Thursday, July 2, 2009

To use a cliché, a picture is worth a thousand words

As promised, here are some pictures from the last few days of our time in Peru--enjoy!

The Sacred Valley

Walking around Ollantaytambo (there was no possible way to get an all-encompassing shot of the site--it's too big!)

Jordan, the renowned explorer, in front of the ruins of Macchu Picchu; the mountain in the background is Huayna Picchu (the "young mountain")

Katie and I were trying to get a picture with a llama at Macchu Picchu, but it wouldn't pose for the camera...

Some of my favorite moments on the trip came when we all got nice and cozy in the taxi vans. On this occasion, all twelve team members (including Dr. Hank and Terrance) squeezed into this van, even though we're not all visible in this picture. We had just as much fun later on with Rolando and Wilmer when we tried (and succeeded, if not very comfortably) to fit all twelve of us along with all our luggage into a van and a small car. : )

Mike and Zack at the temple of Saqsaywaman (not to be confused with "sexy woman")

Traditional music and dancing at Tunupa--it was so wonderful that I was constantly close to tears (sigh of contentment)

On a street in Lima: you can always pick out the tall gringos in a crowd of Peruvians...

Jordan with our extremely hospitable new friends in Lima, Rolando and Wilmer


"Home again, home again, jiggety jog..."

OK, so the title is a random flashback to childhood nursery rhymes, but I would like to report that all who flew into Wichita have arrived safely, and those continuing on to Sterling have also reached their destination. Thank you so much for your prayers for our travel!

I would also like to give a brief synopsis (well, brief by my standards, anyway) of our adventures since leaving Reque...

Dr. Hank (who joined us shortly before leaving Reque) decided that we couldn't go to Peru and not see Macchu Picchu, which has recently been named one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. Thus, off we went to Cusco, the capital of the Incan Empire. Cusco is in southern Peru, and the mountainous landscape was quite a change from the northern desert we had previously viewed. I would call the mountains and valleys in this vicinity some of the most gorgeous in God's creation. The colors were incredible, and every glimpse we got seemed more beautiful than the last. I don't think I can possibly find words to describe it, so I'll try to post some pictures--though even those can't do the sight justice by a long road.

We got quite a workout in Reque, and that was certainly good preparation for Cusco, where we spent quite a bit of time hiking around the city and the Incan ruins. However, there was an added twist to the physical demands at this location: at around 11,000 feet above sea level, Cusco has extremely thin air, which certainly tested our lung capacities. Even while walking around the city, we had to pause every few minutes to gulp in as much oxygen as we could suck out of the atmosphere before continuing on our way.

Ollantaytambo was the first set of Incan ruins we visited. This holy place is located amidst the fertile land of the Sacred Valley. We had a wonderful tour guide named Juan Carlos who proved himself quite knowledgable about his Incan ancestors and their ways of life. He showed us several points of interest there, including a breakdown of how the Incas shaped the ginormous stones they used in their structures--did you know that it took a month and a half just to finish one stone?

Of course, Macchu Picchu was the pinnacle of our time in the Cusco area. We boarded a train for Macchu Picchu (which means "Old Mountain" in Quechua, the language of the Incas) early in the morning, and four hours and several games of "Liar" later, we arrived at the entrance to the site. The trip was more than worth it, however, and our eyes feasted on the incredible landscapes draped in terraces and walls made of beautifully fitted stones. Our tour guide, Fabrizio, showed us around the most important buildings for a couple of hours and told us of the village's rediscovery by a Yale Professor, Hiram Bingham, in 1911. After that, we were free to roam about for a while, and we took a trip up to the guardhouse, the highest building in the settlement, so that we could enjoy the full view of the ruins and take some awesome pictures. Fabrizio advised us to follow a trail to see the bridge to the next village (which is now closed off), so we ended our visit with a short hike through the jungle to view that site.

We also spent a little time touring Cusco itself, once again with the amazingly informative Juan Carlos. The city is full of sites which show the fusion of Incan and Spanish cultures. Cusco looks far more European than the rest of Peru, but there are certainly details that reveal the influences of the indigenous people. The best example is a Peruvian version of DaVinci's "The Last Supper." Jesus and the twelve disciples are there, but their main dish is cuy (pronounced koo-ee), or guinea pig, which is a delicacy in Peru. (On a side note, Ben ordered cuy at a restaurant one evening, and some of us tasted it--or tried to, at any rate. There is so little meat on them that it's hardly worth it.)

Let me take a quick detour from the account of our cultural experiences to make an observation. One of the things that has hit me the hardest during the last few days of the trip is the presence of pagan cultures that is still very strong in Peru. There are still shamans who keep the old religions alive and continue to bring offerings to the old holy places. One of the villages near Reque is also prone to reliance on witch-doctors. I just thought I'd throw out a prayer request...

I can't blog about Cusco without mentioning our last evening there. We had a voucher for free meals at Tunupa, a buffet of traditional Peruvian food. The food was incredible, but my favorite part was the floor show that followed. Six musicians played Peruvian instuments to perform traditional music as well as some creative arrangements of classical pieces, like the "William Tell Overture." There were also some dancers who demonstrated some traditional dances of the region, and Kami and I got to participate at the end of the evening. : )

Our last full day in Peru was spent in Lima during a really long layover. We left Cusco early in the morning, but our flight to Houston wasn't until 11:45 pm, so we decided to tour the city a little bit. We were very blessed to have a couple of tour guides for this adventure: Jordan's pastor, a native Peruvian, has family in Lima, and his brothers Rolando and Wilmer picked us up at the airport and drove us around the city. We saw a great variety of locations, from the Presidential Palace to the old post office (which is now a market), from the beach at Miraflores (one of the wealthiest parts of town) to some of the poorer residential areas. As a special treat, Rolando and Wilmer's mother cooked for us, and, once again, we got to taste one of our favorite Peruvian foods, papas con huancaina, a potato dish. : )

Well, we have finally returned home, most of us still sporting all sorts of cuts, scrapes, and bruises as evidence of our labors in Peru--if I'm lucky, maybe I'll get to keep a few scars. : ) But though the bruises be temporary, we hope that the new school wing (which should be completed in time for the start of the next school year in March) will still be standing. We've certainly helped to lay the foundation for the new edifice, but we hope that we have helped to lay a spiritual foundation as well by investing in the lives of the kids there. As for the members of Team Peru, we're taking away memories of people who opened their homes and hearts to us and new perspectives on how God works in the lives of His children all over the world.

We've said it before, but I don't think we can possibly say it enough: THANK YOU! Thank you for taking the time to read this blog and keep up with our travels, thank you for the financial support that made this trip possible, and thank you for the prayers that God has answered in what I'm sure are more ways than we know. Please look up any one of the team members if you want to know more about the trip--we've all got plenty of stories to tell!

Dios te bendiga!


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Finishing our time in Reque

First off, I apologize for the absence of a blog post for a couple of days. We have been in the midst of traveling and have not had internet access...

We were (and are) glad to be done hauling cement. 54.5 tons of it in one day. In ten little buckets and four wheelbarrows. I don't know the stats for the whole week, but I assure you it was much more than I ever want to do again... If I never see a cement mixer for the rest of my life, it will be too soon.

But every one of us was glad to be there. On Saturday we were able to play with the kids a lot more, thanks to the previously mentioned labor. Every Saturday morning, the parents and teachers get together and play some pretty intense soccer and volleyball games. So we all babysat, thanks to a bunch of candy. In the afternoon we travelled to see the "Lord of Cipan" (pronounced see-pan), who is the South American equivelent of King Tut. Lots of Gold. Lots of beads. And a whole bunch of sweet looking nose-rings. We have had a couple of great opportunities to learn a lot about the pre-Incan cultures of northern Peru. We also got to see the ocean for a while. It was cold (it is winter here) but a couple of the more foolish team members jumped in anyway.

As our 4am wake up call came on Sunday, it was hard realizing what we were leaving. Our work has meant so much to the people at the school. It meant a lot to us to be a part of the work here. We had a good time of reflection on Saturday night, which included a prayer walk around the school for the kids, the teachers, the missionaries here, and for the country of Peru.

We will miss the school and the kids, and they assured us that we would be missed as well. Ken, the head missionary at the school, gave us a chance to help sponsor and adopt some of the kids at the school for only $25 a month. The money goes to helping provide two meals a day for the kids and the materials and teachers in the classroms. There were several people in our group that have chosen to make that committment, and let me assure you, the parents of the children were thrilled. If the students don't have sponsors, they cannot attend more than on a preliminary basis. One of the children's mother was so overjoyed that she brought us some homemade apple pie (slightly different than American pie) one evening, and the child and mother could not stop crying and hugging everyone. Another little girl would not stop hugging one of our team members.

If you want to be a part of that, let us know.

More on our travels tonight after dinner!!!!

Monday, June 29, 2009

This is a video of a pratical joke played on our dear friend Jose. Jose is the Architect for the building we are constructing and he is a great guy. So we had to have some fun with him. Notice as terrance calls him over and asks him some random questions. We all slowly close in around him and then at the count of three scream "Duck!" or "Peligro" which means danger. Jose is the short Peruvian in the center. Enjoy.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday June, 26 "I guess you had to be there"

Friday June 26, 2009

We did the impossible today. We finished our work a half a day early. Are team did a lot of work today to get the day off tomorrow. Today’s work: Concrete, concrete and concrete! We made, moved, layed 109,000 lbs of concrete. The worked consisted of the Peruvians doing most of the work and then we helped out. We had rock shovelers, we had sand shovelers, and we had wheel barrelers! It was so very tough work. Last night we got rain and I was told, “It never rains here! Like an inch a year.” My shoes were a bit wet this morning. So we had some nice cloud cover and a breeze and then around 10:30 the sun broke out and said hello! Thanks the SPF 70 I am not burned but have my nice Italian tan going on! A special treat was given to us by the Pastor. He bought us Ceviche which is fish cooked in acid from ripe limes for two days. Throw in some fresh red onion, some Peruvian corn and perfecto! It was very good. The pastor asked if I was married and I said “Si, a Ashley.” Then he smiled big and said, “Ah Ashley!!! Si si si.” So he approves! During our lunch today Mike and Zach played chess and Mike was beaten by a 12 year old. I guess he’s there best player. We were feeling very goofy last night and decided we needed to show the Peruvians that we are very funny! So before lunch, the gringos were all gathered and we called Jose over. Now Jose is pretty short, and we’re a all pretty tall compared to Jose. We were just talking to him then Ben, our fearless leader says, “Peligro” which means danger and he all screamed, hit the ground and covered our heads. Now Jose looks tall but is very startled and just kinda jumps in place and then we all laughed together. We got it on video. If you’re not laughing, well I guess you had to be there.
The Lord is great and we are very blessed to get to spend the rest of tomorrow with the Children. We might get to visit some other places. A few prayer requests would be to pray for our health. A few of us have had the rumblies in our tummy’s. Also for our travel the next few days. We love you guys and are so glad that you are thinking and praying for us. God Bless You!

Travis “I guess you had to be there” Tesone

Wednesday June 24th

This post was obviously made a little late but you understand.

Before I begin I would like to make a interesting observation. We are located near Chiclayo which is located between the ocean and the Andes Mountain range. This forms a strip of desert between the ocean and the mountains. We are living in a DESERT. THe average rainfall here in one year is less than an inch. I did my first and only load of laundry last night and I hung up all my clothes outside on a line hoping they would be dry in the morning.

It rained last night.

In a desert.


Moving on...

This past Wednesday we worked all morning while the other team was still here. We said a record in cement mixing. This has got to be a world record. In one morning we made 81 batches of cement in a giant cement mixer. This means the 81 one 60 pound bags of cement were lifted into the mixer. This means that 405 huge buckets of sand were heaved into the mixer. This means the 486 buckets were filled with rock and once again, heaved into the mixer. 405 massive wheelbarrow loads of dense cement were lifted, pushed, and lunged into 9 massive wholes. That morning it was estimated that we moved 50,000 pounds of cement, all by hand.

That was one morning.

We usually work all day until dinner.

Nice job team.

In the afternoon a special day with the kids at the school had been organized but there was nothing "organized" about it. It was mass chaos.

Let me paint the scene for you...

Hundreds of children on a large grassy field.

Thirty children huddled around me.

Six children laying on the ground and holding onto my ankles.

Three children climbing on top of my shoulders.

Two children hanging with the arms around my neck, cutting off any chance of air.

One exhausted American.

We played with the kids all afternoon. We had face painting and we played games such as "Pato Pato Ganzo" ("Duck Duck Goose") and "Tackle the tall white guy!" Weather the kids were playing games or lined up in front of me waiting to be thrown high up into the air, they all had a great time.

I wish I could say more but we have a long day of pouring cement ahead of us and my team is waiting for me.

Hope all is well at home.

If you are still reading this post it probably means you are one of those people I dearly miss.

Te amo.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Jumping Lizard tails and Crippled Scorpians

Hey all you wonderful followers! Our day started out with a wonderful 4:20 am wake up call from our group "Mom" Jean! Luckily we weren't rudely awaken... (never with Jean) It's always a cheery song! Anyways, the St. Louis group were heading back to the states this morning, so we decided to get up and say goodbye. We then went back to bed, (did you seriously think we would be ready for the day at this time of morning?) When we woke up the second time we really felt the absence of the other group. We were sad to see them go, because the last couple of days we had just started getting to know them. We knew we now had to step up and work twice as hard as before to keep progress going. Before we had 21 hands, and now we are down to 11. So here we were this morning, extrememly exhausted, yet ready to work...(okay some of know who you are :D) I was so impressed by our team this afternoon! We all stepped up and worked super hard and ended up pouring 35 bags of cemement in an hour and a half! Our goal for tomorrow is to finish all our work here, so we can spend our last say of the camp with the kids at the school.Which by the way are absolutely amazing! I thought kids in the U.S were great! Each day they come over to watch us work, greet us, and give us hugs during their breaks. It really is a huge encouragement and motivator to see the kids faces. They remind us why we are here.Please pray that God will give us physical strength tomorrow and help us work through soreness!
So far on this journey we have been fortunate not to have seen any varments until today. Poor Mackenzie was working very hard shoveling gravel when she thought she saw a rock move. She looked down and to her dismay was a 1 inch Scorpian!! She leaped backward and yelled to the boys; who of course decided to capture it and place it in a bucket. Some where along the ride the scorpian got a crippled pincher. After the work was finished the boys and I went to "lizard land" to catch a lizard, in hopes of enjoying a little scorpian-lizard competetion. After about seven different lizards...and a tail later, we finally captured one. Our first lizard escaped us, leaving us with his wonderful tail. Interesting fact: lizard tails jump around when they fall off! Anyways, we placed the lizard in the bucket along with a stick bug (just for the pre show). Unfortunately the scorpian just sat there. Even after Zach eventualy made it mad and practically placed the lizard on top of it, it did nothing. We left it there over night to see who the winner will be in the morning. We all placed bets on the stick bug!
That's all for tonight! Thank you so much for your prayers and support!
Much LOVE!