29 mayo 2006

The Gates to "Mas Alla"

dear mom,

yesterday i woke up to drunks serenading outside my hotel window. don´t worry, though. they were singing to each other, not me.

thought one:
two borrachos below, close as lovers. arms around the shoulders, spilling both the secrets of the universe and their bottle of aguardiente (sugar cane drink). i should feel sorry for them, but they´re really funny.

what on earth is the appeal of drink?

then i do feel for them.... stupid college kids don´t need to be numbed from reality... miners who only see light going to and from the bowels of the earth every two weeks need SOMETHING. if they won´t look to Christ, i guess comical numbing is as good as it gets.

i did eventually sober up regarding them. a little boy, about 9 years old, came up to the two as they "walked" the plaza, arm in arm. "Tio," he said, "Tio, let´s go home. Time to go home... Mama´s calling..." taking the free arm of the older one, he steered and pulled, yanked and coaxed the pair around the corner and out of sight.

thought two: a profile of Romelio
i can´t tell you what i thought the first time i met him. not cause it´s inappropriate, i just didn´t make any great note of him. he was just another peruvian. just another brother of Amelia´s (when first meeting them all, they seem to be unlimited.) he was quiet. peaceful. slight frame, stoop shouldered. early thirties. black hair, intense eyes. soothing, somewhat hoarse voice.

one of the first things i remember him asking me was if i read much theology. i was barely 16, not into theology at all at the time. (not really "into" God period.) "ahhh... sometimes... every now and then..." (i had read something from My Utmost for His Highest a couple of months before.)

my true introduction was when i visited his church, located in a town called "La Punta," about half an hour´s drive from the house in Tambillo (you can see the town from the front yard), or an equal 30 minutes Peruvian hike straight up. my own brother was preaching, but Romelio conducted the prayer. singing and voices from inside the open door grew louder as i got out of the car and approached the turquoise adobe building. leaving the intense sun and insistantly cold breeze outside, i saw forms crouched before wooden benches lined up in two sections. men on one side (less populated), women and children on the other. people were crying. people were praying. loudly. whoa. i was sixteen. i didn´t know how to pray or cry loudly to God. these were going to show me how.

Romelio led the prayer, his voice cracking with emotion and echoing from the sound system with exuberance. He welcomed everyone and there was so much joy in his countenance i didn´t know what to think. He was not reserved or shy. He had that "peace dancing" quality to everything he said. Whoa... what an intense individual.

I got sick later on in that trip. Pachamanca is good, but it´s not friendly the following night. So I´m making trips back and forth from my room to the facilities, practicing my new praying skills, pretty "joy resting" myself. (Being sick´s alright when your in the middle of a conversation with your Father.) Nonetheless, i wasn´t well. But each time i blearly walked the short and cold trail under the star-sprinkled sky, i saw a light from the kitchen´s open door. a sitting figure was bent over the table, head in his hands, something before him. trip one (approx. 11:30 pm), trip two (approx 12:45 am), trip three (approx. 1:30 am)... i kept waking and somebody kept reading. not only was God with me, but Romelio was awake as well, keeping vigil in his studies. in my nausea crazed state, i thought, "gee whiz, when is somebody gonna tell that young man to go to sleep! he has to preach tomorrow and the cold night air is not good for him. he needs a cup of tea or something..." so i was distracted from my sickness and started praying for Celia.

of course, i didn´t know her name then, i just knew she needed to exist. they married last january, and she is on the heroette list. she´s from the jungle, where supper swims a couple feet away and dessert grows on the limb in front of you. she´s lived lately in Huanuco, "city of the eternal Springtime." now she lives in Huayllay, mining town, "white field" for ministry, and generally fridgid place. don´t tell me love is an emotion. love is getting up each morning and breaking the ice on the water barrel so you can make your husband tea. love is sleeping under 5 alpaca blankets and one more over your face in the room that also functions as your kitchen. love is kneeling on concrete floors in an almost deserted church as you pray for God to break cold hard hearts. love is smiling at your husband´s guests when you can´t feel your toes. that´s love. and that´s Celia. let´s pray for grace.

but she seems happy. Romelio doesn´t seem happy; he RADIATES happy. he´s crazy. keeps praying, keeps preaching, keeps inviting. keeps hoping. has faith. has faith. i dunno what faith is. but man, this brother does.

thought three: an armistice
i have made my peace with baños. i was going to put "bathrooms" or "restrooms" but the terms don´t apply. "toilets" doesn´t even quite work.

when i thought up this thought, my originally concession was "as long as they have four walls, i´m content." i have since acquiesed to a greater extent. all i need are three walls and a "wachiman" (err... "wachiwoman") to stand guard. so, three walls and a waste recepticle i´m content. clean and i´m ecstatic. a toilet and i´m spoiled. toilet seats are inane. (TP sold seperately.)

what a vulgur thought. apologies. but let´s just say i´m REAL PLEASED to be back in the Huanuco dream house after exploring the baños of the outer regions...

(here´s me and Reyna on the plains (las Pampas), baño Model 5672 in background)

thought four:
absolutely hilarious that someone as uncouth as myself should be in such a courtesy-rich culture. at least it´s not Asia, right?! but still... (bear in mind, again, this is observations from the middle of a very noble, evangelical Peruvian family. not sure how far it extends.)

exp: When you enter a room, you greet the occupants. "Buenos dias, hermano, buenos dias, buenos dias..." If you want to cheat, you can say "Buenos dias to all," but some sort of acknowledgement, especially of elders/superiors is required.

exp 2: when you haven´t seen someone for a while, you are expected to make physical contact: hand-shake (with a supporting second hand if you are close) for the males, hug and cheek (or air) kiss for females.

exp 3: you do not call others by their first name, excepting your equals. if you need to get someones attention, it is "hermano (brother) ______" or "hermana (sister) ______." "hermanita," literally, "little sister," is customary affectionate term of address.

exp 4: even in the wider culture, there are many titles for the English equivalent of "sir," "ma´am," and "hey you!" if you are addressing a child or unbeliever, you can use "amigo" or "amiguito(a)" as a more affectionate address. "joven" works for getting the attention of a young person. "señor," "señora," and "señorita" are standard formality. "madrecita," little mother, is a somewhat light address of an older woman, usually used by younger vendors. "Don" and "Doña" are super formal/respectful forms of address.

(street in Huayllay... a pueblo surprisingly clean and beautiful for a mining town. springtime nice in the sun (i got a sunburn). fridgid in the shade. HARSH nights... think: worst day of texan winter (below 32F), but minus any sort of artificial heating. "Huayllay is for the valient." no bugs or vermin though!)

thought five: peruvian exclamations (g rated) and common interjections
-"!úy!" =expression of surprise
-"!uáu!" ="wow" with a spanish accent
-"!chacháu!" or "!áchachau!" ="would ya look at that!" or "check it out!"
-"!carambas!" ="blast it all!"
-"!buíííí!" ="maaan hold up!"
-"oye, varon..." ="listen up, man"
-"¿chistoso, no?" =thick sarcasm, "oh, real funny"
-"que va a ser?" ="how on earth is that going to be?!" hardest to translate
-"ai de mi/ti/nosotros" = "woe is me/you/ us" only heard by those in close contact with bracy and benjamin tebbe
-"mira ve" = "look here"
-"a´i e´ta" = "alli esta" = there it is
-"pe" or "pue" or if you really want to get technical, "pues" = pretty much nothing and everything... "then" or "well," generally ends a sentance to add force
-"!Chau!" = phonetic pronunciation of italian "ciao" = good-bye, short term.

*the spanish equivalent of the english filler "um" is "eh," castillian (NOT canadian) pronunciation.

a pictorial thought or two or few:

how do you capture blue?

i keep telling myself i´ll get a photo that´ll be able to communicate these mountains. you CANNOT easily get depth or height in a foto, i´m finding out. beauty is, to a large extent, unphotographable.

Peruvian´s are incorrigible capitalist. They just lack capital.

24 mayo 2006

Oh, soul-mate of a country...

dear mom,

I hereby lend my full support and moot vote to Peru´s socialist candidate for the 2006-2011 term, Dr. Alan Garcia. He´s a good speaker; what can i say?! Plus, the only other candidate, Ollanta ("little pot") Humala is a Nationalist, and Fascism really isn´t my style.

thought one: an analogy
(Note: This is written with a certain audience in mind. If you consider yourself a "progressive," this probably won´t mean much to you. Proceed to next thought.)

Imagine with me for a moment that this is the 2008 US elections. We have three candidates: Condoleezza Rice, Bill Clinton, and Hillary Clinton. Oops, 1st round and Condi loses by .5% of the vote. Yes, that´s a decimal.

So Bill and Hillary enter Round Two. Except our Former President Clinton, instead of merely committing moral "indescreetions," actually brought the country within 6 months of Communist guerilla takeover, contributed to a 7000% inflation rate (wherein over half of the country lived in "official" poverty), and headed a military that committed human rights abuses no less than their "terrorist" counterparts (between the two, 69,280 people "officially" died or disappeared.)

Ah, and Hillary. She was a Lieutenant Colonel during that previous "conflict." During her campaign, there were all these noisy protests about some "torture" rumored to happen under her command. She lives in one of the richest neighborhoods in the country and represents the "people," who brought her to a decisive win in the first round (ie: 30% of vote to Bill´s 24%). She tried to overthrow the government in 2000. She´s buddies with Fidel and Hugo and doesn´t like our southern neighbor. She does like the death penalty. A lot. She wants to nationalize the industries and legalize coca.

So, there are our choices... on a bright note, in a debate on Sunday, Former President Clinton slew his opponent into many pieces by his clear, well-articulated presentation of ideas. Ms. Clinton ranted. It was good listening.

thought two:
i am very proud of myself to have figured out that "ctrl k" = italics and "ctrl n" = black. just thought i´d share for future reference.

thought three: a profile
When i am old, I shall be as Mama Nila.

i wish.

tranquil... sitting by the fire, drinking coffee. sharp in her wit, in the center (in-the-know) yet undisturbed/ undisturbing. daughters around her, but one in the US. raised nine children. all alright with God, all good humans.

she´s been sick before... bad sick. she´s suffered. she´s seen bodies littering the jungle road. shés lost her land to the communists. she knows terrorism.

she was once like Chana, 10 years old and full of light. she was once like Reyna, 15 and singing, punctuated by giggles. she was once like Mila, young and working, uncomplaining and efficient. she blushed like Celia, new to marriage. she mothered like Amelia, swatting as need be. she´s received the calm faith of Rosalvina, half her children excellent, the other half being prayed into that state. now she rests...

but she is not idle. she´s too Peruvian for that. the grandchildren run around, always one or another. she scolds, she defends. grinding coffee, she reaches into the back of her manta (tied at the shoulders and waist) and pulls out a tissue for a productive toddler nose.

her legs are still strong. she still descends and ascends, to and from church each night. in the dark. her hands remain busy, but not frantic. sometimes the older grandchildren fill the table and their plans fill the air. sometimes her children crowd her kitchen, and she remembers them as children. the talk surrounds her; she doesn´t feel the need to over-commentate. sometimes just a few are within shouting distance, but there are always a few.

her husband reads outside. "the Sierra is cleaner than the jungles," she pronounces to me. the sun purifies; the blue disinfects. the children, the dogs, the mountains... as long as the earth turns, they will never disappear.

thought four:
weeeeiiiirrd... i´m hearing Franz Lizst´s Liebestraum, which i remember from piano lessons back in 4th grade. it´s coming from somebody´s cell...

thought five:
The other day, I met a girl who "didn´t pass through adolescence." Thusly was she presented. The daughter of a cousin, she had come over to help wash the laundry. Her mother sells fish on a bridge nearby, beginning at 5 each morning. They say that this little adolescence-evader, my age, has had to be the "Mamita" for her 3 or 4 brothers and sisters. Breakfast and washup, send ´em off to school and hurry through her own... she wants to be a computer programmer.

I like the idea that "adolescence" is a voluntary thing. That´ll preach.

thought six: re: cute peruvian words borrowed from english

-"wachiman": wah-chi-MAHN (guard/ watchman)
-"halo?": ah-LO (hello, when answering the telephone)
-"esteishon": es-TAY-shun (station wagon; ie: a Toyota Corolla)
-"google punto com": goo-GLAY poon-toe cohm (axiomatic; my personal favorite... "goo-glay" just makes me smile)
-"jajaja": ha-ha-ha (internet use)
-"Jennifer Lopez": YEN-ee-fehr Lo-pes

you haven´t lived until you´ve heard:
1) someone mockingly imitate your language, like we did growing up with Spanish ("English is like chicken talk... ´shlp shp chpk shlp´... ")
2) someone immitate the American pronounciation of their own. ("Kayrez too whogar" for "¿Quieres tu jugar?")

its very humbling to remember that Americans are the minority on this planet.

Thought the last:
The food here is inordinately good. Really, i might possibly be convinced to travel 3000 miles just for the food, but the additional incentive secures my addiction to this place. MMMMM...
sample menu:

Breakfast: Quaker (pronounced: kwah-kur; an oatish drink, terribly addicting, which i originally thought was an ancient Inca staple until i spelled it out and noticed how eerily similar it looks to the "Quaker" Oatmeal... hmmmm... globalisation...), fried bananas, one itty-bitty practically microscopic piece of freshly baked bread, and corn (mote) with cafe, now taken with a bit of evaporated milk.

Lunch: Spaghetti with sauce made from tomatoes and carrots, salad, boiled yuca (tuber... kinda like potatoes, but different.)

Midafternoon snack: Mandarina (tangerine, bought off the street), maracuya (passion fruit, first time tasted... soooooo good. smell stayed with me the rest of the day), ice-cream of lucma and strawberry (lucma wins prize for best flavor ever tasted in my life)

Dinner: Arroz chalfa (rice with soy sauce, ham, chicken, eggs, seasoning... 2nd favorite dish), yuca, cafe

so... when i come back fat, please be courteous. ask me about politics or something. or food... i don´t mind talking about food at ALL... ;)

18 mayo 2006

Tales from a neophyte at life...

Dear Mom,

Here at the "internet cafe" (internet minus the cafe) I am surrounded by four very friendly boys: Sandro, Servando, Cristian, y Franco... the oldest is in 6th grade, so don´t worry... :-)

thought one:
you can always recognize the pastors here because they have a voice like a chainsmoker, but they have a Bible in hand (or maybe a hammer or shovel) instead of a cigarette. Their voices come from chain PREACHING... . their vice is the Gospel. their habit is to testify.

thought two: you know you´re in an evangelical service when...
-the songs are more like an army chant than a song
-you get lightheaded from singing so hard
-you can break a blood vessel in your hands from clapping with all your strength
-the kids stay awake (or try!) by shouting out the periodic "Gloria a Dios!" or "Aleluja!" or "Amen!" which can come at very humorous occasions...

thought three:
favorite Peruvian word of the week:

"Hmm:" it means... pretty much anything you want it to. generally it functions as an affirmative response ("Are you going to the store later?" "Hmm."), but is also useful for those occasions when one doesn´t quite want to commit to a response, or is unsure of an answer. "Are you ready to go?" "Hmm.")

"Ah" is also utilized for a more decisive version of the affirmative.

thought four: (hey, i´m making up for lost time!)
one quickly learns the difference between suffering and discomfort here. altitude sickness is discomfort. living in a truck is suffering. (at least by American definition... one is still human, still has joys and lives life in the midst of extreme hardship.) maybe instead of suffering, i should say "hardship." the difference between hardship and discomfort manifests itself... cold showers are a discomfort... never having had running water or toilet facilities is (by American definition) a hardship. may i never forget the difference.

thought five:
I am delighted. Having been an occasionally melancholic, generally solitary soul for the large portion of my life, I was not sure how this 3rd-world people-everywhere was going to be. I never stop hearing human voices (and they´re NOT just in my head)... there´s always somebody playing music (loudly) or laughing, or talking or snoring in the bunk above me... generally, there are people within an arm´s reach, or a hair´s breadth... when i wake up in the morning, i can hear the whole house praying...

man, is it sweet.

people are so unbelievable... miracles, works of art, novels in themselves (but true!)... of course, i´m only 2 weeks into the deal, but i am so honored to be surrounded by images of God.

17 mayo 2006

Visit the fotos, por favor!

Greetings to all... will write more later. Classes start tomorrow, prayers coveted.

10 mayo 2006


Originally uploaded by larebe87.
Lenin and Gary

09 mayo 2006

unairbrushed humanity

dear mom,

I met my first ex-terrorist yesterday. he's a brother now and worked with his wife to install hot water at the house yesterday. they are really sweet together.

disclaimer/ apology/ author's note:
i'm almost hesitant to write anything, knowing that words cannot make you love peru or even really communicate why i love it so much. you will have to come and see for yourself. so all i can give are a few observations, a few emotions of my narrow experience with an insanely sanctified family in a living, complex country in a even more inscrutible (right word?) and living/dying world. the reality of this place is more beautiful, more ugly, more ecstatic, more miserable, more painful and more feeling than anything one might read from my mind.

i will include pictures asap, but don{t assume too much from them either. (by the way, i owe myriads of thanks to the brother steven holmes for letting us borrow his digital camera. what more can a girl ask for than to be in peru with unlimited photos and no development fees? this is bliss.)

thought one: re: juxtaposition

if one wants an aesthetic experience, get thee AWAY from thy art museum, AWAY from thy computer screens, AWAY from thy books and solitude. get thee with people. with humanity.

it{s all about juxtaposition. my prof in intro to fine arts talked about how "aesthetics" is NOT "beauty" per se, but rather the viewer entering into the experience the artist has prepared for him. the most shocking works, the ones that most stir people up and involve the viewer's emotions are generally those that make good use of juxtaposition. putting something together that one wouldn't think goes together.

Peru knows juxtaposition. we began with the flawless, smoothly commercialized world of airtravel, where the flight attendants are perfect, the food and courtesies are neatly packaged for maximum convenience, and the repeating square televisions show million dollar homes in new york and models in paris. then we see lima. ah lima. people. people. people. let it be known that lima is modern. you have pretty much everything that houston has, just with peru-ness. but the juxtaposition! "unofficial" porters are just as solicitous as flight attendants, but they have an aggressive quality to their courtesy. they help you because they have to eat. you HAVE to pay him, Senor, because he has children to feed. 10 soles is NOT enough, amigo, how can you do that to me? 15, amigo, 15... (more juxtapostition to come)

thought two: a profile

Lenin handled the porter. let me tell you about Lenin. yes, pronounced "lehn-een," the brother WAS indeed named after the 20th century russian madman. (this was 1981 in the peruvian jungle, pues. what else was his father going to name his firstborn? the neighbors already had little "Marxito." another one would have been just too confusing. just so you know, i totally made that part up.) but okay. back to hermano Lenin. where do i start? he graduated from college a couple of years ago with a degree in marketing or business or something. he works with his father and brothers selling cars now. he spends most of his time in lima (and everybody here pretty much hates lima, from what i can tell. but with 1/3 of the country's population, (of 28 million... do the math and think market) it´s an necessary vice) and gets home about once a month. ...and for most of the family's 30 birthdays.

he was our "chofer" (pronounce it) for the 8 hours from lima here to huanuco. bracy got sick (ever since then it's been: "Tia bekkah, you can't give me any more food. i don't like food. i{m going to vomitar. do you have chicle (gum)?") and several times from the backseat there came a piteous, "hermano, can we stop please here pretty soon..." dot dot dot (name withheld to protect the vomitous. she's fully recovered now, thanks for asking.) but never was there an exhasperated (sp?) sigh or a pained look at the watch. (we were supposed to get home before dark... because of banditos, you know.)

Lenin was our chofer and my first friend during our previous trips to Peru. the "policia" here have a bad habit of stopping drivers at random and searching their luggage/trunk to make sure everything was up to regulations. blasted regulations... always get those poor travelers. and the fines are so stiff too! 900 soles... (divide by 3.3) but the policia will be kind enough to let you go, they'd just like a little "tip" for their efforts to enforce justice and law in society. would you mind, amigo...? we joked that we always knew they were asking for their "propina" when through the back window we would see Lenin start to laugh. "no, sir, we are Evangelicos. we cannot give bribes... it is unjust... do i need to pay a ticket?" no, no, esta bien... 4 times, friends... this happened FOUR TIMES on this trip alone. what would you have done? lenin smiled and shook his head. no, we're evangelicals.

more to come. theres nothing like reality....

02 mayo 2006

'Let not the one who puts on his armor boast like the one who takes it off.'"

family and casa
Originally uploaded by larebe87.

35 hours, vatos mios...

35 hours, 3 finals, 3.5 journals, and not-an-excessive amount of coffee...

remind me to tell yall why i like peru so much some time.
...some time later:

Ahhh... sweet bliss and no more school. DEATH TO SCHOOL. for a while at least.

25 hours, 0 journals, 0 finals, 1 three hour car ride, 2 flights, 3 airports, 120 lbs luggage, 1 luggage pickup, 1 customs dealio, 4 very special brothers... SWEEEEEEEET.

An excerpt from today:

Nahum 1:2 God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserveth wrath for His enemies. 6Who can stand before His indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of His anger? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by Him.

Nahum offers comfort to the oppressed Israelites by proclaiming impending judgment on their Assyrian rulers. In the first chapter, he expresses how the “judgment side” of the Lord will very shortly be revealled. For a change in Hebrew prophetic literature, the prophet’s words are not aimed at rebellious Hebrews, but at their enemies!

Unlike the Jews, I automatically correlate God’s judgment as relating to “others.” In fact, in prophetic literature, I generally side with God as His words burn against the “rebellious ones.” Perhaps I could use a bit of the Hebrew perspective of this passage. How would my casual reading change if I had just narrowly escaped the Lord’s just wrath, or if I was undergoing punishment for my sin as I read? What if I remembered how it felt to have my Everlasting Father furious at me? What if I, who have “sonship” by the Spirit, was a recent enemy with the full load of God’s wrath aimed at me?

If I recall correctly, Jonathan Edwards preached somewhat of a similar sermon with some very dramatic effects. God hates sin passionately. How do we think He feels about those who love it with the same desire? I believe that if we were really to consider what it feels like to have the wrath of God burning against us, we would appreciate our salvation a lot more. We would fear God with an intense gratitude. We might get a little emotional about our security in Christ. We might stand in a bit more awe at the worth of the blood of Christ to avert the rage of God aimed at our souls. The Lord’s Supper might mean a bit more. We might be a bit more wondrous at the Gospel. We might have a bit more pathos when it comes to viewing the lost. We might see eternity a bit clearer. Thank the Lord for His prophets to remind us of such things.