Peru Connection

Gathering Support and Love to send Lorissa to Peru

Growth August 5, 2010

Filed under: Reflection — rissabell @ 8:57 pm

Like a plant that starts up in showers and sunshine and does not know which has best helped it to grow, it is difficult to say whether the hard things or the pleasant things did me the most good.  ~Lucy Larcom

Photo belongs to Wonkey Donkey

Summer is such a metaphor for growth. My garden is the perfect example of how the painful and uncomfortable heat along with the constant discipline of water bring growth and change. The green beans and edamame have outgrown their appointed patches and are mingling into a sort of bean festival of sorts and the edamame with its bright yellow flowers is branching and stretching out with long green tendrils. What started as seeds has endured and is bringing me a tasty harvest.

A month after my trip has ended, I am still processing the challenges and harvesting the fruits of my summer and beginning to understand the difficult and overwhelming process of growth. Somehow I’m prone to believe that growth is one of lifes deepest purposes.

Traveling alone to a foreign country brought so many opportunities for me to be stretched and pushed. I’m sure you remember my story about the flight from Miami to Lima and how I’d decided I wanted to come home and I hadn’t even gotten there yet!  I remember thinking (multiple times in Peru), “this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done!” and really not liking that feeling much. While I was there, my roommate taught me a useful phrase that relates to this process…basically that you have to “swim through an ocean of crap before you can get to the oasis of good.”

In addition to traveling to Peru,  I’ve spent the remainder of my summer working in a day treatment type setting for a mental health agency. And if I had to describe it I would probably use more of  the “swimming through the ocean of crap” metaphor than the “oasis of good”…imagine a small class of children with mental health diagnosis and difficult trauma histories all in one place trying to have fun, with the result being minimally successful. I’m spending a lot of time in amazement at these 6 year olds’ swear word vocabulary and capacity to deeply wound each other (both physically and emotionally) and in the mean time trying not to take it personally!

In spite of the I realize that this all adds up to some important gifts. One being hilarious and outrageous stories, two being new friends (fellow teachers/counselors) and the third and most difficult being: growth.

Peru provided me with intensified and short term tidbits of being able to trust in the growth process…Being able to see my stress and gain new skills and adapt. I had no idea how much I would need that during my summer. I have often acquiesced to complaining and despair in the midst of the challenges. Summer has provided me with an opportunity to become stronger, to grow up and to make choices about who I am and who I will be.

As I look back, I am  finding a not so short list of new skills and knowledge and gifts available to “harvest” and enjoy.


Cusco Memories July 11, 2010

Filed under: Trip Details — rissabell @ 3:56 pm

“Memory… is the diary that we all carry about with us.”

~Oscar Wilde, “The Importance of Being Earnest”

Video at Plaza Regocijo…kids playing in the fountain, kids riding bikes, my tandem language partner, Nick and the taxis honking and circling in the streets…

I’ve posted a few more videos and pictures from the highlights of living in Cusco for 2 weeks trip so you can see more of what I saw in Peru! I love looking at these pictures to see how they come alive with sounds and smells and memories.

I’m still processing all that this trip meant to me. For one thing, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so ‘open’ in my entire life. Being open to doing things differently, talking differently, having different values and experiences. I hope that is something I don’t quickly lose.

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House tour and joking around with Zara after she just finished singing a rendition of “Tomorrow”… Although Zara already speaks Farsi and French fluently, she was also an eager Spanish learner. We laughed at her story of how one day she had gone around telling everyone “Yo tengo hombre!” which she misunderstood to mean “I am tired!”…she told the people at the medical clinic and various places until she came home and announced it aloud to everyone in the house…someone replied… “You have a man?” We never got tired of laughing about this kind of stuff.

Talking with 14 year old Katy while she’s doing her homework.


Parades and Strikes July 1, 2010

Filed under: Trip Details — rissabell @ 10:41 pm

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During my visit to Peru I was lucky to watch 5 parades and 2 strikes! June is a month full of celebrations in Cusco, including school anniversaries and national holidays. Each Parade had groups of dancers wearing specific costumes and doing their own unique dance, followed by a full band. Several of the parades lasted until 11 o’clock at night!

This was one of my favorite dances:

Another group of men dancing in the same parade:

A boys school parade:

Currently a heated issue regarding the price of natural gas is the motivation for the strikes. One day the strike was very strong and we were not supposed to go to work, so we spent time watching.


Mother Teresa Nutritional Center

Filed under: Trip Details — rissabell @ 9:53 pm

While in Cusco, I spent my time volunteering with some very fun kids. The Mother Teresa Nutritional Center is available for children who have been “abandoned” by their fathers and who have issues with malnutrition due to poverty. The center operates much like a day care, where the mothers drop them off in the mornings and pick them up around 2:30.

I spent my mornings at the center to provide assistance to the 5 staff. I sang songs, helped feed the kids breakfast and lunch, help with playtime and more.  I brought  books and art supplies and lots of socks and we had fun. One day we even went down to the plaza to watch the daily dancing that was taking place as a part off the month’s celebrations.

The first week I spent with the younger kids (age 2) and the second week I spent with the older kids (ages 3-4).

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They LOVE being on video!


This one time, in Spanish class… June 19, 2010

Filed under: Trip Details — rissabell @ 4:59 pm

He who does not know foreign languages does not know anything about his own.  ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Kunst and Alterthum  

I love Spanish class. It´s true. My roomates make fun of me because every day after I return from class, I have all these stories to tell…and I guess I always start with the same phrase…¨Today, in Spanish class…¨and then go on to tell my stories about our teacher, Jorge and all the things he does and the stuff my classmates say.  I really can´t help it though, because I find myself (usually) very excited to be learning and improving my Spanish.

On Wednesday all of Cusco was preparing for a strike to attempt a message to the government about the prices of natural gas. Apparently in Peru, the government exports the natural gas first and then sells the remainder to the Peruvians, resulting in a very high price compared to surrounding countries. In Peru people pay about 150 soles or more (approx. $50) per month where in Brazil they pay about 40 soles per month. The people here buy their gas to heat the stove and showers and etc. No one uses gas heat for the house, more common is a wood stove.

So, one of my classmates suggested that instead of having class on Thursday, that we attend the strike. Our teacher asked if we would be making signs and what they might say. Each person explained how they would put something on their sign about ¨provide for your country¨or ¨stop exporting gas¨and other related topics. However, one classmate said he would write ¨¡Salva el cuy!¨ on his sign, which means ¨Save the Guniea Pig!¨ Everyone laughed because here in Peru, guinea pig is a common entree at most restuaruants, along with Alpaca (similar to a llama). Of course, we soon realized that our classmate´s sign would be in contrast to the entire position of the strike, since if the Peruvians had cheaper natural gas, they might end up cooking a LOT more cuy!

Buen Apetito!

I also enjoy my tandem practice with a native Peruvian who is working on learning English. We meet an hour every day to practice. At first we would sit at Maximo Nivel and talked about our lives. Then after a few days, we started going outside to either walk to a plaza or sit and watch a parade or get ice cream or something. It was a nice way to practice!

Nick taught me about the history of the city, talked about his impressions of the people in Peru and also taught me some ¨sayings¨. For example, in Cusco one must be very careful when crossing the street, as the chances of getting hit by a taxi or bus are very high. More than once I have been crossing a street while the sign showed ¨walk¨and a taxi came around the corner and almost ran me down or multiple taxis would turn in front of me, leaving me stranded half way across the street. Nick said that the word for this is: criollo (cree o yo) and that it basically translates as a me first!¨ attitude that was initially represented by Spainards in the coloniel times.

Another saying that Nick taught me is:

¨Sielo serrano, cojera de perro, lagrimas de mujer no hay que creer.¨

Sielo serrano means¨middle sky¨. In Peru, Cusco is in the middle  because it is between the coastal and jungle regions and one never knows when it might rain, cojera de perro means ¨the limp of a dog¨and it implies that sometimes a dog is limping and you can´t tell if it´s real. Then finally, lagrimas de mujer means ¨the tears of a woman¨ and speaks to the idea that women cry at the drop of a hat. The last part no hay creer  means ¨there is no way to understand.¨ The saying basically means that a lot of things in life are very unpredictable, especially women! How funny and how true.



Machu Picchu! June 16, 2010

Filed under: Trip Details — rissabell @ 11:00 pm

“To visit Machupijchu, you must prepare the soul, sharpen the senses. Forget for some minutes, the small and transcendental problems of our lives, of modern… man…”

~Napoleon Polo

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Enjoy a few photos from my trip to Machu Picchu. I will post more later when I’m home!


More from Peru

Filed under: Trip Details — rissabell @ 9:10 pm

Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.  ~Auguste Rodin

Along the way to the Nutritional Center

I’m into my second week here in Peru and I think it’s safe to say that Cusco has captured my heart. The mix of ancient mystery and modern culture, cobblestone streets, daily parades and dancing, beautiful colors and sounds have not gone unnoticed. You really can’t understand life until you see the world from another person’s perspective.

Cusco flag

Sunrise at Machu Picchu

I was able to travel to Machu Picchu last weekend. I hiked on the Inca trail up to the Sun Gate and then took a tour exploring the ruins and learning about the many siginficant and scientific and spiritual parts of the city. It was quite a journey to take a car, then a bus, then a train to Aguas Calientes and then wake up early to see the sun rise over the mountain and paint the ancient city with light. The mountains alone put me in my place…that being (again) small. The ruins somehow gave me a sense of being mystified and suprisingly connected, too.

Opportunities to practice and learn spanish abound. I push myself to talk in the taxis and restaurants at my family stay and at the language center. I work with a tandem partner an hour every day.  I practice at the nutrition center, although I find the kids the most difficult to understand. They, however, are also the most patient with me as I slowly say what I´m thinking. Unfortunately for them, I am usually trying to explain why they can´t whack each other in the face!

This week I am working with older kids (ages 3-4). One of them, Jesus, is very affectionate and playful with me. He discovered my mole, of course, and also likes to count in spanish while poking me in the face.  Today he had an encounter with the group ¨grabber¨( one of the girls who grabs people in the face when they upset her) and he was upset about his injury. I scooped him up and pretended that we were going to ¨the hospital¨. I explained that it was very serious and that he needed kisses for his cheek and I pretended to give him kisses. He was smiling and better pretty quickly after that and I was happy I was able to have this whole interaction using Spanish!

Playing with the children at the Nutritional Center

I´m learning so much about myself and about how I don´t really ever need to worry because things come together. I´m learning about other people and cultures, recognizing some of my pretenses and opening my heart. I’m learning about being present and making the most of opportunities. I’m often surprised how much I learn from simply listening or by asserting myself graciously with the children at the center or the people I see every day. The best part is that I didn’t realize how much I would really receive on this trip…I came with the purpose of giving, but I am present with the fullness of receiving.

(I mean, just look at these children!)