Peru 2008 – Lima

The following is the first of a series of posts chronicling a trip to Peru in 2008 with my husband and son. We went with an excellent travel company, Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) and were in a tour group of about 14 people.

June 24, 2008

We arrived at 1 am local time in Lima after what seemed like an interminable flight. I think I was very restless due to anticipation, exhaustion, and not knowing exactly what time it was. It turns out that Peru is on Eastern STANDARD time, which is the same time as Central Daylight time. It is winter here so if they do observe daylight savings time, it would be during their summer (our winter).

At the airport, we were met by our OAT guide, Boris,  who comes from Cusco and speaks English, Spanish and Quechua – possibly other languages, too – I don’t know. He has worked for OAT for four years. He gave us some information on the 1/2 hour minibus ride to our hotel. The weather in Lima, on the coast, is moderated by the Humboldt Current, a cold current from the Arctic. Therefore, it is cool but not cold and there is not a lot of rainfall although it is currently raining. I would say it’s about 60 degrees F right now, perhaps slightly cooler. This is normal for Lima winter.

Our hotel is the Antigua Miraflores Lima, which appears to be a converted mansion with interior courtyards, decorative pots, plants & fountain in the center, and a vague smell of oldness. It is very charming and accommodating.  Dale and I have our own room with a queen sized bed. Jayme is rooming with an older man from Tennessee named Charlie.

There’s a safe in our room in a large wooden armoire that creaks when you open it. There’s a TV also, but I haven’t turned it on yet. (Later: Dale turned on the TV and found CNN in English! While he took a shower, I watched a program in Spanish which was an interview with the new president of Chile, talking about education and the economy – what I understood of it was very interesting, but it was hard to concentrate. The Chileans talk very fast!)

In our room, there’s a vague smell of urine, or perhaps just dampness. We cannot throw toilet paper into the toilet anywhere and have to use the wastebasket. This is hard to remember but I’ll get used to it – I did this for two years when I lived in Northeastern Brazil!

Our room at Antigua Miraflores Hotel.
Our room at Antigua Miraflores Hotel.
Looking down at the interior courtyard from above.
Looking down at the interior courtyard from above.
These beautiful flowers were the view from the roof on the other side of our room.
These beautiful flowers were the view from the roof on the other side of our room.

More interior views at the hotel:

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The dampness is due to the fog rolling in off the ocean. The Humboldt Current has a moderating effect on Lima’s temperature.  However, Lima doesn’t really get much rain. Although it rained this morning, more often there’s only drizzle. Charlie likened it to San Francisco’s weather, but here it’s drier – only 4” of rainfall a year in Lima! Water is therefore a problem and many people have water tanks on top of their houses to supplement their water supply.

I slept well and the nighttime temperature was quite cool – good sleeping weather to be under the covers!!

We cannot drink the tap water, although the locals can, but bottled water is provided to us, a good thing because I need to drink lots of water!

For breakfast, we can order from a menu of items – eggs, tamales, etc. I had the tamal this morning and it was OK, not great. However, also served was warm bread with homemade jam – excellent, a plate of fruit, and juice, also great. Oh yes, and coffee. The coffee was served in small open pitchers and I soon discovered why – imagine Starbucks espresso times two! They also serve a large pitcher of hot water for tea, so what I did was dilute the coffee with half water. THEN it tasted normal – and those  who know my coffee habit know that I enjoy strong coffee!! Anyway, it’s better this way since I have cut way back on caffeinated coffee,  doctor’s orders.

Money- a money exchanger offering a better than anywhere else rate came this morning, and I exchanged $200. The official exchange rate is 2.75 soles to the US dollar.

Next: Lima City Tour

Daily Post: What would you do to survive?

The prompt for today was to read the story of Richard Parker and Tom Dudley. Is what Dudley did defensible? What would you have done?

There are many stories of people in desperate situations resorting to cannibalism to survive. An Argentinean rugby team crashed in the Andes in the 1970s, and there were two books written about their experience, followed by a movie based on one of these accounts. The Donner Party is another famous case, in which a group of pioneers was crossing the Rockies and became stranded in winter.

Andes-flight-disaster-memorial

DonnerParty

I always read these accounts with a somewhat gruesome fascination. It is difficult to say what one would really do to survive in such situations, without it actually happening. In each of these cases, including the Richard Parker and Tom Dudley case, the decision to eat another human being is understandable when one considers the alternative. The difference, however, is that Richard Parker wasn’t actually dead when Dudley and Stephens decided to make him the sacrificial victim. They had already discussed having one of the four be sacrificed for the other, and from their point of view, it did make sense to choose the one closest to death, or least likely to survive. In desperate circumstances, “survival of the fittest” reigns supreme.

Possibly Parker would have come out of the coma and survived, but in the moment, he was the one who was easiest and most justifiable to kill. In different circumstances – such as if the others had sufficient food and water – his life might have been spared. Harsh as it might seem, I agree with the difficult decision they were forced to make. It is not a decision that anyone would want to make or a situation anyone would choose to face. Would it have been better to refuse to consider cannibalism and face almost certain death of all four by starvation and thirst? It was either the survival of three at the expense of one, or the death of all four.

Daily prompt (1/22): Mastering the skill of organization

Today’s prompt is: If you could choose to be a master (or mistress) of any skill in the world, which skill would you pick?

Executive functioning: Organization, managing multiple tasks either simultaneously or one after another without getting distracted, keeping my house neat, remembering to do stuff. Basically, I would like to NOT have ADHD, or at least be able to take stimulant medications to improve these symptoms.

It has been very difficult pursuing a career in teaching with poor executive functioning skills. I have managed to last 10 years (and now hanging on by a thread) due to other skills I do possess (and feel blessed to have them): excellent language skills, especially the fact that I speak Spanish (also Portuguese, but not so important where I live) and have ESL/bilingual certification.

However, rarely do I last more than one year in a teaching job, especially classroom teaching. I do much better with small groups or individuals where management of strict routines and structures is not as important. Working with smaller groups allows me to shine in the aspects of teaching that are important, but not noticed or considered a priority by many administrators: compassion and caring for each and every student, and problem solving to help them. This is why most of my students – and their parents – like me and feel comfortable in my class. I work very hard (harder than most, probably), trying to keep up with colleagues whose executive functioning skills are fully intact and taken for granted.

(These pictures show a project that I did with different groups of students for Day of the Dead, depicting scenes of skeletons enjoying themselves.)

Every spring after I lose whatever job I have once again, I consider leaving the field of education altogether. Yet every fall, I’m back in a new teaching job. I can’t tell an administrator that I have ADHD, and usually they never find out. Each and every time I try again to be organized, have consistent routines, manage a group of 20 or more kids. It usually works for awhile, and I feel encouraged by that, thinking I have finally mastered the skill of organization well enough to succeed this time.

But it never lasts. My ADHD gets the better of me, especially as I become tired from working so hard as the school year progresses. Then, because  I changed careers to go into teaching in middle age before I was diagnosed, I regret having been so hasty in pursuing this career. It would be hard for me to do something else at this point though. I really do love education and working with children. And I need medical insurance, so I have to keep working until I can retire.

I wish I lacked a skill that I could master, that someone could teach me. I’m a lot better at teaching than I used to be and can anticipate some of the pitfalls before they happen. Yet maintaining a consistent level of executive functioning is not only impossible for me, it isn’t something I can be “taught.” I can get better, perhaps, at using coping mechanisms – which I have done – but I will never be able to compete with those hyper-focused, super-organized colleagues out there.

Daily prompt (1/18): Home. Soil. Rain.

The prompt for last Friday (Sorry, I do them when I’m inspired, not necessarily on the same day) was:

Write down the first words that come to mind when we say . . .

. . . home. My house. It’s brown and white faux brick on the outside, with a front porch and a deck in back, and a 2-car detached garage.  I’ve lived here for 17 years, with my husband and my son. It’s an old house so it’s got some infrastructure idiosyncrasies, but we have renovated the kitchen and the upstairs bathroom. Home is where I feel comfortable and relaxed. Home is where I go after work when I’m tired, eat, sleep, read, watch TV, write on my computer. Everything that is mine is in this house…somewhere.

IMAG0121-1

The railing of our deck in back of the house recently. It had rained and then the temperature fell, so the raindrops froze into these mini icicles.

. . . soil.  My garden. I have planted perennials in 2/3 of it and love to watch them go through their seasonal cycles. The rest of the soil is bare where I plant annuals in the spring, especially tomatoes.

IMG-20120712-00421My garden in early summer – that tall plant in the front is called “blazing star”. Behind it are a lot of sage plants. (Perennials tend to proliferate!)

. . . rain. The fresh smell when it rains – the smell of the cement sidewalks, the earthy soil, the plant life. I love to listen to the rain falling, very soothing. At the cottage I like to sit on the porch and watch the thunderstorms over the lake.

I                                     Raindrops on the lake.

Acts, Chapter 2, verses 1-21.

(Originally written May 27, 2012)

pentacost-Legos

Acts 2: 1-21

2When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ 13But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’

countriesmentionedatpentacost

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17 “In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20 The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

I was the liturgist this morning reading this Scripture lesson. I read it with a great deal of expression and loud enough so that even the old people in the back could hear!

This is one of my favorite Bible verses. It describes the precursor of a simultaneous translator! At the United Nations and other international organizations, the speaker’s words are simultaneously translated into the languages of the others present – French, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Russian, etc. Thus the speaker’s words can be immediately transmitted and understood and there isn’t a gap that could cause mistranslations or misunderstandings.*

The lesson or allegory in Acts 2 is that the Word of God is to be spread throughout the world, to people of all nations. No longer is it confined to Jerusalem or Galilee. Of course it didn’t actually happen simultaneously at that moment that people heard the disciplines speaking their own languages; but Peter was calling on the faithful to go to other places to proselytize.

Rev. Co this morning used the metaphor fire as the theme of his sermon (or “message” as it is called now). He had brought one of those clickers that produce a flame at the end of a wand. In fact, after the service, everyone’s pledges were burned in a small Smokey Joe on the front steps of the church. The idea is that no one is going to hold you to giving that amount; it has to be your own commitment to yourself.

This fits in with the theme of the Scripture lesson. The flames and speaking in tongues and all that is to welcome the Holy Spirit into your heart, which only you can do yourself. It invites you to take a risk, to try something new, that the spirit of God will be with you.

Forest fires are not bad for a healthy forest. The fire spreads and burns the debris along the ground, the leaves, weedy vegetation, and keeps the growth of the forest in check – too many trees means overgrowth, a less healthy forest, in which tree branches cannot spread out because there are too many others. Vegetation grows on those trees and there is less energy for the rest of the tree.  A forest fire in an unhealthy forest spreads rapidly and kills everything in its path.

It’s like pinching back overgrown plants. The plant needs to get rid of the unhealthy or dead parts in order to grow better and capture the energy needed for new growth.

So it is the same with us. The energy of our own “fire” can lead us to new ideas, new enterprises, a healthier and expanded life. Just as the tree branches in a healthy forest have room to spread and grow upward, so we can expand our horizons if we have God in our hearts to help us get there.

*Of course, interpreters do make mistakes too, such as the famous incident where President Kennedy heard Khrushchev’s words as “We will bury you” when in fact these words were an idiomatic expression that the interpreter apparently had not heard before, meaning “We will surpass you” or something like that.

For another interpretation, I always like to check out Huffington Post’s online religious column. I found some of the comparisons made between Acts 2:1-21 and other Scripture very informative:

Rev. Dr. Eric D. Barreto focuses on differences and how God meets us where we are. Especially interesting is his take on the Tower of Babel. I have excerpted what I think is essential to understand his message.

Acts 2:1-21 Think Differently about Differences

Christians have often hoped for a time when our racial and economic differences would cease, when in Christ we would all be indistinguishable. Such impulses are earnest but fundamentally misguided. …

Many such interpretations emerge from a misreading of texts like Galatians 3:28. Such readings imagine that becoming Christians means becoming all the same in all ways. …

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Galatians teaches that “in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith” (Galatians 3:26). Our adoption as children of God, however, does not erase our differences. We are not the same, but we are reminded that our differences are not ways to measure our value in the eyes of God and one another.

The story of Pentecost in Acts 2:1-21 helps us understand how God sees human diversity: one of God’s greatest gifts to the world. At Pentecost, God through the Spirit does not erase our differences but embraces the fact that God has made us all so wonderfully different. …

The final chapters of the Gospel of Luke and the first chapters of Acts finds the disciples and other followers of Jesus regrouping and discerning what a life of faith together looks like after his death, resurrection and ascension. …

These early followers of Jesus gather in Jerusalem along with fellows Jews from around the Mediterranean world (Acts 2:5-11). They are gathered together in one place when suddenly tongues of fire descend from the heavens on the day of Pentecost. The gift of the spirit precipitates an extraordinary event. As the disciples proclaim the good news, everyone hears the good news proclaimed in their own language.

Many interpreters have viewed this Pentecost moment as a direct response to the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9), a fantastic story that seeks to explain how a people once united by common ancestors eventually became peoples with many different languages. Some have forwarded that Pentecost reverses the punishment God meted out at Babel. Finally, we can understand one another because the Spirit enables all to understand one language.

To me, this is a significant misreading of Babel. Is it really a punishment from God that we are all different, that we speak different languages and live in different cultures? That is, is difference a problem in need of a solution? I certainly don’t think so, and the vibrancy of the world’s cultures is evidence against this misreading of Babel.

Most importantly, if Pentecost were a reversal of Babel, if Pentecost undid the diversity of human languages precipitated by Babel, why would the Spirit enable everyone to hear the Gospel preached in their own languages? Why not cause everyone to understand one, universal, heavenly language? …

Notice what happens at Pentecost. God, through the Spirit, chooses to meet us where we are: in the midst of a multitude of languages and experiences. … Language is rooted in a wider and complex culture and way of thinking and living. Even when we speak the same language, don’t we still have a hard time understanding one another? Imagine then the miracle of Pentecost and what it means for us today.

God meets us in the messiness of different languages and does not ask us to speak God’s language. Instead, God chooses to speak our many languages. God does not speak in a divine language beyond our comprehension. At Pentecost, God speaks in Aramaic and Greek and other ancient languages. Today, God continues to speak in Spanish, Greek, Hindi and Chinese alike.

At Pentecost, God makes God’s choice clear. God joins us in the midst of the messiness and the difficulties of speaking different languages, eating different foods and living in different cultures. That is good news indeed.

Matthew 20:1-16 The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

I have been intending to post a series of commentaries on passages in the Bible. I started it with my Genesis post, comparing creation stories. I wrote this commentary on the Parable of the workers in the vineyard in Sept. 2011, when it was the liturgical passage in Protestant churches across the country. I didn’t think to post it in my blog then, so I am now posting it here.

(Sept. 24, 2011)
Matthew 20:1-16 The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

Here is the text of this passage:
1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius[a] for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.
“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Laborers in the field-11thCentByzantine

This is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. Rev. Co says “parables are supposed to mess with your mind” and this is a good one because it totally goes against what our society values.

In this parable, those who worked one hour were paid the same as those who worked all day. All were paid what they needed to survive the day, regardless of how long they worked. And I think also, some of the workers may have arrived in the marketplace later, and if it hadn’t been for the generosity of the landlord to hire them as they arrived throughout the day, they would have been out of luck – too late to get a job that day.

Rev. Co talked about the American Jobs Act proposed by Obama – wouldn’t it be a good thing if more people had jobs and money in their pockets? He contrasted this with the Kingdom Job Act: God will give you what you need, whether you do just a little for the church or something glorious. Jesus didn’t care much for society’s rules; he knew that God loved everyone equally.

This parable seems so contrary to the thinking of modern society. However, perhaps we would do well to think of the people who do not have as many opportunities for good jobs and share some of what we have, as did the employer in the parable.

As Matthew L. Skinner (Huffington Daily Post 9/18/11) says in his religion column: “We learn more about God when we travel deeper into the world the parable imagines and consider its other characters. After all, this parable draws all its force and illustrative potential from the dynamics of economic life. Whom, then, should we think the landowner encounters when he’s looking for workers late in the afternoon? What kind of people are the last to find jobs, added to the rolls only when there’s no more labor available? Nothing suggests that those characters in the parable are irresponsible or lazy. More likely, they are unwanted.

“If [we compose] a list of ‘people who have to wait all day long to get hired’ in our current setting, we need to expand it. Add the unemployed and underemployed to the list. Suddenly those who cannot get hired until 5 p.m. aren’t necessarily just people wearing rags or talking gibberish to themselves. Many are college graduates, highly skilled manufacturers, loyal, capable.

“And [what about] undocumented immigrants…who hires them these days? The parable’s landowner might be at risk of prosecution in Alabama, depending on the outcome of a battle over that state’s new immigration law. It’s a severe law allegedly spurred by the national unemployment crisis, but one legitimately wonders how the law’s rough justice squares with a Bible that repeatedly commends hospitality and compassion toward refugees, strangers and other aliens.”