What’s it like to eat in Peru? Smile at the menu. Divide the prices by three. Round down. The exchange rate is over 3.20 dollars per sol.
Fresh squeezed fruit juice? $2.50 for a double-sized glass. Chicken avocado sandwich with coffee? Three dollars.
On top of that, the food here is all “organic”–without the label and without the markup. When you shop for fruit, you let the seller know if you’re planning to eat tomorrow instead of the same day. That way they can bring you produce a shade less ripe.
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Seven days ago, I did not know I would be flying to Peru. By Monday the 14th, I had booked tickets for my departure on the 21st. Still more amazing? The lady leading the trip hadn’t known she was headed to Peru until the day before.
It all started with a bag of clothes. My family was cleaning house, emptying our basement of ten years’ accumulated detritus. The friend who came to help us dislodge the furniture offered to drop our clothes off with a friend of his from church. She was accepting accepting donations for her upcoming trip to an orphanage in Peru. Yes, he agreed upon further questioning, she was accepting travel companions, too. Read the rest of this entry
What happens when you have long hair, and you sleep in a dorm full of girls? You braid it, of course! — or, rather, the girls do. Then your friend opens her treasure trove of hair ribbons, and she gives the girls a gift they will wear every day for the rest of week, whether it matches their outfits or not. In fact, some of the girls only bring one set of clothes. You notice that, and wonder why.
At least, that’s what Rachel and I did at Camp UNPES. During the first and only meeting between staff and volunteers, the head man, Roberto, encouraged us to love the children without restraint. “This isn’t America — you can hug them and pick them up!” He could have warned us how much love we would receive in return. Read the rest of this entry
Note: I returned home Thursday morning, August 15th, after a red-eye flight — safe but sleepy (and fully recovered from food poisoning!). My thanks to everyone for their prayers and support during the trip. Many photos and stories remain, so I plan to continue updating the blog through my journey’s conclusion.
Note 2: I struggled to finish this post — hence the two week plus delay in updating — and it nearly finished my instead. I credit my sister with the spark that finally kindled this saga of church camp. Read the rest of this entry
Our first Sunday afternoon in Ecuador reflected the pace of life there — for the missionary family at least.
After our early morning dining and outings, we relaxed with the kids, welcomed the new guests, packed up for camp, and detoured to the beach on the way. At times like these, Kevin and Beka often can’t confirm our plans until days or even hours beforehand. Living life with them requires a flexibility and calmness comparable to a weather vane’s: ever pivoting, ever erect.
This particular day, the breezes blew fast but fair. Read the rest of this entry
Note: Right now, I am battling food poisoning, otherwise known as “the Jungle Diet” (guaranteed to drop pounds!). Beka has cared for me in every way possible, and I hope to recover soon.
Ezra and Joe acted as both tour guides and Spanish dictionaries for us on our way to the river. “How do you say…” and “I wouldn’t stand in the jungle grass if I were you.” Read the rest of this entry
“Here, you have to pull the head off.”
“I’ll do it!” Joe pinched my food expertly and twisted the offending body party loose. The remains, cloudy and moist, jiggled in my palm.
I steeled myself. “Camera ready, Ezra?” He nodded, hoisting my equipment into position. The lens blinked at me. I produced a smile. The shutter fired, and I bit down.
Beka had entrusted Rachel, Evie, and me to her sons’ care for the morning. Read the rest of this entry
The boys share a room. The girls share a room. The baby sleeps in the shower. All in all, seven people live in a wooden house built by Kevin himself. Dusky red-leaved plants line the yard; a frilly tree from Florida sprouts medicinal properties in the back. A wall painted sky blue encloses this patch of jungle. About a year ago, the family admitted the need for more space. Now a two-apartment guest house reclines, across the yard. Our first night there, its tin roof sheltered us from the downpour outside. The rain pounded as if from a shower nozzle, forcing Rachel and me to shout to each other over the noise. Read the rest of this entry
A dirt field, concrete bleachers, and five teams of adolescent athletes gathered on a milky afternoon in Chaco to celebrate Ecuador’s passion, “futbol.” The province of Napo had organized the games as part of an inter-canton tournament. (“Cantons” are member states roughly equivalent to counties in the U.S. Trivia: Switzerland divides itself into cantons, too.) Other competitions included basketball, wrestling, soccer, chess, and even Tae Kwon Do!
Kevin’s oldest son, Ezra, plays for the Archidona team. They had succumbed in their first game to Napo’s capital, Tena, but rallied to win the next two. Now Archidona hoped to claim second-place in the tournament by triumphing in this fourth and final game. Read the rest of this entry
Ecuadorean highways combine the etiquette of the U.S. east coast with the switchbacks of West Virginian mountains. The road winds through the peaks as if a bored student had scribbled it there. Speed limits and caution signs litter the roadsides, and a single fluorescent line separates two lanes. Kevin referred to the signage as “sugerencias” — i.e., suggestions. Traffic swerves freely across both lanes, around trucks, buses, and the occasional car. When nobody approached from the opposite direction, we straddled the center line. On tight curves, Kevin slid over into the other lane. I watched every twist and turn to stave off carsickness — hardly a sacrifice, considering the view. Read the rest of this entry
Note: Rachel and I have just returned to Archidona (where there is internet) from a church camp in Latas (where there was not). I originally planned this post for Sunday night; my apologies for the delay.
I had almost persuaded myself to name this post, “Bed and Breakfast.” That phrase sums up the post’s contents accurately, but I couldn’t deny that the term also implies a type of business that has yet to entertain us here in Ecuador. So I abandoned that idea in favor of identifying some thread that linked every highlight of our first full day overseas. Read the rest of this entry
Its body barely houses a single pilot, but its wings stretch across an airport terminal. The man-powered craft, “Daedalus,” on display above the the escalators, weds fragility, with its transparent plastic skin, to the strength implicit in its wingspan. It’s a feat of engineering – and its name suits it. The famous Icharus could fly, but his father, Daedalus, built him his wings. Plus, Daedalus understood the properties of the building materials better, and so refrained from pushing them past the point of failure. No wonder the modern-day engineers chose his name for their work. Read the rest of this entry
I suspect the travel bug infected me shortly after my birth, when my family moved to Belgium. Two years later, we left for Germany. By the age of 10, I had lived on three different continents and visited four. I can thank my father, now retired from the U.S. Army, for my international childhood.
Years have passed since I last ventured beyond the United States, however (except for one week in Puerto Rico – technically, a debatable exception). I have now lived in one state for almost half of my life, if you can believe it, and I’m starting to feel itchy. Read the rest of this entry