Anne’s Peru Diary, 05-Aug-15

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anne_reilly_novNothing like starting from the now and working back, so what has been happening on this side of the world?

Tuesday and Wednesdays are Yogurt/Yogur days, on the Tuesday I go with one of the women to buy the fruits i.e. Strawberries (fresa), Pineapples (pina), Apricots (damasco) and fruta seca (prunes/figs and pecan nuts) this one’s good for the bowl movements, all the yogurts are lovely or as they would say here “rico”, the highest complement one can pass on a good meal/comida “delicious” I must find out exactly how many litres we produce. All I do know is that the Peruvians/Peruanos I have got to know have an extraordinary sweet tooth, blimey, when I see what goes into a cup of tea or coffee, phew! Defies logic how they are not diabetics?

anne_reilly_balbriggan_to_peru_08jun15Today the yogur was prepared to the music of ABBA, “I will survive and Dancing Queen”, much favoured here, so while I’m stirring the pot containing 10 litres of milk, 750grams of sugar/azucca, a packet of powdered milk 200grams “fuente de Calcio con vitaminas A y D”, roughly translated “source of calcium and vits. A&D). I have to be very vigilant as there are 3 pots of the gas/on the boil, and between Margareta and me we have to make doubly sure that all is blended in well and that it doesn’t boil over. Well today with the dancing singing and stirring there were a few near misses.

I have to tell you, these women are marvelous Margaret, Rosa, Jenny Pattie and Malagros, salt of the earth, just like any group of women you would find throughout the world who come together to work and support each other in doing a collective project for the good of all (like the meals and wheels in Balbriggan).

There is no competition, yes, there are touchy moments and a bit of slagging off at times, especially if you lose the run of yourself and think you’re the project leader! The natural leader emerges through encouragement and is supported no matter what, the most unlikely person has risen to her full stature, she is gentle and quiet, I though a push over at times but no Jenny has a strength that quietly gets things done and is inclusive of everyone, she is a great listener and will wait until everyone can hear the benefits and then we all agree or disagree.

There is good natured banter, everyone has an opinion but you know everything is put on the table when the meeting come, sometimes I wonder “bloody hell”, how is this going to resolve it’s self? Yet, In their own way and in their own time it does. They are amazing to be with and so life giving.dog_peru

My Espanol is coming on and its being in their company, that I have developed the confidence to “hablar de espanol”. Mind you, I have to confess to having introduced a third language? No, no bad language, that’s not it. It’s like today when I wanted to tell them about the terrible night’s sleep or lack of it as it turned out all because “wee doggie”, that’s Mary’s dog, Mary being Scottish named the dog “wee doggie”. Anyway at around 3-4am in the morning I was not calling it by that name given he would not stop whimpering to get out, having duly given in and opened my bedroom door, he just stood there looking up at me and  didn’t move?

Flippen hell I though, what is up with the dog? Anyway between the jigs and the reels “I step in, he steps out”, I shut the door at about 5am and went to sleep and when the alarm went off at 7am, I noticed it had rained. Well, this is the story I endeavored to tell the yogur women and it came with plenty of gestures and sound effect for the words in Espanol I can’t quite get, mind you words aren’t everything, because you should have seen Rosa retell the story to Malagros when she came in it was priceless, we all fell around the place laughing it would have made a great video!.

Before leaving Lima, I was treated to an experience of 72 hours without water/agua?  Yes, you heard right 72 hours, that’s nearly 3 days, it was the time of the great unwashed, so nothing like a lick and a wash behind the ears. They are great here always prepared in case of a tremor, a tsunami or a water shortage. So, there were buckets filled on standby that you used sparingly for the toilet cistern and you don’t flush unless necessary. It’s amazing what you can get used to and adjust to when needed. So, it’s back to the regular every second day shower or washes depending.

I treated myself to a night at a Peruvian Circus,(19 July) and with the grey hair I got a concession rate so 40soles instead of 55soles. It was amazing, high wire swinging throwing and juggling with no safety net!, horses dancing, riders standing on the horses back and somersaulting while the horse was flying. Clowns that had you falling around laughing even though I didn’t hear what they said, maybe that’s where I get my gestures when speaking! There was a band dressed up and painted like the black and white minstrels (of long days past) and they were just amazing, actually the music and the performers blended so harmoniously it was breathtaking  mouth opening, amazement to behold and I’m not going to try and translate any of that. No photos allowed while they were performing and I can understand why.

I finished my book “Peru  beyond Machu Picchu”on the final day of my class (24  July), I was given a complementary cup of cafe and a gorgeous slice of carrot cake, I eat some and kept the rest for the bus journey the next day. The staff were great we exchanged a word or two every day in Espanol for an English one that they wanted to learn.

The word service and how it is shown, expressed here is nothing akin to what I have experienced before, actually I have, in Inis Mor last year when I went there for retreat. I remember well being struck at the quality of the persons presence who was serving me even though the queue was long and people had to wait I was served as if I was the only person there. That’s what I experienced from the staff in the hotel and elsewhere. Service with a genuine smile, interest and love of ensuring your needs are met. It’s a gift and it is all around you here with the people giving of their all.

I brought Esperanza out for lunch/almorzar to a small local homemade Peruvian restaurant I came across on my many morning walks exploring the District of Miaflores, which I now miss. We had a local dish Papa Huancaina/potato with a rich yellow sauce followed by Arroz con pollo/ Rice and chicken. It was a nice way to say “thank you” for the privilege of been given a real grilling by an enthusiastic and excellent tutor. But, I was glad to be finishing, so it’s back to San Clemente to “hablar espanol”, practice, practice.

I arrived back in San Clemente on Saturday 25th July after nearly 6 weeks of intensive one to one Sspanol lessons, 3 hours a day for 5 days a week and then a good 2 hours “tarea/homework”. My tutor/professor was Esperanza, a women of great patience, I’m sure there were times she wondered would I ever “habler/speak” in Espanol.  What’s the saying “it’s what you put into it that counts” and that is certainly what is happening for me now, after a shaky start when I got back to San Clemente, as my confidence to speak, outside of the class was something akin to a” clamp”, I struggled to find words or was frightened to pronounce in case I’d get it all jumbled up, mind you it was the stuttering that was getting to me!  (Whether it’s a throw back to school days, I was one of those slow starters.)

I BEGAN to dread SPEAKING in case of being corrected before I had even tried to find the word or express it. It’s not the easiest of languages, what language is, but in Espanol it’s the verbs that are the key, the construction of the sentence is around the action verb and then you have to get the endings right depending on whether it male/female, formal/informal, past/present/future and just when you think you have it instead of saying I bought garlic/ajo in the market today it comes out, I bought an eye/ojo, you can imagine the astonishment and the eyes looking at me!!

Still, I am learning to laugh more at my failings and not take myself so seriously or feel I have to have a fluency in just 4 months.  I had a great moment today trying to find the Espanol word for remember, well I was all around the dictionary and then it clicked I was looking for the English word in the Espanol part of the dictionary, good or bad sign who knows, “recorder/remember the music”

On the 28th July we celebrated “Fiestas Patrias”, that is the national liberation day from Spanish Colonialism 1821, the main march passed by, the President and all the dignitaries, they came from all the surrounding countries (Bolivia, Chile, Brazil, Ecuador and Colombia) was held on Avenida Brazil/Brazil Avenue, It’s an amazing Avenue I’ve never seen the length of it’s kind before, no exaggeration it took me the best part of 3 hours to walk the 23 cuadra/blocks, the day I went in search of an Adidas store and to see if I could get my hand on a table tennis table for the children here in the parish. Anyway exhausted by the walking and I’m a good walker, I wasn’t successful. So I have sourced the measurements online, as you do, and I am now following up a carpenter. I have the balls and bats, so hopefully.

What other highlights happened this month?

We had a very interesting day with the Confirmation/ Confirmacion group, all 65/70 or them.   Mary facilitated, I was her side kick, music, light etc. Anyway it was a very engaging retreat day on “what is a living faith”, well they took to the small discussion groups like ducks to water and the feedback was awe inspiring from 16/17 year olds. They then went out with some members of the parish who after a chat and asked would they host a few of the students and then introduce them to one or two families in their street. Again the students were asking what does your faith mean to you, why is it important or not, Why do you go to mass or not and then they left the family with an invitation to come to the mass on Sunday “that they organised”.  Again after some group work they put their own words and meaning to the different parts of the mass. Fr Franklen (Peruvian/Redemptorest) was so accommodating it was a real joy to be part of it.

Three women from the parish prepared the food and then that evening after the mass we had a local drink Tea/honey/lemon, Oh! was it sweet, and doughnuts, yes as good as any dunken doughnuts I have ever tasted thanks to a great cook, Pocha. She is one woman I need to get a few cooking lessons from ..Maga is another women here with the women painting/sewing group who is a great cook, together we made cream of asparagus soup and I remembered to put ajo/garlic not ojo/eye in. The story of the Asparagus is interesting; it’s not found in the market but is produced mainly for export, it’s to do with the amount of water it takes to grow in an area “avoid” of water. Rosa pointed out the factory to me in Pisco, so it’s on my “to do” list, along with visiting the Zoo in Lima which I believe is huge!!

So now, that’s me finished for the moment Romina has just come so we are going to speak Espanol, then after 6pm we gather for the packaging of the yogur.

Actually there isn’t enough time in the day sometimes, trying to fit everything in.

There are down days and the recent death of my mother’s sister Peggy, my aunt, hit me with a bang, it’s the unexpected and the shock plus the powerlessness and being so far away, we really do need to be present with family when a significant member dies so suddenly. God bless Balbriggan at least they have a webcam not Skerries unfortunately, so all I could do was light my candle and remember Peggy and her family at this time of great loss.

So, let’s keep each other in our thoughts and prayers, If I could, I would post some, only some, of the sun I enjoy here in San Clemente each day in the early afternoons.

Love and prayers to each and everyone.