Sunday, 30 October 2011

Christmas in October

Neil's parents are now safely back in the UK, but before they left we had a special Christmas celebration together, exactly 2 months early.  Unsurprisingly, Christmas is a very special time for us, and as much as we are looking forward to celebrate the birth of Jesus with different customs in a different culture, we also know we will miss our family, friends and traditions in the UK. 

We therefore decided to have a Christmas dinner together, complete with roast chicken, pigs in blankets, gravy (first time in 10 months) and even crackers.  We are saving the Christmas pudding and opted instead for paneton, which is very popular in Peru at Christmas. I didn't have enough pans for Yorkshire pudding, and decided that as it would almost certainly flop at altitude, I just wouldn't bother.

We also had a Secret Santa, and with the Christmas music playing, we soon felt very festive.  Having cooked too much, we even had authentic Christmas dinner leftover soup for the next couple of days.  As hard as it was to say goodbye to Sheila and Tony, we have created so many memories that we can talk about for many years to come.  It was great to have holidays together, but also for them to see our life here in Cusco. 

As we begin the coutndown to Christmas, we will undoubtedly miss the traditions and customs thsat we are accustomed to, but were delighted to have this opportunity to celebrate with our family. The light of the world has come - the truth of this is as relevant on 25 October as 25 December.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

The beauty of Lake Titicaca

We are back from our adventures at Lake Titicaca.  It will not go down as the most relaxing holiday we have ever had as a family, but has given us loads of memories.  We took an amazing coach tour to Puno, which is in Peru close to Lake Titicaca.  Along the way, we stopped at a beautiful colonial church, pre-Inkan ruins and La Raya at a breathless 4,338 metres above sea level. 

Once at Puno, we were able to visit the floating islands, which are islands made of reeds.  Apparently, originally a tribal group got so fed up of the arring tribes around them that they decided to build themselves homes on the lake to stay out of the way.  Sounds sensible.  The islands are now packed full of tourists, but it was still a fascinating morning and insight into a very different way of life.

We had been warned that Puno itself was not a great city, and despite a great hotel, we tended to agree and were pleased have the opportunity to go to Copacabana across the Bolivian border.

Sophia decided to mark the occasion by being violently sick at the border - we are hoping to save this particular story for her wedding or 18th birthday.  Copacabana is a small lakeside town and in parts, very pretty.  We stayed in some incredible lodges overlooking the lake with amazing views, especially the sunsets.  Sadly, this part of the holiday was marred with Sophia being ill and I spent a lot of time caring for her at the lodge, or feeling pretty ropey myself.  However, with views like this, it was a lovely place to be.

The others were able to visit la Isla de Sol (the Island of the Sun)and Neil and Daniel also had the opportunity to spend the day with Fatima and her family.  Neil has sponsored Fatima for a number of years through Compassion and it was a privilege to be able to meet with her, as well as give her family an opportunity to spend time at Lake Titicaca.

By the time we ventured back to Puno, Sophia was on the mend and we had a drama-free return to Cusco.  Please pray for Sophia, as in the last few weeks she has had problems with oxygen levels, an ear infection and a throat infection.  Praying for a long section of good health now!  We are back to work Tuesday and are looking forward to meeting the Action Team.  Neil's parents are with us for a few more days as Daniel is 5 in 4 days time (as he likes to constantly remind us...)

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Machu Picchu and Mick Jagger

We are currently having an incredible time, as Neil's parents are visiting from England.  This would always be fantastic, but we are also taking the opportunity to have a holiday and do some incredible things. We are currently between trips and packing for Lake Titicaca, but came back from an amazing couple of days visiting the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu.  We will write more of our adventures of early starts, death defying roads, salt lakes, a rickety bridge combined with a big minibus, Machu Picchu and Mick Jagger.  But for now, here are a few pictures while I pack and prepare to take our family on another epic adventure.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Daniel the Teacher

Daniel had a week off school this week, but as Neil's parents have just arrived in Peru (eeeee!!), we were working as normal - we have a fortnight's holiday now. Every Friday, we teach English lessons in Huambutio, about 45 minutes bus ride from Cusco.  The church hopes to work more in the area in the future, possibly opening a clinic.  We gave Daniel the option of staying at home with one of us, or coming to take part in the lesson.  He was really keen, so after dropping Sophia off at her nursery, we crammed into a combi (bus) for the trek over to the school.

The lesson started well, as we got a great response; the class began chanting 'Gringos' with great enthusiasm as soon as they saw us approaching.  We thought he was going to have a real mission experience as the teacher was nowhere to be seen when we arrived, and it turned out that there were lots of parents meetings. We thought perhaps that we would have travelled all that way only to have get back on the crowded bus. However, all was fine and we started a lesson with the 4th grade.

Daniel had a great time.  He helped to pronounce the words, and helped with some of the number games.  He also enjoyed playing one of the games with the children and was very good at finding the fish with the correct number and letter. Afterwards, we played some games during the break before it started raining, and he was very happy joining in.

We love teaching in this school. We always receive a great welcome and really enjoy spending time with these children.  The children that we have taught previously often run up and kiss and hug us.  There is a great atmosphere there and we love the opportunity to be with them.  The school are delighted to have English speakers to teach, as learning the language is very important here.  We love doing it, but are hoping to develop the work by running some other lessons in November. The photos aren't great, but I was taking action shots during the class. Here is Daniel walking on the train tracks back to the bus. Daniel and Sophia both miss out on various things from the UK.

However, they also get to experience so many great things in a different culture. As a parent, it is wonderful to hear his Spanish improving daily and see him enjoying participating in our work, What an opportunity.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Youth Trip Peru Style

Since we have had an unseasonal amount of rain, I thought it would be great to take advantage of the sunshine and take a trip together.  I am learning to not make cultural stereotypes, as one of the young people arrived 15 mins early.

The trip became a real family affair, as my family all came, as well as 2 cousins and a grandmother.  After some discussion as to the best bus to take, we squeezed into 2 different buses and wound our way up the roads to Cristo Blanco.  This is one of my favourite local places to visit, and a few of us admired the beautiful views, although a couple of the young people commented that to them, it was fairly normal.

We walked over to the woods, where there are also some Inkan ruins.  This was probably my favourite part of the day, as we sat around chatting, playing Uno and Pit (big favourites in Cusco as well as Enfield!), and eating while the children played football and explored the ruins.  I will continue to learn about youth work in Peru for the whole time that I am here, butI just love being with young people, listening to them and relaxing with them, as I did in the UK.  It is great to be a part of a small church where the timetable is not so full of activities that there isn't space and opportunity just to be together and enjoy that. Like anywhere, building relationships takes time, but days like this provide these opportunities as well as creating memories.

Something may have got lost in translation, as my message about bringing lunch didn't seem to have been successfully communicated.  We shared our picnic, and everyone had at least something to eat. We then walked back down the many steps to the centre, and visited a lovely icecream parlour for a well deserved treat after our long walk.  Marita from the church works there and the icecreams are incredible.  A lovely end to a great day.