Thursday, November 24, 2011

Reminiscing a Peruvian Thanksgiving

As I prepare for Thanksgiving dinner here in Florida, I have been reminiscing Thanksgiving in Peru. Cooking in a tiny roach infested kitchen, having everyone involved in the preparation, the boys playing futbol in the yard,]; it was one of the most memorable Thanksgivings I've ever had. I'll never forget the whole Peruvian family gathered around the table sharing all the things we were thankful for in our broken Spanish. I discovered it's not the location that makes Thanksgiving special, it's the people gathered around the table. Feliz Dia de Gracia, Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Peru in Photobooth

What I miss

After reading Hanna’s last few blogs and nearly crying, I thought about all the things about Peru that I miss since being back home. Here are just a few things (warning: some may be the same as what Hanna said she will miss).

1. My family.
2. Waking up to roosters in the morning.
3. Having chickens to eat my leftovers. (It hurt me to toss out some food the other night, I wished I had the chickens to gobble it all up).
4. Hailing a taxi, motorcar, or combi. (While I’m happy to have a car to drive, it is SO much cheaper to ride public transportation, and I got to meet people).
5. Sitting around the table at Km 38 in the evenings.
6. Being yelled at by Elias in his room telling all of us to be quiet so he could sleep.
7. Elias’s laugh.
8. Hearing the boys yell, “Refresco!” in the afternoons.
9. My students tackling me as I arrived at class.
10. Making watery, milky oatmeal for breakfast EVERY morning.
11. The produce lady in Campo Verde.
12. The corner shop lady in Campo Verde.
13. All the shop owners in Campo Verde.
14. Eating pollo and papas fritas with the chicos.
15. Speaking Spanish.
16. Showering outside with cold water (I have actually been ending my showers with cold water).
17. Brushing my teeth under the stars.
18. Hearing the Doctor’s kids play outside after school.
19. Buying biscocho and pan integral at the Ucayali bakery.
20. The internet ladies in Pucallpa.
21. Internet users in Pucallpa.
22. Alfredo, the coolest taxi driver.
23. Chickens and dogs running through church.
24. Hermana Lucia singing hymns off-tune.
25. Hermana Lucia announcing the special music that I had “prepared for all week.”
26. My Santa Elvita kids.
27. Sipping fresh squeezed orange juice at Leidy’s on a blistering hot afternoon.
28. Playing with Jackie and Charles, my two favorite Peruvian kids.
29. Cheek to Cheek greetings.
30. Cooking with Hanna and Rebecca.

Oh, I could go on for quite a while, but I won’t risk boring you. What I miss most of all, though, are the people. I miss sharing laughs and good conversations, and just sitting in the same room with them, even if no words were spoken. What hurts me the most is that I can never go back to that time. I only have my memories to remind me. Thankfully, I can replay the reel as many times as I want. So, pardon me while I hit repeat.

Where does this piece fit?

I just got off the phone (or rather the MagicJack) with the folks at Km 38. I caught a little knot in my throat as I heard all their voices coming across the phone line. Up until the last couple days I hadn’t had time to really take in the fact that I had left my home of 8 months and returned to my home of the past 21 years and 4 months.

The day after getting home (yes I did finally make it home after spending 24 hours in Lima, a few of which were wonderfully spent with Rachel, Steph, and Chris) I dove head first into pre-wedding activities. No, not my wedding, Alli and Albert Handal’s wedding. The whole week was a blur of shopping, bridal parties, and hair and make-up. It was a beautiful wedding, and I’m glad I made it back in time. For a little bit there, I thought I might be stuck in Lima until my teeth fell out.

But now, wedding excitement is over (at least until the next 2…. or 20) and I now have time to reflect on my time in Peru, and how it has affected me. At first it seemed as though I have returned the same as I was before I left. But now and then I start to see glimpses of things that have changed within me, perspectives that have changed. Also, I don’t know if I’m just trying to adjust to being around so many people or if this is a part of the Jenessa I’m having to get used to, but lately I’ve felt more of the “I” of the Myers Briggs pushing the “E” out of the way. Not totally, but they seem to be sharing the space a little more. I think it’s just a temporary thing as I am trying to adjust to being back home.

They say that culture shock is often times worse coming back from than going to another country. I think it’s because when you go to another country you expect things to be different than home. You expect the food to be different, the language to be different, and the people to be different. I think when you return home, you have changed a little and you expect the things at home to have changed with you, but that’s often not the case. Or maybe you expect things to be the same but everyone else has continued through life without you.

I’d have to say my biggest shock hasn’t been the super shopping centers, or the hundreds of cars instead of motorcycles on the road, or that everyone speaks English instead of Castellano, or that there are whole aisles of toothpaste instead of one small shelf. While all of those things have taken a little bit of adjustment, I think what I have been struggling with the most is taking the Pre-Missionary Jenessa and the Post Missionary Jenessa and meshing the two together. I struggle with which way of thinking is “correct.” I struggle with not saying, “this is how we did it when I was in Peru,” or “when I was in Peru…” Adjusting is……hard. There have been a couple times when all I wanted to do was cry. I expect that will happen a few more times in the following months as well.

I apologize, I feel like this blog is a jumble of nonsense. But that’s kind of what is going on inside me right now. I feel like a jumbled, confused, mess. You probably can’t see that by looking at me, but that is what’s going on underneath my smiles and, “Peru was great thanks, I loved it, I had such a good growing experience,” more smiles and nods.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Chau Peru.....Just Kidding!

Sunday, May 1, 2:06 am

It was supposed to be my last day in Peru on Friday. However, I missed my flight out of Pucallpa. For several reasons in which I don’t want to go into any detail. Fortunately, I have a very generous and forgiving father who was able to get me another flight out on Saturday (24 hours later).

My flight was scheduled to leave Pucallpa at 9:55 pm on Saturday night (yesterday). I made sure that I was quite early this time to check in and make my flight out of Pucallpa. I arrived at the airport at five minutes before eight o’clock. I stood in line. After trying to keep an old man from pushing his way in front of me in line, I stepped up to the check in counter and placed my bags on the balancia. The check in lady then informed me that instead of being able to have two 50 pound bags I was only allowed 50 pounds in total. I had two bags, one suitcase and my backpack. The two combined totaled 13 kilos overweight. I then proceeded to open up my suitcase and take out what weighed the most. I also got rid of a few more clothes to give away. I’d already given away 80% of my clothes. This was ridiculous, I was able to get to Pucallpa with 2, 50 lb bags when I came both times. AND I would still be carrying nearly all of that weight, the only difference was that 13 kilos would be with me in the passenger section and the rest would be down below

With everything rearranged I placed the bags back on the scale. My suitcase was super light, I really had nothing in it but a few clothes. I was still ticked off by the rule that was sprung on me.

Everything was checked in, and the lady told me to go through security by 9:30. It was now 8:15. Steph, Rach, Anthony, Ever, and I decided to wait upstairs for a little while and have our last hangout time together in Peru. We played with photobooth and were in the midst of making a little video when the power went out. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that on the way to the airport there was a pretty crazy lightning storm going on. Great. This was not a good sign. If the lightning storm continued I wouldn’t be able to leave Pucallpa.

The power was out for about 10 or 15 minutes before the generator kicked in. by this time it was 9:10 pm. I decided to make my way downstairs to go through security, which, by the way is a complete joke. I made it through with my pretty sick looking pocket knife. I didn’t even realize it was there until after security. Apparently they missed it as well, or didn’t care.

I said my goodbyes to my small group of friends. They left, and I promptly got teary-eyed. I boarded the plane, sat down and then the tears really started flowing. It hit me that I was really leaving. And while I was happy to get back home to see my family and friends, I was triste to be saying goodbye to the place I had called home for the last 8 months. I bawled until the lady next to me asked if I knew if the flight was completely booked. I turned to her teary-eyed, apologized for my puffy, tear-stained face, and told her I didn’t know. We then started a friendly conversation for the next hour, in which she talked the majority of the time. She and her daughter were on their way to Lima to see the Hannah Montana concert in Lima the next day. Our conversation moved from why I was in Peru to what it’s like in the US, to what the average age of getting married in the US is, to why kids marry so young in the selva, to disciplining children, to her lancha building company. She showed me several of her pictures of her lanchas, her kids, her coworkers, and her family, all on her fancy Canon or Nikon, I never did figure out what it was. We talked about where her lanchas travel to, and how Iquitos is a party city, where they constantly have music playing, so much so that you start dancing as soon as you get off the plane in Iquitos.

We chatted about a few more things before she gave me her card. She told me to call her the next time I was in Pucallpa and asked me to take her to my church when I visited. Just before we landed she asked if we could take a picture together so she could add a few more interesting things to her camera to show to the next stranger with willing eyes and ears.

I was supposed to get to Lima at 11:05 pm. But because of the weather I didn’t get into the tarmac until 11:25 pm. I still had to ride a stupid tram to get to baggage claim, I then had to wait at the conveyor belt for my luggage because they didn’t transfer it directly onto the plane. It was 12:00 am by the time I got my luggage. I ran with my stuff towards the Delta check in. My flight was suppose to be leaving at 12:45 am. As I came into the foyer where I was suppose to check in, I heard the announcement over the intercom that Delta flight to Atlanta was leaving. There was no one at the Delta desk. NOT ONE PERSON! I panicked and found the first uniformed person I could find. I explained my situation in panicked Spanish, he told me that everyone had left and the flight was closed. He then told me to go upstairs to the Delta office to see what they could do for me. I ran to the elevator, pushed the button a million times and waited for what seemed like hours for the door to open. I then rushed to the Delta office. And to my luck, no one was there. Apparently they all decided to leave for the weekend. I ran back downstairs to try to find help elsewhere.

A LAN worker told me to go to the Tripulaciones desk to explain my situation. I waited at a check in desk for 30 minutes before someone decided to “help” me. Teary-eyed and super frustrated I told the guy that his airline and the weather had made me miss my connection and asked what he could do for me. He told me that he could do nothing, he said it wasn’t their fault because the delay had been caused by the weather. I about broke down right there in front of all the LAN workers. My dad called me then, we had been communicating through texts the whole time. He was on hold with Delta. I decided there was nothing more I could do but wait, in Starbucks.

So here I am. It’s 3:00 am Peruvian coastal time and it looks as though I will be staying here until who knows when. Delta didn’t think it was their responsibility to put me up in a hotel or accommodate me in anyway, except for not charge my dad for the change in flight. So, I’m here in Lima until my flight leaves at one-twenty-something on Monday morning. I still don’t know what I’m going to do. I’ll try to get ahold of Chris Clouzet to see what he’s up to. If that doesn’t work out, Steph and Rach are flying in tomorrow afternoon at 12:30. What a crappy mess this has all turned out to be. I was hoping to be on a flight and arriving in Atlanta in 4 hours, writing a sentimental blog about what I miss/will miss about Peru. But, that wasn’t in God’s plan and I can’t say I understand why I’m in this situation. Maybe I never will. All I can do now is wait, which I have been trained very well for in the last 8 months. I’m too frustrated to cry, too tired to think, and too upset to laugh at this situation. Also, the American girl across the way from me is talking non-stop about how much she knows about traveling, South America, and life. It’s getting obnoxious, but maybe it’ll be a blessing in that her talking will keep me up for the next eternity of waiting. Also, maybe she’ll agree to watch my bags when I have to pee. Luckily Starbucks has a good selection of music to keep me awake as well. Ok, now I’m just rambling. I’m sure I’ll have some good stories to tell after this. Until then…..

Friday, April 29, 2011


April 24, 2011

During the clinic we didn’t have too many unusual episodes. Moslty the usual bichos meds, vitamins, the occasional cough, and maybe some UTIs. But nothing out of the ordinary. About mid-afternoon on Easter Sunday a little girl and her mother showed up in triage. The girl had a crutch and a bandage around her thigh. She had trouble walking and couldn’t sit in the triage chair because he leg wouldn’t bend. I conducted the usual triage and the mother informed me that the girl, Narita, had had an accident and wanted the Doc to look at her leg.

A few minutes later I went upstairs to deliver some triage papers to the Doc. I walked in to see Narita sitting on a cot in the Doc’s office. He was examining her leg. I set the papers down and stepped out of the room. But curiosity took hold of me and I decided to go back .Narita had stabilizers in her thigh. They had been placed a year earlier and had never been taken out. Narita had tenderness around the stabilizing nails and you could smell infection.

The Doc told her he was going to take them out and that he would put her under so she wouldn’t feel anything. She was crying from fear and a little pain. Rachel and I went in search to find IV materials and some meds. After several trips to the posta (town clinic) we were ready. By this time Jackson, a former missionary and current 4th year med student, arrived just in time to be the anesthesiologist. Narita was put under and the Doc started prying away. It looked pretty graphic as the bars moved back and forth through her leg. After some more prying he finally just grabbed both sides and pulled it out with his bare hands.

The stabilizers were out and the cleanup began. It was a little stressful because we were all afraid of infecting the bone. After a little while Narita came to and was smiling. She was a sweet girl. We finished just in time to watch the boys play soccer. It was almost as if the surgery hadn’t happened.

It was good to see the boys all playing together. It warmed my heart and also saddened me knowing this would be on of the last times I would watch them play altogether. Afterwards the girls wanted to play volleyball. I was literally dragged onto the court to play with them. I like playing for fun, but I’m not good enough to compete and I don’t like to play when people are too serious, because I know I´ll just frustrate them. Anyway, I played awfully and sure enough frustrated a person or two, I quickly switched out and spent the rest of the evening cheering from the sidelines.

Into the Wild

April 23, 2011

Saturday we decided that instead of going to Church, we would go on a hike in search of some aguas calientes and waterfalls. Since this would be the only chance for all of us to do something fun together.

We woke up early, loaded a boat and took a three hour tour in search of the waterfall. To get to this waterfall we had to boat into a tiny off-shoot of the river and then hike in about an hour over hilly terrain. It was a fun hike and the most exercise I’d had probably the whole time I’ve been here.

The hike was pretty and reminded me a lot of Indonesia, rain forest, green, lush. I saw a few of those bright glue butterflies that you usually only see in frames.

We reached our destination, a beautiful large waterfall surrounded by luscious nature. The water was quite warm-like bath water, and in some places like a Jacuzzi. I’d actually wished for cold water to cool off from the hike. But this was quite wonderful as well. When we arrived, half the group had hiked in a little ways further to where there was a small waterfall and wading pool.

We hiked back in and played for hours, enjoying the nature and each others’ company. We also found a slightly smaller waterfall that had cold water. It was a great bonding day and I wished we could have done something like that sooner.

The trip back to Inahuaya was longer because we were traveling up river. We stopped ion the way so the Doc could make a phone call. Meanwhile, the rest of us swam about in the river-it was really refreshing. I was a little nervous about piranhas biting my feet, but fortunately I didn’t feel any nibbling.

On the way back we had sundown worship on the boat and sang. It touched my heart to be altogether worshipping in nature. I almost cried, almost. But I had to save up my tears for my farewell to my Peruvian family.