Sunday, February 24, 2008

Climbing to the Crosses

On a clear day in San Jose, we can see a cross on top of one of the mountains. It is a constant reminder of why we are here and what our focus is every day, and it has been a goal of ours for many months now... to climb to the top of the mountain and sit at the foot of the cross. Last Sunday, our good friend, Antonio, took us on the hike and we finally fulfilled this goal.

We climbed the mountain with several friends... several missionaries from the Institute, Antonio, two visiting friends from the USA, and three of the boys from La Carpio. Even Sarah made the hike (with flying colors - easier than the adults did!).

In actuallity, there are three crosses (how appropriate) at different levels on the mountain. This is no "cake walk" hike!!! The trail is a glorified cattle trail, literally. In some places, the trail was so narrow and deep that my hips and shoulders touched both sides. And in some places, the steps to get over the rocks were so high that I had to have help from Billy or Antonio because I was too short. And it was pretty much straight up - very steep! It was a challenge... not difficult on the heart and lungs, but really tough on the legs (especially the knees).

Definitely worth the trip!!! The views from the top were amazing, the time with friends was treasured, and the reflection / devotional thoughts of the significance of the crosses was heavy in my heart. The cross at the top is over 80 ft. tall and made of steel girders. What a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon!!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Culture, Traditions, Legends, and Games

This week, we are learning MUCH about Latin American culture in relation to traditional games, legends, riddles, etc. As if learning Spanish weren't difficult enough, try to understand and answer riddles in another language and culture! We are having fun, though, and we are learning a lot about how to play games (which is great for our ministry in La Carpio and in Peru in the future).

A very common game for children in Latin America is "jacks". Same game pieces with a few changes in the rules from when we were kids. In learning the game, we have to learn the appropriate vocabulary, how to give directions for play, how to state rules and infractions, etc. It is really a good exercise in language learning! And it has afforded us the opportunity to teach Sarah a game from our past which is a traditional game with kids in her new country.

Another traditional game is "cromos". Cromos are preprinted paper pictures which are "collectable". The paper pictures are placed face down on the floor or table and players take turns slapping the paper in an attempt to get it to "flip". When a piece flips face-up, you win that picture and it is yours to keep (like winning marbles when you shoot them out of the circle). The skill comes in trying to slap your hand in a semi-cupped position so that it creates a vaccuum and "sucks" the paper up, causing it to flip. I find this game extremely frustrating (since I haven't ONCE gotten a piece to flip)! However, at the mere mention of the name Cromos, people get the best look on their faces and they can't wait to play! Lizbeth was so excited that we were learning this and has many memories of playing this game as a child.

Also popular are marbles (only with boys) and paper dolls (with girls). Everyone, boys and girls alike, loves to jump rope and it is always a big crowd pleaser in La Carpio each week. A Latin version of hopscotch is also popular (named "Rayuela").
Also on the agenda this week... learning the most common legends and oral traditions, learning about common superstitions in Latin American culture, and learning common songs and poems (almost like nursery rhymes) in this culture.

Lots of fun! When was the last time that you laid on your belly on the floor and played marbles or jacks, or hopped around on a hopscotch board or with a jumprope? Maybe you should endulge your childhood memories today and play! If you need a good excuse (so you don't feel too childish) teach a child in your life how to play and explain that kids in Latin America are playing these games TODAY (because they don't have Wii or Xbox or televisions, etc.).

Sunday, February 3, 2008

What'd you say, Grandma? Sea beans cure hemorroids???

The theme at school this week was Enfermedades y Remedios (illnesses and remedies). We spent the week discussing common illnesses, symptoms, and cures. It was great! This culture (and most other Latin American cultures) is very big on home remedies and natural medicine, so our major homework assignment for the week was to visit the main source of natural remedies in the center of town and find out the cures for our assigned illnesses. My "illnesses" for the week were kidney troubles and skin fungus - nice!

So off I went to visit the vendors at Mercardo Central to ask how to cure kidney troubles and skin fungus. I ended up buying cola de caballo (horsetail plant), pelo de maiz (corn silk), cascara guapinol (bark of some tree), and some other plant that I can't remember right now... I am supossed to boil all of this and drink the juice 3 times a day for healthy kidneys. For skin fungus, I bought madero negro (some poisonous plant that I was strictly warned not to eat), another piece of bark, and rosemary... boil all of this together and soak your fungus area in it to kill the fungus in your skin. Interesting...

While I was at the market and I had a willing vendor, I decided to ask some other questions... What is this? What about headaches? etc... Two other missionary students went along to do their homework with me (strength/courage in numbers) and so we got serious about digging into this home remedy idea. Behind the counter was a plastic bag full of sea beans and we asked, "What do you do with those?" According to the vendor, if you keep two sea beans in your back pocket, you won't have trouble with hemorroids! Hmmm...

Lizbeth swears by the home remedy plan. She spent the week teaching us about the wonders of aloe (for chapped lips, for skin, for hair, drink it for overall good health, and also for hemorroids), how to use our lemon tree to make tea for various reasons, how to make a paste of ground coffee for cuts and burns, and our all time favorite - "Un poco de whiskey cada dia" (a little bit of whiskey every day). She's so cute! She even loaned me a book about each plant and about how to make MANY different home remedies.

At first, I thought that this was a little hard to swallow (no pun intended). Having a Health minor, I just wasn't ready to buy into all of this home remedy stuff. But upon further investigation, I see why some of it works. And the other stuff... I don't think it is hurting them, and there is a lot to be said for belief and faith in something - the placebo effect, so to speak. I'm about to live in a culture that highly regards this form of medicine and I need to learn as much as I can before I'm faced with it... knowledge is power.

Okay, so I'm going to go drink some warm milk (for insomnia), put some alcohol and vinegar in my ears (for swimmers ear), rub aloe all over my body (for moist skin), and sit on my sea beans :)