of vain pursuit, I do
That count my life as any value or precious at all
Let me finish my race, let me answer Your call

How To Throw a Peruvian Party 101.

This past week, I threw my first Peruvian birthday party. It was… crazy! And fun, all at the same time. So, here’s a little into what it was like planning, shopping for, and throwing a birthday bash here in Peru. Just a little background – there are 3 events in a Peruvian woman’s life that are very important: her 15th birthday, her wedding day, and her 1st birthday! So, we had a lot to live up to. Here’s what I did over the last few weeks and months:

The first thing to do was pick the theme. As soon as we found out I was carrying a girl, we chose the name Elena. Somehow, her name became “Elenabug” while I was pregnant and has stuck since. She’s been our little ladybug since being in the womb! So, it was easy to pick the theme for her first birthday: Ladybugs! Theme: Check.

Once the theme was picked, I needed to figure out invitations. I asked my good friend, Elsa, to help me with the party (her family is very, very close to ours and she and her husband are like aunt and uncle to Elena). She sent me a picture of an invitation idea and Brian helped me get the pattern and we adjusted it a little and this is what we came up with in the end:

It reads: “You are invited to celebrate the 1st birthday of our little ladybug, Elena Ruth, the 30th of September, at 5pm.” Invitation: Check.

{Of course, after picking the theme, there was a cultural issue we had to deal with: “mariquita” is a word in Spanish used for… of all things… homosexual men. grr. Naturally. Something cute, sweet, and innocent has been turned into something ugly. So, I had to make sure it was very clear what I was talking about and that it was a cute little ladybug and not a, well, the other thing. sigh.} 

The invitations handed out, I moved onto picking out games and the program. The program could be very simple – games and songs – or very elaborate – skits, choreographies, special music, competitions, etc. I opted for simple. However, I am awful [repeat: AWFUL] at coming up with games! I found one: Pin the Spot on the Ladybug. Other than that, I had no clue. Enter Elsa. My hero. Within a few hours, she had the other two games and within a day, she had everything made for them, too. *phew!* Games: Check.

Elsa was also very good at coming up with songs. At least at a Christian party, Peruvians do singing – songs with lots of motions – at parties. I wasn’t sure which ones to do, so Elsa helped me come up with a few. Songs: Check.

Moving onto food! I really wanted to do something different. Peruvians don’t eat a lot of brownies and here, the two of us that are Americans have gotten a little bit of a reputation for making wonderful brownies. 🙂 For me, they’re WAY easier than cake, especially if you need large quantities. So, I thought it would be fun to do batches of brownies instead of cake and then have one cake – for us as a family – and use it as a decoration at the party [and eat it at home later]. In the end I made: 4 batches of brownies, 5 dozen cookies, and 1 ladybug cake.

1 of the batches of brownies

5 dozen sugar cookies...

ladybug cake

In order to make the cake, I thought I would use my springform pan with the heart mold. I thought it would work to put the heart in the middle, but to make the body, I would fill in the spots around it. I sprayed all around both molds – really, really well – and then baked it. Phew~ it worked! The heart pulled out of the center just fine and it looked really cute! The head was a single cupcake – I used a cupcake mold from a friend (she has a bunch of individual molds, like ramekins – very cool). I thought it looked great, but Brian was afraid it was backwards – like the body should be inside the wings, not the other way around. I was afraid of cutting it and trying to move it around on the pan, so I just left it and thought I’d fix it when I frosted it. A friend helped me make bright red frosting and then Brian helped me decorate and voila, here’s the final result:

We used twist ties for the antennae and then Brian found a couple… get this… TUMS for the eyes and drew on them with marker. 🙂 Awesome, right?? And, as you can see, chocolate chips for the spots and to define the wings. I ended up not being able to define the wings from the body with the frosting, so I definitely didn’t need to have baked all around the edges, but oh well. I used green felt and a green plastic bag for the “grass” and there ya go! Cake: Check.

The rest of the food was store-bought: cheese puffs, animal crackers, lollipops, chocolate covered raisins, candy, taffy, soda, and Peruvian sweet won-tons. Food: Check.

Next came decorations. My idea of decorations? A few balloons. Some streamers. Done. heh. Not here! We did get balloons and streamers, but Elsa also took a red tablecloth and added a myriad of black dots, found a “Feliz Cumpleanos” sign and cut out “Elena” to go underneath it, and made a bunch more little ladybugs. Actually, looking back, it was probably the least “decorated” party I’ve been to in awhile! I thought it looked absolutely perfect, though. Decorations: Check.

A Peruvian birthday party is not a birthday party without a pinata, of course! However, all the pinatas we could find (at the “pinateria” – pinata/party store) were covered in cartoons characters! I didn’t want that. I wanted a simple, colorful pinata (maybe with a few bugs??). Not gonna happen. We ended up buying a wedding pinata:

Brian made a bunch of ladybugs to cover up the wine glasses and there, pinata: Check. Decorations: Check.

I then needed to recruit a few helpers for the actual party. Elsa helped me ask and we ended up with Cristofer for games, Eva and Becky to help pass out food, Becky and Jeremy to do video, and Robert to take pictures. Helpers: Check. 

I had a few ideas for the actual program and the day of, I sat down with Elsa and we went through and make the schedule for the evening. It went like this:

  • Kids enter and get their faces painted per team we put them in: bumblebees, ladybugs, or butterflies.
  • Welcome/Prayer
  • Song – “Alelu, Alelu”
  • Game: blindfolded kids find “bugs” (candy) scattered across the floor.
  • Snack: Cheese puffs
  • Photos
  • Game: “Pin the Spot on the Ladybug”
  • Song: “B-I-N-G-O”
  • Drinks/Snacks
  • Game: finding insects hidden around the room and taping them on a leaf for their team
  • Song: “A, E, O”
  • Pinata
  • “Happy Birthday”
  • Open presents
  • “Thank you” words from Brian and myself
  • Brownies and goodbye/gift bags to kids
Schedule: Check.

I was given a dress for Elena a couple months ago and as soon as I saw it, I knew it was meant for her party. Then, a friend made her a bow and it was just perfect for her birthday! Outfit: Check.

All that was left was the party itself! Here’s a few more pictures from the party:

getting their faces painted

1st game - finding "bugs" on the floor

game #2 - pin the spot on the ladybug

game #3 - finding insects hidden around the room

all the missionary kids who came (missing just a few)

hitting the pinata

part of the crowd singing "Happy Birthday"

opening presents

my favorite picture of the whole party - best smile ever

No, this was not a party I would’ve normally thrown, but in the end, I’m glad we took the time, effort, energy, and money to do so. It went well; everyone seemed to really enjoy it. Even my husband – the a-social maintenance man – enjoyed it. It was nice having so many help celebrate with us, especially since none of our family could be here. Hope you enjoyed this little Peruvian Party 101! 🙂

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