The Adventures of April

We shall not cease from exploration - And the end of all our exploring - Will be to arrive where we started - And know the place for the first time. -- T.S. Eliot

Monday, March 19, 2007

Las Islas Ballestas and Huacachina

This past weekend Gabe and I ventured south to the Islas Ballestas and Huacachina. We wanted a bit of adventure, and unfortunately we got more than we bargained for. Gabe's nice 35 mm camera was stolen on the bus on the way down. It was a nice bus, and the bag was underneath his seat the entire time, but the robbers are extremely talented here.

Friday night we stayed in Pisco. After some somber moments in the police station to report the robbery, we found a place to stay and some dinner. We noticed that a lonely backpacker was about to eat dinner alone, so we invited him to eat with his. His name was something like Ido and he was from Israel. Interesting person, like all of the Israelis I met this fall he had just finished his mandatory time in the army. He did tell us in some detail about bootcamp. (At this moment I could use various references to Buster's time in Army, but I'll just leave you to reflect fondly.)

After a (short) night's sleep, we were up and at 'em for our 7 AM boat tour of the Islas Ballestas. It was great to be out on the ocean in the sun, and I always enjoy wearing things like orange life jackets and helmets. In the desert near the islands is a huge mysterious form of a candelabra that has been carved into the hill for hundreds of years. The islands were of course teaming with wildlife - hundreds of birds, sealions, and penguins. The boat was also quite peaceful for a little nap on the way back to land.

In the afternoon we jumped on the bus down to Ica. Ica is just a big dirty city (sorry, Icans.) I sat in the park and drank a milkshake while Gabe went to check out the stolen camera market. Unfortunately he did not find his camera. We then took a cab a short ride to the oasis of Huacachina, a little cluster of hotels and restaurants around a small oasis catering to backpackers and travelers.

At the hotel where our sand buggy tour was to start, I was standing at the counter and I looked over and recognized the couple standing next to me. I had ridden in a bus with them over 5 months ago from San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico to Panajachel, Guatemala! They have been traveling this entire time! We remembered each other and had a nice chat. Small world!

Okay, back to business. Saturday afternoon we went on a dune buggy and sand boarding ride. The dunes here are incredible - exactly how you'd imagine the Sahari desert. Literally mountains of sand stretching out into the distance. Sand boarding was a blast. I laid on the board on my stomach and went down the huge dunes face first. I was a bit scared at first, but the sand is more forgiving than snow. I was the first to try a new big hill that we arrived at. Without thinking I gave it a go. Wow - was I going fast! To let your elbows slip off the board is to get the skin sanded off! I was going so fast that I went down one hill, up the next, caught a few feet of air and slide down the rest of the hill! By the end of it I was laughing pretty hard because those airborne moments caught me off guard!

We flew around in the buggy for a bit, up and down steep hills. We watched the sunset and got a nice view of the oasis. On the way home I was literally coated with sand (darn that sun screen!) and ended up dipping in the pool at midnight when we finally got back to Lima.

Weekends like these always make Monday mornings a bit difficult, but I can't complain!

Pictures, from top to bottom: Penguins; sea lions; arches; Gabe striking his classic pose on dune; me lookin' h-o-t; Gabe and I with the dune buggy; the oasis; the sunset.

Monday, March 12, 2007


This weekend Gabe and I were intent on getting out of Lima. The dust, the dryness, the lack of life, the smog, the noise, the combis, the heat - everything - was getting a bit oppressive. We wanted to go somewhere green and mountainous.

After spending the week trying to find a reasonably proximate location that met our criteria, we struck out on Friday with practically no plan or information to find a bus that would take us to the town of Canta. After taking a taxi to the opposite side of Lima, we found a few bus companies. For the first three, all of the buses had left by 8:30 AM that morning. I was very pessimistic and was already picturing myself sulking around Lima for the weekend.

We found one last company who had a bus that left at 2:30 - and it was 2:15! I hate to use this awful word, but it was quite serendipitous. We boarded the bus and stopped about every twenty feet between Lima and Canta to pick up people along the way.

I had no idea what to expect. Neither of our guide books said a peep about Canta, and I hadn't been able to find anything definitive on the internet. No map, no hostel or hotel names, no information, no nothing!

Luckily, we were pleasantly surprised. Friday night was a bit dreary; it was only light for another 45 minutes or so once we got in and then it was rainy and dark. After an evening of wandering the few streets of Canta, eating some dodgy Lomo Saltado, building a small fire and playing some cards, the next morning was clear and we were surrounded by green and mountains.

We grabbed a quick breakfast during which was a miscommunication strictly Peruvian in nature (well, perhaps Colombian as well). I ordered (or thought I ordered) hot chocolate, 'coca.' Readers that have any knowledge of narcotics will know what kind of tea they brought me - coca tea, made from the leaves of coca plants, from which you derive cocaine. I was a little surprised and worried that I was moments away from becoming a hopelessly addicted druggie, so I explained my mistake and eventually got some hot chocolate.

We were going to hire a guide (a.k.a. an 11 year-old with nothing else to do) to bring us to the Incan ruins around Canta but we instead struck out on our own, wandering through the hills and farms that surrounded the area. It was a bit a challenge, due to the fact that Gabe was feverish and I'm out of shape. The change in altitude will leave you out of breath and with a dull headache. However, as you can see from the pictures, the scenery was worth it. We met a few nice folks along the way and ate lots of cookies for sustenance.

In the afternoon the fog rolled in. We were forced to take the long and winding road back to Canta instead of cutting through our shortcuts directly down the mountain. The rain soon followed. We walked for about two hours in the cold rain. A battle ensued between my belt and the heavy, soggy bottoms of my jeans. It was as though somebody had took my jeans, dunked the lower 3/4 in a cold, muddy pool and handed them to me to wear. It was also a bad time to discover that the waterproof qualities of my raincoat had worn out.

We made it back and promptly got into a colectivo heading back to Lima. This is basically a taxi with four people in it. It cost only 10 soles ($3) for the 2 1/2 hour trip to Lima! Granted, I was sitting in the back middle seat of a Tempo smushed between soggy Gabe and a Peruvian woman named Emelia for over two hours, but what a deal!

Although the taxi driver had horrible taste in music, it was great to get out of Lima and see more of Peru. On the way home I could see Canta was in this green and lush valley and how the landscape quickly progressed to cacti-covered mountains to the dirt hills of Lima. It's refreshing for my mind to know that not very far away green hills and flowers are waiting.

All in all, 'twas an adventure and great weekend.

Photos, loosely from top to bottom: Me striking a pose by some mountains; the village of Canta as we hiked up; me and a photo of Baby Jesus; Gabe and an Andean woman; somebody's not excited to hike in the rain, but glad they spent 2 soles on their tarp; fog.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

April wants you to know...

... that her normal weekend report will be posted by this Tuesday. In order to keep you interested, she would like you to know that this post will contain exciting topics such as:

1. Wool socks.

2. Cocaine derivatives.

3. What Jesus looked like as a child.

4. The meaning of life.

5. Mountains.

If you're board, I highly recommend you check out this website:

Hasta martes!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Four Things

1. In the U.S., we call small, tasty cakes wrapped in a paper cup a muffin and pretend it's healthy and acceptable to eat in the morning. Here is Peru, there is no denial. This morning (well, most mornings actually) I made my way down to the cafeteria for a little brunch. When I asked where was the bread that was usually out in the morning, they said oh, you mean the cake! Yes, "It's 9 AM and I'd like a large peice of cake, please."

2. Am I walking around with a sign on my forehead that says 'wink at me?' I feel like I've been getting winked at a lot lately. I think it's of the variety 'hey there, little lady!' and 'this is to signal that what I just said was witty,' so it's quite harmless, just perplexing.

But then again, I thought that one professor was winking at me and it turns out he just had a twitch. Maybe twitching is prevelant here in Peru.

3. Right now I am missing the Meeting House and Knox Pres in Toronto. It's so nice to walk into church and know most of the people there. I am for sure organizing a "Manzanas a Manzanas" (Apples to Apples) game night at my new church.

4. Whoever is able to make at least one substantial connection to Arrested Development in this post and writes a comment about it gets a prize!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

My Life and Weekend

This weekend was rather uneventful compared to others... no hairless dogs, no double decker buses or dead bodies. The Embassy has a baseball league and different agencies make up the different teams. I went to the games this Saturday and it was fun to see the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) cream just about every other team, including the team that Gabe was playing on, while I wrote postcards and met some more Embassy people.

I've decided that the Embassy is a bit like a college - there is a cafeteria and a doctor's office inside, there is a nice person to talk to if you're bored or having problems adjusting, there are weekend activities, informative events, intramural sports, and mandatory housing. If this place were to be a bit more like good 'ol Alma College all it would need was Dr. Lorenz and a huge hazardous waste contamination site!

As you can tell by this blog, things are going quite well for me. Some days are difficult and lonely, but most days I'm happy to be here and feel good about things. The experience has made me think a lot about living abroad. I don't think right now is the time for me to do it, but I could definitely see myself, once I am married, living abroad for a time. Vamos a ver (we will see). Thanks for all of your support!

God is Love

I just have to say how good God has been to my while I've been in Lima. No matter what, He also provides. My tendency to worry just shows my lack of faith. As I enter into this next phase after my time in Peru, I know I'm going to need to trust in God even more to provide a meaningful job, a place to live, and a community.

Worry is so debilitating. When I was walking home from church today I saw these beautiful and brilliant yellow birds. Immediately I thought of the passage in the Bible that says

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?" (Matthew 6:25-30)

Here is a list (non-exhaustive, of course!) of things that I am thankful for and clearly see the hand of God in:

* A safe and comfortable place to live. (See previous post.)

* Getting connected to a Bible study and an awesome group of women with whom I can grow and be friends.

* Easy and cheap communication with my friends and family in the states and Canada.

* Interesting and informative work at the Embassy.

* Good health and safety.

* Spanish lessons.

* A friend at the Embassy who likes to do the same activities I do and is fun.

* A church where I can worship and understand in Spanish, as well as met other Peruvians.

* A caring community at the Embassy.
None of this I got through my own merit or by my own work. God is so awesome that He gave me all of this. I'm excited to see what else He's going to do during my time here. Just wanted to give thanks where thanks is due!

I've been listening to the Mars Hill 'Worship in Every Direction' CD and it is great, the first time I've enjoyed listening to explicitly Christian music outside of a church service in many many years. Here are a few lines that are really powerful to me:

May we never stop this dreaming of a better world
May we never stop believing in the impossible

We love the way you are the way you love and lead the way recreate emancipate the way you love and love and love and love and love and love and love and love and love

Our God is love our God is love and love can change the world.

We have been changed - to bring change

and we sing

Holy holy holy
you are
so powerfully beyond me

From One Cottage to Another...

At the eleventh hour, moments before I almost committed myself to an apartment over an hour away from the Embassy, I got a message from an Embassy family. This Friday I moved in with Debbi & Melvin and their three adorable children, Max, Davis, and Chloe. They live very close to the Embassy and are the nicest people.

The setup is pretty sweet. I am living in a casita, or a little house that is behind their home. I have my own room, bathroom, and even a living room stocked with air conditioning, a TV, and plenty of toys. :) I couldn't have asked for anything better!

It is a little bit comical to me because in Toronto I lived in a carriage house - a small, cottage-like abode behind the huge mansions on Madison Avenue in downtown Toronto. Thus, I am accustomed to living in other people's backyards and have grown to like it. The only thing my casita is lacking now is one awesome roommate named Sarah Jane. I guess I'll have to make do with the birds outside my window!

Pictures: The little gnome at my old house on Toronto. I've always wondered what put that smile on his face. Me outside of my house in Toronto.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

But is he a never nude?

Today the head of US Agency for International Development (US AID) was at our Embassy. US AID is the organization that implements all of the U.S.'s development and relief programs abroad. Ambassador Tobias (no relation to the Fünke's) spoke to us and it was quite interesting. He's pretty important considering he reports directly to Secretary Condi and Bush. It was ironic, however, that while he was talking about how far economically Peru has developed (which is indeed true, 7 % GDP growth!) just over his shoulder in the distance was a group of shacks on a hill without water, electricity, or sanitation. He took questions at the end, and I encouraged Gabe to ask him for a job, but he declined. (??)

When I stepped into the elevator to go back to my office this friendly man said "Hello! Who are you?" Turns out he was Ambassador Shapiro who is one rung lower than Ambassador Tobias. When Ambassador Struble introduced Ambassador Tobias we all had to stand because he didn't invite us to sit down, and I felt it bit like I was at church and we were about to sing a song. Alas, there was no singing.