We have had an interesting week that started off quiet and finished with a bang. On Wednesday night we took our first trip together to the church’s nearby temple here in Lima. It was all in Spanish with no English helps. It was a good thing that we are really comfortable there and knew what was happening.
Thursday was particularly interesting. It started in the morning with a trip to Interpol. No we haven’t been finally caught. It was the beginning of a very long process to get our Peruvian residency visas. You start off in a line to get a number, then wait to go into another line to get your teeth checked. An official (not a dentist) holds a household torch and asks you to open your mouth and stick your tongue in different directions. He then writes by hand on a paper card with a map of teeth. We gather this is for identification if only your teeth are left after some disaster. Then you wait to go into another line where another official copies by hand a form you hand him with your details on it. After signing in front of him you get your fingerprints taken - all ten pressed in ink and put on the paper you just signed. At that point we discovered that Australians need double the identification (and five times the cost) than our American friends, apparently because the AFP also does their own check in Australia. We were very grateful for the help of a young church employee who has done this many times though he thought Australians were funny.
Around Thursday lunch time we noticed a distinct lack of traffic past the office apart from busses of heavily armed Lima police, some in riot gear. About fifty lined up across the road outside a house. This wasn't a big house, expensive house, or anything spectacular. Apparently people had been squatting there for forty years and the owners wanted them out, but they didn’t want to go. Then a squad of 25 people turned up and removed all their belongings whilst police watched on. So…make sure you pay your rent in Lima!
This would have been a simple amusement, except that Elder David Bednar (one of the Twelve Apostles of the Church) was due to visit the area office that afternoon. A quick phone call from our office to his security detail was in order, just to forewarn them that there were massive traffic jams and road blocks around the office, let alone the riot police. However, we were able to enjoy a wonderful devotional for the office staff and missionaries by Elder and Sister Bednar. They carry a special spirit with them.
From the sublime to the ridiculous…that evening together with other senior missionaries we went to the circus in downtown Lima. Now, it sounds like we party all the time, but this actually was a service project. The circus is owned by a good family in our local congregation at church. There were some difficulties early on where the authorities made life difficult for him. This affected his attendance dramatically. In an effort to support him and his family off we went to the circus. It wasn't quite on the level of Cirque de Soleil but enjoyable nevertheless, despite negotiating the continual moving car park that is Lima traffic for an hour. Craig particularly enjoyed watching the clowns (who were very good - including the owner - it will be difficult sitting next to him in church next week without laughing) take “volunteers” out of the audience. For those of you who don’t know Craig has deep seated PTSD issues from his experience at a circus with clowns. This is an event that the family continues to find amusing. One of the first Spanish phrases he learned was “no me gustan los payasos” (I don’t like clowns).
The big bang of the week came on Friday afternoon in the form of our first (apparently of many) earthquake experiences. A loud bang was followed by vigorous shaking of the building for about five seconds. We were on our way out to the emergency gathering point as it stopped. The more experienced amongst us smiled and turned around and went back to work. Evidently it happens often enough to not be unusual but taken seriously none the less. Lima has had big earthquakes in the past.
To finish the week we headed to the beach on our day off. Saturday is our preparation day. Together with a few other senior missionary couples we again braved the traffic, this time with a crazy Colombian driver (the president of the MTC). We went to the Peruvian Maritime Museum and an old fort with canons (built to keep out the Chileans in their wars in the 1800’s). We found a great seafood restaurant for lunch by the Marina. We noticed all the warning signs about where to run in the even of tsunamis in light of Friday’s experience.
We drove down the coast and watched a “monk” (ie hombre loco - crazy man) dive from a high cliff in a traditional reenactment of their local Romeo and Juliet. Puns were flying thick and fast including that he was “jumping out of the flying pan into the friar” and that his dive technique was particularly good with a “friar tuck”. Craig has had a really bad influence on everyone else here. We stopped right on the edge of the Pacific Ocean and thought if we jumped in and kept swimming we would (eventually, minus a few limbs from sharks) hit Australia. We had a giggle when we found some local graffiti on the cliff wall (picture attached). The afternoon ended at a very upmarket shopping complex above the beach at Mira Flores, complete with paragliders overhead copying the birds gliding on the updrafts of the cliffs.
On Sunday night we invited a few other missionary couples over for dinner to thank them for being so supportive and nice to us over the last five weeks. Almost felt like a real Sunday night dinner, except none of our kids or grandkids were there or the food we normally eat.
Back to work tomorrow…..