Adventures in Peru - What I Did for Thanksgiving Vacation
By Vic Hanson
When I was a student, all the way through high school, I hated English class. I didn't do well in spelling, grammar, speech or writing. I gave a speech once on why I shouldn't have to give a speech (I think I got a "D" on it). I did like literature because I loved to read, but hated writing the book reports. If someone would have told me then that someday I would be teaching, preaching, writing reports and stories, as well as thinking about writing a book, I would never have believed them. Now I am not only doing these things but also actually enjoying them. Even more surprising is that some people say they enjoy reading what I write! And thank God for computers and spell checkers, which have been a big factor in this.
First of all I want to say thanks to God for allowing me to be here in Peru. The first four months or so here in Peru were very difficult emotionally. Now I am beginning to realize how hard it is going to be to leave here in two months! Lord willing, I plan on returning, which makes it a lot easier.
So what DID I do for Thanksgiving anyway you may be asking by now. My friend Morayma, and three of her friends, who are all studying tourism, wanted to see the tourist sights, meet the people and learn about the culture here in Cotahuasi and surrounding villages. We visited many of the sights that Cotahuasi Canyon is famous for, including the Rock Forest "Huito", ancient ruins of Callac and Maucallacta, the waterfalls of Sipia and Uskuni, thermal baths at Luicho, as well as the villages of Puica, Pampamarca, Alca, and Charcana. We also talked with the mayors in each of these villages and the girls asked them many questions about the people, customs, tourist attractions and problems. Each mayor said the big problems are alcoholism, domestic violence and government subsidies.
The first two problems I see or hear about almost every day and were nothing new, but I was surprised to hear them mention the subsidies. Why are they a problem? The children get free breakfast and lunch in the schools, as well as free health care. The mothers get free health care and food for their babies. There are also various non-government organizations that provide various services and meet some needs. We as missionaries are besieged with requests to help meet financial and material needs wherever we go, which we sometimes provide. As a result of all these good intentions and acts, many of the people have began to expect these "helps" as their "rights" and have become lazy. They don't need to work to care for their family so they work just enough to get by or to buy as much alcohol as they want. If the husband isn't home drunk and abusing his family, the wife is just as likely to be doing it. Almost no one produces more than 'just enough' for their own needs.
Transportation of products to market is difficult but is becoming easier every day with new roads being built. There needs to be a change in the hearts and minds of the people to bring about a change in their lives. We were able to visit with Isedoro and his family in Suni, where we received a warm welcome as usual. The girls were playing with the kids and working in the kitchen with his wife Monica, shelling dry habas (like a lima bean) by walking on them on the dirt floor, and then roasting them and maiz (corn) over a wood fire. I had briefly shared with them how Isedoro had once been an alcoholic and used to beat his wife. After accepting Christ he has changed totally. He is now leading the church in Suni, studying the Bible and leadership training, and helping with the ministry in Chulca, Cushpa and other villages above Suni. He and his family are a beautiful testimony to the power of God to change lives.
Many of the villages have just recently received, and more will soon receive, electricity. This would seem to make it much easier to spread the gospel, as now they have lights and it is much easier to have Bible studies and church services at night. But most of the larger villages also provide a rebroadcast of satellite TV so now the people spend their spare time watching TV. If not in their homes, then standing in front of the open doors of stores, watching the TV inside. On Thursday we drove to the end of the "under construction" road to Charcana. We had been told that is was only a half hour's walk from there to Charcana. After parking the car at the construction camp, climbing across a rock slide from the blasting and realizing that we had much more than a 30 minute walk, we were met by a young man with burros. He said that he had been sent to meet a group and wondered if it was us. We said we didn't know but Evelyn, Roseangela and some of the backpacks got to ride, which went well except for Roseangela getting dumped once when her burro decided to sit down.
About 20 minutes from Charcana I got really cold so put on my jacket, which helped as long as we were walking. When we arrived in Charcana (after a two hour walk!), we checked into our rooms at the hostel and I started to shiver from the cold. The rest said they weren't cold so I realized that it was just me. I put on two more jackets, got in bed in my sleeping bag, covered up with blankets, and drank two cups of hot tea before I finally stopped shivering. I felt OK then but stayed in bed while the women prepared Thanksgiving dinner, chicken noodle soup with tuna, which we ate along with a couple of pieces of dry bread. Probably a good thing that there wasn't any pecan pie as I spent the night back and forth to the bathroom with diarrhea. Needless to say, I had to skip the four hour hike up to see the cave paintings and stone arch above Charcana on Friday.
Morayma graciously insisted on staying with me to make sure I was OK so she didn't get to go either. The others hired a guide and horses to take them up the steep mountain trail. Unfortunately, when they left at 5:00 am, they forgot to get the camera from Morayma so they didn't get any pictures. Poor Roseangela, riding a horse this time, she took a header when the horse made a quick stop. I had also hoped to visit with Maritza, whom I had transported back to Cotahuasi with Dr. Ana, almost two years before, to get treatment for a broken leg. She was a victim of abuse by her husband, when they were both drunk, he pushed her and she fell into a hole, receiving compound fractures. She was working out in the field this time so unfortunately I didn't get to visit with her. It wasn't a traditional Thanksgiving for me but I'm thankful for the good time we had and that by Saturday I was feeling fine and able to hike back to the car.
Vic Hanson is the founder of Adventure Cotahuasi Tours, which offers pre-planned and custom adventure travel tours in Cotahuasi Canyon and other areas of Peru.
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