Sunday, March 23, 2014

oh... it's hope!

Guess what. Well, it isn't much of a secret. But if you do think it's a secret, everyone is trying to hide the same one. And if you know it's not a secret, you may be spending a lot of time telling the world about your own isolated problems. Well, Surprise! At this point its more a fact- observable, obvious, and beautiful: We all have issues. and not ONE of them is unique. Sorry, my story is no more poetic or tragic than yours and vice versa. For years I suffered under a self imposed rule that I was too complicated to be understood. I had deep problems and woes that I clung to, and I would put them in my beautifully crafted journals, tuck them away on a shelf and no one would ever read them because they were mine. my own. my precious....

Woah. Ok getting away from the Gollum reference here, do you see what I mean? I went back a few months ago and looked through those journals and I was almost ill reading through the sappy language I reveled in, the boy in college I was in love with but who never knew, the hard break up I feared more than anything, the pain of feeling misunderstood as the pathetic black sheep of my family, the caged bird who only wanted to fly... just once above the feel the wind on my wings..... UGH. you get it. Lord have mercy. But this was and is a part of my story. and we all have them. Of course individually we are all unique and you will never find two stories alike. Just like those solitary snowflakes I would doodle in my journaled past. But in that uniqueness, there we all are- together.

One of the chapters in my life (my real life- not the doodled one) is the day I admitted I needed help for depression. There you have it folks, a tortured artist. Now I'm not belittling my own aches, but Lord knows I've spent enough time indulging them and participating with the torment of anxiety and depression. This expression is an experiment in change- in being real and honest and very vulnerable with all 4 of you who read this blog. But as I am a verbal processor, its helping. Depression is a very real biochemical disorder. Whether it is the cause or the symptom is not medically understood, but the longer you stay there, the more damage is done. The brain acts with neurotransmitters to give information to the next neuron in line and when there is a lack of this one called serotonin, the information doesn't get processed down the pathway and there is this mess of jumbled feelings and thoughts that give rise to sadness, despair, paralysis of motivation, and just plain blahs. I found that I was extremely tearful and hard situations just were made harder by not being able to move forward. This was compounded by feeling isolated and that no one could understand so I didn't share these feelings with anyone and felt this pressure to just get over it on my own. Then my conflicting self would give great advice by telling me I was being stupid, and no one should suffer this much over one lost relationship, people go through this stuff all the time, there's something wrong with me if I can't move forward. Get. Over. It. And even if I had the thought years ago "Maybe I'm depressed" I couldn't be! I was a christian - and I thought a pretty spiritual one. I was covered by the Holy Spirit and christians don't get depressed. "I've got the joy joy joy joy down in my heart" remember? After years of off and on bouts with highs and lows of emotional turmoil (and more beautifully crafted journal entries) I was done. It took a few more precise blows to my heart and soul to render me down for the count, tapped out. I needed help. And that admission was just the beginning of yet another painful and long and awful process that I would have happily avoided by hiding in my isolation of black sheephood.

I don't think I need to go into the process, both medical and therapeutic, but I will say that I have still had my ups and downs and more recently found myself tearful again. In Peru I worked with disabled children that broke my heart on a daily basis, I came home and had to put my dog down which ripped open some very delicately healed wounds, I now work in a nursing home where a little old lady started crying during our session and just asked God to let her die. (which makes you feel like a really excellent physical therapist) And I cried. I live with a family of children who watch Disney movies and I had a good weep to the part in Tangled where Rapunzel's father sends off the lanterns hoping for his daughter's return. I hate when the news is on in people's rooms, I have to hear these horrible headlines in 5 seconds and with no time to process them and just keep on going. We live in a society where there is not time to grieve. There are 250 people who either died on that Malaysian plane or didn't but their poor families! I ache for them! The world assaults us with terrible things and what do we do with them? Some people are just going to keep moving forward, cold and calloused to the pain around them. Is it a product of my depression that causes me to cry or hurt for others? Am I "just too sensitive" like a dear friend once told me (and I won't let her live it down)? What is the answer here?

This week I was listening to this talk by Tim Keller called "The Cross, the way to endurance" and I might have glimpsed the answer: its Hope. In depression, I live in a sad sad world- with circumstances way beyond my control and too overwhelming to do anything about except maybe cry. and journal. In Christ, I still live in that world, I still will grieve and maybe glimpse what it means "to partake of the sufferings of Christ" but it is for the joy set before me that I can endure. That there is a hope of a just and righteous God making these horrible things right. He is the only reason I can get through a day, and that learned behavior of choosing hope and choosing joy is what will be my anchor, my way forward in the Lord. He is "one well acquainted with grief" and as much as I hate the ache and the pain that I know so well, its in this depth that I walk with my Lord. My Hope is in Him. I have several Morgul wounds (sorry for another LOTR reference) that may never fully heal, but in the process of walking with him, I remember His scars for us. Maybe this is what it means to boast in our weaknesses, because his strength in perfected in weakness. so when I am weak, then He is strong.

Now can we sing Maranatha? Come Lord Jesus, Come.

ps. I'm not the only one right? feel free to share this! Or if you have any stories or similar struggles I'd be so encouraged to hear them! please email me!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Onward and westward

About a week and a half ago I was sitting in a Super 8 motel, a blizzard with its historic 18 inches of snow piling outside, in Martinsville Virginia. Martinsville: home of a pretty big racetrack (apparently, though I never had the pleasure of attending) Barely a month before that I was in South America, seeing the beauties of a land called Patagonia, feeling like I was in some sort of Narnian Neverland. Only a few weeks prior to that, I was dealing with the seemingly impossible issues of a different culture and life in Peru, loving on children who were so special to our Father in heaven, though so poorly attended to on earth. Why this recap? Because at this moment I’m in a lovely resort, overlooking Oak Creek in Sedona, big beautiful red rocks in the distance, and my heart is so stilled at this sight. Knowing that our God, who loves us to our deepest being, is the same majestic God who put the foundations of this earth in place. I’m struck with how many of these plans the Lord saw in my heart, but have been perfectly laid out by my Father.

{Long ago you laid the foundation of the earth and made the heavens with your hands. Ps 102:25

The Lord of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand. Isaiah 14:24

The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. Prov 16:9}

When I was in Martinsville, it was a tough situation that I really did want to literally quit. I was working in a facility with questionable practices and less than quality care. No sooner did I decide not to actually quit the job, but instead to quit scheming, quit controlling, or quit trying to even ‘make the right decision’ that the Lord gave me an out only a few days later. My contract was terminated!!! I bet there has never been a happier person to be terminated before ever ever! Even still, had I quit, I would have been required to work a full 2 weeks. Instead, I could set the terms of my departure and 3 days later I was gone. The Lord had provided me a job in California, one that I had turned down only 1 week prior because of my decision to stick it out in Martinsville. The job is with a friend of mine who is the rehab director at a skilled nursing facility and the job a temporary maternity leave coverage as a PT. My heart has loved being west and the Lord knew this, and HE laid the plans to head this way again. Even with my hesitations to drive that long and long and even longer road again on my own, his timing and will was undeniable. So I find myself here, reflecting on all these things and the goodness of my Father who loves me so much, and has laid my steps, and IS trustworthy and good.

{For the LORD God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The LORD will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right. Psalm 84:11

How much more will our Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him.  Matthew 7:11}

A quick word on my Scout:
What a hard and unnatural decision to put an animal to rest. After literally months of trying to find him a home, Scout began to show more deterioration than I was willing to admit. I wanted so desperately to find him a home and someone who could love him like I did, and just let him sleep, and eat, and wander. He wasn’t an affectionate dog, and I warmly called him my wolf since his domestic qualities were limited. Even when I was grieving the decision I had made, he walked somberly away from me. I couldn’t help but laugh at his indifference but also acknowledge his ignorance of what was going on. The Lord touched my heart with how similar his love for me is. Our sometimes coldness to our loving Father does not change His ever present, unconditional love to us. And He has our best interest at heart. I knew that no one would love Scout like I did, and I knew that he was uncomfortable and getting worse. But I will never not miss him, and will always be reminded of my Father’s love for me, through his memory. Oh man, he was such a weird dog, but he was mine.

Thank you all for praying and helping me through all these months and supporting me from home! Richmond will always be home for me, and you all are so dear and so special to me! I pray the Lord would bless and encourage you through His working in this rogue gypsy vessel that I am, and I’m so thankful for each of you. Love you all very much!

{Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. James 1:17

"Of old You founded the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands. "Even they will perish, but You endure; And all of them will wear out like a garment; Like clothing You will change them and they will be changed. "But You are the same, And Your years will not come to an end. Ps 102: 25-27}

Friday, December 6, 2013

Traveling is to life as a slide is to a swingset.

In the past 2 weeks I've had the sheer joy of leaving Cusco for adventures to the second deepest canyon in the world, the largest lake in South America, and one of the worlds seven wonders (again). I went to Machu Picchu for the second time with Mei, a dear friend from home, Lake Titicaca [for a brief entertaining geography lesson please click here: animaniacs ] and the Colca Canyon where we traversed to the bottom, with big ol' condors circling above, clearly monitoring our vital signs and hoping for our demise. But what beautiful, awe inspiring places! Even with a wide angle lens, I couldn't capture it. Breathtaking. [Side note: I realized however that word breathtaking is a literal translation of your pulmonary capacity when working so hard to get somewhere so beautiful]

Staying in hostels along the way, joining up with fellow adventurers, leads to one of my favorite parts of traveling- meeting people from all over the world. (Then of course friending them on facebook so i have somewhere to stay when i finally go to Spain, or Australia, or Dubai) One night, sitting at a hole in the wall 'Chifa' restaurant, the same questions were asked. "Where are you from" "How long have you been traveling" "Where have you been" "What has been your favorite so far". In comparison to the more romantic answers of people literally traveling the world, 11 months strong, from exotic places, their favorite has been riding elephants in Nepal, or climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, my answer always felt a little sheepish.

"I'm in Cusco, volunteering at a special education school and an orphanage. I'll be there for 4 months"

Much less romantic. In moments like those, I wish I had planned these few months differently, spending the money not on rent for a volunteer apartment, but rather for those nights going from cheap hostel to hostel, swapping stories of survival in the bush, swimming with dolphins, yoga retreats in India.

"Oh, that's good of you, Cusco is a nice city"


Well, not exactly, but that was more or less how I interpret those conversations.  Coming back after an exhausting trek, getting off an overnight bus at 4 am, getting back to my rented apartment I've been struck with this contrast. Traveling is to life as a slide is to a swingset. Living in Cusco is fun. There are different things to do, lots to see, lots to explore, but you end up in the same place. Travelers slide through, catch the highlights and move on to the next playground.

Living somewhere like this, so different from all I've known in my life, I've had no choice but to face the challenges that arise, the frustrations with work relationships or cultural issues. The questions asked by fellow volunteers aren't the romantic one either. Its more like "Hey, how are you feeling?" "Have you had diarrhea lately?" I haven't handled these past few months perfectly either. Hardly. I've taken time away, needing to heal, to process, to deal with so many mixed emotions, (the ups and downs of that swingset). Granted, I'm only here for 4 months! This is hardly the long term! But it has been enough to recognize the value of bunkering down, commitment, the long haul. Currently that's where my prayers are. Lord, where do you want me? I need a job as soon as I get home, I have bills that have piled up while being here, but I have that constant wanderlust that stops me from just picking a place and settling. If you are reading this, its probably because you're one of my favorite people. That being said I'm open for bribes...

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Machu Picchu, check.

Before I officially decided to come to Peru, I read a book a friend gave me called A Million Miles in A Thousand Years. Or Thousand Miles in a Million Minutes, or something like that.  In it, Donald Miller outlines his quest to train and accomplish this lifetime experience of visiting the ancient city of Machu Picchu, one of the new wonders of the world. Reading it and hearing his conclusion about such adventures, it was a strange confirmation for me. Yes. I'm going. This place is truly a marvel, a wonder, even a mystery still tucked away far in the heights of the Andes. Absolutely breathtaking. 

Before our trip, i became the semi-expert, looking up tours, and guides, and trying to figure how it could be done on our own, price checking, and reading blogs. It was fun planning! It made getting there finally more like a triumph than just a tourist trip. There are 3 ways to get there. The famous Incan trail, 2 or 4 days, but is usually booked really far in advance; the Salcantay trek which is a 5 day trek reaching an altitude of over 20,000 ft before descending 10,000 ft where Machu Picchu rests; and lastly the Inca jungle trek including more adventurous activities like biking, zip lining, and rafting. This last one was the trip my friends and I chose. I went with the volunteers from my program, and we made a lot of new friends on the way, from all over the world. Travel connections? Yes please.

Our first day was mountain biking from Abra Malaga downhill for 2.5 hrs. Thats a lot of downhill, we descended about 9,000 ft. Weeeeeeee!!!!!! It was a blast. I really loved it. By the end though we were all soaked though flying through the rain and clouds. Totally soaked. We got to a little town called Santa Maria next, and I was feeling surprisingly amazing. Lungs, what is this? Full breath of air? Ohhh we're only at 4,000 ft!! the lowest I've been in months. My rib still hurts, but not constantly finally. Coughing is the only time I remember, oh yeah. But that didn't slow me down! We played in the small town there with some kids, enamored with my frisbee. An 11 year old boy donned in Rastafarian gear who we dubbed "Marley" invited us to his bar luring us with cervezas and a pool table. He even popped behind the bar to serve us drinks. Oh Peru. 

Little creep.
The next day was our jungle trek from Santa Maria to Santa Theresa. 6 hours of hiking, about 14 miles through jungle, up and down cliff sides, through the original Incan trail. This is where I met my monkey friends. One of them was a brat and bit off the end of my camelback tube, little sneaky biting pickpocket. I met a little one named Mono Lisa too. She had a mustache. Other animals of significance we encountered on the way were the bugs. Mutant mosquitos that feasted on all our foreign blood. I did my best to keep sprayed and covered and escaped with only minor bites, but boy o boy I did not envy some of the other legs I was staring at during the hike. I was armed with bug spray, even for everyone else. I think the Frenchmen thought I was weird, asking if i could spray their legs because it was making me so uncomfortable, their legs were more like french corn cobs at the end of the trip. Side note though, those frenchmen were a marvel themselves. Smoking at every rest stop, I swear they chain smoked through 2 packs a day and still were in the front of the group, astonishing the rest of us with their pulmonary capacity. The other humbling sight was when I would be huffing and puffing on the side of a mountain, in the middle of the nowhere mind you, and encounter a seasoned Peruvian, easily double my age carrying a load of plants or something heavy, with enough breath to say a full greeting and I could barely mutter "Bien" (sarcastically of course). We had to cross the river (twice, which seems strangely redundant) and the grand finale of our hike was paying a local man 2 soles, about 75¢ to pull us across the river. Very efficient. 

After an 8 hour day, 21 km, we straggled into civilization, feasting our eyes on the famed Santa Theresa hot springs. I don't know if it was because I was so exhausted, or they were as amazing for the well-rested soul, but I was in heaven. Imagine Havasupai, minus the waterfalls, but plus about 40ยบ warmer. Clean, clear, warm water, i felt like a million bucks.

The next day was zip lining. Some will say once you've done one zip line, you've done them all. Well. I'd never zip lined. and it was so so fun. Flying high above a rain forest canopy, on one of the longest and fastest zip lines in South America, i mean.. i was elated. One of the guides even said I was a "natural" as I came in to his platform. If ever someone could be a natural at something so unnatural, i guess that's me. I loved it. The rest of the day was a lot of stairs, walking along the train tracks, double rainbows, and constantly on mosquito defense duty. 

But the next day. THE NEXT DAY. WAS. INCREDIBLE. if you've been there you know how daunted I feel right now to write about a full day exploring Machu Pichu. Oh mercy. From above it you can see it is arranged in sections, with perfectly fitting stones, the mystery enough to keep your imagination running wild. We had a 2 hr tour, but every guide was pretty much saying something different. I chose to draw my own conclusions, theory on its purpose (see below). We hiked Wayna Picchu mountain, the tall mountain spire you see on the post cards. and somehow there were ruins up there as well. (those Incans* were crazy.) That was a harrowing hike, more steep than any I've ever done. It is limited to only 400 people a day because of its dangers and incredibly narrow passages.

*Everytime i write the word Incan I cringe a little because I know better. The whole world is under the wrong impression that the people responsible for Machu Picchu, the Incan empire, etc are called Incans. Well, technically, there was ever only 14 true "Incans". Only one at a time- the king. The people of the empire were actually called Quechua (Keh-chu-ah). I've been continuing that falsehood because saying "those incans were crazy" somehow sounds better than "those quechuans were crazy" Sorry. Lo siento. 
The view from the Sun Gate, the mountain driectly opposite is Wayna Picchu. The city of Machu Picchu is that lighter patch on the left above the road.
Anyway, from there I hiked to the Sun Gate which is the opposite side of the city, matching altitudes to the Wayna Picchu mountain, making for a very long day. It was a beautiful view from there, farther off, it was the portal to the city via the Incan Trail. I stayed up there for about an hour, thinking, marveling, praying. God really met me too, encouraging me in the quiet, His voice for some reason easier to hear closer to the heavens. I snickered to myself a little looking at this wonder of the world, and yes it was incredible, but i lifted my eyes to those mountains, their majesty declaring the quiet strong presence of God. It took 8 million Quechua people over 100 years to build this city, and my God created everything else around it. It started to look incredibly small from this viewpoint.

Lego House. see.
My theory on Machu Picchu? It's very scientific. I believe that it undeniably is a part of the Incan Empire, the Incan trail running right through it and everything. But it was hardly a royal village, or a university. Please, come on. It's so obviously one of God's lego sets. He made the legos out of the rock, and then went to town. (bahaha, get it)

It was the trip of a lifetime, except that I'm probably going to go again while I'm here. Why not!?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Yo Soy Americana y Estoy 'Loyal'!

Technically speaking, I'm still in America. Apparently the Global Association of Whoever, otherwise known as "they" decided that its politically incorrect to introduce myself as an American. At least that's what my Spanish teacher tells me. But truly, I've never felt more American than now, being by far the minority though hopefully not in the stereotypical arrogant American way! I respect this culture and that Peruvians live the way they do, however I am not Peruvian. and that's ok! I can have cultural humility and yet love my homeland just as much as the Peruvian. In fact, this realization has led me to recognize this trait in myself, and put it in the spotlight for a second.

Loyalty is generally considered a positive characteristic. Although I am happy to say I am a loyal person, but, as my closest and dearest circle knows, its not always in my favor! Here adjusting to this new way of life, and missing my American conveniences, again it has struck close to my heart. I miss my family, i miss my friends, I miss frosted-mini-wheats, Dunkin Donuts, a steady paycheck, my bike. I miss San Diego beaches, and road signs in English. I miss Helvetica font on store fronts, and I miss one stop shopping at Target. And amazon prime. Boy, do i miss free 2 day shipping.

In some of the lower points during this adjustment process, I've come to elevate some of these conveniences to a place they don't belong. (I would pay big bucks for a donut) And this morning, the Lord has given me clarity and I'm happy to share this with my loyal readers. (Hi mom and dad) The Christian walk is similar to living in another country, choosing to leave the comfortable behind, not following the natural selfish man. And no loyalty to that way of life will do anyone any good. The Lord calls us to forsake mother and father, and to even hate them in comparison to our devotion to Christ. That is SUCH a hard word for someone like me. Someone who fiercely loves the people in her life, her everyday comforts and american cereals. How am I going to make it here in this new world? It was this question that made me recognize this issue of loyalty- and the desperate reality that I need to be loyal to the death [of everything else except] Jesus.

The psalmist David over and over proclaims that only God satisfies his heart, and God is the only one He seeks after, early in the morning, late in the night. His enemies, physical, spiritual, emotional, seek to overwhelm him and He cries out to the One who satisfies his heart. Oh that He would satisfy mine!! Is God enough? Of course! More than enough, but my wandering heart deceives me and those thoughts find me in my low moments and tell me no. Things would be better if only... this. Or I will be having an easier time when... that. Nope. False.

So Peru, here we are. and Lord, here you are. Never leaving or forsaking me. Equipping me with your power and none of my own. Because I've got nothing apart from Him- and He is enough!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Perros, Perils, and Prayers!

 I've been telling my friend Sarah, one of the other volunteers, that i am going to write a 'dog blog' about all the dogs in Cusco! Seriously! There are so many, different colors, sizes, shapes, breeds, and many that look even pure-bred. Where is the puppy farm? There has to be a factory somewhere just churning out these guys. And who knows who or if they belong to anyone, except the ones that clearly guard to the death their front doors and garages. I've seen enough dog on dog, then dog on child and then mom on dog violence to know that animal control isn't a big priority in Peru. 

Another non-priority in Peru is the utilization of dumpsters. Those large, metal, nearly dog proofed bins where human trash can be kept. Meaning on trash mornings, when the night before trash is piled in the streets, the dogs are in scavenging paradise, and those poor trash men have to collect the trash strewn about the entire neighborhood. Which brings me to the traffic patterns in the streets. There isn't one. In fact the only ticket I've seen issued to a driver was for stopping too long on the side of the road, therefore impeding the flow of unlimited speeding cars, with no regard to those dogs, children or pedestrians. They simply don't stop. Most of the traffic is taxis and I once foolishly wondered where do the taxis park when they are off duty? Silly me. They are never off duty. I've begun to recognize some of them by elvis dash board bobble heads, or Virgin Mary fuzzy dice on the rear view mirror. Pedestrians run for their lives. I laughed so hard at this sign, because its run or be run over here in Cusco. We went for a weekend trip and again these taxis are crazy. Please see the attached video for proof. I'm so glad I'm alive.

There have been tragedies also. Just this month 51 people were killed in a bus accident in southern Peru after the bus rolled off a winding mountain road. All on board killed. I'm making that particular trip next month. Prayers appreciated. Also while you're praying, I have had more than a few weeks of trying to recoop from a pain in my left rib cage, either a fracture or a costochondritis but it doesn't really matter because I'm supposed to rest and give it several more weeks. Just this weekend I re-injured it doing the oh-so-dangerous risky behavior of sneezing. I dislocated one of those imported ribs at the a costocartilage joint, and now those angry muscles are back with a vengeance. "How dare you sneeze without bracing yourself on something!" Owwww. Well that means I'm hanging out at home, taking some time to not lift children or do PT with them, but all the while trying to brace myself to lift heavy things like my laptop or coffee cup.

This trip has not been as expected. Oooh life, gets me every time. But who was I to assume that coming to Peru as a PT meant that I would actually do PT, or go to a Peruvian church (which i haven't yet) or eat guinea pig (no that one's ok to skip, no gracias.) But really, it hasn't been as expected. I have felt stretched on every side, culturally, linguistically, emotionally and physically. I'm at maybe 50% of my capacity to.. walk. forget biking. (Cusco is a mountain biker's paradise and even though my heart rate is back to normal and I'm not winded walking up steps at these 11,000 ft, I can hear my body laughing at me when I google Inca bike trails.)

So that leaves me here, in my home casa home, seeking the Lord, my heart choosing to praise him instead of question what kind of cruel trick was it that got me here? For though He slay me, yet will I trust Him, and as my mom wisely told me, a seeking heart will not be ignored.

Friday, October 4, 2013

another dia, another monopoly dollar.

I've become really fond of using spanglish. Its the lazy man's language really because you just say whatever comes to mind, whether may be the english or spanish palabra.. err.. word. See! I think it means I'm learning. Not to be confused with easy though, because its not. My brain is tired of trying and some days I just know I'll never get any better. My fluent roommate Chelsie says that progress is hard to track because one day you just realize "Hey, I understood most of that" and I'm really hoping I get there.

 Perdon, sorry to wake you, Cuanto cuesta por la bolsa?
So! what does life look like in Peru? Let me start with the driving. Everybody here takes taxis for the most part, and they are terrifying. The kind of ride where you definitely should wear a seatbelt, but there's no way you want to strap yourself down in case of emergency. Its getting easier to just trust that I'll make it to my destination *fingers crossed* alive. The money here is another conundrum, i still call it monopoly money. It just doesn't seem real yet. The conversion is definitely to my advantage, the US dollar carrying much further than the Peruvian sole. Making shopping more fun. Alpaca stuff in every shape and size, from head to toe, walls to rugs. and I wish you could feel it! Its so suave!! err... soft. Granted, without income, it still could easily add up quickly. The markets and street vendors have so many things for tourists! And I am a total sucker for souvenirs. Check out this vendor in the local artesian market... look closely. 

Never seen corn like this!
The food! I've spotted several displays that i recognize at first as a fried object in the shape of a rodent. Oh that's just chuy, or fried guinea pig to the less adapted human. They eat mostly carbs, lots of bread and I've never seen corn as big before! My host mom is a phenomenal cook and I have really enjoyed the food! All peruvian wine tends to be.. more like juice. Like the kind on sunday mornings you sip and look around and think "this is wine. no this is juice. no wine. no really old juice." But I'm so thankful that the host family makes all our meals and I've felt to welcomed and comfortable in their home.

I've been unfortunately sick these last few weeks here in cusco, and Rosanna and Lucho kindly took me to a local clinic which brings me to the health care system. There's a national health care system in place, decentralized with lots of confusing players. (sound familiar?) Anyway I had the pleasure of going to a clinic here, San Juan de Dios, and paying $13 for a consult, $18 for a chest xray, and about $23 for the medicines to treat a potential pneumonia. Which brings up another interesting aspect of this culture - bargaining. Next to nothing here has a price tag on it, you have to ask and then name a price and then so do they and back and forth until somebody says ok. They haggle for everything. Even my chest x-ray!! which ultimately I had done in the basement of this obscure building next door to a nail salon, so needless to say I was thrilled that Rosanna (host mom) offered to take me.

The weather, we're in the rainy season now which means random showers, sometimes strong, sometimes drizzling. But RAINBOWS galore! its been a beautiful sight to catch frequently here, but i hope I never get used to it!
There are many more things to keep you updated about, but I'm going to write more later about the school and the orphanage I work with. I've taken this week off to recoop from this frustrating illness, feeling weak though grateful for the continued prayers! And if anyone wants any specific Peruvian handicraft or souvenir, I'm happy to go shopping for you! Keep in touch!!