Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Last Days

It's been hard to write this blog entry on my last day in Peru. It's difficult to put words to such mixed emotions. I'm excited for one more day exploring Lima with Ryan, but so sad to be putting this amazing experience behind me. I'm thrilled to see Jena soon, but sad to say goodbye to the Smedes. I suppose these mixed feelings are evidence of a meaningful, fun, and rewarding trip. I guess I'm glad to be sad about leaving, but being sad sucks nonetheless.

Machu Picchu stood up to the hype! It was spectacular. Photos really don't do justice to the setting, but I tried nonetheless. The journey to the site was difficult, but that seemed ok given the stunning beauty that awaited. I awoke in Cuzco at 5am to get ready for my 5:45 taxi pickup. The temp was below freezing, and I shivered my way from Cuzco to the train station in Poroy (about a 20 minute drive). The train left at about 6:52, and rolled through some gorgeous country side sprinkled with small family farms. Normally I would have sat back and enjoyed the show, but the train was not heated either, and I endured more shivering. I had some layers, but did not at all pack for sub-zero temps. And I really don't like being cold (sometimes I'm an authentic native Californian). I just kept the hot tea coming and the train staff was happy to oblige.

After the 3.5 hour 47 mile train ride, we arrived at the small town of Aguas Calientes, the jumping off point for Machu Picchu. AC exists, from what I could tell, largely as a tourist hub for the millions of visitors to MP. The tour guide who met me took me through a maze of market tables overflowing with Alpaca-clad Peruiana. I boarded the bus for the climb up to the site. That drive took about 20 minutes on a road of switchbacks and alarmingly thin shoulders between the road and a long plunge... I stopped looking down.

At the site I was met by another tour guide, and set off to the site as part of a group consisting of myself, our guide, and a couple from Argentina. Our guide was a charming blend of factual knowledge and Incan tradition of questionable veracity. I loved it! As we walked through the maze of structures and stone steps, the ancient city came alive. I had read a lot about the history of Machu Picchu, so to touch the stone, smell the crisp air, and survey the stunning 360 degree setting in person filled me with satisfaction and joy. I had heard this before, but you really get a sense for why this peak was chosen when you visit in person. The city functioned kind of as a royal get away and worship retreat for the great Incan Emperor Pachacuti. There was a year-round staff who kept up the site, but it really was chosen as the sacred of sacred spaces for the most sacred of Incans. An undeniable aura permeates the site which sits amidst a bowl of mountain peaks. The sun was shining, the birds circling... it was a beautiful day, and one that left me full of deep gratitude for this experience.

The guided tour took about 2 hours, and I had another hour to wander on my own before heading back down the switchback to Aguas Calientes. I was pretty drained (and sunburned) during the long train ride back to Poroy. I had a pasta dinner in Cuzco (longing for the familiar foods of home), and headed up to my hotel.

At this point-- two days on my own at Cuzco-- I really missed Jena. We were able to text through the hotel wifi, but that really doesn't do the job. While in Lima, I had the warm hospitality and company of my friends to enjoy, but now the loneliness of traveling began to set in.

The next morning I had time for another stroll around Cuzco-- perhaps the most photogenic city I've ever visited. I really enjoyed this former Incan capital, and could sense the differences between the two main cities of Peru. Lima began and continues as a Spanish/European influenced major sprawling city, while Cuzco still bears a huge Incan influence after serving as the Empire's capital for hundreds of years. When the Spanish came, the center of Peru shifted to Lima, and while the new rulers made their mark on Cuzco architecture, the ancient layout and general vibe of an old city remain. It's very walkable, and exists on a manageable scale (about the size of Seattle). I'm glad to have spent a few days high in the Andes experiencing the best of Incan culture.

My next post will likely be my last on this blog after I return to the PNW. Just a reminder, I will share more about this trip in a couple weeks on Monday June 13th at 6:30pm at the church (7500 Greenwood Ave N, Seattle). Peruvian cuisine will be available, but an RSVP is needed so I order the right amount of food.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Fortuitous Change of Plans

This photo contains a dish Peruvians call cuy. In English, we call it deep fried Guinea Pig. Can you see the rodent outline now? I was only adventurous enough for one bite, Ryan ate the most. We all agreed it must be an acquired taste.

After a relaxing couple of days, we had a change of plans that is turning into something exciting. Tomorrow evening, I was scheduled to head over to Pucullpa in the Peruvian Amazon with Ryan, but that fell through for various reasons. In place of that trip, I am booked to fly to Cuzco tomorrow at 10am, and from there head to Machu Picchu on Monday. There are more details to work out, and many connections to organize, but that is the plan.

I'll return to Lima and my wonderful friends The Smedes Tuesday afternoon before flying out toward Seattle late Wednesday.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Francisco De Cuellar,Lima District,Peru

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Day 2 - Rocking the Communities

My second day in Lima began with a visit to the Food for the Hungry offices. I met the staff, saw the layout, and got a good idea for the organizational structure of FH. The offices are really two departments. One for the country of Peru, and one for the programs in Lima. The building (like many in Lima) is an intriguing mix of Spanish and modern stylings. It was a former residence, and sits in the middle of a residential street, but not far from a busy intersection with a delicious lunch spot :).

Next, we met up with the larger group consisting of Leeland, their friends, and other FH staff to head off to the Santa Barbara region of Lima. It was about a 30 minute drive from the offices. We arrived at the FH office in Santa Barbara and then headed way up on a hill where a dirt playfield was hewn into the rocky hill side. FH had organized this event for the children of the area to interact with Leeland.

They played fútbol and volleyball for about an hour (the youngsters of Leeland and the kids, not this middle aged man), before heading up even farther to a spot above the playfield. It was an amazing view and moment punctuated by a setting sun over the valley of Santa Barbara. I began and ended a short but distinguished career as a "sound guy" by holding the recording device for the band as they sang a few versions of a song in Spanish they had just learned earlier that day. It was quite a remarkable setting.

I'll post some more photos in another entry. Today I spent the morning exploring the neighborhood of my hosts, and realizing the incredible value of my $5 Spanish-English translation app on my iphone. The phone doesn't have a network connection, but still functions quite well as a pocket computer and video camera.

This afternoon we're heading back to the same neighborhood for more of the same. While these events are incredibly fun and festive, I think I'll get a better sense for the day to day work of FH when the band depart and things return to normal. I really like the people in and around Leeland, but I also look forward to learning more about FH in a lower profile mode.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"Some people are so poor, all they have is money."

My first day in Lima has been marked by friendships new and old, a remarkable metropolis, insane driving, delicious food, and Christian rock. It happened I flew here on a plane carrying the Christian rock band Leeland who are here to learn about and expand the ministry of Food for the Hungry. We spent the day with them before they split off to tour some of the communities in which FFH has a presence. These were very nice peeps, and youtube says they have the followers.

Over a delicious lunch of remarkable Peruvian sandwiches, we heard from Ryan-- my host, long-time friend, and head of FFH in Peru-- about the history of the organization in this country, and some new initiatives underway. It excites me to hear Ryan describe how a recent FFH initiative began with the question of, "What are the issues facing these communities we desire to assist?" This is different than the starting point of "They need health care/food/clean clothes, etc." They may very well need those things, but what if there's something else these communities deal with that we don't know about until we ask?

This is a kernel, and Ryan shared much more of the whole bowl of popcorn (metaphor fail?) that I will digest this evening. Discussing the reciprocal nature of ministry, he dropped the title quote of this post-- given to him by a colleague-- and wondered if the spiritual transformation many of us need is held in the hands of the poor. Maybe we are here to participate in a relationship that will transform both parties.

I wonder if we at PRLC think this is true when we work in the food bank?

We are off to celebrate Ryan's birthday tonight. Feliz cumpleaños!


Above, Ryan (center) and members of Leeland discuss the complexity and simplicity of Poverty Relief in Peru.


I have made it. Today I awake to the trademark overcast skies of Lima, and the kids of my host family singing happy birthday to their papa.

More later... now I take it all in.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Francisco De Cuellar,Lima District,Peru

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Southern Hospitality

I post a photo of Atlanta's sunset because I indeed did lose a day of Peru thanks to a maintenance issue with the plane this morning. Delta did their best with a hotel, three meal vouchers, and $200 off my next ticket purchase.

On the lemons from lemonade front, I think I'll get to tour the CNN headquarters tomorrow. On the bizarre front, my neighbor on the flight down had a high school counselor who was the girls basketball coach at St Martin's College in Lacey, WA when my dad was coaching the fellas in the 80s. There you go.

On the truly awesome front, it was 90 when I landed here and promises to be the same tomorrow. That REALLY helps.

I'm also currently, as I type, two blocks from the original Chick-fil-A restaurant. The south is weird in such an awesome way.


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Location:Atlanta Best Western

So Far so Crappy

I am off to a slow start on my journey. A maintenance delay on my first flight to Atlanta means I will miss my connection to Lima. With only one flight out a day to Peru (on Delta, anyway), I will have to spend 24 hrs in Atlanta and fly out tomorrow. Sigh. At least they are shelling out for a hotel since it is their maintenance issue.

I'm frustrated, but this kind of thing has never happened to me and I guess I'm due. There's an outside chance the plane will find a tail wind and we'll make up enough time in the air for me to make today's flight to Lima.

Down but not defeated...