"Hey, Melody... how's about we go to Peru?"
"OK, we'll do it soon!"
"Sounds good, how about this christmas?"
"Great, let's do it!"
Too many years had gone by where that conversation between my 22 year old daughter Melody and I had taken place. Even though both of us truly wanted it to happen, it never seemed to come to fruition. There were always good reasons for putting it off, or conflicts with other events or responsibilities in our respective lives. Whatever the case, it was begining to look as if it was never going to come about.
Then the stars lined up.
At this point I need to introduce Nadine. She really is the catalyst that started the whole plan gelling. Now, introducing Nadine is no small matter. It involves a lot of history to be able to truly appreciate the reason for her and even why she is named Nadine.
When I was two years old (its OK, I'll try to nutshell this, hang tight), my Wycliffe linguist missionaries parents and I, found ourselves located in the small town of Ayacucho, Peru. One day, my mother was in the public outdoor market when a Quechua woman approached her and pleaded that she take her daughter as her servant. This woman served as a servant on the ranch of a wealthy land-owner and knew that her 12 year old daughter would now be made to do the back-breaking work she was subjected to day after day. My mother responded in great empathy and opened our home to her and assured Candelaria that her daughter would always be her daughter and they were always welcome in our home. This is how Fortunita came to live with us.
Fortunita lived with us for many years, attending school and teaching my folks the language of Quechua. When Fortunita was 15 a miracle saved her life. This is another fascinating story, which I can tell you another time, but the important point is that Fortunita lived even though she should have died and this experience will always stand as clear evidence to me of the Love and Power of God in the lives of simple and humble people. The paralysis Fortunita suffered completely dissapeared save a small corner of her mouth that is evident when she smiles today, left in place as a reminder to all of us, now 4 decades later, of His presence with us during those years.
Fortunita grew up and married Walter Parado, who studied and attended seminary and became a pastor. Fortunita had four children. The first was named "Dany", after me. You see both my Father and I are named Donald. when I was little, my parents called me "Donny", which sounded to the Quecua and Spanish ear like "Dany". The last child was named after my Mother: Nadine.
Nadine grew up, and went to university, getting her degree in accounting. Today, her desire is to provide an open and honest accountability of the finances of non-profit, charitable organizations reaching the needy, and helping to dispell the shadow of mistrust (sometimes deserved) that often accompanies charitable organizations who must rely on donations and gifts. To this end, Nadine wanted to learn English and serve as a liason between the Peruvian non-profit organizations and English speaking organizations who often raise this support. During some conversation or email, the question of her studying English in the U.S. came up.
I've been running a small consulting business of my own for about five years after nearly 15 years in the computer industry. I considered being a sponsor for Nadine but was concerned about the cost. Remember the story of Gideon's fleece? I made my own one day, half-heartedly, thinking to myself how foolish to even say so, and I asked God that if He wanted me to do this to make all the traffic lights along my way green (silly, right?). Oops. All the traffic lights I encountered that entire day were green. So, I told Nadine that if she could get a visa, then I would sponsor her. This was a sort of test #2 (Gideon did it twice too, remember?. Against all odds (another miracle) she got her visa. That in itself is another pretty amazing side story.
Well, its June 6, 2006 and Nadine has attended San Jose State University for two semesters and progressed marvelously in her English. It was time for her to go back and have a Summer with her family. I decided that this was also the perfect time for Melody and I to accompany her on the flight down, and see the country. Although the plans were made nearly six months ago, the timing is also incredibly perfect in Melody's life as well.
So, here we go....
This is being written at 33,000 feet somewhere, probably above the Gulf Of Mexico, between Dallas/Fort Worth and Miami, leg 2 of the 3 leg flight to Lima. It seems premature to have a story to tell, but indeed there is.
Today was Nadine's second ever experience boarding a plane and first ever experience going through U.S. airport security (bless her little heart). It had never occurred to me that I should have gone over the procedures with her in detail and being, myself, a veteran traveler, I took entirely too much for granted.
While in line getting ready to go through security, I was telling her that we would need to put all things metal on the conveyer belt. The new laptop she was taking someone in Peru would need to be removed from her backpack and placed in a container on the X-Ray conveyer belt. It then occurred to me that she may not have packed things with the knowledge of things not accepted through the security check. I asked her if she had any scissors, or even a nail file, as these would not be allowed through.
She then reached into her bag pulled out a 10 inch cake knife and, innocently asked, "How about this?". She had purchased the knife as a wedding gift for her brother Dany, who has having his civil wedding ceremony the following Friday, having planned the civil ceremony for when we'd be in Lima. I gasped, immediately got security and explained Nadine's green, but innocent status with regards to flying (and going through security gates). We were invited to return and check a bag with the knife in it if we like, but it was already too late for that. With a dissapointed sigh, Nadine tossed this beautiful new wedding gift, still in its lace-tied box, in the trash just outside the security gate. I fear that had she not told me about it and actually tried to go through security, our trip might have been cut short while we bailed her out of jail.
Whew... what new adventures lie ahead?
June 7 - Arrival in Lima
Here we are. Its hard to believe that I am back in Peru. I am chewing Melody's ear off by my constant chatter about this and that and the other thing. She seems to not mind and welcomes the over-filling-in of the details I am offering, but I am so excited to show her the land I grew up in that I can't seem to stop.
We arrived at 4 AM in Jorge Chavez International Airport. After the usual passport stamping and customs declarations, and being talked into the "special deal cell phone rental", we walked out of the newly remodeled customs area to be greeted by Nadine's family. OK.. To paint the picture correctly, it was 4:30 AM, which means that everyone present to greet us had been up for a couple of hours already. And the troops were all there. Fortunita and Walter (Nadine's mother and father), Dany, Renato (Nadine's "special friend"), and a pile of friends from the church were there to pick us up. We all squeezed into the microbus and headed for David Wroughton's Antigua Miraflores hotel in, ... well, Miraflores. It turns out they were not ready to receive us at this early hour so we decided to drop our bags and head to Huaycan to rest at "Hotel Parado" (Walter and Fortu's home).
Huaycan is a city of 100,000 people that did not exist some 25 years ago. During the years when terrorism reigned in Peru, many of the country people or people living in the interior cities began to camp around the army base that was in Huaycan for the feeling of protection. Soon it grew to the size of city that it is today. Land was obtained by squatting, then building on it. It is one of the poorest sections of Lima. Many of the homes there require water to be hauled to them, it is dusty and dirty, as it never rains here. This was Melody's first impression of Peru.
After a few of hours of rest, some lunch and some catching up we said our good-byes for now and caught a taxi to Miraflores. After checking in at the hotel, we took a walk around miraflores, saw the "Parque de los enamorados, where the paragligers launch from, and strolled around the park near the Miraflores ovalo. After some dinner at "Pardos Chicken (the bets pollo a la brasa in the world), we turned in for an early rest.
However, that evening, a life-long friend of our families, Pablo Alcocer, gave me a call. Pablo had know my parents and me since the early 1960s. He was a linguist who had a heart for working with the Quechuas. He had worked shoulder to shoulder with my father to develop a bilingual educational system for the quechuas, who's education was neglected by the system in Peru, which was all in Spanish. Pablo couldn't wait another moment to see me so he came by and we visited for an hour or more over tea in the Hotel Lobby. What a joy to see Pablo after so many years! Thirty five years, or so is what we figured out.
June 8 - Paragliding Tandem and the Cudney Center
We slept in the first morning, but were not too late for Peru's best breakfast at the Antigua Miraflores hotel. Melody was impressed by the flavor of the food. Fresh bread, cafe con leche, fruit and a marmalade that has to be tried in context to fully appreciate the goodness.
Planning to put the finishing touches on the rest of our trip, we haded over to Jose Rosa's Perufly, just a few blocks and a short walk from the hotel. Of course the flying was good so the shop was closed and everyone was out at the cliff edge at the "Parque de los enamorados". We headed out to just watch the flying, but on the spur of the moment, Melody decided she wanted to get a tandem flight and see the "costa verde" from the air.
After this we headed to the SIL (Summer Institute of Linguistics) Group House, and visited the afternoon away with Abe Koop, David Scott, and others. David and I are the same age and were attended the school at the SIL jungle base, Yarinacocha, in the same grade. David was there for many more years than I was but we shared some childhood memories. After hearing the condition of the base now, we decided that we should make a goal of it to visit and see Yarina one last time. We were told that there was a possibility of being able to stay at the guest house, which is on the cliff over-looking the lake, which sounded like an amazing plan. Abe gave us Paul Nystrom's contact information. Paul is also a childhood friend from Yarina and now runs SIL's jungle operations, based in Pucallpa.
We left and had some delicious sandwiches at a coffee shop (San Antonios) recommended to us by Abe, then took a walk in the San Isidro area of Lima. We found Ghandi park, which my wife and I had named "Doggy poo ridge" on our last trip to Peru in 2000, where the hang-glider launch was. From there we caught a taxi back to the hotel and rested. Tomorrow was Dany's wedding.
June 9, Dany's Wedding
In Peru, couples have two weddings: The "boda civil", and the "boda religiosa". The first is done by an officiator of the State and exists for the purpose of registering the marriage as a legal act. The second takes place in a church and is officiated by a pastor, priest, rabi or whatever the appropriate officiate's position should be.
This was to be Dany's civil wedding. Originally, I thought this might not be too much more than the signing of a license, similar to obtaining a marriage license in the U.S., but it turned out to have all the ceremony of a full wedding. Dany had asked that we be the "Padrinos", or god-parents to the couple. This is a very important role in peruvian culture and we accepted with great honor. Normally this is the role of a couple, but since my wife, Denise, could not make this trip, Melody stood as her representative.
The Parado family and extended family filled the small rooom where the ceremony to place. The wedding march included Dany, circling the room with his beautiful new bride to be, Sara, then taking there place at the front with the officiate. Melody and I were asked to join them as the witnesses. The officiate carried out the wedding with all the importance and attention it deserved, explaining the rules of the state about fidelity, responsibility when raising children, mutual responsibility of the husband and wife to care for each other and respect each other's personal development, not only exhorting the proper behavior, but reminding them that the State required it of them.
We all signed the official documents and accompanied our signatures with finger prints. The officiate then presented them as a married couple. I had forgotten which of the ceremonies was considered the "real" ceremony in Peru, but it became quite obvious that this was it. They were married from this moment on, and the church wedding would almost be a formality; a assertion of the vows previously taken before the State, but this time before God and the church community.
Dany and Sara's church wedding is planned for July 29, the day after the Peruvian independence day, July 28. This of course brings on the dicussion of the parades and nation-wide celebration there would be for their wedding and anniversaries. On July 28, they would sing, "Somos libres... " ("We are free... " the opening words of the national anthem), followed the next day by "Somos casados..." (we are married).
From the Municipalidad de Ate Vitarte, where they were married, we all squeezed into a microbus again and headed to the Parado's house for a celebration with a "Pachamanca" meal, christian folkloric music played by the Parado family and choreographed accompaniment by Nadine and her crew. Attending was everyone we had seen a couple of days earlier, but also including Efrain, Dany's brother and more of Fortu's family. We saw Mama Candelaria, Fortu's mother, and Carmincha and Hermelinda, Fortu's sisters.
This was a very special day and we enjoyed and relished every moment of it with our extended peruvian family. When it came time to go, we distributed hugs and kisses to all. Mama Candelaria could not hug and kiss enough. She does not speak Spanish, but wanted to make sure I got two hugs and two kisses each time, one for "Papa Donalduta" and theo other for "Mama Nadineta", my parents.
We took a micro to the edge of town and caught a taxi back to Lima with Dany and Sara. They were off to Lima to enjoy a bit of a honeymoon, so we agreed to share a taxi with them and drop them off on our way to our hotel. Melody sat in the back of the Taxi with them. I was really impressed at how well she was starting to communicate, diving in with no fear to practice the Spanish she could. She had a very lively and full conversation with them on the hour long ride to Lima.
We found ourselves in Friday afternoon rush-hour traffic in downtown Lima, after we had dropped Dany and Sara off. Short of being taken hostage by terrorists, this is one of the worst experiences you could have on a trip to Peru. Most of the vehicles in Peru run on diesel, which makes the air you breathe while in traffic black and thick. Combine this with Lima driving.... Oh, I could spend this entire web page on Lima driving... It has been said that if you can learn to drive in Lima, you can drive anywhere. Traffic lights and stop signs are little more than suggestions. Painted lines which a naive american might thing were placed on the road to define lanes on the road, simply hang as adornments. The strategy is nothing short of darting into any possible space where your little car might fit as quickly as you can. It has been said that there are two types of pedestrians in Lima: the quick and the dead. I warned Melody that the cross-walks ( more decorative paint on the road), do not work. cars first, pedestrians second - that was the law of the concrete jungle.
Upon arrival back to the hotel, our eyes were itchy, our lungs were hurting and we needed a rest. I headed for a long walk along the barranco and Melody settled in with a Coca tea and some chillin'.
We got another call by Pablo, inviting us to their house. Although we were tired and really were looking forward to an early night because we had to get up early the next day, we complied and had a nice chicken dinner with Pablo and wife Cirila at their home in Surco (another suburb of Lima). It was a very pleasant time and we, again, relived the old days of Ayacucho and the great experiences we had had back in the 60s and earlly 70s.
June 10 - Cuzco!
I am updating this during our obligatory two hour rest after getting here to acclimate to the 11,000 foot altitude. This morning we got up early, checked out and got a taxi to the airport. The flight was very delightful with a beautiful view of the "Cordillera Blanca" of the Andes mountains. The LAN Peru pilot got a 10 from me on his altitude landing that was slick as glass.
A funny thing happened at the airport while we were waiting for our bags. At the airport in Cuzco you are met with many small Kiosks of turist agencies selling their packages. One girl had made her pitch on me, but I told her that we were all set. Once the conversation was done, she turned to her collegue in the booth and said, "Allinmi kani chay huayna majta". I understood her and turned and laughed. She turned beet red and asked, "Did you understand me?" to which I replied yes. She had just pointed out to her college a cute young guy that had caught her eye. We laughed. I told her I had the face of a gringo, but the heart of a cholo (mountain person - often used in a derrogatory sense, unless applied to one's self, or amongst each other).
Our host has laid out a great week for us, including our train to Machu Picchu
tomorrow. But I'm not acclimated and ready to go walk the Plaza de Armas and
get something to eat. So, after the welcome mate de coca (coca tea), we went
to our room and rested. Our room had genuine Inca walls.
We had a delicious dinner overlooking the Cuzco plaza de armas, complete with more mate de coca, or coca tea, which helps one in the acclimation process.
June 11 - Macchu Picchu!
The phone rang at 5 AM, our host awaking us to take us to the train station on our way to Macchu Picchu. We drowsily got ready grabbed our small backpacks and headed out. At the train station we met our guide, Fabricio, who instructed us on what train get on. On the ride down, Fabricio instructed us on the procedures once we got to Aguas Calientes, a small town at the base of the mountain where Macchu Picchu sits. The train ride included zig zag switch backs to get us out of the Cuzco valley, and a few more on the other side of the mountain into the Valle Sagrada (Sacred Valley). We traveled from high altitude through typical country side scenes of people tending their "chakras" (farms). Melody had noticed that the local food had all tasted so good, even the meat. I pointed to cows that were grazing in the grass fields along the way, brining to attention the fact that they were about half the size of cows in the US, raised for meat. "You want happy cows? Here's your happy cows". We do pretty awful things to our food in the U.S.
The change of climate from dry, mountainous altitude, to the humid, green high jungle is abrupt. Suddenly the walls next to the train were covered with ferns and orchids and the air had that warm feeling you just want to stick your head into as you rush along in the train. Shortly after hitting high jungle we arrived in Aguas Calientes.
We made our way through the vendors selling any number of items to the passing tourists and found a bus headed for the top of the mountain. There are no roads to Aguas Calientes, so everything there is either native or brought in by train, including the busses. We rode the zig- zag switch back road up the side of the mountain and arrived at the entrance to Machu Picchu.
Our guide was good. In the past, I've listened to guides make things up to appease the tourists. In fact, as we were walking between sites I told the guide that I appreciated his frankness and logic in his explanations. Sensing I was a one who had a history of knowing the real story behind much of the Inca empire, he explained that indeed, guides often have to "add a little spice" to the tour to keep the tourists interest. Mystics have made their way to Machu Picchu for decades now, expecting to find deep spiritual experiences. I recall rounding a corner on my last trip to encounter some of these hugging a wall and humming low guteral sounds in search of that ancient spirit vibration.
The truth is that the Incas had amazing methods for construction and architecture and were a culture that had an elevated state of awareness and practiced high forms of religion. However, these included llama and child sacrifices. Most archeologists surmise that the Inca was the worshipper of the sun, which we know today to be a large firey mass of gasses, a star, and the center of our solar system. They had beliefs about condors, mountain cats and snakes. Most of these were superstitions based on fear of being consumed by forces they could not control. It all points to the age-long God-sized hole that man has had inside since the begining of time. Mystics attempting to capture this ancient religion are missing the part about superstition and fear which drives people to sacrifice their own children.
Machu Picchu itself was probably built on the backs of slaves, similar to the pyramids of Egypt and other architectural wonders. Evidence shows that Machu Picchu is unfinished and was probably abandoned abruptly. Some theories suggest that the slave labor turned on the ruling class. So, while the architecture and archeological value of this place is a priceless gem on the face of human history, not to mention its incredible natural setting, any belief of a pure society that practiced a high religion that can be captured by hugging a rock and humming, or sitting cross-legged in the shadow of the stones, is evidence of 21st century ignorance and superstition.
That being said, there is no more beautiful place to appreciate God's beauty and also be amazed at the accomplishments of primitive man.
Fabricio guided us around the ruins, showing us the main entrance, then the central elevated area containing the three sister windows and the center piece of Machu Picchu - The Inti Watana - or the place where the sun is tied. His theory was that it was a type of sun-dial that indicated the seasons. I took a picture with Inti Watana lined up with the Inti Punku (the sun gate) where the sun is supposed to line up perfectly on the 23 of December, Summer Solstice here.
Fabricio guided us around the rest of the park and down to the temple for the Pacha Mama (mother earth) and the temple of the condor. His explanation was that llama sacrifices to the condor were made when someone died, and the condor would come to eat the sacrifice, flying away with the soul of the deceased whose body was kept in a clay jar nearby.
After our tour Melody and I decided to hike around a bit on our own. We chose to walk up to the Inti Punku - The Sun Gate. The Sun Gate is where the Inca trail, coming all the way from Cuzco, crests the ridge, just before dropping down into the main part of Machu Picchu. It is a V shaped saddle on Machu Picchu's Eastern horizon, that coincides with the sun's rising on summer solstice, December 21.
Inti Punku was a bit more of a hike than we had first thought, actually climbing as much in altitude as the Huayna Picchu, intended for the next day. The view of Machu Picchu from the Eastern side was majestic and the hike was well worth it. There are a few ruins on the way there and also some at the Inti Punku itself.
We closed the park down and grabbed the bus back to Aguas Calientes for some Dinner and a night's sleep. On the way down, we were entertained by one of the quechua kids, dressed as a chaski, running down to each of the the next levels of the switch backs and yelling, at the top of his lungs, "Gooooooood Byyyyeeee!" as the bus went by. At the bottom he climbed aboard the bus and grasping his chest, greeted us again with a "Goooood byyyyyee!" and then walked around the bus getting his "propina" (tips). As he got off the bus he yelled, "Tucurusunchic cama!" (Until next time, in Quechua).
Dinner was good, the hotel "El Presidente" adequate and we got a good nights rest.
Monday - June 12 - Huayna Picchu
We didn't crack dawn, and we found out later that it was a good thing. We had been recommended to get up early and hike Huayna Picchu early enough to get the sunrise. However, the day awoke cloudy and, even though some made the early trek, the extra sleep was worthwhile. We grabbed an 8 AM bus and headed for the entrance to Macchu Picchu. We hiked into a nice location on a terrace to do some stretching as the previous day's hike was keenly felt. (Especially in these old bones). After a refreshing stretch we set out to hike up the trail to Huayna Picchu.
This is not a trail that would exist anywhere in the U.S. Look closely at any picture of Macchu Picchu and you will see that the mountain at the far end of it, is a pointy spike, with steep walls on all sides. There is a brief warning about the hike being dangerous at the entrance to the trail, but beyond that, you are on your own. There are no hand guards or safety measures to keep you from falling 2000 feet off of any of the sides of Huayna Picchu.
The trail is steep, narrow, and made almost entirely of stone stairs, unevenly spaced, sometimes slippery. The hike is several hundred feet (if not a thousand), nearly straight up the side of the mountain. It was invigoraing to get to the top and nothing short of awe-inspiring to see the view from the pointy top of this sharp mountain.
The ruins found at the top of the moutain invoked a great deal of respect for those who built the buildings there. Lives must have been lost simply falling off this mountain. According to the theories, the Incas used this area as a refuge from enemies. Should Machu Picchu itself be overrun, the select few could run to the top of this mountain and destroy the path up, making it impossible for invaders to follow.
The hike down was as hard on the knees as the hike up was on the legs. But we made it down, then caught a bus back to Aguas Calientes, this time looking for a soak in the thermal baths. We found them, but it required a bit of a hike up into the canyon above Aguas Calientes. The warm water was soothing to aching muscles from two days of rigorous hiking. After a good soak we headed to town to get a bite to eat and jump on our train back to Cuzco.
Yep, Inca boy here, the one who warned Melody to be careful, the one who boasted of how his body loved the altitude, the one who was sure acclimation would be child's play, got soroche - altitude sickness. It was probably a combination of overdoing the physical on the previous two days, then rushing back to the altitude. But I found that I had to spend most of the day in the horizontal position with my eyes closed.
Melody, on the other hand, seemed to have extra energy. She patiently waited for me to recover with some soroche pills and coca tea. By late afternoon I was feeling good enough to get out and look around a bit. We did little more than have dinner that evening.
Wednesday - Jun 14 - City Tour and shopping
On the prior Saturday, when we first got to Cuzco, we had found a little shop amidst the rows and rows of shops, with a lively quechua man who was selling things that struck us as being more authentic. I was dissapointed indeed to see the number of synthetic textiles that were being sold, where years ago you would find fine llama and alpaca. This gentleman, however, seemed to have the real thing. We had told him we'd be back on Tuesday and he made us promise. Well, we actually got there on Wednesday, but he was happy to see us and happy to try my quechua as much as possible. We got most of our shopping needs taken care of there, and were now ready to return to the U.S. with some stuff for family and friends.
That afternoon, we took the "City Tour". This tour took us to a couple of places within Cuzco itself, including the Coricancha - or Santo Domingo church. There is a bizarre mixture of Inca culture with Spanish catholicism at this location. It was originally thought to be an Inca temple to the sun, but later created into a catholic church by the Spaniards, plastering and building Spanish style buildings right on top of the majestic Inca stonework. In an earthquake of the 20th century much of the plaster fell off and they found the Inca temple under the plaster. Since then, most of the Inca temple has been exposed from under the Spanish fascade.
From Coricancha we went up to the ruins of SaqsayWaman. For some reason, the local tour guides like to tell the English speakers to remember it as "Sexy Woman", for pronunciation. Cuzco is said to be laid out in the shape of the Puma and Saqsaywaman is thought to be the head of the Puma. Its massive stonework with carved stones that are two to three stories high are impressive. The quarry from which these stones were brought is several kilometers away and methods of moving these stones are tought to be not unlike the methods used for the stones of the Egyptian pyramids.
The City Tour also took us to several other small pockets of ruins above the city of Cuzco and above SagsayWaman. We had one more stop at the end of the tour with the opportunity to buy more textiles and artefacts.
When we left Cuzco the next day we felt that were were leaving our hearts, our imaginations, and, of course, our money. Cuzco was relatively expensive.
With an early rising we say good bye to Cuzco and the altitude. We tell our host Lucio, "Dejamos en Cuzco, nuestros corazones y nuestra plata" (We leave in cuzco our hearts and our money). After a quick and beautiful flight to Lima, a short layover and then a quick and equally beautiful flight to Pucallpa, we arrive in the jungle. It was somewhat disheartening, however, to see the level of deforestation that had occurred, showing Pucallpa surrounded by large green fields instead of solid jungle canopy as in years past.
We were met by the smiling faces of Paul Nystrom and his lovely wife Becky. They had us stay at the "new" SIL center in Pucallpa itself, in a house that had been moved from Yarinacocha - that is, it was dissassembled in Yarina, moved and rebuilt on the new center grounds. They showed us a map of all the languages that had been reached in Peru and for whom the New Testament had already been translated. The list is impressive.
After some quick instructions on how to get to Yarina and back, we went out and grabbed a "mototaxi" and headed to the entrance to Yarinacocha base center. I had heard so many stories of the demise of the base, some even saying that it was not good to go see how things are today, but just to remember it as it was. However, I found it exciting and fun to see the old haunts. The children's home, where I spent nearly four years of my chilhood, had been dissassembled and moved but the foundation, the brick pillars, were still in place. We visited the shoolyard, the auditorium, the library, and most of the roads around the main part of the base.
We ended at the waterfront and walked along the top of the bank. We even saw an iguana. Finally, at the old hangar, we took a swim. Now, I had told Melody that I had swum in these piranha infested waters for much of my childhood and don't ever recall being bitten by one. The one thing I had forgotten is all the little minnow bites that one might get on any exposed moles. These are easily ignored or minimized, however, if you just keep moving. So, I dove in and started swimming out into the lake. Not 30 seconds into this swim I got a hard bite by a ... you guessed it... piranha. It took a small bite out of my leg just below the knee, drawing blood.
A bit later, Paul and Becky, their son and another translator showed up to the lake and jumped in for a swim. Since I didn't see them getting eaten alive, I jumped back in and, sure enough, its as if feeding time was over, we had a nice pleasant swim with no minnow or piranha bites. Later we all changed and went to dinner at a nice little restaurant in the old Callao.
I awoke with a bad fever and terrible flu like feeling. After some aspirin, however the fever broke and I was in a better position to at least try and go out to do something. So Melody and I caught a mototaxi to Callao and had lunch at great water front restaurant. We called my son Jake, who turned 25 today, to wish him a happy birthday. Jake is going to make me a granpa within the next month, as he and his wife Candice are expecting the arrival of their little girl.
Afer lunch, we took a long pecky-peck ride. A pecky-peck is a boat often seen on the waters of Yarinacocha. It gets its name from the sound of the motor that sounds like "peky-peky-peky-peky-peky...". We visited "La jungla", across the lake and saw many animals in a small zoo that are typical to this region. From giant guinea pigs (the size of a small dog), to several varieties of monkeys to parrots and birds, to aligators and snakes. One 15 foot anaconda was available for pictures for a modest fee of 10 soles (a little under 3 dollars), but I had forgotten to bring my camera and Melody was out of film. Arrgs... You'll just have to take our word for it that we did handle this large snake.
Back on the pecky-peck, we took about an hour ride up the lake to the Shipibo village of "San Francisco". We walked in and bought a pile of trinkets to bring home with us. Again, back on the pecky-peck, the driver stopped in the middle of the lake where we took a refreshing swim. I was still feeling a bit weak from my being sick, so I had a hard time getting back into the boat, but with some help from our host I was able to get back in. We enjoyed the sunset on the way back and it was dark by the time we got back to Callao. The fee for this five hour trek was 75 soles. I gave him 100 because we had enjoyed it so much (and he didn't have change).
Back at the center we showered up and started thinking of dinner choices. As it were I got a chance to visit with Mark and Dorothy Ott. I had known Mark in Quito, Ecuador, but was not aware, until just now, that the Dorothy he married was Dorothy Hudson. Dorothy's big brother Dan was my classmate at Yarina 35 years ago. We had a great time chatting and catching up, telling stories of things that had happened so long ago.
We ended the day with a nice dinner and early to bed. Melody got the best night's sleep of the whole trip and I awoke the next day feeling much improved from the sickness that had been over my head for several days.
We then returned to Lima. This is really never a delightful experience. Let's face it Lima is a dirty city. It never rains, there is a great deal of traffic and congestion where most of the vehicles are diesel powered, so everything is black and it never washes off. Arriving in, or returning to Lima from beautiful parts of the country is a bit disheartening, especially during this time of the year when it is constantly overcast.
We checked back into our hotel and chilled. The highlight of the day was having dinner at the "Brujas de Cachiche", just a couple of blocks from the Hotel Antigua. The food is delicious and served in an elegant atmosphere. The price reflects it, of course.
I did two stupid things on this day. After buying our goodies from Cuzco, we were left with an extra plastic bag to carry around as hand-luggage. Even though we had considered leaving it in a locker at the Lima airport, so we didn't have to take it out to the jungle with us, we decided it was better to have our grubby hands on it at all times. The first stupid thing I did was forget to get my grubby hands on it as we deplaned in Lima returning from Pucallpa. This did not dawn on me until we got all the way back to the hotel.
The second stupid thing I did was also at the airport. One is met with a crowd of taxi drivers vying for your business as you walk out of the arrivals area in the airport. I was in need of getting some cash so I found an ATM machine and drew out what I needed. Absent-mindedly, and perhaps in the flurry of fighting off taxi drivers, I left my card in the machine. (doh!). I did not realize this either until I got back to the hotel. I immediately grabbed a taxi back to the airport (40 minute drive each way), and searched for it at the airport. It was not to be found. I called Denise in California and had her cancel the card. I was concerned because I thought it was my only ATM card, but i found a second one so we would be OK for the rest of the trip. I found out later that often ATM machines will swallow the card if you have not responded in enough time. I hope that that was the case and won't be met with unwanted charges on my card when I get home.
Sunday - June 18 - Huaycan
We reserved the day of the 18th to be with the Parado's in Huaycan. Melody and I wanted to see their church and participate as much as possible. In the morning, the service is dedicated to the children. There is a "sunday school" type of classes that are held in various homes. Then, later in the morning, all the children's classes meet in the main church.
The church is named CVC - Centro de Vida Christiana or Christian Life Center. It occupies a small enclosed area with a roof on it, in a building this is not distinguishable from the adjacent houses. The walls are dirty brick, the roof is made of raw materials and has open areas (remember-it never rains in Huaycan), the floor is made of concrete, which is broken up and looks like little more than hard dirt.
The CVC has much emphasis on music during their worship and indeed the talent and capability of the musicians show. Their instruments are humble, but well used. They have a small electric piano, a drum set, an electric guitar, acustic guitar and a base. They also have a nice sound system with many michrophones. This seemed a bit incongruous to the size of the small meeting place, but indeed, they did have to drown out the very loud drum set with voices and other instruments. (We talked about alternatives to the loud drum set so the other instruments and especially the congretation's voices could become more prevalent during worship).
During the morning service, however, the focus was on the kids. One might think of CVC as being an outreach for the children of Huaycan and Sunday morning is their time. They sang songs and played games, and recited scripture and did a great deal of activities appropriate for children learning about God.
We spent most of the afternoon resting and visiting with Fortunita, Walter and family. In the evening was the adult service, and what a service they prepared! The service was really about three hours long - the first hour dedicated to worship followed by the message, followed by testimonies and sharing, followed, then, by choreograaphy and musical presentations. In the poor and humble setting, the people of God rejoiced to their fullest and at their best.
After that evening we headed back to Miraflores to our hotel.
After rising at a reasonable hour, we had Peru's best breakfast at David's hotel, then ran into him. He was there with his kids and wife and was planning to head up to his Mancora hotel for some R&R. We considered it, but getting last minute plane tickets, coupled with the need to find out what had happened to our bag on the plane, and the fact that we only had two short days, we decided not to join in.
I headed to Star Peru's office, just a few blocks from the hotel and asked about the bag we had left on the plane. They called out to the airport's lost and found and located it! So, I grabbed a taxi and did a round trip to go pick it up. Later we headed down to PeruFly to let them know that we wanted to take some paragliding lessons. When we got there, we were greeted by a very polite and generous person who I did not recognize. However, about five minutes into the conversation I began to realize that the person I was speaking to was Jose Rosas, the owner of PeruFly.
Now, to get the real impact of this moment, you need to realize that I had last seen Jose in 2000. At this time, he weighed about 300 lbs. At the time others were saying that he was looking really good in his weight loss. I guess, Jose had been as heavy as 375 lbs at one point. Today, in 2006, however, I was speaking to a downright skinny individual about 6 feet tall with a weight of about 180 lbs! I had to interrupt the conversation, apologize for not recognizing him and give Jose a big hug. He had been a good friend on our previous visit, and I felt embarrased that I had not even recognized him. However, even the best of us might not recognize someone who had lost more than half of is weight.
I was raring to go for the paragliding lesson that day, but Melody started feeling poorly. So she spent the afternoon resting at the hotel and I went with "Cato", our instructor to the dunes South of Lima to do some paragliding. It turns out that the dune we took our lesson on, is the property of the brother of the current president of Peru, Toledo. Interesting.
I found paragliding to be just about what I thought it would be. A bit technical to get the risers and breaks and kiting figure out, but fall-off-a-log easy once in the air. Cato had me flying from the top of a 200 foot sand dune almost immediately.
That evening, Melody was feeling a lot better, so we planned on making another day of paragliding the next day.
We started early and met Cato at PeruFly, then headed down to the Toledo dunes. I was really impressed at how quickly Melody caught on to flying paragliders. She really did better than I, despite my 30 years and 2000 hours of flying hang-gliders. She took to it very naturally, and of course, had the energy to keep climbing that sand dune and repeating flights. She must have gotten 8 flights to my 5.
By noon we had about had enough and headed back to Lima. We took both Cato and Jose to lunch at the nearby "Punta Sal Cevicheria". Now, Ceviche is a very typical peruvian coastal food. It is best made of corbina, a local fish, sometimes known by Americans as Chilean Sea Bass. Along with ceviche, we had a "leche de tigre" or "tiger's milk", a so-called aphrodesiac, made of lemon and raw fish, but actually, just a really good small portion of very tasty raw fish.
We reseted from our dune climbing that afternoon, then headed over to the Miraflores mall, Larco Mar, to get some dinner at Mango's and catch a movie.
Wednesday was a similar repeat of Tuesday, with paragliding in the morning, some kiting at the Miraflores flight park in the afternoon , some rest and some last minute shopping. I took Melody to the airport that evening and we said good-bye as she headed home.
My time was then spent for the next few days, meeting with software companies and potential people who I might be establishing a working relationship in Peru with. I'm hoping to train a group of programmers in Peru in 3D visualization, for variuos projects. I also spent some time at the Group house and with some friends.
One of the friends I had not seen for 35 years was my best buddy Danny Fast. When we were 9, 10, 11 years old, we were unseperable buddies. Danny still makes Peru his home, visiting and helping the indians his parents worked with in Northern Peru, specializing in putting in wells for potable water. Danny, David Scott and myself went to Pardo's Chicken one evening and chatted away about old times and how we had grown over the past few decades. David suffers from Hepatitis that he got when he was 19 and often finds that a wear on his daily life.
On Saturday the 24th, the hotel could no longer put me up. So, I gave the Parado's a jingle and decided to spend the rest of the days in Huaycan. Before heading out however, I spend the day at the paragliding park with friends, and especially my good friend Rafael Miroquesada. Rafo had been our angel when Denise and I visited in the year 2000 and we remember him fondly and consider him part of our closest friends. Rafo is a hang-glider pilot as well as a paraglider pilot. This day happened to be pretty good, so I watched Rafo fly and enjoy the excellent conditions making soaring the buildings of Miraflores possible. I was dying for a hang-glider to launch.
After flying Rafo and I had a bite to eat at San Antonio's (same chain as where Melody and I ate on June 8) and chatted away, catching up on things. I hope to see Rafo much in the future and hope to develop his friendship further.
I made it to Huaycan to participate in the Saturday evening service at the church.
Sunday, Dany took me to hike around the ruins at Huaycan. The "wachyman" (watchman) told us that these ruins were thought to be the caciques of the Incas where they kept their food and supplies. It was a complex set of mud buildings that stood on the side of a hill, a maze of passage-ways that speak of busy times.
That evening the church celebrated their 5th anniversary in the newest location and they had a celebration, again resulting in a 3 hour long service. I sure did get churched up.
On Monday, the day before I was schedule to return home, Dany took me up to the Runa Simi mission operation in Chosica, just a bit further out of Lima from Huaycan. Runa Simi is run by Donna Sauñe, who is a missionary kid like myself, and who's maiden name is Jackson. The Jacksons were wycliffe members helping at Yarinacocha back in my childhood.
Donna married Romulo Sauñe in the 80s. Romulo was a childhood friend of mine, although a bit older. His family was always close to our family and Romulo spent many hours teaching me quechua. Romulo was killed by "sendero luminoso" terrorists in the hills above Ayacucho one day in 1992. It is on his martyrdom and early efforts to help the quechua people that Runa Simi was founded, with Donna, Romulo's wife heading the effort. God has amazing ways in which He works in people's hearts.
I had a short visit with Donna and her sisters. Many of the Jacksons were in town for the wedding of Kusy, one of Donna's daughters. It was very good to see the Runa Simi operation and get a chance to hug and see Donna and familiy. Dany is a regular helping out with much of the audio equipment and facilities there. One of the efforts Runa Simi provides is audio versions of the New Testament in the various versions of Quechua.
That evening, there was a bible study by the leaders of the church in Huaycan. Walter and Fortunita were traveling in Ayacucho and had not yet returned. Since Walter ususally leads the training session, they asked if I could prepare something instead. I expounded on 2 Peter 1, on the building of the christian character.
I arose to the cockadoodledoo of someone's alarm clock, got up and got ready for the trip to the Lima airport. Nadine, Dany and Sarita accompanied me to the airport. One of the members of the church who drove a combi for a living dropped by to transport us. It was very kind of them to awaken at that hour and go to the trouble of going with me to the aiport, but that is just the sort of generosity and kindness that was continuously poured out on me (and Melody) during our trip. The Parados especially were wonderful hosts, always proud to cook and serve us the best meal they could and making sure we were as well taken care of as possible.
With a big hug and wishes for the best, I said good-bye and headed into the inner part of the airport.
The trip back to California went off without any major incidents. The three tickets we used for this trip were award miles by American Airlines. By chance, my itinerary was awarded a first class ticket. The three of us (Nadine, Melody and myself) took turns on the three legs of the journey to Peru, but of course, I got to enjoy the trip back in the lap of luxury. By pure chance, the trip between Miami and Dallas/Fort Worth, was in a Boeing 777. Now, first class in a Boeing 777 is specifically designed to spoil you beyond all recognition. The large swivel seats are electronically adjusted for lumbar and leg support and swivel around in your first class area (not first class seat - you get an "area"), where you can plug in your computer and work or bring up the TV and watch a list of movies, etc. The table for your meals (which were very good, incidentally), is large and the hostesses take good care of you. The contrast of the lives I was leaving behind in Peru made this feel almost decadent. But I mustered up the courage to enjoy it.....