jueves, 17 de julio de 2014

One night, a few days after being in Arequipa, I was talking with some chicos in the park right outside my house. I asked one of them what he recommended that I do in Arequipa. His immediate reply was "enamorarte" or "fall in love."
I laughed. Definitely not part of the plan, I thought to myself. After all, who wants to fall in love with someone they'll be leaving in 4 months?

But without trying I followed his advice. Slowly but surely I have fallen in love - not with a man, but with a people, a culture, a country. They've captured my heart - my friends, my family, just Peru.

I went to a discoteca tonight. Amidst the dancing, laughing, smiling, i gave my friend Emily a quick hug (which happens alot..:) ), but as i let her go, i caught her eyes and realized they were full of tears. We gripped each other again, and as I stood there, feeling her body shake, I asked myself, "How am I leaving this? How."
It's in moments like these that it starts to hit me. Because to be honest...I've kind of been living never really believing it would happen. Sure, in my head I know..but I don't think it's in me yet -the truth that I'll be leaving this world.

I've been feeling pretty much every emotion there is to feel lately. I didn't want to write this post earlier really cuz I didn't really know how I felt. This past week, I felt alot more ready to be coming home than I thought I would be. I miss my family like crazy, especially with Christmas time, and I can't wait to tell all of my friends about everything.
But at the same time, I don't want to say goodbye.

I don't really know what to say honestly.
I guess it's because I don't really know what I'm feeling. Mixed up.
Nervous, Excited, Sad.
But I know one thing that I am -- thankful. So thankful. I didn't do anything to deserve this amazing experience this semester, but it has been truly incredible. I'm blown away by the love and friendships that people have shown me here, and the ways that God has abundantly blessed my time.

Wow. All glory to Him, because it is His world, and His creation. He's give us the ability to Love and form relationships, to enjoy the beauty of his creation, the creativity found within different cultures and peoples

I guess I was right at the beginning of the semester -- falling in love would be hard, because I'd have to leave.

But I've learned this semester that it's worth it. It's worth it to let yourself love and give of yourself, even though it's gonna hurt. It's what makes life rich and beautiful.

I can't wait to share with you. I know it will be impossible to share it all... to show you what this world is like..but please don't let that stop you from asking.

domingo, 24 de noviembre de 2013

Well, we have less than three weeks left. Life has been pretty crazy busy as I'm trying to fit in so many things and keep on top of homework, which, as always at the end of the semester, has been piling up. It's become a game of priorities - what's most important to do before I leave?
One thing that I know I won't push aside these last weeks is my time volunteering at the hospital.

For some reason, when Thursday rolls around every week, I find myself absolutely exhausted, just wanting to take a nice afternoon siesta. But instead, every week I leave the house, walk over to la Clinica San Juan de Dios, a nearby hospital, and head up to second floor.  This floor is for kids - who spend anywhere from a few weeks to years in the hospital.
As I round the corner of a big common area I'm greeted by, "Senorita!" "Anita!"
I make the rounds to wheelchairs, beds, tables, to greet and kiss them all. Then I sit down to chat or play, teach them some English words, or our favorite - play card games. My friend Joe from Calvin comes as well, and we have a blast playing chicas vs chicos en UNO.

For those of you who know me well, you know I hate singing Christmas carols before Thanksgiving, but last week I broke my rule as the kids wanted to learn Jingle Bells in english. It's pretty adorable to hear them sound out the the english words in their peruvian accents. Next, we took at turn learning some Spanish songs such as Noche de Paz (Silent Night). And of course, we all had to sing the song that crosses both cultures - Feliz Navidad.

What impresses me most about my time every Thursday is the Joy that each of the dear children has. Many of them have lived here for months or years. The majority can't walk.  Some stay in a wheelchair or bed all day. Yet they don't feel sorry for themselves. They laugh, look out for eachother, and welcome you with open arms. It's also been so beautiful to see them progress. One little boy named Wilbur has been in the hospital for about two months, and each day he sat in his bed, which for a 9 year old has got to be one of the hardest things there is. But a couple weeks ago, I was elated to see him slowly, using a walker, make his way out of his hospital room with a proud smile on his face. (There's a short video clip i at the bottom of this post so you can meet him:))
These kids bless me more than you imagine. I originally went to be a blessing to them, but they are the ones that bless me. Their joy and smiles brighten my day, and every thursday, instead of leaving tired I leave refreshed and more joyful.
UNO! we get reallly competitive.

This little girl has never walked in her life, but she is so sweet and happy. Her Dad takes such good care of her as well. They asked me to take a picture and give it to them. I doubt they even have a camera, so it was pretty special to be able to give them a picture of them together. 
Yulitza. She's 9 years old and has been in the hospital for about a month now for her foot. We adore eachother :) 


lunes, 11 de noviembre de 2013

La vida es bonita.

"La vida es un desafío." "Life is hard."
"Si, pero es bonita tambien."  "Yes, but it's beautiful too."
"Si, es momentos como estos que yo se esto." "Yes, it's in moments like these that I know that."

It's 4am in the morning. I'm sitting on coast of Peru, on the beach, gazing at the waves rolling in from the Pacific Ocean. Our beach fire has burned low; only coals remain. I'm snuggled under a blanket with several other friends. The others - some peruvians, some americans, are strewn around the fire in the sand. I hear the gentle sound of Spanish, occasional laughter.
Our evening has been magical. We arrived at the beach at midnight. We pitched a couple of "carpas" - mini tents that will fit a few people. Most will just sleep on the sand. We waded in the ocean, played music, dashed along the beach, made dog piles on the sand, raced on piggy back, built a fire, laughed, talked, listened.

My friend Yocely sits on my left, her head leaned against my shoulder, my head on hers. Our hands are intertwined. We've been talking.
"Anna, tienes que regresar a Peru." "Anna, you have to come back to Peru."

"Yo se" "I know" I think to myself.

"Anna, sabes que cuando no estamos juntos, siempre estoy pensando en ti." "Anna, you know that when we're not together, I'm always thinking of you."
"Porque no quedas más tiempo en Peru?" "Why aren't you going to stay for more time in Peru?"

"Es caro, y tengo que visitar mi familia y amigos." "It's expensive, and I have to visit my family and friends."

"Pero, nosotros somos un parte de tu vida tan corta. Siempre vas a tener tu familia y amigos. Pero nosotros solo vamos a estar juntos este tiempo corto." "But, we're a short part of your life. You'll always have your family and friends, but we will only be together this short time."

In the darkness tears spring to my eyes. I know it's true. Normally when people start to talk about how much time is left here in Peru, I block it out. I don't want to talk or think about it.
We continue talking, but slowly our conversation fades, and I know she's fallen asleep. Her brother, who's sitting on her other side, gets up, finds a sleeping bag and covers her up. Her feet peek out the end, so he buries them in sand.
He asks if I'm cold, if I need anything. No gracias, I respond.
I and a few others stay awake a bit longer to watch the sun rise. The gray sky slowly lightens.
It's time to sleep. I untwine my fingers from Yocely's. My fingers have fallen asleep.
I roll over and I pull the sleeping bag above my head.
Yocely's brother leans over and tucks in our sleeping bag, making sure no cold can enter. "Tienes frio? Necesitas ma's?" "Are you cold? Do you need anything more?" He asks.
No, gracias, I respond.
Another friend calls over, "Hannah, Anna, estan bien? Tienen frio?" "Are you guys ok? Are you cold?"
"Estoy bien," "I'm good!" I respond.
Once again tears fill my eyes. These people. This culture. It's so beautiful. They're so caring, so loving.

It's hard to think about leaving. To be honest, I had to stop writing this journal entry because I began crying so hard.
It may seem a bit over-dramatized to you back home. Maybe it is. I'm really tired.

But at the same time. It's real. It's a whole other world here... so different, difficult at times, but so beautiful. And it's a world that I'll be leaving in less than a month.

Yocely was right. Life is hard. But it's beautiful. Sometimes the more beautiful it is, the harder it is. But it's so worth every bit of it.

Today's post was a bit different. No new amazing toruisty events. or stunning new photos. But a snapshot at what is happening in my heart these days.

lunes, 28 de octubre de 2013

Travel week!

Well, it's been quite a while since my last post...So much to catch up on! First off, our "semana libre" - our free week to travel. 
I, along with six other wonderful friends, hopped on a bus and headed off to the coast. Our first stop was Paracas, a small touristy town where where we visited Las Islas (Islands) Ballestas, often termed "Poor Man's Galapagos," as well as the National Reserve of Paracas.
Rather than describe everything (which would be impossible), check out a few pics of our time:)

Some of the many sea lions we saw in our tour of the Islas Ballestas. 

Chillin with the pelicans. 

In the Paracas National Reserve. The desert leads right up to the Pacific Ocean. The color contrast is breathtaking!
One of the three red beaches in the world - the others are in Hawaii and Greece. 

Our next stop was Huachachina, a small lagoon located in the desert. There we did sand-boarding and sand-buggying! My mental image of "sand-buggying" was a sort of "leisurely, sight-seeing" type of ride through the desert. But the second I fastened my seatbelt, I realized that I was in for much more. Our driver stepped on the gas and were off with a jolt, whipping through the dunes. He would speed up to the top of a dune, pause for a moment, then go zooming down the other side - all in all creating a giant, sandy roller-coaster effect - complete with screams of 6 American girls (hopefully the German couple and French man weren't too annoyed;)). 
That night, at about midnight, a few of us and some of our new friends (from Sweden, France,  Australia, Canada, and England), decided to climb a mountainous dune that loomed behind the lagoon. So. much. work. Since we were all representing different countries, it somehow turned into an Olympic competition. I believe Sweden got gold, U.S. silver, Philippines bronze, and...well France, Canada, and Australia didn't make it. We all had a good rest at the top, staring at the stars..and at the lights below.  
Huacachina! On the left is our sand-buggying thriller ride. :) The dune behind the lagoon is the one we climbed that night. 

Our next stop was Nazca, where we got to see the famous Nazca lines! For those who don't know what these are: Discovered in the 1900s, they are giant figures engraved into the earth probably by the ancient Nazca people. The mystery about them is that they can only be seen in their entirety from the air, because they are so big. Thus the Nazca people never truly saw these figures to their full extent. Some think that they were created to be seen by the gods. It has even been speculated that they were created by aliens. Some of the straight lines run up to 30 miles, while the "images" range from 50 to 1200 feet in length.
To be honest, I was a bit hesitant about seeing this part of the trip- as I was warned that in the tiny planes 1) nearly everyone throws up and 2) that you might not even survive, like the disproportionately "high" number of unlucky tourists that have crashed in past years.
However, I couldn't come to Peru without seeing these famous images...so I popped a anti-nausea pill in my mouth, sent a prayer up for no crashes, and off I went!
Definitely worth it. I didn't throw up (altho i looked it and felt it by the end) and the pilots landed us smoothly and safely on good old earth.

my little camera didn't pick it up too well..but here's one of the figures, the "hummingbird"

Each and every day of this trip was a testimony to how creative our Creator is. Peru is a place of incredible variety - the driest desert in the world, miles of beautiful beach, immense mountains, dramatic canyons, mountain lakes, the Amazon jungle. Amazing.

Honestly though, if you were to ask me what the favorite part of this week was...my mind can't help but to jump to a night that was simply spent in a hostel. It highlights one of the reasons this week was so wonderful - the people.
For the three nights in Paracas, we stayed in a sweet hostel on the beach named Kokopelli (For those who don't know - a hostel is like a hotel, without private rooms. We stayed in a room with 14 bunks..reminded me of being at camp!)

We got to be great friends with the Peruvians who worked there, as well as the other backpackers. We were actually only supposed to stay two days, but we grew so attached to our dear little hostel that I, Megan, Hannah, and Carmen decided to stay an extra night. Best decision ever. We had a big party - with people from Holland, England, Germany, Peru, and Colombia. We spent the night with music, laughter, dancing, games, and  lively discussions. It was really interesting (and entertaining) to see the stark contrast between the cultures represented...the Peruvians were extremely friendly and fun, always ready for another dance. On the other spectrum were the Germans who, at the start of the night, sat reserved, discussing the latest poltics over beers. (By the end of the night - they had definitely come out of their shell - with a little help :) ). It really made me think back to when I first came to Peru...I probably was a bit more like these Europeans...a bit surprised by the "forwardness" of the Peruvians...hesitant to dance. But I've learned so much and grown comfortable in the culture here.
To finish off the wonderful night, a bunch of us took blankets and "poofs" (aka bean bags) out to the beach to watch the shooting stars.
“A journey is best measured in friends rather than miles” 

This is turning out long...and homework is calling my name. We're headed off to Machu Picchu this Wednesday. I remember looking at this date at the beginning of the semester..and it seemed so far away. It's hard to believe we've come this far. It's bittersweet - we've learned and experienced so many wonderful things...but at the same time it means that our time here is slipping away. I only hope I can cherish these last couple months.
Love to you all back home. It's strange how I can be so happy here, but at the same time miss you all so much. 

viernes, 4 de octubre de 2013

From studies to Salsa to basketball - life in Arequipa.

Ooftah. What a week. Midterm exams and papers have been hitting us hard these past few days -but we are finally done and ready for a week-long break!
I know I've updated a lot on some of the "big things" we've been doing - like excursions, etc. But I thought i'd fill you in on some of my life here in Arequipa.
We've had a great time making friends from school. Every weekend, we always seem to congregate and find something fun to do -whether it's dancing in a discoteca, visiting a mall, playing cards, making pisco sour (famous Peruvian drink) in someone's house, attempting to learn Salsa, and/or trying out yet another of Arequipa's delicious restaurants. :)
A few of us from the group have had a long-lasting desire to learn Salsa, so last weekend, some of our Peruvian friends invited us over to learn and then go to a Salsoteca. Although it was GREAT fun, I must say I don't think Salsa will ever be my thing. Here's what I recorded that night:
"well. i guess its official. white girls just don't dance. at least not me. and at least not salsa. and at least not anything that involves hips.
So tonight....there was this guy at the salsoteca who took it upon himself to aid me in my humble attempts at dancing. He tried to tell me to move my hips, to move my whole body, to move my feet, to watch him demonstrate...all in vain. He would tell me to do something, I'd give an awkward attempt, and he would just double over laughing...
goodness. so embarrassing. He managed to pull a bit of English from his vocabulary to tell me: "You dance funny." Thanks man.
"You try to move here (points to hips) and here (points to butt)."
I tried.
But at this point I looked sooo absolutely ridiculous trying to move every muscle in my body, that my American friend BURST out laughing at me..and informed me that I was not improving at all..in fact getting worse.
I eventually decided to ignore him and just do my thing. A few minutes later, as I was minding my own business he called out to me.. "I'm going to watch you dance...dance!"
To which i thought..."excuse me, dude, this IS my dance."


at the end of the night, i did manage to get one compliment out of him. He said, "The favorite part about your dancing is your facial expressions."
well. at least i got that."

Classes, classes, classes. Yes! we actually DO study here. Quite a bit. I'm taking: Hispanic History and Literature, Spanish Grammar, Peruvian Culture, and "Artes Plasticas."
All the above, with the exception of the art class, are with just Calvin students - with either Peruvian professors or our Professor Bierling from Calvin.  If you want more info on the studious part of my life, you really should check out our latest group blog post (http://adventure-in-peru.blogspot.com/). My friend Hannah describes it quite well. :) Our History class is definitely the stickler of them all. I've been working this week on a project on the expansion of the Christian Kingdoms in Espana during the time of the Reconquista. It was a struggle, but 9 pages later, I couldn't help but feel a bit surprised and accomplished that I had managed to even discuss such a subject in Spanish. :)

ALSO! I've been meaning to write about this for a long time...but I joined the San Pablo's basketball team! It has been quite the experience - and I've learned that even basketball is affected by culture. :)

I found the coach one day and told him that I was interested in playing. He informed me that the team was going to meet up "sometime tomorrow morning" and that he'd give me a call. Well, the call didn't arrive til the next morning, and I missed it due to the fact that I was getting ready for church (oh yes, did I mention this is Sunday morning?). But he managed to get ahold of me a bit later, and asked, "Are you ready to go in five minutes? I'll pick you up in five minutes." I flew about the room, exchanging my church clothes for shorts and a t-shirt, said chou to my family, and dashed away to basquet!

In general, some things that are different about basketball here:
1) You don't need to be on time.. because if you are, you will be early.
2) When you arrive, you greet everyone with a kiss, including the coach.
3) My coach's name is Jesús. I still get a kick out of the fact that I get missed calls and texts from "Jesus."
4) When you mess up, you have to do push-ups. (ok, this probs isn't just a Peru thing...it's just new for me.)
5) The most interesting difference is the focus on the non-physical side of basketball. There's a huge emphasis on attitude, relationships, and the psychology of basketball. We've spent a significant amount of "practice time" in a classroom. One of the days, every one had to stand up in front of the class and talk about ways the team needed to improve (yep, that's when everyone found out how REALLY bad I am at Spanish). The next day, we did the same thing - except evaluating ourselves individually-  physically, technically, and psychologically. We talk about self-confidence, attitude, commitment, relationships, our diet - anything and everything beyond how to shoot a lay-up! :)
6) the sad thing is that my team actually ended this past week... a bunch of girls ended up having to quit the team due to illness and other commitments, and there just weren't enough of us. :( The good news is that some of the girls invited me to join their other team...which I'll be starting after this week!.

Well. Enough for now. Next week is our "free week" to travel, and I and some friends will be heading off to Paracas, a coastal town with some islands often referred to as "The Poor Man's Galapagos." I'm sure I'll have some pictures to share when I get back!

miércoles, 25 de septiembre de 2013

Life is Beautiful.

"There are floating islands on the planet; it amazes me." ~Annie Dillard. 
A few years ago, I read about floating islands. They really intrigued me...they seemed so exotic, so far off in the world, fascinating. I remember thinking how much I would love to see these islands, but never dreamed that I actually would.
But this weekend, I had the incredible opportunity to visit Los Uros - floating islands made by and inhabited by an indigenous people

Our group went on an excursion to Lady Titicaca, a huge lake (3232 square miles) high up in the mountains. (Elevation 12,500 feet). On Saturday, a beautiful sunny and breezy day, we took a boat ride out to visit "Los Uros" - these islands made of reeds called "tutoro."  We anchored next to the island and hopped on the "land." There were families on the islands - a mother holding a baby, children running around, playing. The "jefe" (chief) showed us how they make the islands (see pic) and spoke to us in Quechua (their native language). He and his four wives(!) and children live on the islands. Turns out, not only do the reeds serve as their home, but also as food..we all gave it a try! not bad tasting..for reeds. 

Mini model of the island!
Shot of the island from a little "canoe" made of reeds we went on. 

Yum. You peel it like a banana.
After visiting these islands, we also went to the Island of Taquile (this one isn't floating!). The people that live here are famous for their textiles and knitting. It's interesting that it's not the women that knit, but the men and boys, starting at age 8.  We had a beautiful hike through the island, learned a bit about the people (such as the significance  of their different clothing and hats) and bought some of the their goods. 
I couldn't help but feel that somehow it all wasn't real - that the people were actors. But it was real. What a creative Creator we have.
There's so much more to tell, but I guess this will have to do. All in all, it was an absolutely amazing weekend. I am so blessed to have these experiences. There is just so much creativity and beauty in this world - in nature, in these indigenous people, in new friendships. I guess today's post is a bit shorter...but with more pictures - I think that's the best way to give you a glimpse into this time.  

Some of my dear Peruvian friends who came with us!

ALSO! Here's my address: i would absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE ;) to hear from you..and thanks to those who've already written!
Anna Drechsel
Universidad Católica San Pablo
(Programa Calvin College)
Urbanización Campiña Paisajista
Quinta Vivanco s/n, Barrio San Lázaro
To finish off this post, here is what I wrote in my journal last night.
Truth is.. :) 

truth is. I love being called "Anita."
truth is. i love how my Peruvian padre winks at me with his mischievous grin.

truth is. i absolutely adore the kids at the hospital.
truth is. i love it when they call out "Anita!" and "Senorita!" and grab my hand so that i don't leave.
"Sometimes, there's so much beauty in the
world I fe
el like I can't take it,
 like my heart is just going to cave in."
truth is. i find it amusing that they don't believe my hair color is actually real.
truth is. i love eating an apple, pear, banana, kiwi, and mango. all in one day.
truth is. i love the feeling after a good basquet practice.
truth is. i love that all the ads on my computer are in Spanish.
truth is. i love food here.
truth is. i really like eating alpaca.(sorry Heidi)
truth is. my family finds it amusing how i like rice (aka how much i eat of it)
truth is. i went inside an inca tomb the other day.
truth is. i sometimes still forget to bring toilet paper into the stall with me.
truth is. i love being called "anni"
truth is. homesickness isn't just an emotion. it's a physical feeling.
truth is. i really love writing.
truth is. God is Amazing.
truth is. this world is incredible.
truth is. i love it that mi madre never sends me a text with out the words, "brazos" o "besos"
truth is. I am Blessed.

sábado, 14 de septiembre de 2013

Well I guess it took a bit longer than I thought to get around to writing another post. Life has definitely picked up pace a bit...classes are getting a bit harder...I've joined new activities.
 But Life is Good. 

And it's been over a month. I  honestly can't even believe it. Yet when I think back over how much I've gained and grown over these past weeks, it is incredible. 
This city of Arequipa and my Peruvian house used to be a strange new world. Now it is home - for now. And I love it. It's hard to describe, but I feel as if I've settled, I'm comfortable, and I'm really content with where I am. Not that I don't miss my home in Minnesota or wish I could enjoy the beginning of the school year at Calvin. But I absolutely LOVE my life here and want to cherish these four months that are already starting to slip by. It's also a wonderful feeling to feel that one is growing and changing and learning. And I feel that way here.  So many rich experiences, new friendships, and times of reflecting are slowing helping me to grow - both as a person and in my studies. And for this I am SO grateful.
 Not that life is without struggles! I had a typical blonde-Anna moment the other day...
"tonight i called a taxi. it arrived 20 minutes early, so i ran all over my room and the house grabbing everything i needed, ran down three flights of stairs. realized after a minute of digging/emptying my purse (in front of the taxi driver) that i didn't have money. ran back up three flights of stairs (past my family), grabbed money, and flew back down. as we were driving i realized that i only had 50 soles. aaand the driver didn't have change. so. we drove all around asking people if they had change for a 50. no one did..until we finally went to a gas station.
after this we managed to have a 2 sentence conversation about how bad the traffic was, then sat in awkward silence until we arrived.
and my driver is officially convinced that everything they say about dumb blonde gringas is true."

You definitely need a good sense of humor to survive in another culture;)

Anyways. I mentioned last time something about our excursion to Colca Canyon -- it was, simply put, absolutely wonderful. The beauty that we saw was absolutely awe-inspiring.  We spent the weekend in a village near Colca Canyon - the second deepest canyon in the world. We hiked around the village, looked at ancient terraces, hiked along the canyon. One of the highlights of our time was having a time of worship while perched on a peak overlooking the canyon - it's truly amazing to be able to sing praise to the One who created the gorges, cliffs, rivers, and mountains sprawled before you. 
This location is also  famous for condors, and we were so excited to spot quite a few of these giant birds!  As much as I love the city of Arequipa, I love getting away into these more rural areas - where the people live simple lives, dress traditionally, and speak Quechua. We tried some of the local food - including Alpaca! The people here are also known for growing "Colca leaves" (yes, the same plant from which cocaine is made!) which we drank in tea to help avoid altitude sickness.
A view of rural Peru! 

To give you a little more of a glimpse into my world, here are some random facts...

1) Food. is amazing. Lunch or "almuerzo" is the big meal here...not dinner. I come home from school every day to a feast, usually featuring a soup, followed by the main dish - which is often rice  (yay!) and/or potatoes, with a kind of meat. Yum. Breakfast is a bit different here too.. bread with ham and cheese or papaya jam - in addition to yogurt and fresh fruit, my favorite. 

2) Traffic here. is crazy. There's no such thing as "pedestrian right of way." Stop signs might as well be potted plants...they mean nothing. Lanes are suggestions. Blinkers are optional. I still remember being petrified the first day I walked to school here...for the first few weeks, I would pick someone to follow across all the busy streets, and become their shadow, staying always close at their heels. Haha. But I'm happy to say  that I am now quite competent in making my way through the city :)
3) Toilet paper in public restrooms is outside the stalls..not in them. (Yep, that's always fun when you forget).  Also, you can't throw toilet paper in the toilet (believe it or not...that is a VERY hard habit to break). 

4) Women's jeans here don't have pockets in the back.
5) ALL your clothes are ironed (Yep, underwear included).
6) I kiss ALL the time! It's customary for women to kiss (on the cheek!) both men and women when they greet someone, meet someone, or leave someone..aka all the time;)

There's so much more to tell - about joining the University's basketball team(!), becoming friends with kids in the hospital, my classes. But I guess those will have to wait til next time!