I just had my first bowl of cereal in three and a half weeks. Pat is leaving tomorrow and we both decided that one of the things we would do first when we got back to the States is to have a big bowl of cereal and milk. It is possible to get here, it is just not what we usually have, so as a little celebration, we splurged. It was delicious!
Pat and I got back early this morning from a trip to Huanaco. Three of our sisters there work at a home for foster children. They have about forty children primarily between the ages of five and twelve. ¡Beautiful niños! When we stepped inside the gates twenty youngsters were quickly upon us, kissing our cheeks in greeting, asking a million questions (some of which I could answer), passing around my sunglasses, sitting on my knee, holding my hand, leg, or any other appendage they could grab. They were delightful! We spent the morning touring the home, playing soccer (it is hard to defend against three balls at once), smelling the roses (literally), teaching the children words in English, and being loved as intensely as we were loving. What a place!
The sisters asked if we would be interested in venturing across the mountains into the jungle the next day, to which we, of course, said yes. That being the case we set off for mass that afternoon (Saturday). We arrived at the church to find it set up for a wedding. No big deal, we decided, and we stayed. It was another experience of culture. The bride was late. No matter, mass was to start at seven, and, it did. Just before the first reading the bride arrived at which time the music was quickly switched to bring the bride down the aisle. The five of us (three of us gringas) were a bit out of place crowded into a back pew in our normal church attire as opposed to the prom-like getups of the invitees. Things were going fine until the man with the video camera started working his way down the aisle videotaping all of the guests. I was very tempted to give a little wave, but Pat and I were already so close to losing it that I thought better. Then, at communion time no one got up to receive communion. The sisters with whom we came hustled us down the side aisle with maybe three other guests. I couldn´t look up on the way back for fear I would meet someone´s eye and really crack up. I thought maybe we should find out where the reception was being held, but we went out for pizza instead.
The drive to the jungle the next day was incredible. The Andes are beautiful. Very different mountains than the Rockies or other mountains I have seen. Patchwork in parts with the terraced fields meticulously planted down the slopes. Burros, pigs, chicken, sheep, children lined the roadsides oblivious to the passing cars as they grazed. The road was one lane one direction, one lane the other. With the trucks carrying wood from the jungle passing was a must, but also sometimes tricky. We had a great driver and co-pilot. A very fun, very bumpy ride.
At the top of the pass we drove through a tunnel after which we ended up in a different world. The jungle plants were green and thick, the air more humid. Trees covering every hill rather than low shrubs and crops. Not the heart of the jungle by any stretch of the imagination, but jungle none-the-less. We stopped in Tingo Maria for some freshly squeezed juice (is there any other in Peru?) before heading to a national park and cave. While made into a tourist attraction, the park is a bit more rustic than national parks in the States: uneven boards put in place years ago; a spot at the end of the walkway where persons crawl through the railing to continue a self-guided tour of the next level of the cave. We were walking in the dirt and dung and seeds that the birds and bats leave on the cave floor. Our guide used his flashlight to show us the bats hanging on the wall, the spiders with the ten inch legs (not poisonous we were assured), and the next levels of the cave for which they recommended helmets and ropes and things.
As we exited the cave I got a kiss on the cheek from St. Joseph--well, a Peruvian young man who asked if he could have his picture taken with me. I tell you, gringas do not go unnoticed here. People will follow us on the street or cross over to tap us on the shoulder and say the few English words they know. Anyway, I agreed to the picture, after which I got a little thank you on the cheek and a teasing "Hmhm" from Pat. His name was Jose--St. Josephs on every trip we´ve been on.
I am in Lima for a week or so. Andrea and Anne will take the trip to Huanaco this coming weekend so I´ll be here studying my Spanish, maybe seeing a movie, missing Pat already. It has been a wonderful first month. About half-way through our Peruvian adventure.