On Tuesdays, I have a bible study downtown, so I drive our truck about a mile to the bus stop and take the bus to my bible study. When I returned I looked in my rear-view mirror to see that someone had stuck election paraphernalia for the mayoral elections on October 7th on the back window! If I voted, I now know whom I would vote against!
Tonight, during church, the pastor had just started his sermon when we heard a loud, incessant banging against a steel door. I looked backward half expecting to see that someone had somehow locked himself in the bathroom. Nope. Was someone banging on the church door? Nope. Did I mention it was loud and incessant? That's not quite true, the banging would stop for about 5 seconds at a time and then resume. It was really really annoyinging and I could tell it was distracting the pastor. Missionary roles: preaching, praying, counseling, being a bouncer. I went out onto the street and could tell the noise was coming from inside the house that our truck was parked in front of. "Hey!" I yelled. "Are you okay?" Nothing. The banging resumed. When it paused again, I repeated, "Hey! Everything okay?" "C-(insert Spanish expletive here) I'm locked in my house! Help me open my door!" I think in the past I would have normally been scared in this sort of situation, but I felt it was pretty unlikely that it was someone trying to do me harm. I assessed the situation. There was no outside knob on the door, just a keyhole. It looked like there might be some sort of window on a hinge that we could maybe open and we could try to work together to open the door through it. I pushed gently on it and instead of opening the window, the whole door opened revealing a man standing in a wide stance with his arms at his side. "I couldn't get out and you just opened it with your finger?!" It appears he was drunk and forgot that his door opened inward! "Yes." "You just opened it with your finger?" "Yes. What's your name?" "Juan Carlos. I just wanted to get some fresh air." "Nice to meet you. I'm Allen." "Are you Venezuelan?" My suspicions he was drunk were confirmed. "Nope. American. Well, nice to meet you. I'm going to go back to church down there. Let me know if you need anything else. Come visit us some time."
Last night, Mary Beth asked if people would be willing to commit to pray for 30 different women who are invited to attend the women's retreat that Mary Beth is directing at the end of October. In less than 24 hours, 30 people emailed us agreeing to do so. Most wrote that they felt it was a privilege to do so. It is comforting to know that if we have a prayer request so many people are willing to back us up with prayer support! Thanks!
In Peru, most people with gas stoves buy propane in small tanks that they connect to them. One has to buy a full tank every so often (every 3 weeks, since we bake a lot) necessitating unhooking the old tank and connecting the new. When I've mentioned to people that most homes in the USA have gas lines and people don't have to haul around propane tanks, they are a bit horrified to think of gas lines running through one's house. 'What if the gas line bursts? Your house will blow up!' I've felt like responding, 'What if your hose clamp comes off? Your kitchen would burn up!' And that is what happened last week to Mary Beth's friend Miriam. As she was cooking, the hose clamp came off and the escaping gas caught on fire. It started waving around like a flamethrower. Thankfully, she was able to escape, but everything combustible in her kitchen was reduced to ashes. Since we recently combined two households when we got married, we had a lot of duplicate items, so we took a box of kitchen things to give her yesterday.
A metal cupboard sort of survived.
Miriam and Mary Beth
For the first time in my recent memory I shut off my phone without being on a plane. You might protest, "Wait! You just went on your honeymoon. You're telling me that you left your phone on then?" Actually, yes, since the kids were being tour guides around Peru for 18 friends and family, we thought it best to be available for them. Luckily, there weren't any big emergencies!
Thursday, Mary Beth handed off the puppet show equipment to a church, the ophthalmology campaign ended that night and the kids were on their last 3 days of winter break, so we slipped off to the beach in Mejía about 2 hours away from Arequipa. Today was the Ironruna (runa is loosely translated as 'man' in Quechua) Triathlon in Mejía. One swims 1.9 km, bikes 90 km, and runs a half marathon (21 km). I'm not in good enough bike shape to enter it on my own, but a friend, who is an awesome swimmer wanted to do it as a relay. He'd swim, someone else would ride the bike and I'd run the half marathon. But we never found a cyclist, so I went to observe.
The plan was for the swimmers to swim a somewhat complicated course around several buoys but the race director didn't realize that the water was too deep for anchors or that the current was so strong. We watched a buoy float off toward the horizon as they readied the race. We never saw it again. The director scurried around on a wave-runner to reposition another. He abandoned having the swimmers swim the original route and told them to just swim around the one lone buoy and come back. Things just got crazier from this point on. It was breezy. Like always, the sea was rough in Mejía. It's cold too. About 11˚C (52˚F). As the 18 triathletes took off into the water for the swim leg we noticed the buoy moving quickly to the north. "Wow! It will be hard to swim around a moving target. And this will be a short race; it's only 500m to the buoy!" The first swimmer got through the breakers into the open water. Then two more. The rest appeared to be struggling. After about 5 minutes, the rest of the swimmers were still just a 50m from shore, while the leader was approaching the buoy. They were unable to get through the waves! How can this be? They were almost all semi-professional athletes. Haven't they swum in rough water before? One more got through the waves and headed for the moving buoy. Those left behind were just standing in the water, shrugging their shoulders and looking at each other. They looked to shore for direction and someone yelled at them to keep trying. A race director's nightmare: having to disqualify the majority of your participants because the swim leg was too hard. He came up with a brilliant plan: Send in the lifeguards! Ten red-and-yellow-clad lifeguards headed into the water to "rescue" the triathletes and send them out on the bike leg! But do they still qualify for prizes, or just those that completed the swim? I'll let you know if I hear how it turned out.
I badly wanted to put on my wetsuit and try to see if I could get through the waves. They didn't look any worse than usual to me!
My childhood babysitter used to subscribe to Grit Magazine, which had a puzzle each week, "Can you find the six errors in the following cartoon?" As a child, I spent hours searching through a stack of magazines finding errors. Can you see what's wrong in this picture?
We are in the middle of a two-week ophthalmology campaign. About 60 people, including 10 opthalmologists and optometrists, are working together to attend to 400 patients a day providing cataract and other eye surgeries and telling them about our hope in Jesus. There are long lines. Thursday, I asked patient #253 what time she had gotten in line that morning and she said, "2 am"! Yes, by 2 am there were already just over 250 people in line ahead of her! Some of them just needed reading glasses, which they can easily get here in Arequipa without waiting in line for 12 hours, but the draw of North American doctors (about half American and half Canadian, just like Mary Beth and I!) is irresistible for some.
Did you figure out what is wrong in this picture? The patient broke the left temple (the long arm that goes over the patient's ear) on his glasses and repaired it with a temple made for the right side! Very resourceful if one can't afford to get his glasses repaired at the optician's shop! But, it didn't work very well, since the temple folded in the wrong direction! (not to mention that it didn't match the color, which might have been the error you found).
"Can you bring some money to the ER for me?" my swimming buddy Chris asked. His wife had gone to the highlands leaving him riding herd over their three kids back in Arequipa. While playing at the same park Ben and Sarah used to play in 18 years ago, his three-year-old fell and cut open his forehead. Now at the emergency room, he didn't have money to pay the bill and couldn't leave to go get money. Plus, the plastic surgeon wouldn't be able to come for two more hours (interpretation: four hours).
"Why don't you bring him down to my house and I'll sew him up here?" I've had lots of practice sewing up faces here in our house.
Chris proceded to check out of the hospital and they asked for the equivalent of $80. "I can only give you $60. That's all I have on me! All they did was wash his face anyway." The clerk recalculated and after a bit gave the new amount: "That will be $8." Chris was thankful he hadn't had $80 before, as he would have just paid it without asking questions. While he was checking out, I was devising a system for restraining a 3-y/o on a boogie board with roof rack straps. Luckily, when he showed up, the wound didn't even need sewn, but rather approximated well with steri-strips. Today it looked good.
photo and permission for blog use courtesy of Latin Link missionary Chris Courtman
This morning, I was in charge of leading the Bible study for the missionary team at another missionary's house. We were about to begin when a loud commotion started outside. Riot police with shields were protecting a man with a generator and arc welder that was cutting the hinges off of the gate. Another man (in pink shirt in photo) was yelling but unable to push past the police. Our understanding was that some residents of the neighborhood locked the gate with a chain about a month ago to reduce the traffic so that only residents would enter. But since residents aren't allowed to indiscriminantly (or discriminantly) close public streets of their own choosing, the municipality chose to remove the gate this morning. In a matter of 10 minutes the gates were cut off of their hinges and loaded into a truck and they were gone, leaving a couple of guys with sledge hammers to remove a wall blocking the sidewalk. I was impressed by their speed and skill at making off with a big steel gate!
Here in Arequipa, it seems like crime has gone down since when we arrived in 2000. My informal poll of taxi drivers reveals a similar sentiment. One of our missionary colleagues that has had his spare tire stolen three times would probably disagree. I assume it is because the economy is better and there are less desperate people stealing things. The situation in Venezuela would back my hypothesis as an article on CNN just today said that 47% of Venezuelans were robbed during 2017. There are lots of desperate people there. Around 2 or 3 am on Tuesday morning our recently-installed car alarm went off. Car alarms in Peru are like robins chirping in Nebraska: They are a bit annoying early in the morning but don't really mean much. Mary Beth said, "That's our car!" I shut off the alarm with my key fob and looked out the window and didn't see (0r hear) anything and went back to bed. Yesterday, I noticed that the passenger door wouldn't lock and unlock properly and I realized that someone had destroyed the keyhole with some sort of tool. I mentioned it on our neighborhood chat group and our neighbor said that they hadn't been so lucky and the thief had gotten into their car and stolen their radio that same morning.
So for now, I'll go back to parking our truck in the garage. It's a bit annoying to do that since our cats like to hide in the engine compartment and I have fears of replicating the cold winter day from my childhood when 9 cats were trying to keep warm in the pickup and...wait you don't want to hear that story!
I'll just say that I'm thankful for our car alarm. We can't lock or unlock the passenger door with a key now, but that seems pretty minor. (we still can lock/unlock it with the fob)
Well, the priest didn't actually say that, but he could have.
Mary Beth's friend Elisabeth invited us to her wedding yesterday. She didn't tell us that there were actually 103 couples getting married at the same time in a mass wedding organized by the mayor of the district Elisabeth lives in. Or that one of the other couples was her sister and her boyfriend. We were told it was starting at 10 am, but we didn't arrive until 10:15. When we got there, couples were taking turns walking into a white tent to Mendelssohn's 'Wedding March' being played over and over. Elisabeth and Harvey weren't even there yet. "Are you two getting married?" several asked us, despite Mary Beth not even wearing a white dress. I guess we just look nuptial. By 10:40, they started the wedding with a few words from the mayor, but Elisabeth still hadn't arrived! Did they get 'cold feet'? Were they already sitting down and we couldn't find a dark-haired girl in a white dress sitting with 102 others? I asked a man who had a clipboard with a bunch of names if they had arrived. "Not yet," he confirmed after checking with the corresponding check-in table. "Is that her?" I asked Mary Beth at 10:50, when yet another late bride was showing up. "Yes! That's her!" One of the aides handed Elisabeth a bouquet and pinned a boutonniere on Harvey. They signed the paperwork and took their seats.
After a few more words from the mayor and a priest and the presentation of special couples (e.g. The oldest groom was 89 years old!) they declared them married and raffled off some appliances, the grand prize being an oven. Thankfully, they didn't read off all of their names, or it would have taken several hours. We were impressed by all the perks the municipality gave the couples: flowers, presents, a photo booth and they even had groomsmen and bridesmaids!