Wednesday, July 30, 2008

And another thing...

I've never blogged two days in a row!  What's up with that!!!???  But there's more to say...
  • Food comes in strange packaging (well, it's strange to those who never travel or live outside of the USA).  Milk comes in a liter box... kind of an over-sized juice box... and it's on the shelf, not in "the dairy section".  Juices also come in liter boxes.  Most condiments come in a baggie with a squirty thing in one corner.  I LOVE THIS!!!  It is lightweight in my bag, it takes up very little space, it isn't breakable, and I can squeeze the last drop of ketchup or mayonnaise out of the bag.  As discussed in the previous blog, coffee is purchased by the kilo in a brown paper bag (creepy).  Dog & cat food is much the same... by the kilo in a plastic bag tied in a knot.
  • Dish soap also comes in a baggie, or you can buy it in a solid form in a tub - think of Comet in a solid cake.  By the way - dish soap is formulated differently here because most people don't have hot water and can't cut grease with the heat, so this soap is INCREDIBLE at cutting grease and cleaning.  Same with laundry soap - you buy it in a bag.  Really, nothing here comes in a can or a plastic container or a box - not if it can be put in a baggie of some type.
  • Don't even get me started on the bread and the dried cereal that is sold on the street.  Billy and I watched one day as a street dog came by and tried to steal some cereal, thus spilling it all over the street.  Then, horrified, we watched as the lady scooped it up with her hands (off the street) and bagged it back up and put it on the table for sale again!  We made a solemn vow not to buy cereal off the street!  
  • We buy fresh fruits and vegetables.  Liz goes to the open market once a week and buys most of it for us, but we buy some things for ourselves.  ALL OF IT is washed in clorox water and dried before we eat it.  We didn't do that in Costa Rica, but when even the locals tell you that you should do it, we decided to do it.  Add to that the fact that we have watched dogs walk up and hike a leg on the fruit crates...  Yes, we wash everything!
  • And the water... we have a water filtration system in the house.  But a major problem here is the water quality and how it effects health.  Liz told me today that the ladies look at their water and they say, "It looks okay to me.  It is clear.  There isn't anything wrong with it."  But, in fact, the bacteria and yucky factor in the water here is horrendous!  Giardia being a huge problem.  One of my jobs in the very near future is to use a microscope and show people what they can't actually see in their water, and teach how to combat the issue.
  • I've become a big fan of yogurt here.  They don't have the "stiff" yogurt like we have in the USA.  All of the yogurt here is the drinkable type... it comes in liter bottles and it pours.  Some of you are surprised that I like this, since I have the severe "gag factor" test for foods that might be too slimy or gooey or unusually thick... well, I'm all about this yogurt.  But I don't drink it.  I pour it over my cereal instead of milk.  I have also poured it over cut up fruit.  It's awesome!!!
  • I had a traditional drink the other day.  I've seen people drinking it on the street corners and wondered what it was.  Liz made it for lunch... chicha morada.  It is made from purple corn.  It looks like grape juice.  It smells and tastes like hot spiced apple cider that we drink in the USA around Christmas, except maybe not quite as sweet.  It was delicious!  I look forward to more of that.  And I'm assured by the locals that it is the cure for hypertension and high blood pressure and all problems heart or blood related (I love learning local lore and local natural remedies).
Okay - that's all for now.  Ciao!!!  Happy eating!!!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

One month in Peru... so what's it like???

We have been Huancayo for a month now.  In some ways, it seems like it has been much longer.  Yet, in some ways, I feel like it can't have already been a month!  "So, what's it like?" you ask.  Other than the normal things that we've already covered (food, climate, etc.), here are some of my thoughts:
  • Something feels rather strange (almost illegal) about buying coffee here.  There is precious little "real" coffee... it's all instant.  But there is real coffee to be had, you just have to know where to go, and it seems a little clandestine - almost like trying to buy alcohol during the prohibition or something.  We have to go to the corner of two not-so-populated streets, about two blocks off the main drag in downtown.  On the corner, you will find a little mom & pop shop that sells random convenience store type items (think of a room about the size of your master bathroom, dark, floor to ceiling shelves full of dusty grocery items, with a tiny area of counter where someone stands to meet you).  When you go in, you have to ask for "the Chinese man with the ground coffee".  Then, from the darkness, a metal scoop of coffee grounds is shoved forth for your approval.  "Yes, it's good.  One kilo, please."  (To add to the illegal feeling, you have to buy it by the kilo!)  So, somewhere in the darkness, the Chinese man weighs and bags your coffee and thrusts it back out at you in a brown paper bag.  
  • Did I mention that we live two doors down from a gym???  Yes, they have gyms in Peru.  The one on our corner offers weights and aerobics and spinning and dance.  So, at 8 a.m. every day, whether we like it or not, we are subjected to very loud aerobic/spinning music and a very energetic and demanding Peruvian man yelling commands over the music.  Seems kind of funny to me, since this is a pretty quiet culture, for the music to be so loud and the man to be so demanding.  And the music is kind-of funny, because it is generally 80s and 90s American pop music put to an exercise beat.
  • Speaking of quiet... when we arrived at the airport a month ago, the first thing I said to Billy was "Wow, it's so quiet".  It was drop dead quiet in the airport.  Very odd to me.  But then we started to notice that it was pretty quiet everywhere.  People just don't talk in loud voices.  We can barely hear Peruvians when they talk to each other... it is such an intimate type of conversation.  Even when a Peruvian talks to a taxi driver, it is almost inaudible.  Guess we have gotten accustomed to that, because yesterday when Billy called me from the USA on a cell phone, it sounded to me like he was in the middle of a riot!!!  "No, just Target", he said.  The Iveys said that when American mission teams come down, they don't realize how loud they sound to everyone else... interesting information to note for later...
  • Also of interest for later... a Peruvian noted to me that some of the American mission teams that come down "aren't Christians".  So I asked for clarification on that, of course.  She said that she watched them eat every day and they didn't thank God for their food before they ate... they must not be Christians.  Just goes to show you, you are being watched CONSTANTLY and your actions speak volumes to those around you.
Okay - I know those were really random thoughts.  Just thought they might be of interest...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Ups and Downs

The title today is kind-of thought provoking for me, because the events of this week have been both ups & downs at the same time.  Billy's dad died on Wednesday night after a valiant fight with lung cancer during the past year.  He was diagnosed just after we left Texas for Costa Rica last summer.  Early this summer, it appeared that he had beat it and his doctors said that he was cancer free, so we rejoiced in this healing.  We had a great visit with him in June as he finished his treatments.  He was in great spirits, but continued to have troubles breathing due to the incredible damage in his lungs from the tumor and the radiation/chemo treatments.  On July 2nd, he was hospitalized because he couldn't keep his oxygen levels up and he had pneumonia.  At that time, a new, aggressive tumor was found in his lungs that was being fed by an artery and was inoperable.  He was not in any pain until this week - Praise God!  On Tuesday, he began having lots of pain and began to deteriorate quickly.  Everyone's prayer was that he would not suffer and his trip to heaven would be swift, which it was.  On Wednesday night, with Billy's mom and sisters at his side and Billy on the telephone with him, he died.  The whole family was together and everyone was able to say goodbye and they loved him (including Billy via phone).  So, of course, everyone is sad at the loss and going through a period of grief.  But also, we are so grateful that he wasn't in pain for long, that he didn't linger and waste away for a long period of time, that he didn't suffer, and that everyone had the opportunity to see him and love him and tell him goodbye.  It seems strange to find blessings in death, but they are there, and there are many of them.

So Billy has gone back to Dallas to be with his mom and his sisters for 3 weeks.  This, too, was a happy/sad decision... he was happy to have the opportunity to go home (via frequent flyer miles) and help his mom out and happy to have the opportunity to see Ryan and Miles again.  At the same time, he was sad to leave Peru, sad to leave the ministry, and sad/worried about leaving me and Sarah for 3 weeks.  We haven't ever spent more than 3 days apart - in 22 years! He cried as he said morning prayers over breakfast... this has been an emotional roller coaster.

Please keep Billy in your prayers as he travels (he has been on a bus for 8+ hours today, and will catch a flight in Lima tonight for another 12 hours of flying).  Please pray for his peace and safety and for God to be a comfort to him in the next few days/weeks of grieving.  
On a happier note... Alfredo the plumber is finished!!!  Hallelujah!  After he cleaned out our tank and hooked up the pressure pump, the hot water heater "exploded"... not exactly, but it sprung a multitude of leaks in it's sad little rusty body due to the high water pressure that Alfredo hooked up.  So then began the saga of buying a new water heater and getting that installed (2 days of no hot water).  But all is well now... we have hot water, we have water pressure, we can take real baths and showers, and we can fill the washing machine!  I was amazed to find out that it isn't really supposed to take two and a half hours to do one load of laundry! 

Now if I can only master the chair in the office... the office chair and I had a fight… more like a rodeo.  Unfortunately, the chair won.  I wasn’t able to stay on for the required 8 seconds.  It threw me off and into the corner between the sofa and the wall.  Charlotte (the puppy) found the whole show quite amusing – she looked up from her nap on the sofa, yawned, cocked her head at me, and went back to sleep.  I’m okay… good thing I didn’t break a hip or anything!  Liz doesn’t return to the house until next Wednesday because of Peruvian Independence Day holidays!!!  I would have been lying here for a long time, with Charlotte and Oreo (the cat) licking my face and me dying of frost bite since the office door is wide open.  Sarah probably wouldn’t have ever noticed… she would just watch cartoons in the house and feed herself out of the fridge and the pantry like those orphan kids you see on the news.  Maybe someone would have noticed that I didn't show up to Friday night worship or Saturday Kid's Club, but I don't know  - it being a holiday weekend and all.  Anyway - good thing I wasn't hurt.  Guess I should put this chair in "time out" like I used to do when my students fell out of their chairs in class!  HA!

Monday, July 21, 2008

It's Official!

After a week of traveling on buses, planes, taxis, etc. to get through the Andes mountains to Lima and on to Arica, Chile, we are now officially card-carrying residents of Peru.  What that exactly means to the average person, I have no idea.  But evidently it is an important step.  I just know that it was a GIANT hassle and it cost us a lot of money to get a rubber stamp in our passport that says we are "residents".  We also have official Peruvian identification cards now (look a lot like a drivers license from the USA) that we have to carry everywhere and be ready to show any one at the drop of a hat.  Now, we start the whole process again for Sarah... since she is a minor, she couldn't apply for residency until her parents were actually residents.  The good news is that the law changed while we were in mid-process and now we won't have to leave the country to get her paperwork processed!  We will have to travel back to Lima, but that is all.  Hallelujah!

So, if you are following our plumbing saga, the news for today is... the plumber still appears to live in our house.  Yes, that's right, he is still here.  If it's not one thing, it's another (old timers can hear Rosanna Rosannadana speaking in their heads right now).  Today, the plumber has emptied our water tank on the roof and cleaned it out and he is going to put some new valves and hootie-doots and doomaflajies on it so that he can connect our pressure pump up.  If you couldn't already guess, I have absolutely no idea what he is doing!  I finally gave up trying to understand... it dawned on me that I didn't understand the plumbers in Texas, so why on earth would I even think that I could understand one in Peru!!!???  It didn't make any sense to me in English, so it certainly doesn't in Spanish!  Anyway, maybe we can take a real, honest to goodness bath/shower sometime this week... maybe.  Guess I better find out when Alfredo's birthday is, just in case he is still living with us when that occurs!  :)

I don't want to write too much "good stuff" because it is almost newsletter time again and I already have plans to fill it up with the "good stuff".  Sorry... you'll have to wait to read about ministry happenings later.  Suffice to say that we are busy and getting busier...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Random musings from Huancayo

Seems like I have nothing to really write about, but then I think about what I like to read in other people's blogs and I have decided that maybe I DO have something to say...
  • Our visas are FINALLY ready for us to finalize them!!!  Hallelujah!  So we will travel to Chile (which is really a 5 day round-trip process) this week and finish the process that we started back before Christmas last year!  Bad news... we are incurring an extra travel cost of $1500 because this has taken so long AND we have to do it all again in a month or so because Sarah's visa has to be done separately.  Good news... we get to get another passport stamp from another country, we get to see more new places and meet more new people, and we can finally mark this off of our "to do" list!
  • For those of you who have been following the story of Billy's dad... he has been moved to a pulmonary specialist hospital in Plano.  They specialize in working with people in his condition and have weaned him down to 50% oxygen now.  They predict that he could be up and walking again within 30 days.  The best part is that they have been able to give him HOPE again and his spirits are greatly improved.  
  • We are loving Peruvian food!!!  Everything that food in Costa Rica lacked, Peru has embraced... mainly spicy hotness!  Almost everything is cooked with garlic and onions and a type of chile pepper.  If you have ever cooked food from Louisiana, you have used "the trinity" - onion, bell pepper, and celery.  Well, the trinity of foods in Huancayo is garlic, onions, and chile.  We eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.  Peru is big on potatoes, but we also have rice, too.  We mostly eat chicken at lunch, but have also been known to have pork and fish.  We have only had red meat/beef once, when we ate in a local place down the street.  
  • I live with lip balm and Kleenex in my pockets.  The dry, cold climate makes your nose run constantly and your lips stay chapped.  At first, my hands were dried out and chapped, too, but that seems to be getting better as I get acclimated.
  • Clothes... layers, layers, layers!  In general, I wear tights under my pants or skirt every day, an undershirt, a turtle neck, and a sweater, and a jacket if need be.  If we are in the full sun, I can shed the jacket and sweater if I'm hot (doesn't happen too often).  By 4ish in the afternoon, it starts to get cooler because the sun starts to dip down below the mountains and we are in the shadows again.  At night, Sarah sleeps in polar fleece footie pajamas under two wool blankets and a quilt.  I generally wear flannel or polar fleece pants, two layers of shirts, and socks.  Billy and I sleep under two alpaca blankets and a quilt, too.  I'm thinking that Victoria's Secret wouldn't stay in business very long here!!!  It's just too cold to worry about "pretty" in pajamas.
  • We have met very nice people here and are enjoying getting to know the culture.  We have a long discussion every day with Liz regarding random topics that lead to lots of learning on our part... education, typical marriage age, health issues, language learning, how foreigners are viewed, worker's issues and government, etc.  We learn so much just from conversations over lunch in our home.  We also will talk to anyone who will listen... the taxi drivers, shop keepers, etc.  Billy spent an hour with an older couple who runs a corner store the other day - actually, he was walking and was "lost" and stopped to ask for directions, which led to coffee and conversation.  He plans to go back and make them a regular stop on his language route.
So, those are the immediate things on my mind this morning.  Billy and Sarah have gone off on a quest for Qtips... who knows where they might find those!?  They aren't in the grocery store.  Later we have to go get passport photos for our trip to Chile and go to Kid's Club this afternoon (Hallelujah!!! - the highlight of my week!).  Just another day in Huancayo...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Traveling, Visas, Timing, Strikes, etc...

First, let me start this out with a prayer request... Billy's dad has been given the news that his lung cancer is terminal.  A tumor about the size of a grapefruit is in his lungs and is fed by an artery... it is inoperable.  He is on 100% oxygen and they have said that he could have hours or he could have a few months... who knows.  Billy is, of course, upset and saddened by this turn of events, but feels good about where his dad is spiritually right now.  Please pray for Billy and his sisters and his mom as they go through this time of grief and stress.  Please pray for peace for his dad as he prepares for heaven.

Billy cannot go home immediately, which brings me to the "travel, visas, and timing" portion of the title.  First of all, under perfect conditions, it would take Billy 2+ days to get from here to Texas.  But, of course, we don't have perfect conditions.  Our residency visas are not final and we cannot leave until they are.  The clock is ticking because we were approved on June 25 and we had 30 days from that date to finalize.  The catch is that they sent Billy's visa to Houston and mine to Chile!  So now we are waiting for our visas to reunite in Chile so we can fly there and finalize them.  Could be in a week or so.  Add to this the national strike... Peru is having a strike - something about the miners not getting correctly paid.  We are advised to not travel until the strike is over.  Tomorrow and Thursday, we are advised to not leave our home unless absolutely necessary.  So here we sit...

Billy will eventually go home to see his mom and his sisters and hopefully, his dad.  Sarah and I will stay in Huancayo.  We don't feel that it would be good to put Sarah through any more transition right now.  We have plenty of help and friends here to help take care of us while Billy is away, and we feel really at home and really safe here, so we'll be fine.  If this had happened while we lived in Costa Rica, I would NOT feel fine about it... I never felt safe there!  But we feel great here.  Billy will go home for a week or two and all will be great with us.

Please pray for Billy and for travel and visas and strikes, etc.  Thanks for all that you do for us.  Thanks for being prayer warriors on our behalf.