Around the world and back again, or so it seems. Pat, Anne, Andrea, and I were accompanied by our fearless leader, Maria Shuh from the Albany Province, to Ica and the neighboring towns where our sisters were missioned for many years. It was Maria´s first mission here in Peru, some twenty-eight years ago, and it was a delight to make the trip with her. Some of my favorite memories are of the people´s faces as they saw who was in the car with the rest of us. Five gringas stuffed in a taxi must be quite the sight to begin with. ¨Shuh¨they called out over and over. The relationships that our sisters made there were obviously profound. Just one more time when I was so happy to say that I, too, am a Sister of St. Joseph.
We met with a woman named Lasti whom Maria had contacted to tell her we were coming. Lasti is a native Peruvian who had been in our community at one time. Lasti continues to minister in the area and is doing incredible things to organize women around the areas of personal-development, equal pay and rights, domestic violence, family, etc. We visited a new area of Ica that has recently been "invaded", as the term was used. The families have moved from the mountains and have created a little village built into the outlying sand dunes. How the homes do not simply slide down the hill is beyond me. We arrived at a little pavilion of sorts and were introduced into a circle of mainly women and children. The group had gathered to get some UNICEF food stuffs for their children and were moving into first communion preparation for some of the kids. The ease of the women, their intent eyes, and most gracious welcome were overwhelming. I loved the children! I pulled out my camera to have some fun with them, to take their pictures and let them see themselves. They were just like children anywhere, some who jumped into every picture and some shy ones who crawled back to their mothers´laps. The custom of greeting here, at least among women, is a short embrace with a kiss on one cheek. The little kids kissed us over and over as we left. Instant acceptance and love.
We stayed the second night in a little desert oasis housing more tourists than anything else. There is some legend about a woman turned mermaid that we couldn´t quite get straight, but supposedly it is she who made the surrounding dunes and the water itself. Housing is always interesting here and I have learned to always carry toilet paper even if you´ve paid for your hotel room. When I was teaching I always had Kleenex in my pocket. Similar habit, different need. We had pancakes for breakfast, which was a first, and I got to climb some sand dunes, which my body appreciated before the five hour bus trip home. I can´t remember if I´ve mentioned the bus trips yet or not. Thus far, no bathroom on the bus, although we have been told that for our eighteen hour ride there will be one. There is a TV, although every movie has been of the shoot em up, murder type. Yesterday we watched much of Mission Impossible with Tom Cruise dubbed over in some crazy, Spanish voice. I´m still waiting for The Little Mermaid.
A rest day today. Tomorrow a group of us is going to the men´s prison for mass with one of our sisters who ministers there. Then off on Monday for three days at our newest Peruvian mission, Chasquitambo (not sure if I spelled that right), which you may or may not be able to find on the map. More upon our return.