I now have a new favorite place in the world--Chaquitambo, Peru. S. Mary Luz accompanied Pat, Andrea, Anne, and I to the home she shares with Srs. Maria, Rosa Luz, and Maria Elena. All four are native Peruvian sisters who speak no English (a few words now that we have visited). It was an absolutely incredible experience. The beauty is breathtaking. We traveled north about four or five hours from Lima along the coast then into a higher altitude passing fields of sugar cane and corn, moving to fields of mixed crops. Chasquitambo is known for its fruit. The fields are a natural mix of apples, oranges, lemons, mangos, bananas, avacado, and fruits I have never had in the States. I have a new favorite fruit--chiramoya (everyone has spelled it differently for me, so I´m not sure on its exact spelling). It is a crazy looking green fruit that, when ripe, can be pulled open with one´s hands. Edible white fruit surrounds medium-sized black seeds. I scooped it all out with a spoon, little delicious bite by little even more delicious bite. I have been ruined on bananas forever! None will ever taste quite like the one eaten straight from its branch as we walked through the little, fruit-surrounded pueblo as Andrea and I swapped vocation stories and other odds and ends with Rosa Luz and Maria Elena.
We visited schools and people, walking with our sisters in their weekly routine of pastoral ministry in the surrounding pueblos. They do sacramental preparation, visit the elderly and sick, sing songs with the children in school. They are simply with the people in whatever the moment brings. They were very much with us in that same way as well.
It is a very fun house. Maria V. and I call each other "trouble" in English, or "problema" in Spanish. She makes me laugh with just a look, even if I don´t get all of her words (¡Ella habla mas rapido!). Mary Luz is what we would call a candidate in St. Louis; she hopes to enter the novitiate sometime next year. And Maria Elena and Rosa Luz made first vows just recently. All young and energetic and as excited to have us there as we were to be there. We played Uno and Scrabble in the evenings (teaching each other words in both Spanish and English as we went) and volleyball with some dear neighbors one afternoon (no net, no field, and one of the hardest balls with which I have ever played). I hear people frequently caution others not to glamorize poverty. But, it is not the poverty with which I fell in love; it is an appreciation of the simple beauties of life and the ability to live in the moment.
Last summer I was with our sisters in St. Paul and began to learn what it means to be a Congregation, to be part of a bigger connection than our province in St. Louis. But now I have the sense that I have just scratched the surface of what it means to claim that we are all one.
Oh, and we did get to try cuy (guinea pig). The sisters went early yesterday and bought three guinea pigs from the neighbors (alive, mind you). They killed them and prepared them for breakfast right there. What a lot of work for such a little amount of meat! I´ll have some pictures to show my first graders from last year.
Tomorrow Pat and I leave for the "jungle´s eyebrow"--the edge, in other words--to be with our sisters who run a children´s home there. I hear the bus ride itself will be quite a trip. Vendors are frequently on and off the buses selling snacks, but supposedly there will be vendors selling smelling alcohol to help with motion and altitude sickness. We´ll see. Always an adventure.
Prayers from America (the southern one).