Thursday, July 2, 2009

"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!


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