29 July 2011

Felices Fiestas Patrias!

The last two days have been national holidays (read about Fiestas Patrias here) so Lima has been pretty quiet. The construction crews that normally wake me up at 7:00 every day have been absent and traffic is light. Apparently everyone heads out of town for this holiday. The city has been covered in Peruvian flags this entire month and many people have been wearing rosettes on their lapels all month as well. You might think, “Aw, how nice. The Peruvians are very patriotic!” And yes, some are, but the flags are because of a law that mandates every building fly a Peruvian flag during the month of July for the patriotic celebrations. Sure, because, what’s more patriotic than being forced by the government to show pride in your country, right? You have until a certain day and you can be fined if you do not have a flag. This means you see some creative rigging of flags to buildings that don’t have a pole or easy place to put one.

Since yesterday, July 28th, was Peru’s Independence Day, as well as inauguration day for the new Peruvian president, I thought this might be a good time for a brief history and government lesson (as much for my own instruction as anyone’s). So if you don't care about any of that, go ahead and skip down to the end for pictures!

 Peru was obviously colonized by the Spanish and remained loyal to the crown longer than many other South American countries. However, when Spain’s King Charles IV abdicated the throne in the early 1800s, the wave of uprisings that swept the continent eventually reached Peru. In 1821, José de San Martin, who liberated Argentina and Chile, defeated the royalist forces in Peru and proclaimed its independence on July 28th.  San Martin, having finished the initial liberating but not really wanting to stick around for the long haul, met with Venezuelan general Simon Bolivar, liberator of Venezuela, Columbia, and Ecuador, and ceded control. It wasn’t until 1824 that Peru finally gained complete independence from Spain.

The early days of liberated Peru were rough at best. In the 40 years after independence, the presidency changed hands 35 times, although only 4 of those presidents were constitutionally chosen.  In that same timeframe, 15 different constitutions were written.  The main export to America and Europe was guano which helped the developing nation and also led to the Peruvian-Spanish War in 1866 when Spain occupied key guano-producing islands.

I879 saw the beginning of the War of the Pacific, a territorial battle between Chile and the joint forces of Peru and Bolivia. Initially called the Saltpeter War, the conflict originated over control of the nitrate-rich regions of the northern Atacama Desert. The rising demand in the 1870s for nitrates for use in explosives, fertilizers, and other products, made the nitrate-filled areas very valuable. Chilean companies owned mining operations in Peruvian and Bolivian territories which Bolivia tried to tax. Chile refused to pay, so Bolivia declared war in 1879 and asked Peru for help. On January 17, 1881, Chilean forces captured Lima, looting and burning much of Chorrillos and Miraflores (where I live). Chilean soldiers took thousands of Peru’s most valuable books from the National Library back to Chile where they remain even today. Chile won the war and the price they exacted from Bolivia and Peru has perpetuated conflict among the neighboring countries even into modern days. Bolivia lost its sea access thus becoming landlocked, while Peru ceded substantial territory and endured widespread pillaging by the conquering Chilean forces. Even in 1975, Peruvian president General Juan Velasco Alvarado was close to declaring war on Chile in order to regain the two lost Peruvian territories of Arica and Tarapaca. There was also an ongoing rivalry over pisco, a brandy which both countries claimed the exclusive rights to produce until 2005. Today they still dispute fishing waters in the Pacific.

After the War of the Pacific, Peru oscillated between democracy and military dictatorship. The first fully democratic election didn’t occur in Peru until 1980. Peru is a presidential representative democratic republic with a multi-party system. Under the current constitution the President is elected for a five-year term and cannot be reelected until they have been out of office for at least one term. Political parties form around individuals and rarely last longer than the person’s political career, the one exception is the left-leaning Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana (APRA), Peru’s oldest and best-established political party that was founded in 1924. The Peruvian government is directly elected and voting is compulsory for all citizens aged 18-70.

Yesterday, President Alan Garcia handed over power to Ollanta Humala who defeated Keiko Fujimori in this year’s elections. Alan Garcia first took office in 1985 (which was a good year, but not necessarily for that reason). At 36, Garcia became the country’s youngest leader and was dubbed the “Latino Kennedy” because of his charisma. He inherited a country in deep economic crisis and in the grip of a guerrilla war waged by the Maoist Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso). By the time Garcia left office in 1990, inflation was rampant at 7,500% (yikes!), the insurgents’ campaign had intensified, and poverty had soared. Accused of embezzlement, Garcia fled Peru in 1992 exiling himself to Colombia and then France. The following years saw bloody guerrilla warfare with the Sendero Luminoso and the authoritarian regime of Alberto Fujimori which was plagued with scandal and corruption… but more on that another time.

Although poverty remains high, Peru has enjoyed relative economic stability and political calmness since 2000. Garcia ran for the presidency again in 2001 but was defeated, but took power in 2006 when voters reluctantly elected the previously reviled leader over nationalist rival Humala.

This year Ollanta Humala ran again, this time against Keiko Fujimori. In 2000, while Humala was in the Peruvian army, he lead an unsuccessful coup against Alberto Fujimori’s regime. Humala’s father is a member of the Communist Party of Peru and his brother, Antauro Humala, kidnapped 17 police officers for 3 days and killed 4 of them. Although it appears Ollanta has tried to shift more to center, his leftist tendencies and friendship with Hugo Chavez have many concerned. His opponent in the runoff, Keiko Fujimori, is the daughter of former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori. She served as First Lady from 1994-2000 after her parents divorced. She was elected to Congress in 2006 and has defended the reforms of her father’s government and led the opposition to the government of Alan Garcia. Initially in the campaign she was noncommittal about whether she would pardon her father (convicted of corruption) if elected. She hired Rudy Guiliani as an advisor for her campaign, but ultimately lost by a thin margin to Humala.  After the news of Humala’s election, the Lima Stock Exchange experienced its largest drop ever.

With the choice between two candidates with serious baggage, most of the Peruvians I have asked felt the last election was a matter of picking the lesser of two evils, and the few I have talked to do not seem extremely hopeful about Humala’s direction for the country. The transition of power has already been controversial. Garcia refused to attend the ceremony to hand over his presidential sash, and at the inauguration Humala promised to rule in the spirit of the 1979 Constitution, which of course upset a lot of people since the actual authoritative constitution at the moment is that of 1993. His VP later said it was only a symbolic statement, nothing legal. You can read more about it here

We've been enjoying a rare few days of winter sun here in Lima, so the weather has been lovely! I went off exploring the city with the camera yesterday afternoon, so here's a few shots of my town:

Our apartment building. We live on the 4th floor. 
Lima is where every VW Bug has come to die. Seriously. They're everywhere!
Huaca Pucllana, some 10,000 year old ruins in the middle of town. No big deal. 

Walking home from a friend's house, I found my first Limanian llamas, they live at the ruins!

Ovalo Gutierrez, the closest movie theater, Wong's, and restaurants. This is a Wong's bag boy dressed for the patriotic month of July. 

Watching the paragliders take off and land on the cliffs. 

Coming in for a landing!
Mosaics at Parque del Amor, with a view of "El Beso" (The Kiss) by Victor Delfin.

Young couple picnicking at the park. 

26 July 2011

Will You Go Out Without Knowing?

I've been thinking a lot about one of my favorite entries in "My Utmost for His Highest" this week, so I thought I'd share:

"He went out, not knowing whither he went." - Hebrews 11:8

"Have you been 'out' in this way? If so, there is no logical statement possible when anyone asks you what you are doing. One of the difficulties in Christian work is this question- 'What do you expect to do?' You do not know what you are going to do; the only thing you know is that God knows what He is doig. Continually revise your attitude towards God and see if it is a going out of everything, trusting in God entirely. It is this attitude that keeps you in perpetual wonder- you do not know what God is going to do next. Each morning you wake it is to be a 'going out,' building in confidence on God. 'Take no thought for your life, ...nor for your body'- take no thought for the things for which you did take thought before you 'went out.'

"Have you been asking God what He is going to do? He will never tell you. God does not tell you what He is going to do; He reveals to you Who He is. Do you believe in a miracle-working God, and will you go out in surrender to Him until you are not surprised at atom at anything He does?

"Suppose God is the God you know Him to be when you are nearest to Him- what an impertinence worry is! Let the attitude of the life be a continual 'going out' in dependence upon God, and your life will have an ineffable charm about it which is a satisfaction to Jesus. You have to learn to go out of convictions, out of creeds, out of experiences, until so far as your faith is concerned, there is nothing between yourself and God."

No matter how many times I've read through this book, I continue to be challenged by Oswald Chamber's writing. My favorite line in this entry (January 2nd) is, "God does not tell you what He is going to do; He reveals to you Who He is." I wrote that on a post-it and tapped it above my desk at home a couple years ago when I was in a difficult season and really struggling with waiting on God and trying to understand His will. I was desperate for God to open doors, reveal His will, show me the purpose of that season and where He was leading. He didn't, not then, anyway. Instead, He showed me Himself. He brought me into a better understanding of Who He is and into a closer fellowship with Him than I had ever known. <--When I reread that sentence, it sounds so simple, and I don't want to give the wrong impression, because it wasn't. Maybe it should have been, but for me it was a struggle. A real battle to get my heart and mind to be content in Christ, a real battle to trust. It was a lonely frustrating season, but I am so thankful for the byproducts of it. I came across a Beth Moore quote during that time that sums it up so perfectly:

"Solitude is not so much the place we find the answers as the place we decide if we're going on, -possibly alone- without them. Many of us will. Why? Because the privilege of wrestling with such a holy and majestic God still beats the numbness and pitiful mediocrity of life otherwise. Sometimes we don't realize how real He is until we've experienced the awesomeness of His answerless presence. He knows that what we crave far more than explanations is the unshakable conviction that He is utterly and supremely God."

I didn't know where God was leading in that difficult period, and as much as I fought it, I eventually learned to praise Him for teaching me to rest in His "answerless presence." I wish that was a lesson that could be learned simply once and for all, but from time to time I still find myself beginning to worry, beginning to question. Wanting to know what the rest of His plan looks like. Starting to panic because I don't have it figured out. So at those times I try to stop and reflect on His faithfulness and remember the peace that comes from simply abiding in Him. This was one of my grandpa's favorite hymns and one of mine too:
"I Know Who Holds Tomorrow"
I don't know about tomorrow;

I just live from day to day.
I don't borrow from its sunshine
For its skies may turn to grey.
I don't worry o'er the future,
For I know what Jesus said.
And today I'll walk beside Him,
For He knows what lies ahead.

Many things about tomorrow
I don't seem to understand
But I know Who holds tomorrow
And I know Who holds my hand.

Every step is getting brighter
As the golden stairs I climb;
Every burden's getting lighter,
Every cloud is silver-lined.
There the sun is always shining,
There no tear will dim the eye;
At the ending of the rainbow
Where the mountains touch the sky.

I don't know about tomorrow;
It may bring me poverty.
But the one who feeds the sparrow,
Is the one who stands by me.
And the path that is my portion
May be through the flame or flood;
But His presence goes before me
And I'm covered with His blood.

Many things about tomorrow
I don't seem to understand
But I know Who holds tomorrow
And I know Who holds my hand.

21 July 2011

The Latest from Lima

You’ve probably noticed that over the last few weeks the majority of my posts have included lots of photos and not too many words. I’m aware of my tendency to verbosity so my last few posts have been my offering to the ADD crowd who can only focus long enough to skim a few photos and cut lines before….Hey! Look! A squirrel!

...Now where was I? Oh, right, I was lying about why my posts have been a bit lacking. The truth is that with all the chaos of the move and the busyness of getting situated in our new home and continuing language study, my days have been pretty full, and when I have had down time, I’ve just been too tired to use the English right and make the pretty sentences. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about it! Every day I see something or think of something that I want to tell you about, something that I think would give you a good glimpse into life in Lima. My instinct is to ramble on and on and on about the city and the people and the things, but then I remember that I do have a good deal of time to share lots about Lima, so I don’t have to try to tell it all right now. But while it is still fresh and new to me, I do want to pass some of it on. 

You may recall that Peru is in the Southern Hemisphere, and consequently the seasons are reversed, so for those of you playing along at home, if it’s summer in the good ol’ U. S. of A., that means here in Lima it’s…WINTER! Yep. The calendar says July and my newsfeed on Facebook is filled with pictures of people’s summer vacations, picnics, beach days, and posts about how hot it is. It’s hard to remember that it’s summer at home when I’m wearing sweaters, scarves, and coats everyday. To be fair, Lima really isn’t all that cold, even by the standards of this thin-blooded Floridian. It’s probably in the mid 60s in the day, and a few degrees cooler at night. Not too bad, right? Well, it wouldn’t be if it was sunny. But as I may have mentioned before, Lima has a bizarre climate. It never rains here, but it is persistently cloudy. My entire time in Lima so far, I think I have seen sun for a grand total of maybe 12 hours. The rest of the time the city is covered in a thick grey blanket, and while it doesn’t rain, we do have wet days. The heaviest precipitation we have seen since our arrival could barely be called rain, even it was closer to what my family calls “spitting.” What we do get is mist. It feels mostly like walking through a cloud. Just enough moisture to get you sufficiently damp, but not enough to warrant an umbrella. Although Lima is known for it’s constant high humidity, mold problems, etc., we have been told that this much “rain” is unusual even for winter in Lima.

 Having grown up with humidity and survived a couple of bitterly cold damp winters in Paris, I didn’t think I’d mind this weather. But what I had failed to take into account is that very few buildings here have any sort of climate control. That’s right, no heat. So while I can enjoy cold weather just fine at home when there are snug restaurants, offices, and homes to go, here there’s not much escape. The company office where I meet with my language tutor has no heat, so on the colder days I don’t even bother unbuttoning my coat; I sit there bundled up for the entire three hours. Last week my supervisor accompanied me to an appliance store and I made a critical purchase: a space heater! It’s a little thing that resembles R2D2,
I can tell that my new friend and I will be very close, so he's going to need a name. Suggestions?
 but it makes a world of difference in my room. I’m a much happier camper now that I know that at least at home I can get cozy!

The few sunny hours have given me a glimpse of a different city. Lima seems like an entirely changed place when the sun comes out, and I can’t wait for more opportunities to see the city at its best. I don’t really think about how pervasive the cloud cover is until I wake up with sun streaming in on my face and I sit there thinking for a minute, “Why does this seem so weird? Ooooh. Right. I haven’t seen the sun in two weeks!”

This move has been a pretty drastic shift. Last month I was living in Costa Rica. It was summer and sunny with frequent heavy downpours, often unbearably hot. As cold as I’ve been the last few weeks it is funny to think that it wasn’t long ago that I sat sweating in my bedroom in Costa Rica praying for rain and a breeze, just wishing I had a fan or some way to cool off. Costa Rica is colorful and chaotic. The buildings, flowers, and sky are all bright and unkempt. Now I live in Lima. It’s winter and cloudy and never really rains, and I’m always cold. Winter seems to envelope Lima’s modern apartment buildings and manicured parks in greyness. Other than both speaking Spanish (and even that is different) the two places seem utterly different.

Here’s what my days look like in general: In the mornings I get up, have some coffee and maybe some Honey Bunches of Oats (ßyes!), and get ready for the day. Since my mornings are “free” I usually am off in some store getting something for the apartment, groceries, or other random necessities. If not, I’ll be working on a number of projects at home, or I may head to Starbucks and enjoy some (more) coffee and internet. (We can’t have our internet set up until we have our residency permits, which as you may imagine takes some time, so we have very limited internet access at the house for the time being.) At 2:30 Carlos, the taxi driver, arrives to drive me the short trip to the Peru office for Spanish class. I meet with my tutor until 6 at which point Carlos returns to take me home. It’s starting to get dark then, so I do any other errands I need to squeeze in and then settle in to work on stuff in the apartment.

Language study is going well. Having a personal tutor makes a remarkable difference. I meet with her at the office for three hours every afternoon. She’s great and I certainly have learned a lot, but a solid three hours of one on one conversation in a foreign language is exhausting. I leave each day feeling like I need a brain transplant. We have three more weeks of language study, and then it’ll be time to switch gears and get to work. In the meantime, I’ll be cramming in as much español as possible and continuing to run all those little errands that are involved in getting settled. We did check one big thing off the list this week: We got our cell phones! Yay!

Thanks for your prayers during our first weeks here in Lima. I hope to get into a better schedule of posting now that we are starting to get settled.
Batllama. No, there is no explanation for this. 
I also need to make a belated birthday shout-out to my awesome friend, Carolyn! 
She turned the big Two-Five this week and I’m so bummed I wasn’t there to help her celebrate the quarter-century mark. She’s just a wonderful person and friend and has been such a blessing in my life these last 11 years! The really great thing about having been friends for so long is that I have quite a repertoire of amusing/embarrassing anecdotes to share about her, but because I love her so much I’ll refrain…for now! ;-) ....But photos are a different story, so here ya go!

Sorry, Care! But you have to admit this photo is kind of awesome.  Love you!

13 July 2011

New Digs!

Monday we woke up bright and early to begin the process of moving into our apartment! Moving is a lot easier when everything you own fits in a few suitcases. ;-)
The apartment had just been vacated by a family going stateside the night before, so before we could really unpack there was a cleaning team in to give it a good once over. We ran errands to get the essentials that were missing, sheets, pillows, and some basic groceries. We still have a list of odds and ends to get, but it’ll probably take a bit to get everything situated. Even still it is nice to get things unpacked and….DO LAUNDRY! Still in the process of getting all the necessary furniture and getting it arranged, but here are a few pics of the new digs:

Banner that Ellen hung to welcome us!
Door in the middle is our ELEVATOR door. The other is the back stairs.
Living room
Kitchen (don't worry the gas tank in the middle is temporary...we hope!)

Laundry room, and back maid's room that we use for storage.
Entryway to my room
My bathroom
Hallway to the other bedrooms
Gorgeous "welcome" flowers from some coworkers!
My room as of right now.

Looking back from the bed

My closet- yay!

I'll take some pics of the rest of the building and the neighborhood soon so you can get a better idea of what it's like. 

Please keep us in your prayers as we settle in and finish one more month of language study!

11 July 2011

Welcome to Lima

 Saturday we joined Patricia, the Affinity Office's administrative assistant and our awesome tour guide, for our first journey into Central Lima. Had a great time checking out the historic center of Lima including the Government Palace and the national cathedral. We wanted to hang around for the changing of the guard, and as an added bonus caught a mini-parade and drill exhibition with music while a wedding was trying to take place. Then the Peruvian Navy guys came into the square to take pics with anyone who wanted. Enjoy some shots of the day and some of my guide book's descriptions!

La Catedral-
The Cathedral dominates the eastern side of Plaza Mayor. Conquistador and founder of Lima, Francisco Pizarro carried the first log for the construction of the original adobe wall and the straw roof structure on this site in 1535. Construction began on the current Baroque-Renaissance-style structure in 1564. However, work stalled due to lack of funds and the devastating earthquakes of 1687 and 1746. The reconstruction ended in 1758, but it had to be rebuilt after the earthquake of 1940.

The Cathedral has 5 naves and 10 side chapels, with the smaller ones dedicated to religious figures. The chapel of John the Baptist has a carving of Jesus, said to be the most beautiful in the Americas. The remains of Francisco Pizarro lie in the mosaic-covered chapel to the right of the entrance. A headless body thought to be his languished in the crypt until tests in 1990 proved that the wrong remains were on display.

Palacio de Gobierno­­­-
Known also as the Casa de Pizarro, the Government Palace was built by Pizarro on the land once owned by Taulichusco, a pre-Hispanic chief of the Rimac Valley. It has been the seat of political power in Peru ever since, undergoing major reconstruction in the 1920s and 1930s following a fire. Inaugurated in 1938, the palace is a grand example of Colonial affluence. Rooms are festooned with mahogany and cedar carvings, French glass, Carrera marble, and Czech crystal. A marble staircase dominates the Grand Hall, which is flanked by busts of key figures in Peru’s history. The gilded Salon Dorado (Golden Room) is modeled on Versailles Palace’s Hall of Mirrors.

Cathedral decorated for the wedding

Man decorating the Cathedral for some religious festival.

The Archbishop's House
Literally the "other side of the tracks."

The bronze fountain was commissioned by the Count of Salvatierra, and Viceroy of Peru, in 1650. 

Military performance on one side, wedding on the other!

Watching the Navy perform. + Shark balloon

Highly entertaining.

Yes. That IS a nun posing with the Navy guys and their guns...
She was having a great time!

Too cute.
No age limit!
Yep. Adorable.
Cathedral at night. 
Pedestrian street at night. 

08 July 2011

The Final Mission: Godspeed Atlantis

Turning on the TV in my hotel room this morning I flipped through the channels until I saw Anderson Cooper reporting on the final mission of Space Shuttle Atlantis. Seeing the shots of Kennedy Space Center and the people waiting at Space View Park, all I could think was “home!”

While I listened to the usual pre-launch commentary and watched the familiar sites as the final seconds ticked down (including that suspenseful hold at 31 seconds) I flashed back to the dozens and dozens of launches I have seen in my life. I’ve watched from the Cape, I’ve watched from the beach at night, I’ve watched from the roof of my church, but most of the time, I just walked out of my front door and watched from the street in front of my house. 135 shuttle missions and I’ve seen a lot of those launches, but no matter how many you see, it just never gets old. Seeing the fire, feeling the rumble, watching the shuttle shrink to a tiny point in the sky, it’s just impressive every time. And for whatever reason, it always fills me with a remarkable sense of pride.

I was probably one of the only people upset when NASA extended the shuttle program by a few months, and it was for entirely selfish reasons. Had the program ended when originally scheduled I would have been there in FL, or at least in the states, to see it and celebrate it. In a lot of ways it feels like I grew up in the shadow of the shuttle, and it just doesn’t seem right that I’m not there for this last historic launch. I know I didn’t grow up in Titusville, my parents didn’t work for NASA, and I wasn’t planning a career in the space industry (at least not recently). But living in Houston and then Daytona, I spent my formative years in places where NASA, shuttles, astronauts, and sonic booms were part of regular life. I also grew up in the 90s, the golden age of space shuttle flights, if you ask me. Like most kids, I was fascinated by space. I toured Kennedy Space Center, had glow in the dark stars and planets all over my ceiling, and begged my parents to send me to Space Camp. And the space program was pervasive back then. Nickelodeon game shows had space-related prizes, we did a unit on space exploration almost every year in school (which usually included eating that awful freeze-dried ice cream, and even the pods in my elementary school were named after space shuttles. In my 4th grade class photo I’m even wearing an Atlantis t-shirt, if I remember correctly.  (No, it wasn’t cool. Go ahead and judge me.)

The space program has always been a part of life. So today, even though I could only watch on CNN from a tiny hotel room in Peru, as the boosters spewed fire and the shuttle left earth one final time…I cried.  Yep. Just sat there with tears running down my face. I hadn’t expected to be emotional, and who knows why it got to me. Maybe it was just because watching something so familiar had me thinking a lot about home, knowing that my mom and friends were there watching the launch in person. Or maybe just because the reporters had done such a good job of talking up the historicity of this event. Or possibly because it really feels like the end of an era. But most likely, I think, it was just because it feels like saying goodbye to an old friend. The shuttle program was a constant in my life, and a constant in a world without many. Plus, it was just plain awesome! Given the typical pace of technological development, it is bizarre to think that the same vehicles that had been taking men into space for several years before I was even born, are still doing that same job 25 years later. When you think of it that way it seems to make sense that it’s time to move on to something new. But I have so many memories tied to the space program, I just hope this next generation gets to have those too. The space shuttle was always held up as a symbol of the spirit of exploration, and an inspiring reminder of the unlimited possibilities that still exist. I hope today’s kids are still inspired by something so remarkable, that they still dream of being astronauts, and get to know the pride of watching your country do something incredible. Thanks NASA, and godspeed Atlantis. 

04 July 2011

Happy U.S. Independence Day!

Found Dr. Pepper in the grocery store today, perfect for toasting to America!

Someone brought watermelon to the cookout...NOW we can celebrate Independence Day!

This photo doesn't give you a good view of all my red, white, and blue, but it is proof that I got to have watermelon on the Fourth of July in Lima, Peru! Happy Birthday America!