Fischers in Peru

Salinas Moche

01 Jan 2022

Two weeks after the exhausting trip to Maqueruyo (I spent all of Monday zonked out on the couch or in bed), I accompanied Ben on a similar ETE gig to another high-altitude town, this time the pueblo of Salinas Moche.

Road between Arequipa and Salinas Moche

Above: Journey up the mountain side between Arequipa and Salinas Moche.  Roberto (ETE coordinator) is wisely taking a back seat.

Below: Ben checking out the main plaza, Sunday morning.  The place was absolutely deserted because the night before there had been a rip-snorting fiesta going until about 3:00am.  Note the Catholic church building with Moorish-inspired touches.  Maybe Spain isn't that far away after all?

Main Plaza, Salinas Moche

At 4300m, basically the same altitude as Maqueruyo, I was expecting another bout of altitude sickness and maybe another freezing night.  But thankfully my body seems to have begun adjusting to the altitude a bit, so the headaches and appetite loss weren't anywhere near as bad.  And the weather wasn't quite so cold, which really helped!

Herd of llama, Salinas Moche.

Above: Herd of llama on the outskirts of town.

Below: Winds whipping up the salt from the dry surface of the lake.

Salt storm, Salinas Moche.

As with the trip two weeks previously, the purpose was to encourage the ETE students in the region, organise next year's course of study, and generally just have a great excuse to get together.  Most of the students live in distant villages, so meetings like these give them the chance to socialise and enjoy fellowship together.

Below: Student receiving her grades for the year.

ETE student receiving her grades for the year.

For the people in these regions, Quechua is their first language.  And so most of the discussions, the teaching, and the meetings for the weekend were conducted in Quechua.  Naturally this included the music!  Here's a video of one of the songs from the Sunday morning service:


Below: Ben serving the drinks at morning tea.

Morning tea at Salinas Moche

Sunday after lunch we headed back to Arequipa.  A few ladies hopped aboard for drop-offs to their homes along the way:

Catching a ride home, Salinas Moche.

Lots of spectacular views on the way back down:

Volcano 'El Misti'


Trip to Maqueruyo

04 Dec 2021

Last weekend Ben Marx (fellow SIM team member) and I visited Maqueruyo, a fairly remote village about 8 hours' drive away.  As the crow flies, it's about 140km from Arequipa... but we haven't seen many crows around here, and even if there were they couldn't fly in a straight line.  Here's why:

The reason for the trip was to meet with and encourage the ETE (Spanish version of TEE, 'Theological Education by Extension') students at their annual gathering in the Tisco area.  Ben drove the 4WD, a reasonably tired old Nissan.  As it wasn't a turbo model, its power dropped off as the altitude increased.  But when driving through the Andes, it's always safer to go slower than faster; after all, you never know what is around the next bend, or about to bolt across the road in front of you.

We arrived in Maqueruyo late afternoon.  Some early rains meant that there was plenty of snow on the mountains around the village.  Here is Ben (below) with one of the Peruvian TEE teachers we picked up along the way.  The church in Maqueruyo celebrated its 60th anniversary on the weekend of our visit. 

At this altitude, it's only possible to raise alpacas; nothing else except hardy grasses, lichens and mosses will grow.  One of the challenges with farming alpacas in the Andes, though, is that they are preyed upon by Andean foxes.  What to do?  Get yourself a posse of large, tough dogs.  Here (below) we have Rambo (yes, that's his name), top dog in the village.  If all that matted hair on his tail bothered him, he never showed it.  There is no such thing as a dog kennel, because the farmers don't want the dogs loafing around during the bitterly cold nights.  No, you want them on patrol, sorting those foxes out.  Rambo & Co. do a pretty good job of that.

If you're keen, it's possible to play soccer at 4400m.  I wasn't that keen, so opted for the role of Maqueruyo FC photographer instead.  Most of these guys don't get to catch up that often, so flogging a ball around a rough and sloping field is a great way to get reacquainted!

Morning tea time: a good chance to chat and catch a few rays of sunshine (whenever they managed to poke through the clouds).  An alpaca had been butchered to feed everyone for the weekend.  So whether it was breakfast, lunch or dinner, we ate alpaca and potato soup -- varied with a few different ingredients such as herbs, pasta, and some sort of flour for thickener.  The wonderful hospitality of these Quechua brothers and sisters was humbling.

A couple of the kids who accompanied mum & dad (below).  Their cheeks are burned a reddy-brown by the cold atmosphere.

Purchasing the ETE textbooks for next year, and associated paperwork:

Two mums with their charges in the Sunday morning church service (below).  By this time I was well and truly suffering with altitude sickness: ripping headache, feeling a bit sick, some dizziness, and loss of appetite.  Ben wanted to know if I was going to die on him.  "If I do," I said, "just bury me in the village cemetery down the hill!"

The scenery on the way home was something else:

Just about home (below).  The volcanoes Misti (l) and Chachani (r), with Arequipa (at a much more manageable 2300m altitude) on the other side of them.

Next trip: another ETE shindig in the town of Salinas Moche on the 17th Dec.  A lot closer to Arequipa (45km ATCF) but still pretty high at 4300m.  Stay tuned!

Opportunity in Bolivia

13 Nov 2021

This week we had to leave Peru and re-enter, in order to reboot Megan's tourist visa, as the application process for Kerry's and my carnets (residency visas) is still in progress.  (Once we get those, then we can initiate the carnet application process for Megan, as our dependent.)

So, where to travel to?  We ended up doing a quick trip to Bolivia to visit our friends in Cochabamba, Australian CMS missionaries Adrian and Anita Lovell.  Well, in reality there was nothing that 'quick' about it; travelling with the ever-shifting COVID requirements is tricky and not a little stressful.  But we got back into Peru OK, and Migraciones granted Megan another 90 days for her tourist visa, the maximum allowable.  So we are grateful for that!

The main plaza ('Plaza de Armas de 24 Septiembre'), Cochabamba:

On the return trip we stayed in a cheap hotel in the old centre of La Paz, and before turning in for the night we took a bit of a wander around the streets.  A young girl came running out of one of the handicraft shops, entreating us to enter and take a look at all the stuff for sale.  We love these kind of shops, so she didn't have to twist our arms too much ;-)

While we were fossicking around, the girl ran off to fetch her mum.  The mother came in, took one look at Megan, and then exclaimed that she too had a daughter with Down Syndrome!  Folding back the hood of the pram in the corner, she plucked out her 10-month old bub.

A sad yet wonderful conversation followed, with Rosa* pouring out her heart over everything she's been through.  As soon as the baby was born, she told us, her husband blamed her for the baby's condition, and then he simply upped and left, leaving her to fend for herself and provide for her young daughter and the newborn.  She openly shared how in Bolivia (and we guess, by extension, Peru as well) people with Down Syndrome are treated like dirt, and how the mothers of these children are likewise looked-down upon and ostracised.

We spent the next hour or so talking, sharing our experiences with each other, and offering this hard-working and dedicated mother much-needed sympathy and encouragement.  Please pray for this family, that the Lord will open their hearts to the truth about Jesus, who offers the weary and heavy-laden true rest.  And pray that we might be able to continue encouraging Rosa (we have exchanged contact details), and giving that clear account of the hope that we have.

* Name changed.

Day trip around Chachani

01 Nov 2021

November 1 in Peru is a public holiday, so SIM team members Matthias Kullen and his wife Luz Marina took us for a trip around one of the volcanos adjacent to Arequipa, the awesome Chachani (6057 metres).  We took a picnic lunch with us and visited some hot springs en route.

Vicuñas were plentiful as we made our way across the altiplano.  The one on the left has been recently shorn; vicuñas have the finest wool of all Peru's camelids (the others are the llama, the alpaca, and the guanaco).

We also had the chance to fossick through some old ruins.  Judging by the corrals, it's been an alpaca herders' camp in years past.

On the cliffs behind the ruins, a movement caught my eye: a family of viscachas was watching me from above!  The viscacha is closely related to the chinchilla, and resembles a large grey rabbit with shortened ears and a long, curled tail.

At about 1:30pm we made it to the hot springs.  Being a public holiday, it was quite packed with families enjoying the great Peruvian outdoors!  A lovely place to wade, have lunch, and hear the songs of the abundant birdlife in the surrounding trees and thickets.

Renovation or resurrection?

31 Oct 2021

This afternoon we took a walk up to the supermarket "Franco" for supplies, and from there off up to the main drag "Avenida Ejército" for other stuff.

Along the way, what did we spy but this plastic surgery clinic:

The statue in the garden in front of the clinic was quite clear in proclaiming the types of transformation the clinic could provide:

It's pretty direct, isn't it?  Submit your body to the talented scalpels behind these walls, and you too can have the sculpted, classical physique you deserve.  No different to the Australian mindset, of course -- just advertised in a different way.

The human animal is the same the world over: we obsess over our bodies.  Yet only God can provide what we really need:

"So will it be with the resurrection of the dead.  The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. ...  And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man."  (1 Cor. 15:42-44, 49)

The lost vehicles of Arequipa

25 Oct 2021

If you're a keen spannerer like me, Peru definitely presents one with some interesting opportunities.  For many years I reckon this place was a bit like Cuba, ie. lots of old vehicles lovingly tended to and kept moving, because new vehicles were impossibly expensive or just downright unobtainable.  But in recent years this has changed; new Hyundais etc. are readily available and comparitively affordable, and so the old vehicles are now, for the most part, collecting dust by the side of the road.

The old International

So above we have an old International of some kind.  I honestly don't know where you'd go to find spares... but there are enough ingenious Peruvian mechanics around the place to help out if you got desperate.  Or what about this beauty:

Ford?  Chevy?  A mixture?

It says 'GM' on the cowling... but it has old Volkswagen wheels (I think), a flathead Ford V8, a Ford-branded tray, and Ford V8 badge on the grill.  If anything, a hybrid borne of necessity -- how COOL is that?!  And yes, that's some Combi wagon there on the other side of the street.

Anyway, watch this space.  I have already started assembling a basic set of tools.  At this point in the time my spanners are disgustingly clean; hopefully this sorry state of affairs will change!

It's the little things

05 Oct 2021

One of the things we really enjoy about Peru are the local eateries.  The BBQ chicken ("pollo a la brasa") is amazing!  Let's be honest, 1/4 chicken in Australia isn't much of a meal.  But here in Peru the things are closer to the size of turkeys, and so a 1/4 chicken is actually adequate!

Then there's the "chicharron de chancho" -- deep fried chunks of pork... and for lovers of dead pig, it doesn't get any better than this.  Of course it probably takes a week off your life span with every mouthful, but who cares... there's a resurrection coming and as the good apostle put it, "nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving".

Did you notice the nice little touch on the signage, though?  Given that the animals are being cooked up and eaten with gusto, they actually seem unfeasibly happy and cheerful!

Seeds of Hope and Grace

29 Sep 2021
A week or two back we were having lunch in a restaurant in Lima, when we happened to glance up at the TV mounted on the wall.  We instantly recognised the face on the screen: it was Abimael Guzman, founder of the Sendero Luminoso ('Shining Path') guerrilla movement, which had brought 20 years of violence to Peru (1980 -- 2000) and directly caused the deaths of over 30,000 Peruvians.  He had just died in prison.

Abimael Guzman

Beneath the TV a bunch of young people sat eating their lunch, too young to know directly the years of terror, and (apparently) not at all interested in the news playing out above their heads.

Guzman was a university professor who founded and led this Maoist rebel group, and taught that only through violent uprising would they be able to overthrow the government and bring justice and equality to Peruvian society.  The rebellion was only effectively ended with Guzman's capture in 2000.

How could a message such as Guzman's ever have found fertile soil?  Essentially, the answer lies in Peru's history.  The Spanish invaded in the early Sixteenth Century, and when the dust had settled, much of the native Peruvian population had no option but to serve their new masters, who had claimed for themselves most of the arable land.  For many Peruvians, this sense of inequality and of being disenfranchised has remained.

However, there is only one hope for any nation, and that is the planting of a different kind of seed: 
"You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel that has come to you.  Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God." (Colossians 1:5-6).

Please pray with us that the seeds of hope in the gospel would continue to grow, and bear the fruit of love and faith in the hearts of many here.


The Mountain Ahead

23 Sep 2021

This morning we heard some thunder... looked out the window, and no, thankfully the volcano 'El Misti' wasn't erupting!  Rather, a thunderstorm was passing directly over the mountain.  It moved on, revealing a fresh dusting of snow across the peak.  To the average resident of Arequipa, this is all a bit ho-hum.  But to us it was spectacular, and we're sure you'll agree.

Fresh snow on Misti

Looking at this huge mountain (the summit is almost 6000 metres above sea level) every day is a reminder of the challenges that lie ahead of us.  We feel daunted by the prospect of the next 12 months or so focused on learning Spanish.  There will be plenty of other challenges as well, no doubt: some sickness, some frustrations dealing with the processes of a different country, adjusting to cultural differences.  But learning the language will be the key to so many things -- so we have a long climb ahead of us.

We are still in our first week here in Arequipa.  This afternoon we had a great time meeting and getting to know the rest of the Arequipa SIM team: food, some games, chatting.  Team members shared some of the cross-cultural differences that they found particularly challenging over their time in Peru so far.  It was an eye-opening and fun discussion at the same time!

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