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Monday, April 4, 2016

Peru Update 10 - The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

Happy Belated Easter!

It's amusing to look back on my previous update and see the glaring difference between my plans and expectations for the future and the actual reality of what transpired. The best laid plans of mice and men... 

Two weeks ago my church, Camino de Vida, launched a day of city-wide outreach called Servolution. I signed up as a volunteer interpreter to accompany a mission team from the States. The mission team was comprised of about fifty high school seniors and church leaders from a Pentecostal church in Oklahoma. We all loaded up in a bus (where I received a crash course in all the hip, new youth group games) and drove about an hour to the beach. Upon our arrival we split up into teams and handed out church flyers and free ice cream, played soccer with kids, and talked and prayed with people. Unfortunately, I was not sage enough to pack sunscreen so I received a hideous sunburn on my neck. (Which provided the perfect opportunity for my one American high school student to crack "redneck" jokes.) The photo below reminds me of Where's Waldo. 


The following weekend (Easter weekend) I had two days off and was itching to travel, so at the last minute I pulled together a group of people to spend a day in Ica (a desert oasis about four hours south of Lima). The travel Groupon consisted of sand-boarding (surfing on sand), ATV-ing, a boat tour of the islands (which have seals and penguins), and a free lunch. However, the afternoon before the trip, I was treated to a Marciano (homemade ice pop) from a street vendor. Never again. I spent the greater part of the afternoon with my head in the toilet. By evening I still felt awful, so I chalked it up as a loss and gave my ticket away to a friend who was unable to go for financial reasons. I spent the majority of my Easter vacation sipping Ginger ale, doing taxes, and binge-watching Downton Abbey. (Not as glamorous as a desert oasis, but certainly more restful.) By Sunday I was feeling well enough to go surfing at the beach with a friend. Unfortunately, the waves were rather turbulent and the surf instructor advised us against going out, so we contented ourselves with sunbathing and walking around the park. (Where we took this epic cat selfie!) 


Then this past weekend I was planning to attend a pajama party with some friends (which got cancelled at the last minute) and visit a few museums with another friend (who also cancelled on me). Not to be deterred, I went to the museum by myself only to find...it was closed for a special event. &#X1f614 At this point I was so blasé about ruined plans that I spent the afternoon popping in and out of antique shops and mooching off Starbucks' free wifi before heading to church. It made for quite a relaxing close to the weekend.  

Contrary to what you might suppose, the accumulation of spoiled plans did not embitter or frustrate my type-A personality; in fact, quite the contrary. I feel that living in South America has made me more flexible, spontaneous, and open to change. A friend once gave me incredibly sage advice: "It's okay to make plans. But learn to be okay if those plans change." I have absolutely no idea what the next two weeks, two months, or two years hold, but I do know that whatever plans I make are almost guarunteed to change, and I'm okay with that. I know God has lots more adventures in store regardless of whether they are meticulously planned-out in advance, or spur-of-the-moment, wild-hair whims.

And to end on a happy note, I did finally get to see a museum (though not the one I originally planned). After school one day, my friend Estefany and I decided to go the Car Museum in La Molina on our way home from work. The museum is a private auto collection owned and maintained by an elderly Italian man who made his fortune as a noodle tycoon. It was fun seeing all the old cars (130!) and laughing about noodles. Sometimes spontaneous adventures are the best ones. &#X1f60a

Peru Update 9 - Patty's, Padres & Gradschool

Happy Saint Patty's Day!!!


Life continues in full swing here. Last Saturday we had Parent's Orientation at school. In addition to leading everyone in the pledges (a somewhat humorous spectacle considering how few of the parents speak English), I gave a brief presentation on Learning Center procedures for the new parents and reviewed some of the basics for the veterans. Work keeps me busy from 8 - 5 during the week, and life keeps me busy the remainder.


One of the things that's kept me busy this past week is reviewing my application for Wake Forest University. Last Wednesday I received a formal offer from WFU to join them for the 2016-17 school year. In addition, they offered me a partial scholarship which will cover over half of my tuition costs! I credit this to a gracious God and my personal army of prayer warriors (you all!) Thank you, thank you, thank you, for your prayers and support from the bottom of my heart. I could not be more thrilled for this next phase of my life. 

  
This Saturday my church is conducting a city-wide outreach event called Servolution. We will be breaking into groups and performing different social services such as painting the police station, cleaning streets, giving out care baskets, and hosting block parties for different communities. I will be joining a short-term mission team from the States and serving as an interpreter and guide while working alongside them. I'm looking forward to fellowshiping with my compatriots.

Next week I get two days of vacation for Easter (Hallelujah!) which I will be using to travel, hang out with friends, and do taxes. (Yay!) Hopefully after Easter weekend I will have some more exciting pictures to share. &#X1f60a

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Peru Update 8 - Books, Beaches, & Bird Bombs

Things are getting back into full swing down here! Tuesday was our first full day back to school. Since the other American teacher left, I am in charge of leading the student body in the American national anthem and the three pledges (American Flag, Christian Flag, and the Bible--thank you, AWANA!) 


This year I have been paired with a different teacher, Ms. Veronica. (See photo above). She is a Peruvian who lived in the States for many years so we often jaw about all the things we miss (mainly food items and air conditioning). The healthy sheen you see on my face is sweat. It is summer time down here, which means 80-90 degree conditions with minimal or no air conditioning. In our large classroom there is one small air conditioning unit mounted on the wall and two fans. Every once in awhile, the electrical system overloads and the power shuts off. Needless to say, it can get a little warm at times.


On the bright side, week before last I took the GRE test at ICPNA (Instituto Cultural Peruano Norteamericano). By God's grace (and your prayers!) I got a 148 in Math and a 160 in Verbal (which is an 87 and 94 respectively). Considering I was getting 60's and 70's in Math and 80's in Verbal on the practice tests, my scores were pretty miraculous! Then on Saturday I took the Spanish Aptitude test and got a 93, which means my application to Wake Forest University is finally complete! (Hallelujah!)


After being holed up for a month studying, I have greatly enjoyed getting my social life back. Friday before last I attended a small Karaoke party with some friends from church (where much Michael Buble and Gloria Estefan was sung). Then on Saturday we went to the beach. I wasn't planning on getting in the water, but a bird poop bomb changed my mind. &#X1f609 

 
Last weekend I went with some of the teachers to TGI Friday's to celebrate our first week back to school. Their filet mignon, mashed potatoes, and broccoli with cheese tasted like home. Afterward we went to Tottus (the Peruvian equivalent of Wal-Mart). It appears "Wal-Mart runs" are an international pastime.

Since my test is over and school is back in session, I finally have time to apply to a ministry in our church called Doctores Marabarisas. It's a team of people that dress up as clowns and go to hospitals to cheer up sick people. In order to be accepted, I have to go through a psychological test, get some vaccines, and attend the trainings. If all goes well, I should be able to start by the end of March!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Peru Update 8 - Plaintains, Peruvian Monopoly & Pink!

Happy Valentine's Day! (Or as they say in Peru, "Feliz dia de la Amistad!" which means "Happy Friendship Day!")

When reviewing my photos for the e-mail update, I realized the past two weeks have been fairly quiet. Since I stopped giving private lessons and am only working three days a week at the school, I have had a lot more free time on my hands. On my days off, I have been averaging 4-6 hours a day studying for the GRE exam. For the remainder of the day I go to the market, cook meals to take to work, clean up around the house, do laundry, go running, or go out with friends. 


One of the nice things about living in a country with a jungle is the fresh fruits and veggies that are shipped in each day. Here I made a mango smoothie (literally mango and water--the mangoes are so sweet that no additional sugar is necessary) and fried plantains for breakfast. Some of the other common fruits are: peaches, plums, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, kiwis, papayas, aguaymanto, figs, melons, canteloupes, and ten zillion different varieties of banana. 


For summer school all the kids are lumped together, so I've been working with both primary and secondary (I usually just work with the highschoolers.) I arrive at 8 am, classes are from 9 - 12, then the rest of the afternoon is spent doing administrative work and preparing for the upcoming school year (classes start back on March 1st). I snapped the above photo during our morning snack break. This is Johnny and his little sister, Sofia. They are six and eight-years-old. I've contemplated taking them back to the States with me, but I doubt I'd have enough room in my suitcase. &#X1f609


For Valentine's Day I went to a friend's house with a group of people where we ate lunch, made chocolate chip cookies, and played Peruvian Monopoly (it's the same game but the properties are different attractions/destinations from Peru.) Here Bob (left) is meticulously explaining all the rules for those of us who haven't played Monopoly in awhile. (And for those of you wondering, I had milk with my chocolate chip cookies. &#X1f609 ). 

Later that day I went to church and listened to a great message by pastor Robert about (can you guess?) love! He preached from Luke 10:25-37, which is the parable of the Good Samaritan. (A Jewish man is beaten, robbed, and left for dead by the highway. Three men come along: a priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan. The first two do nothing, but the Samaritan helps the injured stranger.) 

While most people are familiar with this story, without understanding the cultural context behind it, it seems like nothing more than a trite altruism. Samaritans were considered to be half-breeds (and were often called "dogs") by the Jews. There was extreme racial prejudice between the two groups. The fact that a Samaritan would lift a finger to help a Jewish man (in every right his enemy) in itself is astounding. Even more astounding is the fact that the Samaritan feeds, clothes, tends the wounds, and pay the bills of a complete stranger while he recovers! These unconditional acts of generosity without expecting anything in return are a textbook example of love. At the end of the parable, Jesus sums it with this challenge: "Go and do likewise."   


Prayer Requests:

- Health: on Saturday I came down with a slight cold, which I am trying my darndest to fight off. Would appreciate your prayers!
- GRE Test: My test is a week from today (February 22nd) at 12:00 noon. At this point I am between study-like-a-maniac and what-the-heck-Netflix-binge. Pray for peace, focus, and self-discipline. 

Praises:

- Fresh fruit, ramen noodles, and prescription-free pharmacies on every corner---a cold's worst enemies;  my beloved fan which is keeping me cool in the 80+ degree heat (there is no AC), a safe neighborhood where I can run my stress off, fun with friends, Skyping with family (how did people survive before Skype?), chocolate chip cookies, and the internet. &#X1f60a

Bendiciones! <3 span="">

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Peru Update 7 - Postgrad, Parks & Poverty

Greetings from Peru!

I know I say this in every update, but the past few weeks have been a whirlwind! Between the craziness of work, gallivanting all over Lima giving private English lessons, night-time studying, housekeeping tasks, and weekend social life at church, I’ve barely had a free moment to catch my breath! However, the month of February will be quite different.

This month I am taking a break from giving private lessons in order to buckle down and study for the GRE test, which I will be taking on February 22nd. For the past two months, I have been in the process of applying to Wake Forest University’s graduate program of Interpretation and Translation. It’s not set in stone as there is still the issue of GRE scores, finances, and whether or not I am accepted, but Lord willing, I will be enrolling fall of 2016.
Notwithstanding, all things in moderation, so I am balancing work and study with a bit of play. This week I had the chance to stand atop the famous arch in Parque de la Amistad (Friendship Park) which I posted a picture of in my last update. Below is the view from the top. You can see the Ricardo Palma University campus (the tall building on the left), the park's main building complete with a collection of wax celebrities and movie characters inside (large building bottom center), and the park's mini train station (bottom right).


On Friday I was invited to eat lunch at the house of one of my students in San Juan de Lurigancho. San Juan de Lurigancho is one of the poorest, most dangerous, and highest-populated districts in all of Peru. (To give you an idea, the average household income is about $280/month.) On the way there, we stopped by the public school where Paul’s father works. Because it is basically free (tuition costs about $15.00/year), there is a huge student body (1200 high school students alone). For this reason, the school shares its facilities, holding primary classes in the mornings and secondary classes in the afternoons. The grounds are littered with broken glass, stones, and discarded bottles. In one of the hallways, a mother cat had killed a bird and was eating it with her kittens. It was a stark contrast to the well-manicured, upper-class neighborhoods of La Molina where I live. Notwithstanding, I passed a pleasant afternoon with my student's family eating aji de gallina (one of my favorites!), listening to Christian music (in English, Spanish, and Hebrew), and praying together (their prayer included the following: "God bless Ms. Catherine and please help her to find a husband!" &#X1f609 )


Yesterday, I took a break from studying to go downtown with a friend. We visited the Peruvian equivalent of “Chinatown,” (a block of Chinese restaurants with street vendors and pagodas), a chocolate store cleverly disguised as a museum (where I sampled chocolate tea and the best chocolate bar I have eaten in my life!), and a train station which doubles as a library/literature museum. 


Prayer Requests:

- Self-discipline and time management: that I would be diligent to study and wise in managing my time/resources.
- GRE nerves: I have had approximately 2 months to review 8 years of math content (which I also have not touched in 8 years) and to learn about 600 vocabulary words that the general public never uses (and likely never will). Now I get to go take a (timed) four hour test in a strange place--yippee.

Praises: 

- God's provision. In one month I was able to earn enough giving private classes to get me through February until school starts back full time in March!
- Continued good health (since it is summertime here, there is the added bonus of no winter colds!) 

Bendiciones,

Catherine