Thursday, November 27, 2008

The End

I'm in Lima. Goodbyes were hard. It's hard to get pretty close with people and they leave and not know if you'll ever see them again. Tomorrow night I'll get on a plane home and I'm really looking forward to coming home though. Thanks everybody who has cared about me and prayed for me. It has meant a lot to me. When times have been tough these last 6 months it has been very encouraging knowing how many people have been praying for me. I hope everyone has a blessed Thanksgiving Day.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Peruvian Hairless Dog

This coming Tuesday I'm flying to Lima. I'll be there until Friday, then I fly home Friday night to arrive next Saturday morning. This is the end. I never quite figured out how to use this blog, but that's ok I guess. I have a good story for this post at least. So, as most people know, Barack Obama promised to get his daughters a puppy. He also mentioned in a news conference that one of his daughters is allergic to most dogs. Well, here in Peru there's a breed of dog that doesn't have any hair. They've been bred for 3,000 years I think. So, the director of the Friends of the Peruvian Hairless Dog Association in Lima offered the Obama family a four month old Peruvian hairless dog named Machu Picchu. Here are some photos.

Apparently it has a warmer than average body temperature and can cure arthritis and asthma. There was a special about it on tv the other night. People are really hoping Obama accepts. It would certainly be hilarious.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Making Peanut Butter

So this was kinda fun. Yesterday I made peanut butter. This is me roasting the peanuts.

I'm a-peeling.

Peanut buttering.
The end.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

On a Lighter Note

My host brothers design websites, do graphic design, and are photographers. They recently were asked to make a brochure for a local coffee company called Cafe Rio Mayo and wanted to have pictures of gringos in the brochure because gringos only drink good quality coffee. So.....
I'm a model. The hilarity of it outweighed any culture/power relationships/whatever reservations I could come up with.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

An Incident

On Sunday, I woke up at 3:30 to go with a group of Swedish women, my boss, and the two other interns in my house to a tourist place called Tingana. It́s a river forest reserve and you have to get there really early to see the monkeys. Anyways, we took a van on a dirt road for 50 minutes or so to get there. On the way 3 men with guns tried to stop us and rob us. I only saw 2 of the men pointing their guns at us as we passed. Apparently there was another one in the front who tried to stop us and fire his pistol in the air to scare us, but it didn´t fire so our driver hit the gas. So, we escaped and were told later that the police caught them. I didńt know wéd be on a remote dirt road going there and that it would be dangerous, which it apparently is. It happened so fast but I was pretty shaken and worried for the rest of the drive.
I´m fine, but think that people reading this might want to know about that.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Obama on the Free Trade Agreement with Peru

I just watched the third U.S. presidential debate on youtube last night and two things stood out to me. First; both Barack Obama and John McCain are left handed. Other people probably didn't notice because they were watching the debate from their right handed seats of power. This is good news for southpaws everywhere.
Second, Barack Obama brought up his support for the current U.S.-Peru Free Trade Agreement. Now, I bet that when everyone heard that they all got pretty excited at any mention of a great country like Peru and probably thought "Hmm, I don't know much about that trade agreement. I wonder what Peruvians think of it." I'm so glad you asked! I'm certainly no expert on international trade, but have read a little bit about this trade agreement. I also regularly read a blog by a Peruvian living in Washington D.C. He has a good post providing a Peruvian perspective on what Obama said Wednesday night here. It's not too long and worth the read. His perspective is very much like that of Peruvians I meet here on our election and politics. They overwhelmingly support Obama over McCain (I haven't and won't meet any McCain supporters here), but well informed Peruvians recognize that Obama still stands for much of the status quo. However, as portrayed clearly in the debate Wednesday night, Obama is at least concerned about things like the environment and human rights when it comes to trade agreements; not just how much more money we can make than the other country.
Also, I do agree with McCain that Obama should definitely visit countries in Latin America. It will be funny when he does though. They'll gush over him more than J Lo and Mana (Latin Coldplay) combined.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Something I am learning

I spent a lot of time before coming to Peru preparing. Due to many factors I believe I had expectations to really grow spiritually while here. Though these expectations weren't too specific, I still unknowingly put quite a bit of pressure on myself. Of course I'm still the same person as before. So much of my time here I've felt burdened by my own shameful weaknesses without acknowledging that it was largely my pride that had caused this. Only recently have I really articulated this burdensome feeling and it has helped me to feel much better and I believe understand my situation and myself better. I think I have also been able to see more clearly some of the things the Lord is teaching me here, so I'll talk about one thing.
There is a very good quality that I see in people sometimes; I'd say that it is part of compassion, but does not get at the whole meaning of what compassion is. These people wisely seek to understand others, especially those with whom they disagree. They hear their stories and listen. They ask the right questions and they do not make assumptions of others. They never demonize or mischaracterize others.
The cultivation of this kind of wisdom, compassion, and understanding certainly does not require one to spend 6 months in some exotic foreign country, and of course my being here does not guarantee any greater spiritual maturation than anybody else. In fact it's just the sort of thing that could possibly make me a more prideful, less understanding person. However, I do believe God has used my experiences here to teach me about my failings in this area and to hopefully cultivate this kind of compassion in me.
In the book Compassion, Henri Nouwen (and others) talk a little bit about St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis being one of the most admirable people I know of, I paid close attention.
"From this displaced position, Francis could live a compassionate life; he was no longer blinded by apparent differences between people and could recognize them all as brothers and sisters who needed God's grace as much as he did."
Through voluntary displacement God made St. Francis a more compassionate, understanding person. He understood his own weakness better and, in the difference or "otherness" of displacement, he better understood our common humanity. I have prayed (though not nearly enough) that God would do the same the same thing in me. He has certainly been making my weakness and selfishness clear to me. Here's a few quick stories about just that.
Back in June there was a holiday week that basically celebrated everything about Moyobamba. I was exhausted a lot that week and my family and coworkers kept making me participate in all sorts of things that an anthropology student like me should have been thrilled about, like watch and participate in some typical dances and taste typical regional food (i.e. weird chewy sausage in front of 20 giggling high school kids). However, I often didn't want to do these things. I wanted my alone time and my sleep. I made all the obvious non-verbal signals around the people I was dependent upon to get home like frequent yawns and looking impatient. When I was ignored I became upset. Only much later did I realize that much of the problem involved cultural differences. I don't think more details to the story are necessary, but suffice to say that my host brother and coworkers weren't intentionally putting me in uncomfortable situations and ignoring me like I felt at the time.
Another quick story involves my church here. In general, the church that I attend, which my family and friends attend, was not what I was expecting. The kinds of flaws that I see in it are not the flaws that I hoped or expected my church here in Peru to have. Many of them are just like the weaknesses of churches I know in the U.S. I didn't expect to agree with everything about my church here, but I was hoping that their problems would be different and that they would get right what home churches get wrong. This weekend the church is sponsoring a conference which features a man from Australia coming to talk about the great threat of evolution and why it's wrong. I have not seen my church focus at all on the many social problems here in Moyobamba like poverty, domestic violence, and care for the environment. Of course that doesn't mean they don't; I haven't been here too long.
Anyways, the point is that my church has obvious flaws like any church; flaws which are all too familiar to me. But I have been presumptuous and judgmental. Rather than asking what it is that I can learn from my brothers and sisters at this church, I have far too quickly put them down in my mind and thought highly of myself as more "enlightened". Only as I have learned more about the church's long, complicated history which has often involved complex relationships with Westerners, have I become more understanding and compassionate toward it. And the truth is, there are things that I can learn from these brothers and sisters. As an institution, the church may not be doing the things I think it should, but some of the individual members I am closest to are living lives worthy of my imitation in their compassion toward each other and their neighbors outside the church. The church also places quite a bit of focus on prayer and fasting; two things which I have never been too concerned about in actual practice.
I do pray that the Lord would continue to use failures like these to teach me how to be a more compassionate person, especially when encountering disagreements and differences. Perhaps the greater challenge will be in returning when I will inevitably encounter the sorts of differences in people at home that I have always had impatience with; and the differences may likely be starker than I remember as I see them from new lenses. May the Lord give me grace in those times when I am tempted to to be prideful and judgmental rather than compassionate and understanding.